Rumors have been swirling about Apple’s plans for a larger iPad for quite a while, but at the September 2015 event the real deal was finally rolled out. The new iPad Pro is the largest and most advanced tablet Apple has ever produced and faces stiff competition from the likes of Microsoft’s Surface line. So how does Apple’s latest and greatest stack up against Microsoft’s very own hardware?
When it comes to look and feel, the Surface Pro 3 and the iPad Pro have a lot in common. The physical size and weight difference between the two is minimal, despite how strongly Apple will stress that .2 inch thickness advantage.
The devices even look fairly similar, especially when you match both up with their respective detachable keyboards. Outside of looks, which are a personal preference, the Surface 3 has a MicroSD slot for extra storage or file transferring, but otherwise the two are almost identical.
Unlike the design, there’s a clear difference between the screens on the two devices. The iPad Pro has a .9 inch size advantage, but the real gains are seen in the resolution. The 1440p display in the Surface Pro 3 is already strikingly high definition, with a 216 PPI rating, but the iPad Pro’s retina display boasts a boosted 265 PPI.
Whether that actually makes a noticeable difference remains to be seen, but Apple has a long history of excellent displays.
While both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 3 offer a 10-point multi-touch display with stylus support, Apple has added some special features specifically for stylus users. Pressing the stylus to the screen doubles the polling rate and touch accuracy, allowing you to write naturally and comfortably. It also opens up new software features, like annotating emails, or drawing in your notes.
Winner: iPad Pro
Without clear information on the RAM in the iPad Pro, or concrete information about its processor, it’s hard to determine which device will come out ahead on performance. Apple claims the new 64-bit A9X CPU is 1.8 times faster than the previous A8X chip, with twice the memory bandwidth and storage performance. The brand also claimed the chip is faster than 80 percent of portable PCs in terms of performance, and if that’s even close to true the iPad Pro will be impressively quick. The demo explains that the iPad Pro is capable of editing three 4K video streams at once as well, which isn’t something most PC notebooks and 2-in-1s can claim.
The Surface Pro 3, on the other hand, offers your choice of Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processors, but they’re all dual-core chips, and none of them have a base clock of over 2GHz. That surely places the Surface Pro 3 in the 80 percent of portables that the A9X chip beats out, even if you go with the highest-end chip available, the i7-4650U.
This one is hard to call. On paper, the Surface Pro 3 may end up with an advantage here or there, but iPad Pro’s focus on graphics, and its slimmer operating system, will make a difference.
Winner: Probably the iPad Pro, but further testing will be needed
One of the possible pitfalls for the iPad Pro lies in the operating system. While iOS has become an incredibly popular platform for mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, there are concerns that it won’t translate well to a high-performance device.
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Apple has made some changes to iOS specifically for the iPad Pro, improving multi-tasking functionality, as well as adding in specific software options to some applications. The Surface Pro 3 has the benefit of the doubt when it comes to operating system, since it runs full Windows 10 Pro, a time-tested, fully featured OS.
Outside of that, the feature set between the two devices is quite similar. Both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 3 offer detachable keyboards and styluses, both as separate purchases on top of the starting price.
Winner: Surface Pro 3
If the high-end convertible tablet is a market that appeals to you, the good news is you’re no longer stuck picking whatever flavor of Surface fits your budget. The iPad Pro is a competitive and relevant offering from Apple — one that may help revitalize a shrinking tablet market.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the upgrades to iOS 9 and the performance, but at least on paper, the iPad Pro should be enough to keep your from buying a Surface tablet until there are some hands on reports of the new iPad.
More over, at the same price point, the iPad Pro is a serious challenger to the long-suffering Surface line, and one that’s bound to share not only in Apple’s iPad market, but also take a chunk of entry-level MacBook sales.