Can you replace your laptop with an iPad for going back to school?

iPad Pro 2020 Trackpad Hero
iPad Pro 2020 Trackpad Hero (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

Can you replace your laptop with an iPad for going back to school?

Best answer: If you're planning on using your device primarily for word processing, note-taking, web research, drawing, and similar tasks, the answer is yes. Otherwise, you should stick with a laptop.Entry-level goodness: iPad Air (2019) (from $499 at Apple)Another level: iPad Pro (2020) (from $799 at Apple)

Making a choice

iPads are getting ever-closer to replacing laptops -- at least in certain situations. The best starting point in deciding between the two is to ask whether you're going to be using your device for highly intensive tasks such as video or photo-design. If your schoolwork requires that you use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or Apple Final Cut Pro, to name just a few examples, stick with a laptop.

By contrast, if you only need your device for writing term papers, researching topics, sketch work, or playing the occasional game, an iPad is a great choice. For this, we recommend either the iPad Air (2019) or iPad Pro (2020).

The latest iPad Air

Introduced in 2019, the third-generation iPad Air is an excellent choice for most users. It's got a 10.5-inch, wide gamut, Retina display, with TrueTone ambient color temperature matching, which is slightly bigger than the original iPad. It also comes with Apple's A12 Bionic chipset, the same one in iPhone XS, 3GB of memory, a Lightning connector, Touch ID biometric fingerprint sensor, two stereo speakers, a 7 megapixel, 1080p front-facing camera and an 8 megapixel, wide color f/2.4, also 1080p rear camera.

You can get an iPad Air with a silver, space gray, or coppery gold finish, with 64 or 264GB of storage, with just Wi-Fi or with Wi-Fi and cellular.

It's also compatible with the 1st generation Apple Pencil, Logitech Crayon, and Apple Smart Keyboard for drawing and typing. They do increase the up-front cost but also the functionality.

iPad Pro lineup

The latest iPad Pro arrived earlier this year and is available in two sizes, 11-inches, and 12.9-inches. Both feature Face ID versus Touch ID and have the best internals you can buy in an Apple tablet. The iPad Pro features a so-called ProMotion display that saves power and allows for smooth scrolling. You can also use the second-generation Apple Pencil with either model. All models of the 2020 iPad, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB, now have 6GB of RAM.

The 2020 iPad Pro also includes True Depth camera that supports augmented reality like Animoji, plus you get four speakers for stereo sound in every orientation. Of course, you could always compare them and see which works best for you.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.