How Does the 9.7-inch iPad Pro Match Up to the Competition?

By Tom Pritchard on at

So we finally have official word on the slightly smaller version of the iPad Pro (or the souped up successor to the iPad Air 2, depending on your outlook), but we have to ask the important questions: What's it like compared to other big tablets you can buy?

To save you the hassle of doing all that yourself, we've done all the hard work to see exactly what the new tablet's hardware is like compared to the original iPad Pro, the iPad Air 2, and Microsoft's Surface Pro 4.

Starting off with how much power each machine has, it's clear that the Surface is the real winner - provided you buy the i5 or i7 variants. Then again, the Core m3 processor isn't that different to the Apple A9X in terms of clock speed (2.2GHz vs 2.26 GHz, both dual core).  Obviously that means the iPad Air 2, with the older Apple A8X comes out a little bit worse for ware.

The same goes for memory, since the Surface Pro 4 can be bought with 4, 8, or 16GB of RAM. Once again, if you go for the cheapest model you'll have the same amount of memory as the original iPad Pro and the iPad Air 2 comes out worse for ware with a measly 2GB. Apple hasn't announced how much memory is in the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, so we can't really do a fair comparison.

There's no real winner on the display side of things either. If you only look at the figures the iPad Air 2 and the new iPad Pro have the same specs, and the Surface Pro's 3 ppi boost isn't going to be exactly noticeable. Of course, Apple does throw a bunch of extra useful features that don't appear in spec sheets. Things like brighter screens, and lower light reflectivity. That said, if you want a tablet with the biggest screen possible, the iPad Pro is your best bet since it is 0.6 inches bigger than the Surface. If you can notice such a small change.

Storage wise, the Surface is the true winner. The smallest variant available is 128GB, with options to boost that to 256GB and 512GB. Obviously all the tablets have a 128GB option, and the new iPad Pro bumps it up to 256gb, but they can't really compete. Even if you don't buy Surface with the biggest SSD, you can expand that storage with a variety of microSD and USB storage - something Apple isn't really keen on. It is worth mentioning that the new iPad Pro will have an SD card reader accessory (sold separately) but the details on how that will work aren't clear right now.

Sadly the Surface does fall down when it comes to thickness and weight. Its quite a bit thicker than all three iPads, and is nearly 75 grams heavier. Mobile devices are designed to be portable, so obviously the thinner and lighter something is the better. The iPad Air 2 is the lightest of the 4, but the new iPad Pro is only seven grams heavier. Hardly noticeable, really.

While we haven't found out what the battery capacity of the new iPad Pro is, Apple has promised that it should last around 10 hours - the same as the larger model. According to Apple the iPad Air 2 lasts roughly the same amount of time, so all three beat out the Surface Pro 4's nine hour life. That doesn't seem like a lot, but that final hour could be important. Then again, it's not a horrifically large difference.

The final point to mention is the different operating systems running on each device. All three iPads are running iOS 9, and advanced as it is you have to concede that it is a cut down mobile OS. The Surface Pro 4, on the other hand, runs the full version of Windows 10, so functionally it's a lot more like a proper laptop than any of the iPads.

Price wise, the Surface Pro 4 is the clear loser. The cheapest model costs £749, and the most expensive powerful version costs just shy of £1,800. Oof. Obviously the iPad Air 2 is much cheaper, but it is nearly 18 months old at this point. It's also worth pointing out that while the original iPad Pro has a much higher entry price, the cheapest model available is 64 GB compared to the new model's 32 GB. In the end, it all depends on what you really want. Do you want a big screen? Are you happy with older (but cheaper) hardware? Do you want a more laptop-like experience? Nobody can really decide that except you.