Purely for longevity - M1 Macbook Air or iPad w/ keyboard?

My girlfriend needs to replace her laptop, and we’re looking at the M1 Macbook Air (base model) and the iPad Air (base model) with the smart keyboard / trackpad case.

The iPad + keyboard is around $1000 once you figure in 2 years of AppleCare+, and the Macbook Air is more like $1250 with 3 years of AppleCare+.

She doesn’t have a pressing, specific need that would dictate either form factor - mostly Zoom calls, light web surfing / web-based applications, and word processing. And she already has an iPad (an Air 2), so it’s not like she doesn’t already have an iPad if she wants that form factor for some purpose. Portability IS a requirement - I already pitched a Mac Mini, and that didn’t fly.

Her big concern is that if she lays out $1000+, she wants this thing to last as long as possible. Resale value would be a nice plus, but she’s the sort of person who buys electronics and runs them until they’re antiques and/or just not useful.

For perspective, she’s only getting rid of the 5 year old (Windows) laptop because there’s some hardware issue that causes it to shut down spontaneously, multiple times per day, that we haven’t been able to pin down. She just traded in her iPhone 6 in December for a 2020 SE.

Between the MBA and iPad, which do y’all think she’ll be happiest with from the longevity perspective?

ETA: We also looked at Windows laptops, with the “if it’s cheap enough, you can buy/replace a few laptops for the cost of a Mac” logic. Anything decent is $500-ish though, with no long-term warranty. Adding a 3 year warranty makes those $750, and now we’re really close to iPad pricing. Plus, this is the last Windows device in our lives other than the laptop I keep around solely because (a) it won’t die and (b) I don’t need a Macbook to run Powerpoint for the occasional presentation. :smiley:

Has she used Macbook before, or Windows laptop and iPad only?

In terms of longevity, my vote goes for Macbook.

1 Like

Windows + iPad, but she’s seen my Mac plenty of times and I think she used to use Macs in school.

Agree with @RDK, new MacBook would most likely last longer. The 3-year AppleCare is a plus.

I owned the first version of the iPad Pro 9.7" with Apple’s Smart Keyboard. The smart keyboard flaked out 3 times and was replaced (no charge) by Apple 3 times. Apparently there was a problem with fragile connectors. It was a known issue, and Apple replaced inoperative keyboards after warranty and/or AppleCare expiration.

The latest version of the Smart Keyboard was re-designed and appears to be more robust. Time will tell. The Magic Keyboard appears to be even more sturdy than the Smart Keyboard and is a much better keyboard for extensive typing. It’s not as portable, however, and the iPad needs to be removed to used as a tablet instead of a laptop-type device.

As good as the Magic keyboard/iPad combination is, the keyboard of the new M1 MacBook wins hands-down. It’s just about perfect for a laptop keyboard, hopefully long-lasting after Apple learned its lesson and ditched the butterfly keyboards.

I owned a 2010 MacBook Air and used it for 10 years, until I bought the new M1 MacBook Pro. The old 2010 MBA still works well, but is limited (I think) High Sierra. Can’t get much better than that for longevity.

If she is primarily interested in longevity, she might want to wait a while to make a decision.

1 Like

I will argue differently. I would take the stand that the ability to make and store hand-written documents, to take snap-shot pictures of things for archival records (and fun-to-share situations), and to be able to read with the content sitting comfortably in you lap may have a far greater worth than the ability to touch-type documents.

Because in truth, with the use-case that you have laid out, the difference between an MBA and an iPad (Pro) is that doing touch typing in documents will be (a bit) more comfortable on the MBA (until you get a good quality keyboard for the iPad Pro) but doing the stuff that I mention above will be (a lot) more comfortable on the iPad Pro.

Donate the iPad Air 2. Invest in an 11" iPad Pro with Pencil 2. Hold off on the keyboard if needed and get more storage in the iPad Pro.

You could also turn over the Windows laptop in exchange for taking over the iPad Air in order to run your PowerPoint presentations (converted to PDF or Keynote first).


1 Like

I would vote for MacBook Air personally simply because the Mac can more easily flex up to meet her needs if they change down the road. Doing powerful things on iPad is possible but very fiddly and I don’t see that changing quickly. The M1 macs are also so powerful and power efficient I think they outclass the iPad in terms of potential longevity (if for no other reason than more RAM and battery to handle future OS releases).


I also vote for Macbook Air (assuming $1000 for m1, that is even better).

My reason will be portability and flexibility. The macOS is more capable of multitasking than iPadOS. You mentioned Zoom call, also some typings, I personally prefer those activities on macOS.

