The iPad Pro and the Surface Pro are both powerful tablets that can also replace your laptop. In fact, Apple and Microsoft both claim that their tablets, the iPad and the Surface respectively, have power equal to a mobile workstation. While those claims are obviously far-fetched, we decided to put both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro head-to-head to see which one is a practical laptop replacement. The post will be divided into different categories and for each category there will be a winner.

Processor, RAM, and storage

Both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro are incredibly powerful.

The Surface Pro features Intel’s 7th generation Kaby Lake CPUs and allow you to choose between the Core m3, i5 and i7 processors. It must be noted however, that the i5 and i7 and dual-core “u” series processors, which means that they have been undervolted for better efficiency and thermal management. Either way, the Surface Pro is no slouch when it comes to performance.

The Surface Pro has different configurations for RAM. The m3 version comes with 4GB, while the i5 allows you to choose between 4GB and 8GB. The i7, however, allows you to choose between 8 and 16GB.

In terms of storage, the different storage configurations are tied to the RAM choices. For example, the m3 4GB version only comes with 128GB of storage. The i5 4GB comes with 128GB, while the 8GB option comes with 256GB. The i7 8GB comes with 256GB, while the 16GB allows you to choose between 512GB and 1TB. I will admit, the storage configurations are confusing.

The Surface Pro comes with Intel integrated graphics on all configurations. The m3 version comes with Intel HD Graphics 615, while the i5 comes with Intel HD Graphics 620. The i7, however, comes with Intel Iris Plus 640 which is at least 20% more powerful than the Intel HD Graphics 620.

The iPad Pro however is a lot more simpler.

The processor is an Apple-designed A10X fusion chip with a M10 coprocessor. The A10X is a 6 core processor as opposed to the dual-core processors in the Surface. This means that multi-threaded applications will perform better on the iPad.

The iPad also only comes in 4GB RAM, and there is no option to configure a higher amount of RAM. This shouldn’t be too big of a hit in performance though, because as we will discuss in detail below, the iPad runs iOS which is a mobile OS and will run mobile apps which are more efficient than traditional desktop programs. For a mobile OS running mobile apps, 4GB RAM is quite good.

The iPad Pro comes in 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB storage configurations.

The GPU is also an Apple-designed custom GPU. While Apple is not revealing the exact specs of the GPU, it is 40% faster than the previous generation which according to Apple’s claims, was more powerful than an Xbox 360.

So that is all well and good, but who wins this category? Both devices are no slouch when it comes to performance, but for the sake of replacing your laptop, the Surface takes the win. This does not mean by any stretch of imagination that the iPad Pro is a poor performer, however.

Winner: Surface Pro

Display

Both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro have excellent displays.

The Surface Pro has a 12.3″ LCD display with a resolution of 2736 X 1824 at 276 PPI. It features a 100% sRGB color gamut coverage. The screen is sharp and everything looks crisp and clear.

The iPad Pro comes in two screen sizes: 10.5″ and 12.9″. The 10.5″ model has a resolution of 2224 X 1668 at 264 PPI, while the 12.9″ model has a resolution of 2732 X 2048 at 264 PPI. The screens feature a wide color gamut coverage at 100% DCI-P3 so colors are more vivid and everything looks sharper.

However, the iPad has a clear advantage on the display because of ProMotion technology. Essentially, the screens have a 120Hz refresh rate. The typical LCD panel has only a 60Hz refresh rate. What this means is that the UI feels a lot more smoother and writing with the Apple pencil also feels more natural. The iPad also has a brighter panel, at 600 nits. This makes it a lot more convenient to use outdoors than the Surface.

So this round has to go to the iPad as it features many advanced display technologies.

Winner: iPad Pro

Audio

The iPad Pro has a quad-speaker setup, with two speakers on the bottom and two on the top. And depending on which orientation you are using the iPad in (i.e portrait or landscape), the software adjusts the audio so that the low frequencies fire from the bottom while the highs fire from the top. The audio is very clear and immersive and can get quite loud without distortion. It clearly has the best speakers on any tablet and even has better audio than most laptops out there.

