Microsoft is making a big splash with its latest gear, the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book. These pricey products are designed to compete directly with Apple’s traditional hegemony on premium gadgets. But just how well do these latest offerings measure up against Apple, especially now the iPad Pro is up for sale?
Editor’s Note: This post is a condensed version of a longer post, which includes comparisons with the rest of Microsoft's Surface range and Apple's MacBook Pro. For the full version, click here.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Vs iPad Pro
Note: these are the base configurations.
From the outset, everything appears to be about the same. The iPad Pro’s display is 12.9 inches, and the Surface Pro 4’s is 12.3 inches. The iPad weighs in at 713 grams and the Surface 766 grams. The iPad Pro lasts up to 10 hours and the Surface Pro 4 lasts up to nine.
So what’s the difference? It might come down to how fast the processors are. While Apple doesn’t give specific numbers when comparing the Pro to other devices on the market, it claims the iPad Pro brings “desktop-class CPU performance and console-class graphics”. The new A9X processor is supposedly 1.8 times faster than its predecessor.
Microsoft was bold enough to apply actual numbers to its comparison, saying the Surface Pro 4 is 50 per cent faster than the MacBook Air and 30 per cent faster than the Surface Pro 3. It’s worth noting that we don’t know which configuration they’re talking about there. Though the Surface Pro 4 starts with Intel Core M3, you can spec it all the way up to a 6th-generation Intel Core i7 (which is definitely what you want).
Both the iPad Air and Surface Pro 4 have some new design features introduced by Apple and Microsoft specifically for these products — but overall, they look like what an iPad and a Surface have typically looked like.
That said, the Surface Pro 4 kills the iPad on ports, if that’s your thing: the Surface has a USB 3.0 port, microSD card reader, Mini DisplayPort and a headphone jack. And true port-maniacs can always connect a Surface Dock for extra functionality. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro only has a headphone jack and a Lightning port. That could be a dealbreaker for some people.
One other small but important note is the Surface Pro’s multi-position kickstand. The iPad Pro’s cover rolls up to be a stand, but it only works in one position, which ultimately won’t suit everybody’s needs.
The iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard comes in at £139. The Surface Pro 4’s Type Cover has backlit keys, a trackpad and a fingerprint scanner, and is £110. The Surface Pen comes free with the device, while Apple wants £79 for its Pencil.
The price of accessories adds up. The iPad Pro starts at £679 and gets you 32 GB of storage. The Surface Pro 4 starts at £749, and includes 128GB of storage and a Pen. When you add Apple’s Pencil, the base iPad Pro is £758 as well, despite the massively reduced storage. And adding a keyboard brings the cost of the iPad Pro to £897. Meanwhile the price of a Surface Pro 4 including all the optional goodies clocks in at £859.
Then again, if you want 128GB of storage for your iPad Pro (plus a cellular connection), that’ll start at £899.
iOS vs Windows 10
Given that you’re about to drop a lot of cash on hardware, a lot of people might find the iPad Pro a little limited. It runs iOS, not OS X, and while powerful guts and a robust app ecosystem go a long way, it’s not a full-blown system. The Surface Pro 4, on the other hand, has a fully fledged version of Windows 10, so it can do everything a regular computer can.