iPad Pro vs. Surface Pro 3

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Gizmag compares the features and specs of Apple's new iPad Pro (left) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

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Is the new iPad Pro an innovative rebooting of the iPad lineup, or just an acknowledgement that the Microsoft Surface was the right idea all along (or maybe a bit of both)? Though it isn't completely fair to line up a late 2015 product next to a mid 2014 one, let's see how the iPad Pro compares to the Surface Pro 3.

Size

If you've ever seen a Surface Pro 3, then this image should shed some light on just how humongous the iPad Pro is. Apple's tablet is 5 percent longer and 10 percent wider than Microsoft's 2-in-1.

The iPad Pro is much thinner though: by 24 percent.

Weight

The Wi-Fi only iPad Pro is 11 percent lighter than the Surface Pro 3. The LTE iPad comes out at 9 percent lighter.

Build

The aluminum iPad Pro follows the same design theme that debuted in the original iPad mini, and continued into the following three iPad minis and two iPad Airs.

The Surface has a magnesium casing.

Built-in kickstand

The iPad Pro uses its keyboard case for kickstand purposes, while the Surface Pro 3 has one built into its backside.

Colors

You have three color options for the iPad Pro: the space gray model has a black front, while the silver and gold models have white fronts.

The Surface Pro 3 has a black front and silver backing.

Display size

This will be one of the biggest things we'll be keeping an eye on when we get an iPad Pro review unit. The Surface Pro 3 already has a monstrous screen for a tablet – and the iPad Pro's display is 20 percent bigger.

Based on the language used in Apple's launch event, it sounds like the company sees the iPad Pro as the future of the iPad. But if you're thinking about buying one, you might want to take the "Pro" part at face value, as its screen could be overkill for casual use.

Display resolution

Based on pixel density, the iPad Pro's screen is 22 percent sharper. It's the same PPI we've seen in every 9.7-inch iPad with a Retina Display (starting with the 3rd-gen model, which debuted in early 2012).

Stylus

You won't catch either Apple or Microsoft using the word "stylus," but the iPad Pro has a "Pencil" and the Surface has a "Pen" (though those descriptions do accurately describe their respective form factors).

When you're using the Apple Pencil, the iPad Pro's display increases its scan rate to 240 times per second, providing what Apple describes as "almost imperceptible" lag. We were always impressed with the Surface Pen's latency, but we're looking forward to seeing if (or how much) the Apple Pencil improves on that.

Another big difference, though, is that Microsoft includes the Surface Pen with the Surface Pro 3 (and, if you lose it, a replacement costs US$50). The Apple Pencil is a separate $99 purchase.

Keyboard

Both devices also have keyboard accessories, and both are sold separately from the tablets. We never saw any reason to buy a Surface without also getting the keyboard, though, and we suspect the situation with the iPad Pro will be similar (why bother getting a ginormous 12.9-inch tablet if you can't also use it as a laptop?). So be sure to factor that into your total cost.

Apple's Smart Keyboard will ring up for $169, while the Surface Type Cover costs $130.

Fingerprint sensor

The iPad Pro has Apple's excellent Touch ID sensor baked into its home button. We've yet to see a Surface with a fingerprint sensor.

Processor

Apple hasn't announced the finer details of its A9X system-on-a-chip, like cores and clock speed, but those are usually misleading in iOS devices anyway. If Apple's performance comparisons of the A9X to last year's A8 hold up (up to 1.8X times as fast processing, and up to twice the speed in graphics), then it should be quite the beast.

While the iPad Pro has mobile internals that are getting closer to desktop-class performance, the Surface Pro 3 has desktop internals that are getting better-suited for mobile form factors. Like many laptops and desktop PCs, you can buy the Surface in several processor configurations, starting with an Intel Core i3.

Note that the CPU frequencies listed above show the range across all the Surface Pro 3 models.

RAM

Apple hasn't officially announced that the iPad Pro has 4 GB of RAM, but multiple sources (including a deleted reference in an Adobe blog post and some XCode hacking) are pointing to that.

If so, that's double the previous RAM high we've seen in an iOS device (the iPad Air 2 has 2 GB of RAM, and the new iPhones and iPad mini 4 likely do as well).

Storage

Microsoft gives you much more to work with in storage options.

Why is Apple jumping from 32 GB all the way to 128 GB for the iPad Pro? Our guess is 32 GB keeps the price down just enough to tempt more buyers, while being able to quadruple the storage for "just" an extra $150 will make it just as tempting, once those buyers are already interested, to pay more.

... or, put another way, perhaps Apple is hoping you'll come for the 32 GB option, but walk out of the store with the 128 GB model.

MicroSD

Here's another storage advantage for Microsoft, as the Surface Pro 3 has a discreet microSD card slot, so you can expand its storage on the (relative) cheap.

Cellular option

The 128 GB iPad Pro also ships in an LTE model, which comes out to $130 more expensive than the Wi-Fi only 128 GB model.

Ports

Apart from the Smart Connector for the iPad Pro's keyboard (and a headphone port, which both devices unsurprisingly have), the iPad's only real port is its Lightning connector.

Along with its charging connector, the Surface Pro 3 has a USB 3.0 port and a Mini DisplayPort for video out.

Speakers

It looks like Apple is taking audio seriously in the iPad Pro, putting two pairs of speakers on the huge tablet.

Battery

As far as estimates go, Apple is saying up to 10 hours of web use over Wi-Fi and up to 9 hours over LTE. As always, you'll want to wait for our review and battery tests before drawing any conclusions about battery life.

Camera megapixels

It's hard to imagine many people using a gigantic slab of metal and glass as a camera, but the iPad Pro appears to have the same cameras as the iPad Air 2, which are pretty good for a tablet.

Software

We're looking at iOS 9 on the iPad Pro vs. Windows 10 on the Surface Pro 3.

Desktop apps

Though these lines are blurring more every day, only the Surface runs traditional desktop apps (in a traditional desktop environment).

iOS is getting better and better for productivity, but just remember you still won't have direct access to its file system (along with all the fun tweaks that go along with that) and all its software will come from the App Store.

Split-screen multitasking

The new iPad Pro (along with the iPads Air 2 and mini 4) will be able to run two apps side-by-side. Windows does this as well.

Bundled office suite

Apple's iWork is included for free with the iPad Pro, and you'll also be able to pay to use a new version of Microsoft Office on Apple's new tablet.

The Surface Pro 3 includes a trial of Office, but you'll still need to either buy a full license or subscribe to Office 365 to use it long-term.

Virtual assistant

Siri can lend you a hand on the iPad Pro, while Cortana will do the same on the Surface.

One thing they have in common is that they both rely on Bing for web search results (Microsoft and Apple were once heated rivals, but they now have a common enemy in Google).

Release

Apple hasn't mentioned anything about iPad Pro pre-orders, and we also don't yet have a specific release date. All we know is it will launch sometime in November.

As we mentioned at the top, the Surface Pro 3 is a 2014 device. Microsoft likely has a Surface Pro 4 waiting in the wings to launch before long, so you might not want to buy a Surface Pro 3 right now.

Starting price

One advantage of having a new Surface (most likely) on its way is that Microsoft shaved some money off of the current models' prices, as reflected above. It's possible Surface Pro 4 pricing will line up a bit closer to Apple's.

... but just remember that the entry-level iPad Pro only gets you 32 GB storage with no option to expand that later on. That's not very much for a work-focused machine.

Stay tuned for much more from Gizmag on the iPad Pro. You can also revisit our review of the Surface Pro 3 from mid-2014.

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