Battle of the Pros: Apple iPad Pro vs MS Surface Pro 3
Prior to the recent launch of the iPad Pro, the 11-inch-and-up tablet scene has been dominated by Windows-powered devices. But now that Apple’s biggest tablet is here, we figured how it’ll stack up against the poster boy of the tablet computing space, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.
Design and Construction
Design is, and has always been, subjective. So we’re not going to pick a winner based on a tablet’s looks, instead with the other aspects such as weight, thickness and screen-to-body ratio.
On that note, we think that the iPad Pro takes the cake on this one as it has a better screen-to-body ratio at 76.56-percent versus 72.88% on the Surface Pro 3, it’s lighter (723g vs 768g) despite the larger display and it’s thinner with the sides only measuring a hair under 7mm while Microsoft’s tablet tips the scale at 9mm.
|Apple iPad Pro||Microsoft Surface Pro|
|12.9-inch LED-backlit Multi-touch display, 2732 x 2048 @ 264ppi||12-inch ClearType Full-HD display, 2160 x 1440 @ 216ppi|
|Apple A9X 64-bit processor, M9 Motion co-processor||Intel Core i3-4020Y or Intel Core i5-4300U or Intel Core i7-4650U|
|4GB RAM (TBC)||4GB or 8GB LPDDR3 RAM|
|32GB or 128GB on-board storage||64GB, 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD, expandable via MicroSD card|
|8-megapixel autofocus rear camera||5-megapixel rear autofocus camera|
|1.2-megapixel front camera||5-megapixel front camera|
|Optional LTE connectivity||Optional LTE connectivity|
|Wi-Fi 802.11ac, 2x2 MIMO | Bluetooth 4.2||Wi-Fi 802.11ac, 2x2 MIMO | Bluetooth 4.0 LE|
|Dimension: 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9 mm | Weight: 713g||Dimension: 292.1 x 201.4 x 9.14 mm | Weight: 790g|
Apple has made some bold claims about the new A9X processor, boasting that it’s faster than 80% of all the portable PCs that were shipped in the past six months. It’s still uncertain if the Surface Pro 3 belongs to that group, and if there’s any truth to Apple’s claim, but the iPad Pro certainly has the right hardware to go toe-to-toe with the Surface Pro 3 in terms of performance.
We’ll guess we just have to wait for the benchmark test results to confirm this.
Like in the previous segment, it’s still too early to tell if storage module on the iPad Pro is in the breadth as the SSD found on the Surface Pro 3 as far as performance goes.
What is clear, however, is that users have more options to choose from if they go with the Surface Pro 3 in terms of storage capacity than with the iPad Pro. For the sake of comparison, the iPad Pro only comes in two storage capacities – 32GB and 128GB – while the storage options for the Surface Pro 3 ranges from 64GB all the way up to 256GB.
Another thing to point out is pricing, in relation to storage capacity. The base model of the iPad Pro with 32GB of storage bears a $799 price tag. For the same price, the Surface Pro 3 offers twice the amount of storage.
And lastly, the Surface Pro 3 supports storage expansion via microSD card, which is lacking on the iPad Pro (or any iPads for that matter). Needless to say, we think that the former is the better option in this regard.
If there’s one aspect where the iPad Pro convincingly trumps the Surface 3 Pro, it’ll have to be in the display category. This is not to say though that the latter’s screen is appalling, it’s just that iPad Pro’s panel is just better in almost all fronts.
For one, the iPad Pro’s screen is almost an inch bigger than that on the Surface Pro 3 which means users have more real estate to work with. Not only is the iPad Pro’s screen bigger, it also has higher pixel density at 265ppi.
We’ve yet to personally see the kind of image quality the iPad Pro’s rear camera can spit out, so we can’t really tell which of the two contenders have the better snapper. However, by just plainly basing it on numbers, the iPad Pro has a better rear camera (8-megapixel) than the Surface Pro 3. The latter has a better front camera though (5-megapixel) compared to Apple’s new tablet (1.2-megapixel).
Then again, there’s more to a good picture than the megapixel count, so we can’t definitively tells which tablet is the victor here.
Connectivity and Ports
In terms of wireless connectivity, the Surface 3 Pro and iPad Pro are pretty much even with both tablets offering Wi-Fi 802.11ac with 2×2 MIMO, and optional LTE connectivity on the data-enabled models. The iPad Pro does have an upgraded version of Bluetooth (version 4.2) compared to the Surface Pro 3 (BLE 4.0), but that’s not really too significant to give the former the victory on this one.
What is significant is the difference between the tablets in terms of ports, an aspect that some people typically overlook. In keeping with Apple’s one-port-to-rule-them-all credo, the iPad Pro only comes with a single Lightning connector which it uses for data transfer, charging, and basically any accessories (with the exception of audio-related gears) that require a physical connection to the tablet.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Surface Pro 3 offers a wealth of different ports that caters to different functions. It’s got a standard USB 3.0 port for data transfer, a dedicated port for charging, microSD card reader (which also doubles as storage expansion slot), and a Mini DisplayPort out.
These extra ports, however, deducts some style points to the Surface Pro 3’s looks. But we’ve already given the design and construction to the iPad Pro, and if substance matters to you more than style, the Surface Pro 3 is the more sensible choice.
Like the design, the operating system is a matter of preference. We can’t say that one is better than the other since both iOS 9 and Windows 10 are good in their own regards. With that being said, we’ll stick with what we can work with: store and software selection
Although Microsoft has taken commendable efforts to further improve its store, we can safely say that it’s still leagues away from Apple’s App Store. On the other hand, the Surface Pro 3 offers a full desktop PC experience to users, which includes the ability to install desktop versions of supported third party apps on it (legit or otherwise) and not just mobile version which are oftentimes have limited features.
The bottom line is that if you’re fine with the wide selection of software on Apple’s App Store and if you’ve already invested on a lot of paid apps, the iPad Pro should be a no-brainer. However, if you’re more a PC user, the Surface Pro 3 should fit the bill.
Along with the iPad Pro, Apple also announced two accessories for it, the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. These accessories are not bundled with the new iPad Pro and have to be bought separately for $99 and $169 respectively.
While that also holds true for the Surface Pro 3, for the Type Cover at least, the Windows-powered tablet comes with a Stylus by default. One can make a valid argument that Surface Pro 3’s stylus isn’t as sophisticated as the Apple Pencil, but the fact remains that consumers won’t have to shell out a hundred bucks for a secondary input device.
As for the keyboard, well the Surface Pro 3’s Type Cover is $40 cheaper than Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro.
With everything taken in to consideration, we feel that the Microsoft Surface Store 3 is a more viable option compared to the iPad Pro. It offers more bang-for-the-buck thanks to its larger, not to mention expandable, on-board storage and pre-bundled stylus for the same price that Apple’s is asking for the iPad Pro. Not bad for a tablet that’s more than a year old than its competitor.
It should be noted, however, that these tablets cater to different kind of users. So despite the advantages that the Surface Pro 3 has over the iPad Pro, there will still be consumers who will go for the latter mainly for that extra screen real estate and the other features that it has to offer.