The Surface Pro has a two-speaker setup which are front-firing. They sit right next to the display on either side. The audio is clear and can get loud without distortion, but lacks the immersion that the iPad Pro’s quad-speaker setup has.

Winner: iPad Pro

User input

Both the Surface Pro and the iPad pro have touch screens which are capable of pen input. Using touch feels great on both devices, however the iPad Pro feels a bit smoother thanks to its 120Hz refresh rate.

Using the pen is also a natural experience on both. The Surface Pen has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and has tilt sensitivity. The latency on the Surface Pro is 21ms, which is a big step-up from the previous Surface Pro 4’s 40ms.

The Apple Pencil works just as great on the iPad Pro. It feels a lot smoother thanks to the iPad Pro’s 120Hz refresh rate, and the latency has been reduced to a industry-leading 20ms. iOS 11, coming later this year is going to bring a lot more improvements and functionality to the Apple Pencil.

The Surface Pro also has a type cover, which is a keyboard and a touchpad that allows you to use your tablet like a traditional laptop. The keyboard is solid with 1.2mm of key travel and the keys are well spaced and don’t feel uncomfortable to use, despite its thinness. The touchpad is a Microsoft Precision touchpad and it is made from glass. It features 5-point multitouch for Windows 10 Gestures and there is nothing wrong with it.

The iPad Pro has a type cover, albeit without the touchpad. Also, the keys are not traditional laptop-style chiclet keys. Instead they are using Apple’s dome mechanism underneath and the keycaps are covered in fabric. The keyboard is alright to type on, however it is not as fast as the Surface Pro’s. It feels soft and mushy and the keys are too small to type really fast on. There are also no function keys on the keypad, so you cannot use the keyboard to control things such as brightness or volume.

So from a tablet standpoint, both the iPad and the Surface have great user inputs, however from the perspective of a laptop replacement, the Surface takes the win here.

Winner: Surface Pro

Ports and connectivity

Both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro have WiFi connectivity, as well as Bluetooth and optionally, LTE connectivity. It must be noted that the LTE version of the Surface Pro hasn’t started shipping yet, and will only do so later this year. The LTE version of the iPad Pro also comes with an embedded Apple SIM which allows you to buy data from any carrier that supports the Apple SIM.

In terms of ports, the iPad has a single Lightning connector which charges the iPad. There is also a magnetic Smart Connector at the bottom which allows the Smart Keyboard to snap on magnetically. There are no SD card or USB ports, which is something to keep in mind if you want to replace your laptop with one of these.

The Surface Pro has a magnetic connector on the bottom which allows the type cover to snap on magnetically. It also has a Surface Connect port for charging, and if you buy the optional Surface Dock, it also plugs into the Surface Connect port. You also get a USB 3.0, a Mini DisplayPort, and a MicroSD card that supports SDXC.

The Surface has a clear win from the perspective of a laptop replacement.

Winner: Surface Pro

Battery life

Apple claims that the iPad Pro can achieve up to 10 hours of video playback on a single charge. This is quite impressive, and given optimizations within iOS, the iPad Pro comfortably achieves that.

Microsoft, however, claims that the Surface Pro can achieve up to 13.5 hours of video playback. This is a broad claim and we can only wish that it were true. Users are getting an average of 8.5 or 9 hours. This is because Windows 10 is not as power efficient as iOS, and the amount of programs that you have installed affects battery life drastically. Also, running traditional desktop programs affects battery life. Because of this, the iPad takes the round.

Winner: iPad Pro

Dimensions and build quality

Chances are that if you are buying a laptop (or tablet in this case) you need it to be portable. Not only that, but you also need it to be built well.

Both the iPad and Surface have top-notch build quality. The iPad Pro is made entirely out of aluminium and feels solid in the hand, something we have come to expect from Apple. Microsoft’s Surface Pro is built out of magnesium alloy and feels solid in the hand. Neither of the devices are poorly built and the body doesn’t get scratched that easily.

In terms of portability, as mentioned earlier, the iPad Pro comes in two sizes: 10.5″ and 12.9″. The 10.5″ WiFi only model weighs 1.03lbs, while the WiFi + Cellular model weighs 1.05lbs. The 12.9″ WiFi only model weighs 1.49lbs, while the WiFi + Cellular model weighs 1.53 lbs.

