iPad Pro or Surface Pro? Which One You Should Buy

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

Stephen Lam/Getty Images

There are two “pro” tablets on the market right now: Apple’s new iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, the latest in its popular Surface Pro line. But which one should you buy? We took a look at these two tablets and were surprised that in the end it wasn’t even close.

Has Microsoft finally one-upped Apple? Read on to see.

Design

Both tablets are big, but they have to be in order to contain their massive displays. The iPad Pro’s screen measures 12.9 inches, while the Surface Pro 4 comes in at a slightly smaller 12.3 inches. From a distance the tablets look surprisingly similar, with Business Insider even saying some people confused the two at first look according to its tests. But they are different: The Surface Pro is more rectangular due to its 16:9 ratio, while the iPad Pro still operates on a 4:3 ratio. No real advantage here, except if HD videos are your thing.

Advantage: Even

Display

The iPad Pro’s display is stunning, with 2732×2048 resolution at 264ppi. But the Surface Pro’s is just as good, with only marginally more pixels per inch and slightly better resolution (2736×1824 at 267ppi), which is due to the difference in aspect ratio. Seeing both displays up close, you can’t really tell an appreciable difference in vividness or clarity — they’re both better than most tablet displays on the market. Gizmag says “this shouldn’t be a deciding factor either way,” and we agree. Again, the two tablet heavyweights fight themselves to a draw.

Advantage: Even

Operating System

Apple tweaked iOS 9 specifically for the more powerful iPad Pro, with features like split screen — there’s enough screen real estate to fit the screens of two iPad Minis on it — and other new multitasking features. Microsoft, on the other hand, bets that you’d rather be able to run full Windows programs on your device than stripped down mobile-centric ones. As far as we’re concerned, Microsoft has the better idea for super-tablets. At these large screen sizes, it just makes more sense to run a touch-enabled full operating system. Sorry, Apple.

Advantage: Surface Pro

Keyboard

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

With such a large tablet, you’d expect a nice full-size keyboard to go along with it. Apple released the Smart Keyboard, which is awfully nice and comfortable to type on. That said, Surface Pro’s Type Cover is nothing to sneeze at. The keys are laid out a little better, and it even includes a trackpad which Business Insider says is “MacBook level” in quality. While Apple has done quite a good job with the Smart Keyboard, Microsoft’s inclusion of a premium quality trackpad wins this battle (and it’s $40 cheaper).

Advantage: Surface Pro

Performance

The iPad Pro provides a better user experience overall as it uses iOS, an operating system built on touch. However, from a performance perspective, at just about every level the Surface Pro wipes the ground with the iPad Pro. Storage on the iPad Pro is limited to 128GB. On the Surface Pro, you have the opportunity for up to 1TB in storage. Processor wise? You’re stuck with Apple’s quick A9X chip, but that’s no comparison to the Intel Core i7 found in high-end Surface Pro models. Yes, the base model Surface Pros are closer in performance to the iPad Pro, but even there there’s a large difference. Take it from Ben Radding of PC Magazine: “The Surface Pro 4 has the guts of a laptop, whereas the iPad Pro is still just a tablet, albeit one with the latest, fastest Apple chip.”

Advantage: Surface Pro

Stylus

While we have been awfully hard on the iPad Pro so far, one area where the iPad Pro does shine is in its stylus — the Apple Pencil. Yes, Microsoft does include a stylus at no cost with the Surface Pro, but it is nothing like Apple’s beefed up stylus. We definitely see the iPad Pro becoming very popular among the artistic set (where its products are already popular anyway), and the company will probably sell quite a few iPad Pros just for what the Apple Pencil can do. “There’s no other way to say it: The Pencil is by far the best stylus I’ve used,” Jason Ciprani writes for Fortune.

Advantage: iPad Pro

Price

Apple iPad Pro

Source: Apple

The base model iPad Pro will cost you $799 and comes with 32GB of space (though getting the Apple Pencil tacks on another $99). The base model Surface Pro is also $799 but comes with 128GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, and the stylus. With what you’re getting with Microsoft’s Surface Pro, it’s an easy win. As its been said before, the Surface Pro more closely resembles a laptop, while the iPad Pro is just a bigger iPad and not much more.

Advantage: Surface Pro

The winner?

While the iPad Pro is able to serve in the basics, and certainly has the advantage in the Apple Pencil, in the end the Surface Pro is the clear winner. In fact, in many ways, this contest is surprisingly not even close. While Apple may be resisting, it’s best bet may be to touch-enable its laptop line rather than try to make a bigger iPad. There’s too much competition these days in this space, and Microsoft is proving to be a worthy contender, and ready to dominate.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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