I just persuaded my cousin to buy 2015 MBA for her college needs. Converted to USD (and given how pricey Apple devices in my country is) to $490. She previously use Windows 2018 Ultrabook (Lenovo something), and the transition to Macbook Air she said is satisfying.

Nice thought exercise for a professional who’s gone “iPad if I can”
Looking at your requirements though I’d vote for the macbook;

  1. I have 3 macs running in our house; 2 of which are over 7 years old and still working perfectly. I expect to be able to keep them for at least 3 more years.
    In my experience Mac’s last at least 10 years. (potential hardware issues aside)
    Though with the iOS-ification of the macOS I’m not 100% sure that will be the same.

  2. I’m on my 3rd iPad in the same number of years. Not saying iPads don’t last long, but they have the “iPhone problem” namely the OS is linked to the new hardware features, so to get everything out of the device I would need to upgrade sooner.

  3. iOS is still in its Teens, nowhere near as versatile as macOS and will probably give some chafing at the edges if you want to do some file or video operations. Not something all users come up against, but something to consider

  4. Keyboard: the macbook Air has a larger keyboard, and imo is superior in that sense.

Overall, if longevity is the key then I’d vote Macbook, (but with 16Gb of ram)

1 Like

That’s my concern with the iPad keyboard too. Keyboards on the iPad seem to be getting better, but they still mentally feel like an accessory (“something you just replace if it goes bad”) rather than something that Apple has deliberately engineered to last the lifetime of the device.

Although I’d seen the info before, I didn’t remember the thing about the keyboard having to be removed to use it as a tablet. That’s a useful thing to be reminded of - thanks!

Unfortunately “keyboard” is pretty much non-negotiable for her. We’d need something in that department, as she does a lot of typing. I generally agree with your first set of points, but our absolute best case scenario for the iPad Pro would be some sort of cheaper, separate Bluetooth keyboard for home use.

That’s where I was for a long time, too. I have a 2018 iPad Pro, and I feel like the hardware on the iPad might be just starting to stabilize (i.e. “not doubling in speed every year or so”). My girlfriend’s iPad Air 2 is still functional, but it was a bit sluggish for me as a primary device - which is why she got my Air 2 and I have an iPad Pro 11.

I’ve been weighing whether or not I should suggest 16Gb to her. It’s another $200, and she really doesn’t have that much intense usage. Her idea of “multitasking” is “Chrome with 6 tabs, Zoom, and a word processor” - but future-proofing always seems like a good idea, and more RAM usually means better future compatibility and potentially better resale value if she wants to ditch the Air in a few years for the “new hotness”.

Given that she’s already going to be spending $1250, $200 might be a reasonable upgrade. I know she’d never use up the base model’s internal storage, as her Windows laptop probably uses 100Gb or less including the OS. And external SSDs are (comparatively) dirt cheap if she ever gets to the point where she decides she needs to store more data.

I don’t consider the iPad as a workhorse for typing documents. The MBA has more value for this case.

The RAM upgrade will likely be a game changer in what you decide to do with the machine as your and her needs grow over the next five to seven years.


1 Like

It’s an extra investment I agree, problem is you don’t know if you’ll ever need it, but if you do there’s no way to expand in the new macs. You can go external for storage, or stick with a larger icloud plan. Memory on the other hand is limited to what the machine comes with.

If longevity is the deciding factor (it always is for me) I recommend maxing the processor and ram, so basically everything thats not user upgradeable.

+1 If longevity is the only factor, then go with the MacBook Air. It’s not that the iPad stops working, but the new ones leapfrog it. I have an original iPad that still works.

We have both an iPad Pro 9.7" with original keyboard and MacBook Pro 15" from 2012 in daily use at my house.

Why not let her test both the laptop and iPad with keyboard for a week and see which she prefers?

Just to clarify, my comment about removing the keyboard to use the iPad as a tablet referred to the Magic Keyboard, not the Smart Keyboard.

I have both (as well as the original version of the Smart Keyboard for an older iPad Pro 9.7). Both the current Smart Keyboard and the Magic Keyboard are good accessories … but good for different uses: the Smart Keyboard for portability and the Magic Keyboard for near-laptop-quality typing experience.

The Magic Keyboard is heavier, and you cannot fold it to the back of the iPad. To hold the iPad as a tablet, it should be removed from the Magic Keyboard. The Smart Keyboard can be folded to the back of the iPad, so you can hold the iPad “flat”.

For those who want the best typing experience, the awesome M1 MacBook would be the first choice, the iPad/Magic Keyboard combo 2nd. The Smart Keyboard/iPad is for those who value portability above all and want to have a “pretty good” keyboard at all times.

