Can a tablet replace a laptop? Or, more specifically, can an iPad Air 2 replace a MacBook Air? The answer, of course, will depend on what you're looking for ... but perhaps comparing their features and specs could be a start.

Before we jump in, keep in mind that we're only looking at the 11-in MacBook Air. Apple also makes a 13-in model, but it's less of a rival to the iPad.


The 11-in MacBook Air looks small next to other MacBooks, but it still towers over the iPad. The MacBook Air is 25 percent longer and 13 percent wider than the iPad Air 2.

If you want thin, you can't beat the iPad Air 2. At 6.1 mm (0.24-in), it's 64 percent thinner than the MBA ... well, at least technically. The MacBook is tapered, and this measurement only counts its thickest point.


The iPad only weighs 40 percent as much as the MacBook.


Of course measurements like weight and thickness are going to tilt in the iPad's advantage. As a dedicated tablet, it doesn't include a keyboard.

You can, however, buy third-party keyboard covers and cases for the iPad. They can turn the iPad into a nice little faux laptop.


Just don't expect those iPad keyboards to include trackpads. iOS doesn't support cursor input, so they wouldn't do anything even if someone made one.

The MacBook's glass trackpad is outstanding, and ties in nicely with OS X's multitouch gestures.

Touch screen

Apple has yet to make a touchscreen MacBook – even as every Windows laptop and 2-in-1 under the sun has gone touch-based.


If you're looking at a modern Apple product, chances are you're looking at an aluminum unibody build. Neither of these is an exception.


The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 are the first iPads Apple has sold in gold.

We've yet to see color options for MacBooks.

Display (size)

The iPad Air 2 gives you 79 percent as much screen as the MacBook Air.

Display (resolution)

With last month's reveal of the iMac with Retina 5K Display, the MacBook Air is the last major Apple product stuck in pre-Retina resolution. Its dated screen is about half as sharp as the iPad Air's terrific screen.

Anti-glare display

The iPad Air's screen has an anti-reflective coating that can reduce glare by about 56 percent.

Fingerprint sensor

The 2014 iPads include Apple's excellent Touch ID sensor. It makes it easy to secure your tablet, and now plays nicely with third-party apps.

The iPad Air 2 is also compatible with the online portion of Apple Pay, but not the in-store part (presumably because you aren't likely to lug an iPad around with you when you go shopping).

Cellular option

iPads have always been offered in both Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi with cellular options. We've yet to see a 3G/4G-enabled MacBook.

Instant Hotspot

If you have an iOS 8-running iPhone and a decent tethering plan, though, both devices have something very close to cellular capabilities. One click on the iPad or MacBook is all it takes to set up a data hotspot connection with your iPhone. No fiddling with iPhone required.

Call/SMS forwarding

Here's another perk for iPhone owners: calls and text messages can be placed and received from both the iPad Air 2 and MacBook Air.


Apple estimates an extra hour of web use on the iPad than it does on the MacBook.


There's overlap at the 128 GB level, but otherwise Apple sells the iPad in smaller mobile-esque storage tiers and the MacBook in larger PC-like tiers.

With the 2014 iPhones and iPads, though, Apple makes it more tempting to move past the base level of storage: the second tier now quadruples the first tier's space. In past years, it only doubled it.


We're comparing a mobile processor to a full-blown PC chip, but the raw horsepower gap is narrowing. Benchmark app Geekbench 3 measures the iPad Air 2 as 75-94 percent as fast as the 11-in MacBook Air. A couple years ago, that would have been unheard of.


RAM, however, is another story. The iPad Air 2 got a much-needed upgrade to 2 GB, but that's still only half of the base level for the MBA.


The iPad's rear camera takes very good shots for a tablet.

Bundled word processor

If word processing is your biggest use for a laptop, then it's possible the iPad can indeed replace a full-blown notebook. iPads, like MacBooks, include Apple's iWork suite for free.

Microsoft Office

Both machines also run their respective versions of Office, though it will cost you.

USB ports

The MacBook Air gives you a pair of USB 3.0 ports. iPads never have – and almost certainly never will – have USB ports.


The iPad Air 2 runs iOS 8, while the MacBook now runs OS X Yosemite. Both updates allow Apple's devices to synchronize better than before.


The iPad Air 2 just launched in October, while this latest MacBook Air (which was only slightly changed from the 2013 model) started shipping in April.

Starting price

If you can get by with the iPad as a laptop replacement, then you can save some loot. Even the most expensive iPad Air 2 (128 GB, Wi-Fi + cellular) costs US$70 less than the entry-level MacBook.

For more on these two, you can hit up our full reviews of the iPad Air 2 and 2014 11-in MacBook Air.

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