When I’m at home, my iPhone often sits on a table and acts as the conduit for my other devices for texts and phone calls. I’ll use it if I’m going to be making calls, but otherwise I can run texts and even answer calls through my iPad and I find it a far more comfortable experience.

I know some people do almost everything with their phone, including typing long emails and I respect that. For me, that’s a big maddening on the tiny keyboard and I generally use voice to text or opt for another device.

After two years of being in the Apple ecosystem, previously being a Windows and Android guy, I’ve ended up in a place where the iPad Pro is my main device at home, with my iPhone and MacBook subbing in only where they shine.

To me, the iPad Pro offers just about everything I liked about the Surface Tablet when I had one a few years back with far more horsepower and thermal management. It’s a tablet when I want a tablet for the couch or in bed, or for sitting on my back deck in an easy chair and listening to nature.

It has the accessories to become a pretty capable workstation as well. I’ve tried the Magic Keyboard, Logitech’s Combo Touch, and even the Anker tablet stand/USB hub and pair it with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

The versatility is brilliant.

It’d be faster for me to start by telling you what I don’t use the iPad Pro for — where I reach for my MacBook instead.

  • Photo and video editing. As much as the M1/M2 iPad Pro has plenty of processing power for these things, and it does them at a technical level far better than a Surface Tablet, the software UI tends to focus too much on being an app for a mobile device and not being a pro app that happens to run on an iPad. Affinity Photo and Lightroom are not the equivalent of their MacBook versions, and the UI is either limited or clunky, or there are annoyances like Lightroom’s insistence on cloud syncing with no way to disable — something that’s not an issue on the MacBook.
  • File-intensive sessions. If I’ll be copying a lot of files or working with several windows at once, such as backing up files, sifting through large collections of photos, or reorganizing client files, that’s just more comfortable on the MacBook. The iPad’s Files app has gotten a lot better, but I find work sessions where I’ll be saving, opening, and moving a lot of files smoother on MacOS.
  • Certain web work where I need a “full OS” browser and not a mobile one. Sites like Gmail or utility sites sometimes don’t properly load page elements on the iPad, and in my design work website tools like Divi are much wonkier on a tablet (regardless of browser). For starters, Divi only works with a mouse and the touch interface drags objects all over the place.

If I didn’t have a MacBook I could definitely do all these things with the iPad. It’s not that the iPad can’t do the heavier lifting work tasks — I’ve done all of them on the iPad at various points. That’s what’s great about it.

External monitor support on the iPad has improved a lot, and I enjoy it for the most part with my LG 4K monitor. And there are elements of the touch interface even using a keyboard that I enjoy.

But there are little things here and there that feel like concessions compared to doing them on a Mac.

The iPad Pro For Everything Else.

I essentially see my MacBook as an exclusive work machine. I don’t use it for fun, for content consumption, or chatting generally. It’s great when I need it and I don’t think I would enjoy an exclusively iPad work life.

But I use the iPad Pro as much as I can.

The iPad is ideal for replying to emails, writing blogs, doing what little social media stuff I do, photo editing on the couch, drawing, chatting, and even family Facetimes.

It’s more comfortable to handle Apple Notes and Reminders and keep myself organized, and there’s something about a touch interface that seems more modern and personal.

Initially when I’d switched into the Apple ecosystem I figured my phone would be my main device and the others would support it. Now, it’s more like my phone is there to get texts and calls and it’s the iPad I’m checking most.

The iPad Pro Isn’t Quite A Laptop Replacement, and I’m Ok With That.

When I first tried the iPad Pro I really wanted it to replace a laptop and be an everything device. I got a bit frustrated at some of the software limitations imposed upon it, both from Apple and in the apps themselves that sometimes seem too focused on being a mobile app rather than a pro app that happens to run on an iPad.

But over the last couple years I’ve gotten comfortable with this work flow. Each major software update makes the iPad more of a real computer than a purely content consumption device, so I’m open to seeing where it goes.

With how interconnected Apple products are, and with things like Airdrop and iCloud to share files between devices, it’s not a pain point to break up the day a bit using one device for certain work tasks and another for everything else.

This post is part of a series called iPad vs. Mac, which chronicles my experiences using each to accomplish personal life and work projects: quirks, solutions, and where each one shines.

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