Microsoft and Apple each argue that its tablet with attachable keyboard is the future. But which one is right for you?
The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro surprises with the A10X chip’s sheer brawn, while the Surface Pro’s operating system, keyboard and port selection make it more of a complete PC. You might think you know which machine you want, but this face-off may change your mind.
|iPad Pro||Surface Pro|
|Starting price/with keyboard and pen||$649/$907||$799/$1,057|
|Processors||A10X Hybrid Processor||Intel Core m3, i5 and i7|
|Display||10.5 inches (2224 x 1668 pixels)||12.3 inches (2736 x 1824 pixels)|
|Geekbench 4 score||9,233||8,879|
|RAM||4GB||4GB, 8GB, 16GB|
|Weight/with keyboard||1.06 pounds/1.60 pounds||1.69 pounds/2.76 pounds|
|Thickness||0.24 inches||0.33 inches|
|Ports||Lightning, headphone jack||USB 3.0, microSD reader, Surface Connect, headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, Type Cover port|
Of course, many of you likely want to know how the larger, 12.9-inch iPad pro compares to the 12.3-inch Surface Pro. We look forward to updating this story once we test the larger iPad Pro.
The latest iterations of the iPad Pro and Surface Pro don’t rock the boat when it comes to design and, as a result, don’t really wow us.
But on an industrial-design level, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro impresses by packing a bigger screen into a frame that’s roughly the same size as that of the previous, 9.7-inch Pro iOS tablet. Microsoft made some of the Surface Pro’s edges rounder, aiming to make it easier to hold, and enabled its kickstand to open further, all the way to 165 degrees.
The 1.69-pound Surface Pro is heavier than the 1.06-pound iPad Pro, but the Microsoft machine’s 12.3-inch display is larger than the 10.5-inch panel in the Apple Tablet. The iPad Pro is the more slender of the two as well, measuring 0.24 inches thick, to the Surface Pro’s 0.33 inches.
The Surface Pro’s advantage in design is in its suede-like Alcantara (a harder-to-stain cousin of suede) keyboard deck. Not only does this keyboard provide a nicer typing experience than the conductive fabric of the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard, but it actually has a wrist-wrest area, which Apple’s machine doesn’t.
Verdict: Draw. The iPad Pro is sleeker, but the Surface Pro is more comfortable to use.
Each of these tablets features an excellent screen.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro packs a sharp, 2224 x 1668-pixel display, but the 12.3-inch Surface Pro’s screen offers higher resolution, with a 2736 x 1824-pixel panel. We haven’t tested it yet, but the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s got the most pixels, with its 2732 x 2048-pixel screen.
If you want a tablet to take to the beach or just use in direct sunlight, the iPad Pro may be best for you, as its 477-nit display outshines the 396-nit screen on the Surface Pro.
The Surface Pro takes that win back in the color department, though, as its panel produces 140 percent of the sRGB spectrum, beating the iPad Pro’s 122-percent reading.
In the tiebreaker, the iPad Pro’s screen is the more accurate, as it scored a very low 0.2 (0 is perfect) on the Delta-E test, sliding under the Surface Pro’s mark of 0.5.
Verdict: The iPad Pro’s wins in brightness and accuracy make up for the Apple tablet’s slight loss on color range.
Each of these tablets features an attachable keyboard, and the similarities stop there. The Surface Laptop’s keyboard features a solid 1.3mm of key travel and 70 grams of required actuation force, measurements that enable comfy clicking and the best detachable keyboard experience on the market.
The iPad Pro Smart Keyboard’s keys provide a decent amount of travel, but the accessory doesn’t include a touchpad. Sure, it can’t, as iOS 11 doesn’t feature a cursor, but the Surface Pro is much easier to control with its touchpad.
Verdict: The Surface Laptop’s Signature Type Cover is the better keyboard for typing and navigation.