I had the iPad Pro 11" (2020) with Magic Keyboard. It was amazing as iPads go and a very decent tool. I kept picking it up and then trying to think what I could do with it.

But… I replaced it with a MacBook Pro (M1) at the end of 2020. Why? Because it’s a Mac. I still have to think hard about some tasks that can be accomplished on the iPad (I still have an iPad mini 5). Single-app*, touch-first is simply a whole different paradigm. Some people will prefer one over the other but I think the workflow matters a lot.

Macs, as others have said, will generally last longer, both in terms of support and relevance.

For me it comes down to this: the number of times I’ve wished a Mac was an iPad is close to zero. The number of times I’ve wished an iPad was a Mac is higher. I’m struggling to think of anything I would do on any device that cannot be done on a Mac.

Side note: for a couple of years I owned a 12" MacBook. Aside from its general underpoweredness, that thing was super portable. It could be handled as if it was an iPad. I actually did hold it in one hand to watch video in a hotel room. It was light enough. I fantasise about an M1-based version of that.

*If they fix multi-tasking, I might change my tune on iPad multitasking being a power user-only quirk.

I’m going to push against what seems to be the dominant view in answers thus far that the Mac is the better option in terms of longevity but first, a note/question about form factor. You state that her primary use is Zoom, web surfing and word processing. In the same paragraph you state she has an iPad Air 2 she can use…

I’d suggest to consider that her iPad Air 2 is likely end of life now or soon. I have one as well and the battery is done. I could get it replaced but it’s old enough that I don’t see the point. It works but it’s not the experience I expect with an iPad. I use it as a HomeKit/Kitchen iPad so it’s not wasted. That said, an iPad for web browsing, zoom, and word processing is going to last longer than an iPad used by someone doing graphic design, video editing or other processor intensive tasks. My iPad Air 2 still does web browsing and word processing just fine thoughI doubt it would be great for Zoom calls.

An important question is does she get use out of an iPad as an iPad which is to say, not attached to a keyboard? That’s a big reason to go with an iPad. I’d also suggest thinking about modularity as a longevity bonus in that the computer/screen can be combined with practically any keyboard. I use my 2018 12.9” Pro with a Smart Keyboard Portfolio much of the time. But I also use it in various stands with any number of different Logitech Keyboards in different locations. Which get’s to the question of her work location. Is she at a desk much of the time or in bed or on a couch? I love the fact that the form factor of the iPad lends itself to multiple locations, stands, keyboards or no keyboard at all.

In terms of longevity, I’m not a fan of the material used by Apple on these iPad keyboards. My second Smart Keyboard Portfolio is wrinkling and bubbling (the first was replaced under warranty for the same issue). I would have liked to purchase the new iPad Magic Keyboard but at that price, with the same material, no way. But I’ve not seen widespread reports of this so maybe it’s a non-issue for most people.

So, I’d suggest longevity will be, in general, close enough to the same to not matter (especially considering the tasks she does with her computer). I’d also suggest that while a laptop is stuck to one keyboard an iPad can be used with many keyboards which is a bonus in the longevity consideration especially if $40 to 80 keyboards are what’s being used.


Does your girlfriend have a car? She probably spends $3-4000 annually on it and uses it less than her computer, which will likely last longer. Keep decision in perspective. Apple will finance without interest for a year!

When she is doing word processing, does she have other windows open (i.e. a browser, or multiple document windows)? If so, you might want to let her play with that on your newer iPad first (if she hasn’t already been doing that on hers). Multiple windows on an iPad is a different beast. Not that it doesn’t work, but it’s different and might require getting used to A Mac would be closer to the Windows experience in that regard.

I think what everyone here is coming down to is that either one should last a long time, although the Mac might have a supported O/S for a bit longer. So it might really just come down to which one she will be more comfortable using as a work device.

Just something else to consider. (Oh, and don’t run Chrome unless absolutely necessary :slight_smile: )

Oh, and one other thing: If she’s using MS Office, I don’t think either the MacOS or the iPad versions are 100% feature complete. It’s only the stuff on the edges, but verify that, too. (Word on iPad can’t do styles the same way, last time I checked. As an example)


FWIW my 2020 iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard is showing signs of wear - the plastic cover is peeling off at the edges

- the iPad itself is fine but I won’t be surprised if the keyboard needs replacement within the year.

1 Like

That’s similar to what mine has done. In my case any area of the case that comes into regular contact with my skin wrinkles up and then from that those areas bubble up and peel off. I’m guessing it’s just something about the chemistry of the oils in my skin. I’ve been surprised that it’s not a more widespread issue.