Can an iPad Pro Replace My Laptop or Desktop Computer?

It depends on what you want to do with it

The iPad Pro is more powerful than many of the entry-level laptops lining the shelves at Best Buy. It earns that "Pro" name with a processor that's on par with a mid-level PC and a screen resolution that exceeds many of those same laptops, and the graphics power of an XBOX 360. And when you combine this with an operating system that supports slide-over and split-screen multitasking and a virtual touchpad, it's about time to reevaluate the iPad as a laptop killer.

Business person using an iPad at a conference table
 Lifewire / Jo Zixuan Zhou

The iPad Can Replace Your Laptop If...

The most common tasks people perform on their laptop or desktop PC are the very same tasks in which the iPad excels: exploring the web, checking email, finding out what friends and family are up to on Facebook, playing games, balancing the checkbook, writing a letter or a paper for school, etc. Productivity has also become increasingly easy on the iPad. The virtual touchpad makes manipulating text easier; the iPad supports Microsoft Office and includes a free version of Apple's iWork; and if you need to do a lot of typing you can simply connect a Bluetooth keyboard.

Perhaps just as importantly, the iPad can do some tasks even better than a laptop. It has a back-facing camera, so you can film your own home movie. And with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro's 12 MP camera, the movie will look fantastic. You can also edit the video right on your iPad. Need to get online while on the go? You don't need to look for a coffee shop with Wi-Fi. If you buy the 4G LTE version of the iPad, you can connect anywhere you can connect with your smartphone.

The iPad has increasingly become a portable gaming machine as well. It won't compete with a high-end PC, a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One in terms of hardcore gaming, but it's more than enough for most of us. The graphics are nearly on par with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and with its touch controls and motion sensors, the iPad can deliver unique ways to play some very good games.

The iPad Can't Replace Your Laptop If...

The number one reason why you can't replace your laptop with an iPad Pro is if you're tied to a proprietary piece of software that's not available for the iPad. While businesses are increasingly leaning towards cloud-based solutions, which is a fancy way of saying they're building software on the web, many of them still use software that requires Microsoft Windows.

And proprietary software isn't found just in the workplace. Any application you run on your Windows PC or Mac would need a replacement for your iPad. This substitution is easy for email and web browsing, but can be more difficult for other types of software. The iPad has become increasingly competent for photo and video editing, and you certainly won't miss iMovie on your Mac when you have a very capable iMovie on the iPad. But, if you need professional video-editing software like Final Cut Pro, you might find the iPad isn't quite there yet. The iPad Pro may have the power to do it, but Apple still needs to make a version for their newest heavyweight tablet.

Another challenge with the iPad is storage space. While the internal storage of an iPad can range up to 256 GB with the latest models, this still doesn't compete with the storage offered by many laptops. The offset of this is that the iPad doesn't require as much storage. For example, simply running Windows 10 will cost you around 16 GB of space. The iPad's operating system takes up less than 2 GB of space. The same is true for software, with Microsoft Office taking around 3 GB of space to install on a PC and less than half that on an iPad.

The portability of an iPad makes it great for videos, photos, and music—all of which consume storage space.

The best solution for the iPad is cloud storage, like iCloud, which also provides a great backup for this data in case anything happens to your iPad, but it may cost a monthly subscription fee to get enough storage to support your photo collection.

Hardcore gaming is another area where the iPad won't be able to compete with a PC. For Xbox and PlayStation gamers, this limitation might not be a big issue, but if your idea of fun involves cutting back the demonic hordes in World of Warcraft, farming for the best loot in Star Wars: The Old Republic, throwing some beat-down in League of Legends, you simply won't find the same experience on the iPad. There are some really good games there, but nothing that will rival a game like Skyrim.