Apple wants you to replace your laptop with an iPad Pro, but this machine is still lacking in connectivity options. Sporting only a Lightning port, headphone jack and smart keyboard connector, it pales in comparison to the Surface Pro’s USB 3.0 port, microSD card reader, headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect port for power and docking, and Type Cover port.
Verdict: The Surface Laptop gives you a plethora of ports, while the iPad Pro wants you to do just about everything with one Lightning connector.
The Surface Pro and iPad Pro both delivery professional-grade power, but they’re not exactly equals. The iPad Pro’s A10X Fusion chip and 4GB of RAM delivered a score of 9,233 on the Geekbench 4 general performance benchmark, beating the 8,879 from the Surface Pro (Core i7-7660U CPU, 16GB of RAM).
The Surface Pro’s Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 card pushed the tablet to a phenomenal 109,678 on the 3DMark Ice Storm unlimited test, vaulting over the 52,353 from the 12-core GPU in the iPad Pro’s A10X Fusion Chip.
In real-life performance, the iPad Pro played iOS games smoothly, while the Surface Pro ran Dirt 3 (set to Medium, 1080p) at 68 fps, but neither tablet is a machine for truly demanding games.
Verdict: The iPad Pro packs the power to beat a Core i7 machine with four times as much RAM.
Most comparisons between these two machines are tight, but this one isn’t even close. The iPad Pro made it 13 hours and 55 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web browsing over Wi-Fi), which is more than 6 hours longer than the time from the Surface Pro (7:30).
Verdict: The iPad Pro wins this round, by hours and hours and hours.
The iPad Pro starts at $649 and offers the same A10X hybrid chip speed at all prices, making you pay more for increased internal storage (it starts with 64GB). So while the Surface Pro, which starts at $799, does include twice as much memory (128GB) at that price, its Intel Core m3 processor with 4GB RAM probably gives far less speed than we saw in our testing.
When comparing models with similar storage, the pricing edge still goes to Apple. At 256GB of storage, the iPad Pro runs you $749 (still cheaper than the entry-level Surface Pro), while the Surface Pro bumps that up to $1,299 (featuring an Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM) in a configuration that’s likely still not as fast as the one we tested, which costs $2,199.
And while the iPad Pro allows only for storage customization (64GB, 256GB or 512GB), the Surface Pro comes in more configurations. That means you can buy based on processor (Core m3, Core i5 and Core i7), RAM (4GB, 8GB and 16GB) or storage (128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB), though you can’t mix and match to build your own.
Neither the Signature Type Cover and iPad Pro Smart Keyboard come included, costing $159 each. The same is true for the compatible styli, as the Apple Pencil and Surface Pen Platinum both run you an extra $99.
Verdict: Apple wins value points with the iPad Pro by offering the same speed at every price, though Microsoft provides more options
At the end of the day, what’s all that power worth if you can’t do much with it? Apple is aiming to make the iPad Pro a true laptop killer with the multitasking changes in this fall’s iOS 11, which will also finally provide a Files app. But Windows 10 is simply the more capable platform (at least for now).
Not only does Windows provide easy cursor control, but Windows 10 also doesn’t enforce the sandboxing limitations that iOS does. That means you can get apps from the Windows Store or by downloading them online.
Verdict: The Surface Pro wins, though we look forward to seeing how great iOS 11 can make the iPad Pro.
What Should You Buy?
The iPad Pro’s brighter display, faster performance and longer battery life make the iPad a very formidable tablet, but it won’t be a viable laptop replacement until iOS 11 arrives. And even then, this iPad won’t be as versatile as the Surface Pro, which offers a touchpad, more ports and Windows 10, which is more open and doesn’t lock you into a single store for apps.
If you’re looking for focused experiences and iOS already has all the apps you need, then you’re ready to leap into the future with the iPad Pro. But the Surface Pro is a better laptop replacement for more people, though they’ll wish they had the iPad Pro’s longer battery life.