So you’ve decided you’re ready for a professional tablet, to bring that little extra portability and panache to your hardware. There are really only two major options out there right now – the iPad Pro, and the Microsoft Surface Pro. Here are some things to consider before making your choice.
Operating System pros and cons
The battle between Windows and iOS is almost philosophical at this point, and the age-old confrontation of mentalities between the two titans has carried on to mobile platforms as well. In a nutshell, if exceptional security and a virtually virus-free environment is what you’re after, then the iPad Pro has a clear edge over the Surface Pro. However, this security can come at the cost of functionality, as your software choices will be constrained to the Apple App Store.
Microsoft Surface Pro runs a fully-fledged Windows 10 Pro operating system, making it that much closer to a laptop. All your favorite software will run unhindered, both on your pro tablet and your laptop or PC, which is an advantage Microsoft has been trying to set in place for themselves ever since the days of Windows 8.1. They’ve certainly pulled it off with Windows 10, so hardware constraints will be the only thing you need to worry about when switching between devices. That is, as long as you remember to always install your Windows security updates.
Many tasks, one screen
If the iPad Pro is unmatched in terms of security, the Microsoft Surface Pro is ahead when it comes to multitasking. The operating system calls the shots in this case too, as the Windows 10 Pro allows you to work with multiple apps and files at the same time, switching seamlessly between them. The latest Microsoft Windows Creators Update even introduced some cross-platform tools, letting you work on files, apps or websites, even if you initially started development on Android or iOS.
The iPad Pro offers a more limited level of multitasking. Even file and folder management can be quite a hassle on this device, although the iOS 11 update took steps to address this issue, allowing users access to local and cloud-stored files. There are plenty of other improvements in this latest update, which bring the iPad Pro closer to the functionality of a native desktop environment, including split-screen viewing, text drag & drop, and a Dock system, making it easier to access favorite apps and files.
Gizmos and gadgets galore
It is to be expected that both these competing devices appeal to graphic designers and creatives craving a more streamlined interaction with the virtual environment. That’s why their respective pens can very well be deciding factors when it comes to choosing between them. However, it’s a very close call between the two, as both proprietary pens come at the exact same price of $99, and offer very similar experiences and functionality. Both screens have very low latency (20ms for the iPad, 21ms for the Surface Pro). The Microsoft pen uses a single AAA battery and offers multiple tips for a customized experience, while the iPad pen must be charged via a Lightning connector, but offers a programmable button, and an “eraser” on top.
When it comes to keyboards, it’s still a neck-to-neck race, but Microsoft seems to have the edge, with a slightly lower price for the basic Type Cover, at $129, compared to the iPad’s Smart Keyboard, at $159. The Type Cover also comes with an in-built track-pad, which quite effectively makes the Surface Pro feel quite a lot like a laptop when attached.
The connectivity conundrum
Depending on how many dongles you enjoy having around, the choice between iPad Pro and Surface Pro can be easy. Basically, the iPad Pro comes with one Lightning port. All the other connectivity you require can be achieved with adaptors you’ll have to buy separately, from Ethernet to USB 3.0, from Mini Display to SD card readers.
On the other hand, the Surface Pro has an in-built Mini Display port, so you can hook it up to an external monitor right out of the box. It also comes with a USB 3.0 port, and a Microsoft Surface Connector, so you can dock it, which gives you all the ports you’ll ever need.
Battle of the batteries
iPads set the standard for battery life in tablets, and this advantage is yet unmatched. An iPad Pro will last you almost 16 hours on a single charge, while the Surface Pro gives up the ghost in just over 8 hours. Simply put, the iPad is better at being a tablet, while the Surface Pro is inching closer to being a laptop.
This difference shows in the hardware too, as the iPad has a better camera, and is simply the best choice for filming, editing and uploading video from one versatile device. True, there are fewer options when it comes to hardware, and the specs are not quite up to par compared to the Surface Pro roster of devices, but the iPad offers more consistency, even turning the limitations of the App Store into an advantage, as it guarantees that all the available apps will run as smooth as possible. The Surface Pro leaves a bit of… room for interpretation, on this front.
The final deciding factor could prove to be the price. The Surface Pro starts at $799, but if you want the full brawn of a laptop, it could run you as much as $2,699, and the performance differs substantially from one level to the next. The iPad Pro offers the same processing power in all variants, but you can pick your preferred screen size and storage capacity. The smaller version, with a 10.5-inch screen, costs $649, while the 12.9-inch version costs $799. In other words, the iPad Pro is more affordable and offers more consistent performance.
You’ve probably guessed it from the get-go of this article that the choice between these two flagship products is a close one. It all comes down to your working style, and the relationship you prefer to have with your devices. If you like the curated, sanitized approach Apple have been pushing throughout their product range, then the iPad Pro will provide a seriously satisfying experience, while feeling more like a tablet, with all the pros and cons thereof. If, however, you like a bit more customization, and a feeling closer to a tried-and-true desktop environment, then Microsoft’s Surface Pro will definitely scratch that itch.