After the announcement of the new Apple iPad Pro on Wednesday, it was hard not to draw a direct comparison to a similarly named product. The Microsoft Surface Pro 3, a hybrid that also strives to bridge the gap between the tablet and the laptop, has grown in popularity steadily since its release date last June. As it turns out, an all-in-one tablet/laptop solution has become quite a popular concept. It’s no wonder that Apple has decided to take a similar direction with the iPad Pro as well.
But while the two products have their obvious similarities, they’re two very different products at the same time. Microsoft made the Surface Pro favor traditional computing by running on the Windows operating system, while Apple chose to keep things simple on the iPad Pro by running iOS, their mobile operating system.
It shouldn’t have been – nor was it – a surprise to see heated debates pop up across every tech corner across the Web discussing which Pro was the better Pro. As I see it, both have their pros and cons, and each are going to cater to a different audience.
First, let’s take a look at how the devices measure up to each other:
There are a lot of differences to consider. The operating systems are, of course, vastly different from one another. The Surface Pro will support full desktop applications and apps from the Windows Store, while the iPad Pro relies solely on Apple’s App Store.
In regards to size and weight, the iPad Pro is thinner and a little bit lighter, but it also has a larger display. Portability will have to be determined by the user. You either have a lighter tablet with a larger display, or a heavier tablet with a smaller display.
The amount of internal storage available makes for an interesting argument. I feel that Apple missed the mark once again here, just as I have felt over the past couple of years regarding their base amount of internal storage in the iPhone being 16GB; 32GB in a tablet just doesn’t seem like enough, especially not when the next step up is 128GB. A 64GB base model would have made the iPad Pro a lot more desirable.
The Surface Pro 3, on the other hand, did start with a 64GB base model. What’s one more is that the Surface Pro 3 also includes a microSD card slot, and as long as it is fully SDXC compliant, then it would theoretically be able to hold up to 2TB of external storage. However, since that amount of storage doesn’t exist yet in microSD card form, it’s rather pointless to make that claim. Still, the Surface Pro 3 can support the largest amount currently available for microSD, which would be a 200GB microSD card from SanDisk. Due to both of these factors, the Surface Pro definitely wins when it comes to storage.
Another area in which the Surface Pro 3 excels would be in the amount of ports it features, most notably with the USB 3.0 and the fact that it charges via micro USB, a common and easy-to-find charging solution.
And then we come to the battle of the styli: the Surface Pen or the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil, despite being all but dismissed after its announcement, actually seems to excel where other styli don’t. It’s thinner, its latency is allegedly almost non-existent (or at the very least, unable to be noticed), and it is kind of neat that you can easily plug the Pencil directly into the Lightning port on the iPad Pro itself. I find that it’s a bit overpriced for a stylus, but at least there seems to be a good reason behind that other than “It’s made by Apple.” This post by Linda Dong, former designer at Apple, on Cult of Mac is a good read on why the Apple Pencil’s performance surpasses one of the best styli for graphic designers on the market, the Wacom Cintiq.
As for the Surface Pen – well, you can’t really knock something that’s actually included with the tablet itself, which is pretty awesome. It’s also a bonus that the Surface Pen has received some pretty great ratings as well.
Finally, we come to the pricing. Both the iPad Pro (32GB) and the Surface Pro (64GB), the base models, start at $799. If we are basing the price off of what you get out of the box alone, I feel that the Surface Pro gives you more bang for your buck. You can use it as a tablet or as a fully functional laptop. It comes with the Surface Pen. You get more storage, and you can add more storage.
If you go one step up to the 128GB iPad Pro ($949) and the 128GB Surface Pro ($899), it’s a much closer call. Now you’re level on the playing field regarding amount of internal storage. However, the iPad Pro will run you $50 more, you still have to pay extra for both the stylus and the keyboard (as opposed to just the keyboard with the Surface), and the iPad Pro will only ever have mobile OS capabilities.
It is worth considering given the apps that have been developed extensively and specifically for the iPad Pro, the aforementioned benefits of the Apple Pencil over other styli, and the potential unification of Apple software (assuming the user already has other Apple products) there are still good reasons to consider the iPad Pro over the Surface Pro.
There are also two more Surface Pro 3 models, but the first two are best for direct comparison to the iPad Pro.
At the end of the day, I can’t say there’s a clear answer over which one is better no matter how hard people try to convince you otherwise. It seems obvious to me that some people will benefit more from what the Surface Pro offers, and others will benefit more from the iPad Pro. I think both are excellent products that are worth considering if you’re in the market for a hybrid device.
(Side Note: If you are considering purchasing either an iPad Pro or a Surface Pro 3, it may be worth it to wait and see whether a Surface Pro 4 emerges within the next month or so.)