It was August 2012 when Microsoft announced the original Surface tablet along a highly embarrassing Windows 8. Shortly after, Satya was announced as the new CEO of Microsoft. It was then when the vision for Surface evolved into making a tablet that can replace your laptop.
The Surface Pro 3 was a highly successful product, albeit a bit flawed. But the Surface Pro 3 was when Microsoft jumped on the right track. Their vision was slowly but surely falling in place.
Apple, meanwhile, was shocked at how their competitors thought of a new concept, something that hadn’t been thought of before. More importantly, Apple was worried about the success of the Surface.
In September of 2015, Apple announced the iPad Pro. As usual, Apple used their fierce marketing skills and claimed that they built a tablet that could replace your PC. Apple took things up a notch and claimed that the iPad Pro had the power equal to a workstation PC, and that it could do tasks that many modern PCs couldn’t do at the time. Because of their fierce marketing skills and their reputation, Apple received a lot of audience with the iPad Pro.
Apple still continues to market the iPad Pro as the tablet that can replace your PC. But some people have begun to ask: is the iPad Pro really a computer?
The biggest aspect of any computer, is the software that it runs and more importantly, the OS.
If Apple were using macOS on the iPad Pro, I’d without doubt say that it is a portable computer. However, it is using iOS, which is specifically designed for tablets and phones. It is not a computer OS, and when you start to use the iPad Pro as your daily computer, iOS will start to show its limitations.
This is where the Surface has an edge over the iPad. It runs a full version of Windows 10, and can do desktop grade tasks and can even run desktop grade programs such as Adobe Creative Cloud, or full desktop versions of MS Office, if documents are more like your thing.
We will be comparing the iPad Pro to the Surface Pro 4. Bear in mind that the iPad Pro comes in two sizes, a 9.7″ and a 12.9″ display. Both of them vary in performance, however it is important to note that the 9.7″ is newer and thus comes with advanced features not found on the 12.9″ model.
Both the iPads use Apple’s own A9X quad-core processor. The processor speeds vary between the models though, with the 12.9″ and the 9.7″ models being clocked at 2.26GHz and 2.16GHz respectively. Both the models also have an embedded M9 coprocessor. The 9.7″ model uses 2GB of LPDDR4 RAM, while the 12.9″ model uses 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM. Depending on how much multitasking you do, this should make a significant difference, and if you are a heavy multitasker, you’ll notice the latter keeping up with your load better.
In terms of storage, the iPad allows you to choose between 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB of flash storage. You can also choose between Wi-Fi only, or Wi-Fi and cellular. On the 9.7″ Wi-Fi + cellular model, you get an Apple SIM embedded so you can buy data wherever you are from within the iPad itself. On the 12.9″ model, you get a nano-sim tray that supports Apple SIM, but it’s not embedded within the iPad. As I mentioned earlier, the iPad Pro 9.7″ model is newer and comes with better features that aren’t found on the 12.9″ model.
The Surface Pro 4 in comparison, allows you to choose between Intel’s m3, i5, or i7 dual-core Skylake processors. You also get to choose between 4, 8, and 16GB of RAM. You can also choose between 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD storage. If you are a very heavy multitasker who runs a lot of desktop programs, you’ll really appreciate the Surface’s 8 or 16GB RAM configurations. Bear in mind however, that the Surface features dual-core processors while the iPad features a quad-core processor.
The OS on the iPad Pro is also lighter, since it’s optimized for mobile. UI is noticeably smoother and optimized for touch. Windows on the other hand is a bit heavy on system resources, and while it is incredibly snappy, it is not that optimized for touch and it can get really annoying if you use the Surface as a tablet often.
In terms of raw performance, we are looking at Geekbench scores of 5,151 for the 9.7″ model and 5,296 for the 12.9″ model. The Surface Pro 4 with i5 processor scored a higher 6,811. Note that the exact configuration on the Surface is unknown, so your mileage may vary.(Source: Laptop Mag)
Apple also claims that the iPad Pro can edit multiple 4k video at the same time with the A9X processor, which makes sense because the camera (more on that below) can actually shoot 4k. The team at Laptop Mag managed to edit multiple 4k footage in iMovie and the results were impressive. The iPad Pro managed to keep up with their work load and didn’t seem to stutter.
The 9.7″ iPad Pro has a display resolution of 2048 X 1536. That translates to an impressive 264 ppi (pixels per inch). The 12.9″ model has a display resolution of 2732 X 2048, which translates to the same 264 ppi. Apple also has an anti-reflective coating on the display as well as a fingerprint-resistant finish on both the models. However, the 9.7″ model also features a True Tone display, which automatically adjusts the white levels based on your surroundings. It also features a wider color gamut and uses the DCI-P3 color space, both of which are absent on the 12.9″ display.
The 9.7″ display measures a brightness of 432.8 nits, and covers 121.9% of the sRGB color space. The Delta-E score is 1 (0 is perfect). The 12.9″ display measures a brightness of 374 nits, and covers 111% of the sRGB color space. Colors are more accurate however, with a Delta-E score of 0.19. (Source: Laptop Mag)
The Surface Pro 4 has a display resolution of 2736 X 1824. That translates to 267 ppi. The display measures a brightness of 382 nits, covers 99.7% of the sRGB color space, and has a Delta-E score of 0.35.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of color corrections, the iPad Pro 9.7″ is the better choice despite the weaker Delta-E score because of the wider gamut and other technologies such as True Tone.
Both the iPad and Surface come with their own styluses, dubbed Apple Pencil and Surface Pen. They both work well. The Surface Pen however, is not tilt sensitive. The Apple Pencil is tilt sensitive, however it comes with a massive trade-off. There is no eraser on the back of the Apple Pencil. The Surface Pen also allows you to do actions such as opening Onenote, summoning Cortana or taking screenshots, all by pressing the back button aka the eraser.
The Surface Pen also feels more natural compared to the Apple Pencil and allows you to change pen tips, something the Apple Pencil lacks. With the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update, Windows Ink is due to get even more improvements, so until Apple comes out with something new, Surface wins.
Both the Surface and iPad Pro come with their own type covers.
The Smart Keyboard that Apple makes for the iPad Pro is made from fabric. The keys are well spaced although they are flat and typing on them for extended periods of time is more of a pain.
The Surface has a keyboard that looks and feels like a traditional laptop keyboard. It even has function keys (which the Smart Keyboard lacks) and a touchpad. The touchpad is a Microsoft precision touchpad so it’s optimized for Windows. Overall, if you are a person who types a lot, the Surface is once again a winner
Both the keyboards snap on magnetically to the tablets and don’t need to be charges as the magnetic connectors also provide power to the keyboard.
One of the downsides of the iPad Pro is that when you attach the keyboard, the iPad only sits in one angle. The Surface however, has a kickstand built in and you can even prop the tablet up without attaching the keyboard, which is always a plus.
In short, the iPad is not a computer. It is just a very powerful tablet in its class. It lacks the performance that computers offer, and it also lacks proper computer software. iOS is a mobile OS and it shows its limitations pretty quickly.
The Surface, while it has a few flaws, still is classified as a computer. It runs full Windows 10, has a proper laptop-grade keyboard and components. And with the launch of the Surface Pro 5, it’s only expected to get better.