iPad Air vs. MacBook Air: Is Apple's Tablet Suitable for Laptop Needs? (Specs Comparison and Review)

  • Michael Briggs , Design & Trend Staff Writer
  • Nov, 14, 2013, 04:56 PM

Apple's lightweight, large-sized iPad, the Air, has garnered some positive reviews thus far, but can the tablet handle the tasks that a laptop can? For many consumers, this is an important detail to consider when they cannot or do not want to purchase both devices.

Let's take a look at this specs comparison:


iPad Air: 9.7-inch Retina display with 2,048 by 1,536 pixel resolution.

MacBook Air: 11.6-inch display with 1,336 x 768 pixel resolution.

For web viewing: The iPad Air and MacBook Air have the same display height, but the MacBook Air's wider screens offers for a better web viewing experience, as the user can sit farther back due to a higher font size.

For video: The MacBook air also offers a wider view for movies.

For typing: The smaller dimensions of the iPad Air (with keyboard) means the user has to sit closer to type than they do with the laptop.

For everything else, however, the iPad Air features a distinct advantage due to its higher ppi.

Physical Dimensions

iPad Air: 1.0 pound and Height: 9.4 inches (240 mm), Width: 6.6 inches (169.5 mm), Depth: 0.29 inch (7.5 mm).

MacBook Air: 2.38 pounds and Height: 0.11-0.68 inch (0.3-1.7 cm), Width: 11.8 inches (30 cm), Depth: 7.56 inches (19.2 cm).

The MacBook Air is heavier, thicker and larger than the iPad Air, making it less portable. However, with the added keyboard (Belkin), the difference isn't as drastic. With a keyboard, the iPad Air comes in at just about 2 pounds. The iPad also offers the ability to remove the keyboard whenever you're sitting in a tight space like in airplane or car.


iPad Air: 16, 32, 64, 128GB.

MacBook Air: 128, 256GB


iPad Air: iOS 7

MacBook Air: OS X Mavericks

While it's difficult to compare the software, the advantage goes to the MacBook Air for multi-tasking, Microsoft Office and the ability to run flash and Java for more complex web apps. Apple does offer the iWork productivity software for free for both products.


iPad Air: Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music

Built-in 32.4-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery

MacBook Air: Up to 9 hours wireless web

Up to 8 hours iTunes movie playback

Up to 30 days standby time

Built-in 38-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery


iPad Air: Apple A7 with 64-bit architecture, Dual-core 1400 MHz, PowerVR G6430.

MacBook Air: 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz) with 3MB shared L3 cache.


iPad Air: Starts at $499, up to $929

MacBook Air: Starts at $999

At the end of the day, the additional (and more efficient) storage options available in the MacBook Pro, along with the ability to multi-task and type more effortlessly makes it difficult for me to say you could easily switch to a tablet in place of a laptop. However, depending on what you need, you can definitely get by with the iPad Air, which also offers a much cheaper starting price. While tablets like the iPad are best-suited for consumption, it doesn't mean you can't use it for more productive needs, you will just be a little limited.

iPad Air a sign that an iPad Pro is in the future?

How does that old saying go—there's more to a name than you think?

At least two analysts believe Apple's decision to call the company's new 9.7-inch tablet the iPad Air suggests much more than the tablet's light frame.

According to Will Power, an analyst at RW Baird, the iPad Air will be followed by a high-end tablet called iPad Pro that will feature some of the work tasks only currently available on PCs.

"The name change is likely intentional. Everything that Apple articulates it does for a reason," says Power. "Developing an iPad that is better designed for productivity is something that could very well make sense."

History also indicates that the name change to iPad Air was more than a savvy way to market the fifth-generation iPad. Apple's laptop and notebook computer line features a slimmer MacBook Air and a heavier-duty MacBook Pro.

"This would seem to leave room for a 'Pro' model at some point if a market for a higher performance tablet exists," Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, wrote in a note Tuesday to investors.

Even the new 7.9-inch iPad Mini is a borrowed name; Apple also offers a small desktop computer called the Mac Mini.

Previous speculation suggested Apple could be preparing a larger, 13-inch iPad that would bring a bit more diversity to the company's tablet line. Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays, recently echoed those previous reports in a note to investors.

With Apple's iPad sales at 170 million (with most being used for leisure rather than work), there is still plenty of room for the company to grow. According to Gartner estimates, 300 million PCs are expected to ship in 2013, compared to only about 180 million tablets. Adding a high-end tablet that could do everything a PC can could help Apple get the most of the tablet market.

"Put that 170 million number in the context of the number of PCs out there," Power said. "There's still a significant growth opportunity for tablets and Apple is trying to find ways to further segment the market."


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