There's no denying it, the iPad Pro is an impressive piece of kit. A high-end display, mega-powerful processor, and extensive battery life put this tablet in demanding workflows of many a professional. When the Pro first started making waves, discussion of the personal computer's dwindling role in the workday started bubbling to the surface. Now it's the turn of the humble gaming laptop.
Yes, Google Stadia has now met its fateful end. But there are enough services live (and thriving) to theoretically offer a gaming PC experience through the lens of a smaller screen - and there's no better iOS gaming tablet out there than the iPad Pro.
Of course, that kind of power doesn't come cheap. The cheapest 11-inch 2022 iPad Pro available is $799 / £899 after all, and only packs 128GB of storage in its price point. You can pick up an RTX 3050 laptop for that kind of cash (or an RTX 3060 rig at a push), with an i7 processor and 512GB SSD. Once you start looking at 12.9-inch models, you're already in the realm of a mid-range or high-end PC anyway.
You're not just buying a gaming device here, though. After all, if you need an iPad anyway it's certainly tempting to wrap everything into one on-the-go device, rather than spending that cash twice. You'll be making sacrifices along the way, but if you're a certain kind of player it might just work.
iPad Pro specs for gaming
The iPad Pro has come a long way in its lifetime so far. Gaming on an iPad has never been so popular, thanks to Apple's focus on high-refresh displays and the raw power of that blisteringly fast M2 processor. Not only that but there's plenty of support for external mobile gaming controllers, as well as the best Xbox Series X controllers and PS5 controllers to boot. Thanks to the iPad Pro's USB-C connection, you'll also be able to grab extra accessories to cast your gameplay to an external monitor for big-screen play when you aren't out and about. Plus, the iPad Pro's battery life will see you through a solid amount of hours when on the go.
Gaming services available on iPad Pro
So what can you actually play on an iPad Pro? There are three main ways to get gameplay out of this tablet: Nvidia GeForce Now, Apple Arcade, and Xbox Game Pass. All pack additional costs for the pleasure of playing on your own device, but the most cost-efficient is likely Game Pass streaming for the vast majority of players. That said, GeForce Now is the best way to get as close to a full PC experience as you're going to achieve, but it's also the most expensive. We're diving into just what each service can offer below.
Nvidia GeForce Now
Accessed through Safari, Nvidia GeForce Now is a portal to your own games via the brand's high-end RTX 4080-toting PC servers. That means you'll have to buy your games via Steam, Epic, or Ubisoft Connect, for example, and then pay extra for Nvidia to bring them to your iPad Pro. It's costly, with the most expensive tier coming in at $19.99 / £17.99 a month plus the prices of all the games you'll be playing, but it's also the best PC experience on an iOS tablet. If you've already got a solid bank of titles in your library, you're good to go.
There is a free tier, which offers a lower-quality server rig at your disposal and drops you to the back of the queue waiting for that server to come available, all while limiting your sessions to an hour at a time. That's excellent for those who dip in and out and don't mind so much about graphical fidelity, and can certainly keep those costs down while still offering a PC experience. This free tier isn't going to replace a gaming laptop, though - you'll still get far better performance for your money by picking up a dedicated rig.
The experience gets a little closer when you take a look at the Priority package. RTX graphics, priority access to faster servers, and 1080p gameplay at 60fps - you're getting the power of a lower mid-range gaming PC through your iPad. At $9.99 / £8.99 a month, it's more in line with Game Pass prices and allows sessions of up to six hours. If you're after real-time ray tracing on max settings at 4K120, you'll be looking at the $19.99 / £17.99 monthly Ultimate package - but that's for the true power users.
Xbox Game Pass
Xbox has been quietly upping its streaming game for some time now, and it's finally in shape for regular, reliable use. While it won't allow your iPad Pro to completely replace a gaming laptop - you're limited to Microsoft's Xbox catalog here - you'll still be blazing through Triple-A content and plenty of indies for $14.99 / £14.99 a month (outside of Game Pass Ultimate deals). That's unlimited streaming access to a massive selection of games, including new Microsoft launches on release day.
Apple Arcade is the best service for downloading and natively running games. It's much cheaper, at $4.99 / £4.99 per month, but specializes in smaller more indie-focused titles. These are still very much mobile games, but you won't have to contend with ads and paywalls, and there are still some big names among the catalog. Sayonara Wild Hearts, The Pathless, and NBA 2K23 are all big hitters, with more short, light-hearted titles added all the time.
Apple Arcade isn't going to take over from Steam or Epic any time soon, and you won't find Triple-A blockbusters on these shelves. However, if you prefer a more independent flavor on PC anyway, it's a solid subscription to test out.
Can an iPad Pro replace a gaming laptop?
At the end of the day, an iPad Pro can replace a gaming laptop, within the limits of games offered on Game Pass and GeForce Now and at a higher cost (once subscriptions are factored in) for the tech you'll actually be using. GeForce Now is the best way to replicate the experience of PC gaming but comes at a considerable premium - up to $20 / £18 a month simply to stream the games you've already paid for to your device. It's expensive, but if you've got the library to support it (and the WiFi strength to keep it going), it's certainly doable.
Of course, an iPad Pro isn't going to replace a super expensive rig. However, if you're after an everyday device for a few Triple-A releases that can still act as an everyday browsing and productivity companion, it's certainly a viable option these days. It's not going to be better than a gaming laptop, but if you're choosing between the two devices there's certainly a lot going for it.
After a better price? We're rounding up all the latest iPad Pro deals and the biggest gaming laptop deals of the week as well. Or, for something even smaller, take a look at the best gaming phones on the market.