Mobile Technology

iPad Air 2 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 3

iPad Air 2 vs. Microsoft Surfa...
Gizmag compares the features and specs of the iPad Air 2 and Surface Pro 3
Gizmag compares the features and specs of the iPad Air 2 and Surface Pro 3
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Anti-glare display
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Anti-glare display
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Battery
Build
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Build
Cameras
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Cameras
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Cellular option
Color options
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Color options
Processors
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Processors
Dimensions
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Dimensions
Display resolution (and pixel density)
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Display resolution (and pixel density)
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Fingerprint sensor
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Fingerprint sensor
Gizmag compares the features and specs of the iPad Air 2 and Surface Pro 3
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Gizmag compares the features and specs of the iPad Air 2 and Surface Pro 3
Laptop mode
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Laptop mode
MicroSD card support
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MicroSD card support
Starting prices
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Starting prices
RAM
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RAM
Release
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Release
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Weight

The iPad Air 2 is the best iPad yet (as the latest iPad always should be), but how does it compare to one of the leading laptop/tablet hybrids? Read on, as Gizmag compares the iPad Air 2 to Microsoft's Surface Pro 3.

Laptop mode

Laptop mode
Laptop mode

If you aren't familiar with the Surface, it's a transforming 2-in-1. Its detachable keyboard cover and built-in kickstand let you quickly and easily switch between tablet and laptop modes.

That X under the iPad isn't entirely fair, since there are some great third-party keyboards that can transform the iPad into a faux laptop. Unlike the Surface's physical connection, though, iPad keyboards connect via Bluetooth.

And since the iPad doesn't have a kickstand (the mere mention must have Steve Jobs rolling in his grave), iPad keyboards also have to supply some means of standing the tablet up.

Size

Dimensions
Dimensions

The Surface Pro 3 is big enough to make the iPad Air look like an iPad mini. At 22 percent longer and 18 percent wider, the Surface makes for an enormous tablet. On the flip side, though, it works much better as a laptop than any previous Surface.

The Surface is very thin for a desktop PC, but it's still 49 percent thicker than the razor-thin iPad Air 2.

Weight

Weight
Weight

The Surface is also 83 percent heavier than the iPad. Add its keyboard cover, and it weighs 2.5x as much as the iPad.

Build

Build
Build

We're looking at an aluminum body for the iPad, and a magnesium construction for the Surface. Both have high-end aesthetics.

Colors

Color options
Color options

You only have one color option for the Surface, next to three for the iPad.

Display (size)

Display (size)
Display (size)

The Surface gives you 47 percent more screen than the iPad does. Again, this is great for laptop mode, but it might feel oversized for a tablet.

Display (resolution)

Display resolution (and pixel density)
Display resolution (and pixel density)

The iPad has a 22 percent sharper screen.

Display (type)

Display (type)
Display (type)

Both devices have IPS panels.

Anti-reflective display

Anti-glare display
Anti-glare display

Apple says that the iPad Air 2's display can cut down on glare by 56 percent.

Stylus

Stylus
Stylus

Microsoft's aluminum Surface Pen is included with the Pro 3. In addition to the things that styluses always do (more precision and control), it also lets you quickly launch Microsoft's OneNote app by clicking its back end.

You can buy iPad-friendly styluses, but they're passive styluses that merely simulate finger touches. The Surface's is a more sophisticated active-digitizer stylus, including hover pointing.

Fingerprint sensor

Fingerprint sensor
Fingerprint sensor

Apple's terrific Touch ID sensor makes its way to the iPad Air 2. It lets you easily secure your tablet, and skip a password in Touch ID-friendly apps.

The online portion of Apple Pay (the company's new in-store and online payment service) also works with the iPad Air 2.

Storage

Storage
Storage

The Surface is basically a laptop trapped in a tablet's body, so it naturally offers more laptop-like storage options.

MicroSD card

MicroSD card support
MicroSD card support

The Surface also has a microSD slot that lets you expand its internal storage.

Processor

Processors
Processors

Mobile processors are getting more and more like desktop processors, and Apple's blazing-fast 64-bit A8 and A8X chips are leading the charge.

Microsoft offers three different Intel Core (Haswell) processor tiers for the Surface.

RAM

RAM
RAM

Depending on which storage/processor configuration you choose, you'll get either 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM from the Surface.

The iPad Air 2 is the first (and so far only) iPad with 2 GB of RAM.

Battery

Battery
Battery

Apple estimates 10 hours of web use over Wi-Fi for the iPad. Microsoft says you'll get about an hour less than that on the Surface.

Cellular (LTE) option

Cellular option
Cellular option

You can pay an extra US$130 over the Wi-Fi only version to get an iPad that can use cellular data. No such luck for the Surface.

Cameras

Cameras
Cameras

The iPad Air 2 has an improved rear camera over last year's iPad Air.

Split-screen multitasking

Split-screen multitasking
Split-screen multitasking

Apple has yet to add side-by-side multitasking to the iPad. Windows supports this, both in desktop apps and using the Snap feature in Modern (Start Screen) apps.

Software

Software
Software

Speaking of software, we're looking at iOS 8.1 on the iPad Air and Windows 8.1 Pro on the Surface. And yes, this Surface runs legacy desktop apps.

Release

Release
Release

The Surface Pro 3 is already four months old. The iPad Air 2 is rolling out this week.

Starting price

Starting prices
Starting prices

If you want a device that's strictly a tablet, then you're much better off with the iPad. Not only is it lighter and thinner, with a much better selection of touch apps – but it's also $430 cheaper (there's no point in buying the Surface without also throwing in its keyboard cover).

But if you want a device that can serve as both laptop and tablet – and do a pretty damn good job at both – then you might find that the Surface is worth the extra cash. iPad apps are having more overlap than ever with desktop apps, but I still couldn't use an iPad for my main work machine ... even with a keyboard cover.

We're just scratching the surface here, but you can read more in our full reviews of the Surface Pro 3 review and iPad Air 2.

7 comments
Paul Wells
...and next week we will compare a blancmange with a sausage... An ARM processor vs a Intel Core i# at twice the price? What was the point of this article?
Oun Kwon
No comparison. Surface Pro is a replacement of notebook PC. All the I-pads are good as a toy for playing games and watching movie.
Purple-Stater
@Paul Wells; Since the two devices running different OSes, why would the style of processor make any difference at all? I have no (anti-) Apple bias, but am more interested in a Surface for the automatic integration with my Windows-based home network. But I still found the straight up technical comparison to be fairly interesting.
EricP
I think this is a very balanced comparison. The only area that needs an adjustment is the anti-reflective screen. Most of the anti-reflectance comes from reducing the number of surfaces exposed to air which may reflect. The reduced reflectivity of the Air 2 comes mostly from cutting down on the number of surfaces. They said so themselves during their presentation about the new bonded display. The SP3 has bonded display also, which is why up to the Air 2 it had the second lowest reflectance of any mobile display.
rubley
A truly pointless comparison, these device can't do the same tasks. Surface Pro 3 is a tablet in name only - its a full blown x86 computer. And the iPad is still the worst tablet on the market.
Trung Hoang
Look at the price! To be honest, I'd like to buy one iPad Air 2 and one Macbook Air; therefore, I will have totally up to 20 hrs to work.
Andrew Brinkman
This is the worst comparison I've ever read. The writer is just comparing numbers without meaning. Great example is storage 128 vs 255 blah blah blah. How about you mention the iops, the r/w speed, maybe how fast each processor is at voxel based rendering, memory fill etc. But noooooope. We are just comparing plain old numbers here