Review: Apple's new MacBook Air and iPad Pro

Apple's latest batch of hardware has gone on sale. If you're ready to whip your wallet out in time for Christmas, here are some pros and cons to each device.

MacBook Air

I'm always interested in the weight of a laptop and with the new MacBook Air, I've been pleasantly surprised. It's wafer thin and weighs barely any more than my MacBook 12-inch, which has happily found a home in any bag I'm carrying.  

The Retina display is, as expected, gorgeous - but doesn't have as wider colour gamut as the MacBook Pro. This means that for everyday users it will be more than satisfactory, but serious creative-types may take issue with it.

I always look for a good keyboard on a laptop. Apple has stuck to butterfly switches, which won't impress some people; but it's the new and improved version, with a protective silicon barrier underneath each key so there might be fewer complaints about dust issues. The keys are certainly quieter.

I do like the addition of Touch ID but it would've been even better if it also had Face ID. There must been a good reason for not including it but it's a shame given that most Windows laptops now include Windows Hello.

The new MacBook Air comes in a new shade of orangey  gold.
The new MacBook Air comes in a new shade of orangey gold. Photo credit: Newshub.

The machine packs a 1.6-GHz, dual-core, eighth-generation Intel Core i5 processor.  That makes it better than the 12-inch MacBook but not as powerful as the MacBook Pro.

Again, creative types won't give it a second look, but for those everyday users it will be fine. It works perfectly well with several tabs open at once and lots of apps running.

If lots of memory is what you're after, it can be increased to up to 16GB. That's twice as much memory capacity as the old MacBook Air, so that is a big plus point.

The speakers on the new Air have been improved and there are three microphones.

Downsides of the new MacBook Air include losing ports - there are just two USB-C ports, which double as power and Thunderbolt 3 ports. Battery life is also just OK. It lasts around eight hours, which should get you through a work or school day with reasonable use.

Verdict: The new MacBook Air is likely to do really well with students and everyday users and it's still reasonably priced, starting at $2149. For people who do lots of video editing etc, a MacBook Pro might be a better choice, or an iPad Pro.

iPad Pro

If all the above doesn't sound meaty enough for you, and you're wedded to Apple products, then the new iPad Pro is most definitely worth considering.

Apple claims the new iPad Pro is faster than 92 percent of all laptops sold in the last year and it will certainly be a popular choice with gamers and creatives who spend lots of time working with photos, video editing, illustrating etc.

The first thing you'll notice is that that Apple has done away with the home button, which has allowed for a screen that’s almost edge to edge. It looks incredibly impressive on the 12.9-inch version of the device but the 11-inch version doesn't look too shabby either.

The overall design is very attractive. The corners of the display are rounded and the back of the device is flat.

FaceID is a nice addition and it's reasonably easy to use. It's good that works in any direction the iPad is being held.

The new iPad Pro comes in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes.
The new iPad Pro comes in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes. Photo credit: Newshub.

The lightning port has disappeared and in its place is a USB-C port, which is a huge development. It means that the new iPad Pro can be connected to external displays. It can also be used to charge other gadgets.

Some downsides are that the tablet doesn't charge wirelessly and while it comes with Apple's new feature Smart HDR, which helps with contrast lighting, the camera hasn’t had an upgrade. It's still 12 megapixels on the back while the front facing camera sits at seven megapixels

It also has lost the headphone jack. I know this is an Apple 'thing' but this may be a problem for some as iPads are also used as televisions and media workflows demand low-latency audio monitoring.

The new USB-C port makes it possible to use a huge number of existing USB based devices with the iPad Pro including cameras, USB hubs, Ethernet, displays, card readers, audio connectors, microphones, musical keyboards, etc. 

However, as iOS does not external support external storage you can't plug in a flash drive or hard drive.

The tablet is also a little boring in the colour department. It only comes in Space Grey and Silver. I like a little colour in my life.

Apple has released a new Apple Pencil to accompany the new iPad Pro but it costs extra.
Apple has released a new Apple Pencil to accompany the new iPad Pro but it costs extra. Photo credit: Newshub.

Along with the new iPad Pro, some refreshed Apple accessories are also available.

The new Apple pencil magnetically snaps onto the side and doesn't fall off - even with some shaking! It also means it's always charged and ready to go. It's a clever little beast and goes into power saving mode when you're not using it.

The Smart Keyboard has been improved so it has more 'lapability', but I still found it difficult to type on for long periods, so it's not great as a laptop replacement. 

Verdict: The new iPad Pro is a very worthy purchase for the creative or serious professional with plenty of cash to splash. It starts at $1749 and goes up to a whopping $3299. Then the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil cost extra. 

If you've got last year's model, you’ll probably be fine to wait another year or two while those wanting an iPad for general family use don't need the Pro version at all.