Mobile Technology

iPad Pro vs. Surface Pro 3

iPad Pro vs. Surface Pro 3
Gizmag compares the features and specs of Apple's new iPad Pro (left) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Gizmag compares the features and specs of Apple's new iPad Pro (left) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 3
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Virtual assistants (Siri and Cortana)
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Virtual assistants (Siri and Cortana)
Battery
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Battery
Build
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Build
Camera megapixels
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Camera megapixels
Cellular option
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Cellular option
Color options
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Color options
Processor
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Processor
Desktop apps
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Desktop apps
Dimensions
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Dimensions
Display resolution
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Display resolution
Display size
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Display size
Bundled office suites
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Bundled office suites
Fingerprint sensor
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Fingerprint sensor
Gizmag compares the features and specs of Apple's new iPad Pro (left) and the Microsoft 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
Optional keyboard accessory
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Optional keyboard accessory
Built-in kickstand
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Built-in kickstand
MicroSD card slot
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MicroSD card slot
Major ports
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Major ports
Starting price (full retail)
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Starting price (full retail)
RAM (unconfirmed for iPad)
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RAM (unconfirmed for iPad)
Release
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Release
Software
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Software
Stereo speakers
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Stereo speakers
Stylus
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Stylus
Storage
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Storage
Split-screen multitasking
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Split-screen multitasking
Weight
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Weight

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

Dimensions
Dimensions

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

Weight
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

Build
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

Built-in kickstand
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

Color options
Color options

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

Display size
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

Display resolution
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

Split-screen multitasking
Split-screen multitasking

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

Optional keyboard accessory
Optional keyboard accessory

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

Fingerprint sensor
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

Processor
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

RAM (unconfirmed for iPad)
RAM (unconfirmed for iPad)

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

Storage
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

Built-in kickstand
Built-in kickstand

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

Cellular option
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

Major ports
Major 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

Stereo speakers
Stereo speakers

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

Battery

Battery
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

Camera megapixels
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

Software
Software

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

Desktop apps

Desktop apps
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

Stylus
Stylus

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

Bundled office suites
Bundled office suites

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

Virtual assistants (Siri and Cortana)
Virtual assistants (Siri and Cortana)

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

Release
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

Starting price (full retail)
Starting price (full retail)

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.

7 comments
FrancisSanJuan
Full OS or gtfo.
RichDavis
I personally don't like hybrid laptop/tablets.. I think they typically suck at both. Sorry, but I don't have to have Steve Jobs or Tim Cook tell me this either. This sediment comes from experience of seeing what's on the market and playing around with them and examining products and specs and understanding the two devices and how they work.
Bryan Sorensen
The Surface is a much better device but regardless, Apple will sell a ton of these overpriced, less-functional iPad's to their overzealous Apple worshipers.
Rann Xeroxx
Just a few additions. Apps - Touch based ones, iOS hands down. With the Microsoft Bridge, app developers will have the ability to easily port their iOS and Android (along with HTML and App-V apps) as universal apps. W10 also can run Chrome which can run ChromeOS Apps. Split Screen - The SP3 is full W10. I can run as many windows as you want. Plug in more monitors, and you can fill the screens with windows. The app switcher, task manager, virtual desktop, etc are also far more robust. Mousing - Not sure why Apple cont. to leave out mousing ability, even Android has mousing and a jailbroken iOS device can use it. But for remoting and certain apps like CAD, a mouse is a far, far better input device.
phissith
Wow Bryan have you try Surface Pro 3 with i5 or i7??
MarkGuzewski
This seems to be a pretty detailed comparison. However, one other thing I like about my Surface Pro 3 is the touchpad on the keyboard/cover.
PaulDavis
For a seventy dollar upgrade surface pro can be equipped with a 1024gb micro sd card giving it a terra byte of additional memory and the computer accepts it fine. I've been running one now for about 6 months no glitches.