The iPad Pro 10.5″ is only 0.24″ thin, while the 12.9″ is 0.27″ thin.

The Surface Pro on the other hand, weighs 1.69lbs for the m3 version, 1.70lbs for the i5 version, and 1.73lbs for the i7 version.

The Surface Pro measures in at just 0.33″ thin.

While the Surface is not that much thicker than the iPad, it is definitely heavier. But the main thing with the iPad is that not only is it lighter on paper, it also feels well-balanced in your hand. I am not saying that the Surface Pro is unbalanced, but the iPad feels more balanced compared to the Surface.

Winner: iPad Pro

Software

Arguably one of the most important aspects of a laptop replacement. You could have the most well-built, most powerful device but without a good operating system, you can’t take any advantage of that.

This is where the iPad Pro differs hugely from the Surface Pro.

The iPad Pro is running iOS. iOS is a mobile operating system, and it definitely shows its limitations when it comes to replacing your laptop. And even though iOS 11 will bring a dock (similar to the one on macOS), advanced multitasking options, new split-screen capability, a new files app, drag and drop functionality, etc., it still won’t be replacing a proper desktop OS anytime soon.

This isn’t to say that iOS is a bad OS. From a tablet standpoint, it is definitely the best out there. It is fluid and designed for touch, and is optimized to run on Apple hardware which promises improved performance, improved power efficiency and improved battery life.

The Surface Pro runs the full Windows 10. The full desktop version. Which means that you can use any traditional desktop program such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, the full desktop version of Microsoft Office, the list just goes on.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider the iPad Pro. If your laptop usage is majorly web-based, such as emails and web browsing, then the iPad is a great choice. In many ways iOS is better than Windows 10 for that type of usage, such as being more fluid and optimized for touch, optimization for the hardware, and being more secure than Windows 10. Also, there are plenty of great apps in the app store for some image editing and video editing, and even CAD stuff and advanced 3D modeling. If your usage is mainly emails, web browsing and word processing, the iPad is a great choice.

But if you are into a profession such as photography, where you need to manipulate RAW images etc, the Surface is a better choice because of its full Windows 10 OS.

So it is hard to declare a winner. Each OS has its pros and cons, but for the majority of laptop users, they might find iOS too limiting.

Winner: Surface Pro

Pricing

Another key decision in choosing a tablet is price. Not everyone has a heap of cash burning a hole in their pocket, do they?

We compare the starting price of both the iPad and the Surface and what specs they offer.

Surface Pro

Starting price: $799

Specs: Intel Core m3 processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB Storage.

iPad Pro 10.5″

Starting price: $649

Specs: 64GB Storage, WiFi only

iPad Pro 12.9″

Starting price: $799

Specs: 64GB Storage, WiFi only

 

And now we will compare the fully maxed out configurations on both the tablets:

 

Surface Pro

Maxed out price: $2,699

Specs: Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 1TB Storage

iPad Pro 10.5″

Maxed out price: $1,079

Specs: 512GB Storage, WiFi plus Cellular

iPad Pro 12.9″

Maxed out price: $1,229

Specs: 512GB Storage, WiFi plus Cellular

 

As we can see, the Surface is much more expensive but we are getting higher amounts of RAM and storage. Also, there is almost no comparison between the two, so this section is a tie.

Winner: tie

Conclusion

Ah, the grand finale. Both the tablets stand in the arena, while the audience waits on who will deliver the final blow.

So the takeaway is this, that it all depends on your personal preference. Each device has its strong points and its weak points. Ultimately, it is up to your personal preference.

Do you want to run professional desktop software, and also be able to plug in USB storage devices and a SD card? Well, consider the Surface.

Are you fine with running a mobile OS? Or do you want all of your Apple devices to work in cohesion with each other? Do your needs fall more into the “tablet” category than “laptop”? Well, consider the iPad.

What do you prefer, the iPad Pro or the Surface Pro?
What are your reasons?
Let us know in the comments below.