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It’s been a few months since I said we were going to talk about using an iPad as a laptop replacement and I found myself using this setup as my go-to portable device whenever I need to move away from my workstation. Why? It’s pretty difficult to explain – maybe it’s due to the portability, maybe it’s because this combination is superior compared to other laptops.

Now that’s a hot take.

Anyway, The idea of a “laptop replacement” had been going around for a very long time. I’ve been using the 5th generation iPad Air with the Apple Magic Keyboard and also the Apple Pencil.

I’m pretty sure many people want to get a device like this to replace their laptops – so that’s why I’m doing this piece of content.

Okay, so we’ve already done the “Android tablet as a laptop replacement” previously with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra – watch that first because in that video, I’ve stated that the feasibility of a tablet being a laptop replacement is feasible but purely dependent on your use case.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

The same mentality applies to the iPad Air too. My usage is rather simple – I just want a device with a lag-free Google Chrome experience, a proper keyboard to type, and able to run Spotify and YouTube. Of course, having the ability to multitask via multi-window is necessary as well.


M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

The first thing that I want to highlight is the Magic Keyboard. Thanks to that hinge, the iPad Air essentially floats in the air. The main hinge rests against the table and there is another hinge to adjust the tilt angle so that the iPad can be seen at a more comfortable level.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacementM1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

However, I initially had issues with the design. You see, the tilt angle is very restrictive and for someone with a long body like mine, I had to bend my backbone to lower my body to look at the screen properly.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

Then, I realized something. This restrictive tilt angle is actually by design. Let’s take a laptop for example. We usually use the laptop on the tablet and we sit straight to use the device. Then, we look down to see the screen – and this angle is bad for our necks.

The Apple Magic Keyboard forced us to not look down at such an angle by literally not allowing us to do it.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

So, I started using the iSwift Pi to elevate the iPad Air to a more comfortable level, and then I started to like this hinge design. It saves so much space compared to the usual kickstand design like the Microsoft Surface or the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra to the point that I can actually use it on the iSwift Pi at my bedside.

This space-saving design is crucial especially if you want to use it in an airplane. Those fold-out tables don’t have much depth so every centimeter counts.

The trackpad surely feels good to use – just like the MacBooks – but Apple decided to make the cursor to be completely different from what we’ve been familiar with on Windows and macOS. It uses a circular dot that adapts its shape depending on whatever the cursor is on top of.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

And that is where the weirdness of the UI starts. You see, the cursor changes it shape, gets magnetically attracted into place and engulfs the entire button, like how Kirby inhaled an entire car. I find this to be okay in certain cases, but sometimes, if there are few buttons close to each other, then it’s very frustrating to use as it will snap onto some button and it’s difficult to move the cursor into another button.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement
Buttons are close together, so the software gets confused.

The perfect example for this is in the iPadOS 16’s Stage Manager. Just look at this.

Speaking of Stage Manager, I spent some time with it too since I wrote this script while using iPadOS 16 beta. I just don’t prefer to use Stage Manager. Sure, we can use a few floating windows at once but the navigation and usability is just… weird. As mentioned in our iPadOS 16 preview video, it is technically macOS’s Mission Control but with a different UI.

iPad OS 16 Beta 1

I do, however, prefer to use split screen multitasking instead of Stage Manager. I always open two apps at once and for my use case, it’s always Google Keep and Google Chrome side-by-side. If I need to use Spotify, then I’ll just switch to that app instead.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

That aside, switching between apps and multitasking is snappy on the M1 iPad Air. I did so wrote so many scripts that I am kinda surprised when I think back how much work I had done using the M1 iPad Air. I also sometimes use the iPad Air to play games but that’s a rare occasion.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

However, not everything is sunshine and rainbow with the M1 iPad Air. There are many people saying that Apple products do not have any software bugs and I disagree. I encountered one very annoying bug from iPadOS 15 all the way to iPadOS 16 Beta 3 – and that is the virtual keyboard.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

Yeah, yeah, this isn’t exactly a part of being a “laptop replacement” but this issue had annoyed me so much that I need to point it out. You see, I sometimes prefer to detach the iPad Air from the keyboard because I just want to scroll Facebook for example.

I have no idea why this happens… and it surely is annoying.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

But when it works – like in Google Keep – then it works really well. I typed so many scripts using the iPad Air with the Apple Magic Keyboard. The reason why is because I usually finish editing a video and leave the MacBook Pro to render while I go somewhere else and do something else. That is when I bring the iPad Air alongside the Apple Magic Keyboard.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

Since I also got the Apple Pencil, I also did some simple sketches and animation using ProCreate too. It’s rudimentary but it works and I can see myself using this method to explain even more technical stuff in the future.

Best of all, once I have finished drawing those sketches on ProCreate, I can directly AirDrop everything to the MacBook Pro. I don’t have to plug in any cables and the speed of AirDrop is just insanely fast.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

If I am feeling particularly lazy, I can even draw on Apple Notes and have it synced to the MacBook Pro via the internet.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

Aren’t I using the iPad Air as a laptop already

Then you might say – aren’t I using the iPad Air as a laptop then? Why do I still need the MacBook Pro? Well, for different purposes, actually. I can see why Apple decided to separate iPadOS from macOS even though they share a lot of similarities in terms of both hardware and software.

Because of this separation, I am able to segregate tasks depending on the device and efficiently juggle between the two. When one device is busy with something else, then I switch to the other device. If I need to draw, then I’ll get the iPad Air.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

I can’t imagine every time I want to draw, I’ll have to stop all the things I’m doing on the MacBook Pro just to draw something simple. It might be a first-world problem, but I prefer this kind of separation.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

I can also use the MacBook Pro in tandem with the iPad Air. I can use iPadOS with the MacBook Pro’s keyboard and mouse or I can convert the iPad Air into an external monitor for the MacBook Pro. I usually use it in the latter.

The reason why I prefer to take the iPad Air with me when I go out is because of its compact, lightweight setup that still is able to do the stuff I want to do when I’m out and about. My MacBook Pro is usually hooked up to an external monitor when I’m at the office or at home.

M1 iPad Air 5th gen as Laptop replacement

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