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These 3 accessories transform my iPad into a laptop replacement (sometimes)

Can the iPad replace a laptop? It depends on what you want from a laptop.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Min Shin
Apple iPad Pro tablet and DJI Mini 3 Pro drone next to each other

My iPad Pro has replaced my MacBook Pro for a lot of applications.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The 12.9-inch M2 iPad Pro is my favorite iPad to date. In fact, it's the iPad that I've used the most. 

Most iPads go through a period where I try to use them for a few weeks, and then they are quickly forgotten until I find it being used as a mouse pad or a coaster for a mug.

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I think the difference comes down to the bigger display and the fast processor capable of doing some serious hardcore work, like processing 4K and 5.1K video. 

This iPad can even handle editing videos encoded using the super-heavyweight ProRes 422 HQ codec.

Also: M1 iPad Pro (2021) vs M2 iPad Pro (2022): Is it worth the upgrade?

It's an absolute titan of a system, rivaling the MacBook Pro in terms of power and performance.

But the iPad Pro is a tablet, and the MacBook Pro is a laptop.

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Is there a way to bridge that gap?


There are three accessories that have helped me transform my iPad Pro into a device that can, in many cases, replace my laptop.

Here are the three accessories. 

A good keyboard

The best accessory I got for my iPad Pro was the Apple Magic Keyboard. It's hands down the best, most reliable, most robust keyboard you can get for the iPad.

And I've tried a lot of keyboards.

It clips on with magnets, has a brilliant folding stand, works flawlessly, adds a second USB-C port for charging, and protects the tablet when it's being transported.

Typing on this feels very much like typing on my MacBook Pro, so moving from one to the other doesn't feel jarring. I've typed many thousands of words on this keyboard and it's simply the best.

The only drawback is that this keyboard is expensive.

Also: The best keyboards

Eye-wateringly expensive.

I wish there was a cheaper alternative, but if there is, I've not come across anything.

An Apple Pencil

I don't use the Apple Pencil all the time, but when I do, it's worth its weight in gold.

I love the precision it offers compared to jabbing at the screen with my finger, or even using the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard.

Some apps, such as the new DaVinci Resolve for iPad, feel like they are designed with the idea that people are going to be using the Apple Pencil. The user interface is much more densely packed than what we are used to for a mobile app, and having a high-precision pointing device makes a huge difference.

So much so, I find myself jabbing at my MacBook Pro with the Apple Pencil, and wishing the two would cooperate.

Also: How to pair and charge your Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil makes my iPad Pro better than my MacBook Pro.

A hub

I've been using the Satechi USB-C Multiport MX hub for a few months now, and it's a fantastic hub.

This one hub connects the USB-C port on the iPad Pro and gives me two USB-C ports that can be used for devices and charging, dual HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB-A 3.0 ports, microSD and SD card slots, and a 3.5mm audio jack port.

Everything I need, with the additional bonus that this also works on my MacBook Pro and other devices. 

Also: The best USB hubs

It's a great hub. 

A few other useful accessories

There are a few other accessories that I tend to carry around with me.

First, I use the excellent Spigen Apple Pencil holder

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It clamps between the iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard, held in place by strategic magnets, and securely holds the Apple Pencil in the right place for charging.

Then there's the Anker 737 power bank that keeps the iPad Pro (and all my other devices) going for even longer. If I need to be using my iPad Pro for more than a day, and I'm away from a power outlet, this 24,000 mAh power bank will be going with me.

Also, when I need more storage, I connect an external SSD to that very useful USB-C port. My SSDs of choice are the excellent Crucial X8 drives, which come in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB. Adding storage this way is not only a lot cheaper than buying an iPad Pro with more storage (Apple charges a whopping $700 if you want to upgrade the iPad Pro from the base 128GB to 1TB, whereas a 4TB Crucial X8 is only $249.99), but it's also a lot more convenient because you can switch between multiple drives.

Can an iPad or iPad Pro replace a laptop for you?

It really depends on what you want from a laptop. In my case, adding a good keyboard and trackpad, the Apple Pencil, and a decent hub allow me to use the iPad Pro instead of a MacBook Pro in a lot of situations.

For example, if I'm hiking to do some photography or videography, I'd much rather take the tablet than the laptop (it's smaller, lighter, has better battery life, and it's a lot less fragile).

It's less that my iPad Pro is replacing a laptop, and more that it's a better solution.

Also: The 6 best Macs

I feel that this "Can an iPad replace a laptop?" debate is flawed. Just because toothbrush contains the word "brush," doesn't mean that it also needs to be a cat brush, or that there needs to be a series of different third-party brushes that clip onto the end of a toothbrush.

It's OK that a toothbrush is just a toothbrush.

It's also not cheap. Keyboards, hubs, and extra storage all adds up. If all you want is a laptop, it's cheaper to buy a laptop.

But if you want a tablet and to customize it so it can take over some of the roles of a laptop, then this is also possible.

Just bear in mind that you'll pay a premium price for this. 

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