iPad Pro or MacBook Pro? Help me decide

My 2008 MacBook Pro still works. But I can’t update it enough to run the software I need.

I’ve been kicking around replacing the old laptop with a new iPad Pro as a second machine, something to take to coffee shops and write or edit. I like the idea of the pencil for notetaking, which I do a lot of. I’m a fiction writer, a content editor, and every so often I’ll do a freelance tech writing assignment.

iPad Pro Pros: So lightweight! Ability to jot down notes. One less device to replace and manage, so the possibility of time and cash saver in the long haul? The free version of Word works well. No buying a second license!

iPad Cons: It’s expensive once I include a connected keyboard (TextExpander plays nicer, among other apps), and the No. 2 Pencil (HA!). Yes, yes, I know. That’s not what Apple calls it. Total price $1327.

Refurb 13-inch MacBook Pro Pros: More fully-fleshed out apps (Scrivener is just one), Hazel, Keyboard Maestro, OmniFocus. Cheaper overall than the iPad Pro. Total cost for a 13-inch retina display refurb with 8GB and a 256 SSD $1269.

Refurb 13-inch MacBook Pro Cons: I’d have to cough up money to buy a second license of Word or subscribe to 365. It’s heavier. It’s another device to replace and maintain. It’s already a year and change behind the update curve. There are two iPads in the family: I got a mini in Jan 2016, and there’s a slightly older iPad Air 2. I could trade in the older iPad Air ($120 trade-in value).

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which would you choose and why? Many thanks in advance.

You mention the iPad being a second machine and talk about needing a second Word license. Is this 2008 MacBook Pro your only Mac or do you have a desktop?

My understanding is that the mobile Office apps are only free for devices with screen sizes below 10.1". For larger devices (including the iPad Pro) you’ll need an Office 365 subscription.

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So this will be a secondary device, so you have a desktop running macOS also? Just to understand the use case here.

Hi Chris! I have an iMac, so whatever I get isn’t my primary device.

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Yes, my apologies. I have a 27 inch iMac that is my primary machine and where I do most of my work.

I wouldn’t listen to my advice right now, since I’m eagerly awaiting my new iPad and it’s probably coloring my comments, but assuming that the needs you have can be handled within the current iOS-limits (like not needing access to external storage, huge multitasking, or stuff not available in mobile browsers etc, I’m sure others can add to this list), then an iPad would definitely score on portability.

I’m often in the need of an actual computer when working away from home (unfortunately), but I’m trying to transition more and more to the iPad. And if a lot of it will be writing and researching - then I think you’re in the group that should be able to do quite a lot of it on iOS.

I’m moving more and more towards the Desktop + iPad paradigm. I have a 2012 Retina MacBook Pro, but it gets left at home for more and more trips. Right now I don’t plan on replacing it.

Whether or not this would work for you really depends on what you need to get your work done (or at least the portion of your work you need to get done on the go). From what you’ve written it sounds like you could.

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Thank you! I didn’t know that. I thought it would be a limited functionality, but not screen size dependent. Nice catch! I’ll research this further.

LOL! But I’d love to hear about your experience once you have your new iPad.

From what you do I’d guess iPad is the way to go as it gives variety and portability, but do you really need Pro?
I think it’s a good value device, but if you’re struggling to justify the Pro price a 9.7” iPad is easily powerful enough. It’s got a worse screen, but I’m not sure how noticeable you’d find that and it’s way, way more affordable. Plus it has the free version of Word (one of the things that kept my wife from upgrading her 9.7” Pro).

Of course, the 12.9” is another beast entirely, and either of the new ones is so, so desirable.

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One reason to go with the Pro over the 9.7" is the Smart Keyboard. Of course, you could use the 9.7" with a Bluetooth keyboard, but having it all in one package, always on, and never having to charge it are real advantages.


I tried going with iMac + iPad Pro 10.5 this past spring. Had had a macbook since 2007, iMac since 2017. I found myself really missing my MacBook. Smaller screens are usually tough for me to get adjusted to. I ended up getting a new MacBook.
This led me to using my iMac a lot less.
Now I sold my iMac about a month ago. I sometimes do miss it, but a lot less than I missed my MacBook.

Now, I’m kind of tired of this 15" Touch Bar MacBook trackpad!

I really want to have an iPad as my main device. I believe I’m more experience now with maneuvering an iPad and I’m looking to get the new 12.9". Getting work done on last year’s 10.5" is possible but it really takes a lot of getting used to, YMMV.

Since you have the iMac and are already used to having it as your primary machine I think you could go for getting an iPad as your secondary machine.

Get it for the 2 week refund period and see how it goes? One thing I’d point out is that you’ll most likely spend some money on some apps for iOS for added functionality.

Apart from being a no-patience having brat who gets frustrated at tech that doesn’t work, the only things that I can’t do fairly well is manage my squarespace sites, and doing bigger batch tasks, like moving and renaming files, tagging, and the like. But you have an iMac so you could pull it off.
I also really miss having a Logic Pro X alternative on iOS. That is the main reason I feel like I need to and want to get an ever-more powerful computer.
Along the same lines, Sketch is missing on iOS. I really don’t know of a good way to work with multiple design and creative files on iOS like one can on the Mac with Sketch, Photoshop, etc.

Invest some time in thinking about your setup. Also consider your need to keep your files at arm’s reach on iOS at all times; Dropbox is as far as I know the only cloud solution that let’s you sync entire folders for offline access on iOS.


I would have been so incredibly happy if iOS got a “full desktop Safari” or any browser for iPad.


Have you tried iCab? It works well for me on sites that throw a wobbly on the iPad.


Thanks! Haven’t looked into that one actually, but I don’t think it will work. My main use case is rather specific. For some very strange reason, Salesforce (a CRM/platform I work a lot with) doesn’t have support for one of their UIs for mobile browsers - but they also don’t support all browsers. So I kind of doubt this one would work… unless it somehow completely hides the fact that I’m coming from a mobile device? (I have to admit that I’m on shaky ground when talking about the distinction between mobile and desktop browsers. Not sure what type of things are not supported in mobile browsers and if there’s a reason for things not working.)

Basically, you can have iCab masquerade as almost any browser on any major platform. Here’s the list of browser identities they support by default:

Now, there is a risk to lying about what kind of browser you’re using. The website may assume your browser supports features that it doesn’t actually support. So you probably want to test it out with Salesforce before deciding to rely on it.


Got my hopes up, bought the App set it to masquerade as Safari on Mac - but it ain’t tricking Salesforce. I get thrown out as I log in. :confounded:

But anyway, I’m sure it will come in handy for something else. Was worth a shot.

When I use iCab on iOS I have it report as Chrome 60 on Windows, and I get in everywhere. :+1:


This is why I love this forum! :smiley: Dumb as I am I only tried different Mac versions of browsers. Tried Chrome 60 Windows now and works perfectly!! There’s still some things I can’t do, due to the iOS Drag-and-Drop Touch thing interferes with the expected cursor action - but the number of things I can now do on my iPad has now increased ALOT!

Now if only the new iPad Pro will arrive soon…


Wow! thanks so much! I have to try this!
Also, Dolphin browser works almost always for my squarespace stuff, better than iCab (prior to learning about this trick!)

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