Skip to content

iPad Pro M2 vs MacBook Pro M2: Ultimate Showdown

Apple has long been the gold standard when it comes to premium computing devices. Their latest offerings, the iPad Pro with the M2 chip and the MacBook Pro with the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, represent the pinnacle of performance and capability in tablet and laptop form factors. But which one is right for you?

As someone who has extensively used and tested both devices, I‘m here to provide an in-depth comparison to help you decide. Let‘s dive in and put the iPad Pro M2 head-to-head against the MacBook Pro M2 to crown an ultimate winner.

The Contenders

First, some background. The iPad Pro line was first introduced in 2015 as Apple‘s flagship tablet aimed at professional users and creatives. It has seen regular updates and improvements over the years, with the latest 6th generation model released in October 2022 featuring the powerful Apple M2 chip.

The MacBook Pro is Apple‘s long-running high-end laptop line for pros. The latest 14" and 16" models released in January 2023 pack either the M2 Pro or M2 Max – Apple‘s most powerful silicon yet. These chips enable breakthrough performance and capabilities never before seen in a MacBook.

So how do these heavyweights compare? Let‘s break it down:

Performance

Both the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro feature Apple‘s latest in-house silicon, but the MacBook Pro‘s chips are a step above. The M2 Pro boasts up to a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, while the M2 Max goes up to a 38-core GPU. In comparison, the iPad Pro‘s M2 tops out at a 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU.

What does this mean in practice? The MacBook Pro is an absolute beast when it comes to demanding workloads like video editing, 3D rendering, code compiling, and large-scale data analysis. The iPad Pro is no slouch and can handle editing 4K ProRes video and large canvases in Photoshop with ease – but the MacBook Pro with M2 Pro/Max chips delivers the ultimate performance for pros with intensive workflows.

Benchmark scores tell a similar story. In Geekbench 5, the M2 Max MacBook Pro achieves single-core scores of over 2000 and multi-core scores above 15000. The iPad Pro with the base M2 scores around 1900 in single-core but "only" around 8500 in multi-core. Graphics benchmarks show an even larger gulf between the two.

Display

Both devices feature gorgeous mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR displays with support for ProMotion adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz, P3 wide color, and HDR content. They get extraordinarily bright as well, up to 1600 nits peak brightness for HDR content.

The key difference is in the size. The MacBook Pro comes in larger 14.2" and 16.2" sizes compared to the iPad Pro‘s 11" and 12.9" options. Both also offer a pixel-dense, sharp viewing experience.

Ultimately, the display quality difference between the two is minimal. It mainly comes down to your size preference and whether you value the iPad‘s portability and touch input over a larger canvas to work with.

Design and portability

This is one area where the two devices diverge quite a bit. The iPad Pro has the classic thin tablet form factor and is incredibly light and portable, weighing only around 1-1.5 lbs depending on the model.

The MacBook Pro, while sleek and well-built, is still a full-size laptop. The smaller 14" model weighs 3.5 lbs while the 16" comes in at a hefty 4.7 lbs. It‘s portable in the sense that you can take it anywhere, but it‘s nowhere near as easy to casually carry around or use in your hands as an iPad.

However, the MacBook Pro‘s traditional clamshell laptop design enables a built-in keyboard and trackpad, more ports, better cooling for sustained high performance, and flexible positioning options with the hinge.

Which design is "better" depends entirely on your needs and preferences. If ultimate portability is a priority, the iPad Pro can‘t be beat. But many still prefer the conventional laptop experience provided by a MacBook Pro.

Battery life

Both devices deliver excellent battery life, but the MacBook Pro wins out here. Apple claims up to 22 hours of battery life for the 16" M2 Pro model during wireless web browsing. In my experience, it easily lasts a full day of heavy use and then some.

The iPad Pro is rated for a still-respectable 10 hours of web browsing or video watching. It can last through a full work day for many common workflows. But for the most demanding users, it likely won‘t match the MacBook Pro‘s truly all-day-and-then-some battery life.

Cameras and audio

Here‘s an easy one: the iPad Pro wins, no contest. Its front-facing camera is a 12MP TrueDepth camera with support for Face ID and Center Stage, while the back sports a dual 12MP Wide and 10MP Ultra Wide camera system. It can shoot 4K ProRes video and has lidar scanning capabilities.

The MacBook Pro only has a single 1080p FaceTime HD camera. It‘s fine for video calls but pales in comparison to the iPad Pro‘s overkill cameras that can actually be used for serious photo and video work.

As for audio, both feature a multi-speaker system with support for Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos. The MacBook Pro has a slight edge with its high-fidelity six-speaker sound system, but the iPad Pro‘s four-speaker setup is also excellent given its smaller size.

Input methods

If you prefer a traditional keyboard and mouse/trackpad setup for getting work done, the MacBook Pro is the clear choice. Its built-in backlit Magic Keyboard is fantastic to type on and the large Force Touch trackpad is second to none.

