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How does the Apple 2020 iPad compare to the 1994 Mac Trackpad

How does the Apple 2020 iPad compare to the 1994 Mac Trackpad

Apple introduced a new iPad Pro Yes Magic keyboard with trackpad in March 2020. It’s the first time Apple has launched a trackpad for iPads. It reminded us of the company’s first trackpad laptop – the Powerbook 500 series, launched 26 years ago.

Given the historical nature of this version, we thought it might be fun to take a look at the PowerBook 540c. Let’s compare it with the new iPad Pro and see how far Apple’s portable technology has come.

PowerBook 500 Series Review

An Apple PowerBook 500 Series

In May 1994, Apple introduced the first four models of the model PowerBook 500 series: 520, 520c, 540 and 540c. All 520 cars had 25 MHz processors, while the processors in the 540 models ran at 33 MHz. Models 520 and 540 were equipped with passive matrix monochrome LCD displays, while «c» models have active matrix LCD displays with 16-bit color support.

The 500 Series has revamped the PowerBook line with several new features, including built-in stereo speakers, Ethernet and the option of a PCMCIA slot. In particular, however, these were the first laptops in the world to come with a touchpad integrated into the modern configuration we know today. (An older laptop, Gavilan SC, included a touchpad pointing device in an awkward position above the keyboard).

Before the trackpad, Apple included a small ball from tracking incorporated as a pointing device in your PowerBook series. Unlike MS-DOS PCs, Mac notebook computers required built-in pointing devices due to the graphical nature of the operating system. The trackpad has provided a durable and compact way to integrate this capability into ever-thinner cars.

New trackpads for iPads

The new Apple iPad Pro with Magic keyboard.

For the past 26 years, Apple has been delivering Mac laptops with trackpads. However, when the company announced that its iPads will now have support for trackpad and mouse, our ears were animated. Since its introduction in 2010Apple has strongly promoted the iPad as a touch device, so this change indicates a clear evolution of the iPad platform.

The iPad (and the iPhone before it) have revolutionized portable devices in large part because they need no other method of input than touching human fingers. Unlike previous portable machines (even those with touch-sensitive screens), people were not to be left with small pencils or keyboards. Therefore, Apple kept a hard line when it comes to refusing support for external indicators.

Now that the iPad has become as powerful as some high-end laptops, its function has evolved from a cheap tablet for web browsing to a professional quality laptop replacement. Some industry experts have suspected this IPadOS devices could replace Macs for years (although this was never a clear consensus).

With the introduction of the iPad trackpad, it almost seems that Apple has given a complete twist to its PowerBook-500 series roots.

Comparison: PowerBook 540c vs iPad Pro with Magic keyboard

A PowerBook 540c with an iPad Pro with a magic keyboard.

As an educational juxtaposition, let’s compare PowerBook 540c first class line of 1994 with today’s top Apple iPad Pro (Wi-Fi + Cellular) with the new Magic keyboard. The prices are adjusted for inflation back and forth to give you a better idea of ​​how much each would cost in each era.

It is interesting to see the big differences in the capacities of these cars from two different eras.


Date of presentation

Price(Dollars 2020)

Price($ 1994)

CPU / SOC type


Hard disk

Removable drive type

Expansion ports


Cameras / sensors



Battery life

Operating system



Apple PowerBook 540c

Apple iPad Pro Wi-Fi + 12.9-inch cell phone (with magic keyboard)

May 16, 1994

March 18, 2020

$ 8,486.39

$ 1,948.00

$ 4,839.00

$ 1,110.76

Motorola 68LC040 33 MHz

Apple A12Z bionic with 8 cores

neuron-powered, M12 coprocessor, 8-core GPU

4 MB

6,000 MB

320 MB

1,048,576 MB

3.5-inch floppy disk 1.44 MB

No one

1x serial, 1x SCSI, 2x ADB, optional internal PCMCIA adapter

1x USB-C

Active Matrix LCD Screen with 9.5-Inch Backlight (Diagonal)

16-bit color at 640 x 480 pixels

84.21 pixels per inch

No touch screen

12.9-inch (diagonal) IPS LCD with LED backlight

30-bit color at 2732 x 2048 pixels

264 pixels per inch

Multiple touch

No one

Width: 12 MP, ultra-wide: 10 MP, front: 7 MP, built-in flash, 4K video recording

LiDAR scanner, three-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer, ambient light sensor, RFID sensor

2 speakers, 1 microphone

4 speakers, 5 microphones

Built-in AAUI-15 wired Ethernet at 10 Mbit per second

Optional 19.2 Kbps internal dial-up modem

802.11ax Wi-Fi 6; simultaneous dual band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz); HT80 with MIMO

Bluetooth 5.0, gigabit class LTE cellular modem

2 hours (4 hours with second optional battery)

9-10 hours

Mac OS 7.1 – 8.1

iPadOS 13+

9.7 in. Height x 11.5 in. Width x 2.3 in. Deep

11.04 «high x 8.46» wide x 0.23 «deep (no magic keyboard)

7.1 pounds (7.3 lbs. With second optional battery)

1.42 pounds (without magic keyboard)

Looking at these two listing specifications, it’s clear that the iPad Pro offers much more storage and processing power, a better network, and incredible sensor and camera integration, in a thinner, lighter, and cheaper package.

The only area where the PowerBook 540c may seem to have an advantage is the number of simultaneous expansion options. The 540c’s SCSI and serial ports and the optional PCMCIA slot offered a lot of flexibility for now.

Of course, the iPad Pro has Bluetooth and USB-C, which can do whatever serial or SCSI ports can do and with a much less painful configuration. The iPad Pro comes with such a built-in capacity that expansion is largely unnecessary.

The price differences of over 26 years are impressive. The gap between Apple’s flagship laptop from 1994 (probably the most powerful and capable laptop in the world at the time) and today’s most powerful tablet (plus the keyboard) is $ 6,538.39! If you take out the $ 299 Magic keyboard, that’s another $ 6,837.39 difference. You can buy four more top iPad professionals for this amount.

The strong price difference comes from the kindness of the miniaturization and integration that took place in electronics. It has dramatically improved supply chains and cost benefits for a huge mass market, compared to the relatively small market for 1994 Mac notebooks.

Almost everyone can now have an incredibly powerful computer and this has changed our civilization. Also, the revolution is far from over, so it will be interesting to see where things go here. Maybe computers over the age of 26 will still be shipped with trackpads!