Why the M1 MacBook Air Convinced Me to Ditch the iPad

It’s all about power

Key Takeaways

  • Hot, noisy Intel MacBooks felt like dinosaurs next to the iPad
  • The M1 MacBooks finally bring us modern-day laptop computers.
  • Shortcuts for Mac is the final nail in the iPadOS productivity coffin.
M1 MacBook Air

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

Apple’s M1 MacBooks are so good, I’m going back to laptops after spending a decade away.

I ditched laptops a long time ago. For years, I have used a desktop Mac with an iPad. But after setting up a friend’s M1 MacBook Air, I’m totally going all-in on the MacBook Pros whenever they arrive in the world. For quite a while, the iPad has been far superior to any MacBook, but now the Mac has caught back up. What’s more, the iPad has some limitations that may never be fixed.

These MacBooks are so fast and powerful, with such great battery life, that they are finally as good as the iPad.

No Longer Hot and Bothered

In 2019, I tried the then-new 16-inch MacBook Pro. It ran hot, the fans spun up constantly, and it felt like ancient technology next to my silent, cool 2018 iPad Pro 12.9-inch. I returned the Mac, and figured that was that. My 2010 iMac (upgraded with a pair of SSDs) was still great, and when Apple added the Magic Keyboard with Trackpad to the iPad, I had a more than viable laptop. 

MacBook Pro 16-inch

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

But then two things happened. One was the M1 Mac, the other was the new M1 iPad Pro. 

With Apple Silicon, the Mac finally caught up to the iPad. It switches on instantly, and it keeps on working even while sleeping, pulling in new email, updating apps, and generally taking care of business. The iPad Pro is still superior in some ways—Face ID, a better FaceTime camera, and a touch screen— but the MacBooks are now close enough. Still, the iPad is so flexible, and pairs so well with a desktop Mac, I was happy to keep using it. 

Then iPadOS 15 beta arrived, and nothing improved. It’s still hard to use multiple apps at once, and simple tasks like selecting text, or managing your files and folders, are still absurdly fiddly. The iPad is hobbled by its operating system, and Apple doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to change it.

MAcBook Air M1 edge

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

Compare this to the MacBook Air. It’s (basically) the same computer as the iPad, only with a keyboard attached, and far more capable software. You now have the full power of macOS, with all its flexibility, plus you have most of the best parts of the iPad’s hardware. 

Then It Happened

While setting up my friend’s new M1 Air, I was smitten the moment I pressed the combo power/TouchID button to wake it up. It woke instantly. Just like an iPhone or an iPad. It was fast. It never gets hot. There’s no fan noise, because there is no fan. And you can forget about the power cable, the same way you can forget about it with the iPad. It can run for days on a single charge. 

iPad Pro 12.9-inch

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

With the Mac, I prefer a big screen, keyboard, and trackpad for most work. In the past, a laptop could be hooked up to a monitor, but it was always a compromise. But with Apple’s M1 chip, iMac, iPad, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro are essentially the same computer, in different forms. I realized that I could dock the laptop and use it as a desktop. And thanks to Thunderbolt, you can dock it with a single cable, and get the same performance as with an iMac or a Mac mini. 

Shortcuts

The final part of the puzzle is Shortcuts on the Mac. I have spent so long working on the iPad that I have Shortcuts set up to automate all kinds of things, from resizing images to clipping potential stories into Craft app and Trello with a single tap. Now that Shortcuts is coming to the Mac in macOS Monterey this fall, I can do all of that on the Mac. 

"These MacBooks are so fast and powerful, with such great battery life, that they are finally as good as the iPad."

Relegation

I’ll still use the iPad. It’s way better for reading, watching movies and TV shows, and for editing photos in Lightroom, and it can be a tablet or a laptop—try pulling the keyboard off a MacBook and see how far that gets you. But I will no longer expect it to be a do-everything machine.

Right now, we have no idea what the next MacBooks Pro will look like. We’ve heard rumors of flat sides, SD card slots, and even MagSafe. If Apple were to give the next MacBook Pro a touch screen, and let you flip the keyboard around the back, I could give up on the iPad altogether.

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