When it comes to hybrid tablets, nothing beats Microsoft’s Surface Pro series with the ultimate combination of a light tablet, powered by a desktop operating system (Windows 10) with a soft physical keyboard, a stylus and a powerful Intel chipset. Many have tried to copy it and few have succeeded to deliver a product of this class and calibre (with a few bugs). But then came along Apple.
Apple had the one thing going for it since the very beginning of the iPad series, iOS apps that were optimised for the iPad’s display; and there were plenty of them. So Apple came up with something unbelievable (at least during the Steve Jobs era) in the form of a massive iPad Pro aimed at professionals with a large display, soft keypad and even its own stylus called Apple Pencil.
Microsoft’s answer to the same was in the form of the Surface Pro 4 and it seriously packs in plenty of horsepower for a tablet with the new Skylake chipsets. So how do the two stack up against each other?
Display and Construction
Apple’s new iPad Pro packs in a 12.9-inch display along with a 2732 x 2048 pixel resolution. In terms of the display, Microsoft with its Surface Pro 4 goes with a slightly smaller 12.3-inch 2736 x 1824 pixel touchscreen display so there’s not much of a difference out here when compared to the Surface Pro 3. The iPad Pro sports dimensions of 12×8.68x.27 inches with a weight of 1.57 pounds while the Surface Pro 4 measures 11.50 x 7.93 x .33 inches and weighs 1.73 pounds. Apple’s iPad Pro wins both in terms of portability and also because it sports a sharper display. And let’s not forget the 4 speakers.
Chipset, Storage and Software
The Apple iPad Pro is powered by Apple A9X chipset and it is supported by 4 GB of RAM. The company also claimed that the new A9X will be 80 percent faster than all the portable PCs released in 2014. More importantly, Apple has also managed to squeeze in a GPU with a 12 cluster setup instead of the 6 cluster one found on its A9, so there’s plenty of horsepower in here as well.
Coming to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, there are plenty of chipset and storage options. You will be able to choose anything from an Intel Core m3 with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage to a top of the line, Intel i7 chipset with 16 GB of RAM 256 GB of storage so yes its easy to say that Apple’s A9X is no match for the Surface Pro 4′ innards. But there’s another angle to this.
In terms of software, the iPad Pro will run on Apple’s mobile operating system called iOS. A report by PC World points out that the app catalog for Apple’s mobile operating system is much deeper than the apps only available through Microsoft’s Windows Store. Still then, Microsoft does have its fair share of professional software and the chops to run them without optimisations.
The Pro 4 works completely on the company’s latest Windows 10. For debate sake, professionals would mostly opt for this device as iOS would sadly, limit the amount of applications compatible with it.
On the storage front, the iPad Pro comes equipped with 32–128 GB worth of storage while the Surface Pro 4 is pretty much customisable for both the casual user to the professional and everyone else in between. The winner here is certainly Microsoft’s device even with Apple’s massive app bank as its Pro features would not really matter to its target users. More so, it appears like Apple opted for the same storage as it would offer on an iPhone.
The iPad Pro comes with an 8 MP rear camera along with a 1.2 MP front facing camera. On the other hand, the Surface Pro 4 comes with a 5 MP front facing camera and an upgraded 8 MP unit on the back, along with 1080p video recording features.
With professional tablets such as these, the cameras really do not matter – but a good front-camera certainly helps with video calling features and both tablets offer good enough front-facing cameras for video calling. The rear camera on the iPad Pro is impressive if it gives the same output as we had seen with the iPhone 6/6s, but shooting with a 12.9-inch tablet may make you feel a bit out of place.
The iPad Pro comes paired with the new Apple Pencil, which is not included with the device, but will be available at a price tag of $99. However, Microsoft includes their Surface Pro Pen with the tablet itself.
The main USP for both the styluses is that it supports palm rejection and pressure sensitivity. In a detailed report by Wired, David Pierce stated the Apple Pencil is better than any stylus he’s ever used by a wide margin. In addition, he said, ” There was almost zero latency, meaning the ink appeared to flow out of the Pencil and not trail half an inch behind.”
Apple Pencil also works with popular apps like Mail, Notes, Procreate and Office 365 for iPad as well. In comparison, the Microsoft Surface Pen is an electromagnetic pen that can also be used to open One Note or to activate Cortana. It also offers a wider range of connectivity as well. The Surface Pen is also pressure sensitive and features palm block will allows users to rest their hand on the screen as they draw. The Surface Pen does stand out thanks to its practicality, but the Apple Pencil is a better tool for those who aim to use it for creativity, but as many have begun to point out, there are plenty of better options available out there.
The iPad Pro sports a built-in 38.5-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery, which is claimed to last up to 10 hours while using the web on Wi-Fi, watching videos and listening to music. Even though Microsoft has not mentioned the exact capacity for the battery, the Surface Pro 4 is said to last up to 9 hours of video playback. In comparison, the iPad Pro does promise a better battery life while using many other features simultaneously, but coming to the more powerful silicon available on the Pro 4, Microsoft seems to have pulled off something quite commendable for now.
In terms of connectivity, the iPad Pro includes a lighting and smart connector whereas, the Surface Pro 4 includes a full-size USB 3.0, microSD card reader, mini display port, cover port and charging port. No points for guessing the winner out here!
Pricing And Availability
The iPad Pro will cost you $799 for a 32 GB variant while the 128 GB variant will cost you $949. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is priced at $899 for a 128 GB Intel Core m3 version, $999 for the Core i5 128 GB variant and goes on till the Core i7 16 GB RAM and 256 GB variant is priced at a hefty $1799. You can even customize your high-end Pro 4 with up to 1 TB of internal storage ($2699).
Even though Apple looks like it has taken some inspiration from the Surface Pro 4 for its iPad Pro, and also targets the professional market, the combined cost of the iPad Pro along with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard easily cross $1000 – a price at which one can get the MacBook Air which is a much more powerful workhorse. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 on the other hand comes with a desktop OS and with desktop class processor and RAM configuration which is much powerful.
The Surface Pro 4 is the better choice, but it isn’t flawless either. A recent bit of news brought to light one of the many problems that user of the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book are reporting, which are mainly to do with Intel’s Skylake series of chipsets. Still then, Microsoft said that it will fix the bugs by early next year.