The iPad Pro offers more flexibility and variety in input methods, though. You can use it as a tablet with multi-touch and Apple Pencil, snap on a Smart Keyboard Folio or Magic Keyboard case for typing, and connect a trackpad or mouse if you wish. Its versatility as a modular device shines here.

Ultimately, both offer great input options. The MacBook Pro is better for long typing sessions and precise cursor input, while the iPad Pro supports a wider range of input styles and excels for touch and stylus input.

Software and ecosystem

The iPad Pro runs iPadOS, while the MacBook Pro runs macOS. Both are mature, full-featured operating systems with access to a vast ecosystem of apps and services. Your preference will likely depend on which you‘re already familiar with.

iPadOS started as a fork of iOS, so it maintains a very touch-friendly, intuitive interface. But recent updates have pushed it closer to a desktop-class OS with features like a file system, multi-window support, and powerful multitasking capabilities. It has access to the massive library of tablet-optimized apps on the App Store.

macOS is a conventional desktop operating system through and through. It has supported a huge library of powerful, full-featured desktop applications for decades. With the transition to Apple silicon and introduction of Mac Catalyst, many popular iPad apps are now available on the Mac as well.

Both ecosystems are excellent, but the Mac still maintains an edge in breadth and depth of software, especially for specialized professional applications. However, the iPad is quickly catching up and is better optimized for touch and mobile use.

Connectivity

Ports and connectivity options are another area where the MacBook Pro has a clear advantage. It features three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports, an HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, and a MagSafe 3 charging port. The latest models also support Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3.

In comparison, the iPad Pro only has a single Thunderbolt/USB 4 port for charging and connecting accessories. It also supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3, but the lack of built-in ports means you‘ll likely be reaching for dongles and hubs if you want to connect multiple accessories.

The MacBook Pro can also drive multiple external displays, up to 8K resolution in the case of the M2 Max. The iPad Pro maxes out at one 6K display over Thunderbolt.

Price

There‘s no way around it: both the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro are very expensive devices. But in general, a MacBook Pro will set you back quite a bit more.

The 11" iPad Pro starts at $799 for a model with 128GB of storage, with the higher-end 12.9" model with 2TB of storage coming in at $2,399.

The 14" MacBook Pro starts at $1,999 with an M2 Pro chip, 16GB of unified memory, and 512GB of SSD storage. A fully maxed-out 16" model with the M2 Max chip, 96GB of memory, and 8TB SSD costs an eye-watering $6,499.

Of course, these aren‘t exactly comparable configurations. The iPad Pro‘s base model has significantly less storage than the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Pro‘s unified memory architecture means RAM upgrades are much more expensive.

But spec-for-spec, a MacBook Pro will cost more than a comparable iPad Pro. The flip side is, for many professionals, the MacBook Pro‘s higher performance ceiling can make it a better long-term value.

Who are they for?

Both devices can work great for a wide range of use cases. But in general:

The iPad Pro is ideal for anyone who values portability, flexible touch/stylus input, and casual use cases like media consumption and light productivity. It‘s great for creative work, digital art, and photo editing. It can be a highly capable laptop replacement with the right accessories for many users.

The MacBook Pro is the ultimate laptop for professionals with demanding performance requirements. If you work with large video/photo/audio projects, compile large codebases, work with 3D models and large datasets, or are in engineering/science fields that require specialized desktop software, the MacBook Pro with M2 Pro/Max is one of the most powerful tools available.

Future outlook

Both platforms have exciting developments on the horizon. The iPad Pro has room for improvement with its next update – adopting the M2 Pro or M2 Max could give it a big performance boost. It could also benefit from a more desktop-like software experience and the long-rumored 15" model would be very welcome.

The MacBook Pro is now a very mature platform with Apple silicon. Future models will surely bring the usual generational leaps in CPU and GPU performance. There are also rumors of OLED displays and touch screens coming to the Mac line, which would further bridge the device gap with iPads.

The verdict

So, which one is better? It‘s impossible to make a singular recommendation. But here‘s my general advice:

For most people, an iPad Pro will likely be the more practical and versatile device. It‘s great for everyday use, media consumption, light-to-medium creative work, and on-the-go productivity. It‘s also significantly cheaper than a MacBook Pro.

However, if you have a professional workflow that demands the absolute best performance, a MacBook Pro 14" or 16" with M2 Pro or M2 Max will be worth the extra cost. It‘s simply in a different league of performance and capabilities for the most intensive workloads.

Ultimately, you can‘t go wrong with either the iPad Pro or MacBook Pro. They are both exceptional, highly capable devices that represent the best of what Apple has to offer in their respective categories. The "better" choice depends entirely on your individual needs, budget, and preferences.

I hope this in-depth comparison helped you decide which powerhouse Apple device is right for you. Let me know in the comments which one you prefer and why!