It has been the winter of the two in one – devices that can double up as a tablet and a notebook – when it comes to computing in India. And this interest owes much to the launch of arguably the most famous devices in this segment – Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4. Ironically, neither of the two devices is sold as a two-in-one: the keyboards (which are rather expensive) have to be purchased separately. However, that has not stopped people from comparing them and labelling them “laptop killers.” Both are impressively specced and both cost a bomb, but which of the two suits your needs the best? Well, here is our comparison of the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 to help resolve the matter.
Looks and appearance
This is a battle between the sleek and the functional. In terms of pure appearance, we do think that the iPad Pro’s slimmer (6.9 mm against 8.4 mm of the Surface Pro 4) and more curve-you frame might appeal to more users. Rather surprisingly, the iPad Pro is also much lighter than the Surface Pro 4 – 713 grammes as compared to 766 grammes, even though it has a significantly bigger display – 12.9 inches compared to 12.3 inches. The iPad Pro is also significantly longer and wider – 305.7 X 220.6 mm against 192.1 X 201.44 of the Pro 4. However, the extra thickness of the Surface Pro 4 includes a full USB 3.0 port, and also includes a kick stand at the back, both of which might be liked by more conventional PC users. We are voting this one to the iPad Pro, but it is a very close finish as both devices look premium with their blend of metal and glass.
Winner: Apple iPad Pro
Getting into the battle of innards below all that classy casing, the fight is a close one. And it gets a little confusing too, for the Surface Pro 4 has many variations, with different processors, RAM and storage, while the iPad Pro’s variations are only in terms of storage. If we stick to base models in each case, we would be pitting the iPad Pro’s A9x processor, which Apple claims is faster than 90 per cent of the chips found in most notebooks against Intel’s Core i5 processor. Both are very good processors. The devices are closely matched in terms of display – the iPad Pro has a 12.9 inch display with a resolution of 2732 X 2048 while the Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3 one with a resolution of 2736 X 1824. The Surface Pro 4 has a slightly higher pixel density (267ppi against 264ppi) but both displays look fine. However, where the Surface Pro 4 pulls away from the iPad Pro is in terms of offering proper USB connectivity and expandable storage, and also coming with the Surface Pen bundled.
Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro 4
This is really going to boil down to taste and preferences. If you are looking at the devices purely as tablets – which is the form in which they are sold – then the iPad Pro’s iOS interface and OS is far easier and faster to use. However, if you are looking to use the device as a Windows tablet, then the Surface Pro 4 is the better option. At the time of writing, the Force was definitely with iOS in terms of apps and ease of use (Windows still seems not ideally designed for touch), which is why we are awarding this round to the iPad Pro once again – the UI is much better for a tablet and there are far more apps designed for it.
Winner: Apple iPad Pro
Keyboard and Stylus
There is no doubt that the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 are sold without keyboards. However, both come with very famous keyboard accessories that cost a bomb but claim to convert the devices into competition for notebooks – the Type Cover for the Surface and the Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro. In terms of ease of use, we would say the Surface Pro 4 has the better keyboard with a very good touchpad thrown into the mix as well and also has the advantage of being backlit. The iPad Pro’s keyboard oddly enough has no shortcuts for iPad functions so you cannot control volume or brightness from it and offers only one viewing angle, but is water-resistant and unlike the Surface Pro’s keyboard actually allows you to rest the tablet on your lap. Both devices also have their styluses – the Surface Pen comes bundled with the Surface Pro 4 while the Apple Pencil for the iPad Pro has to be purchased separately. While the Surface Pen is more convenient to carry (it can be connected to the Surface ) and does not need to be charged unlike the Apple Pen (which cannot be connected to the iPad Pro and needs to be regularly charged), we found the Apple Pencil generally turning in a much better display in terms of palm rejection and sensitivity. We are calling this a tie – Microsoft has the better keyboard, Apple the better stylus.
Once again, this is a clash between tablet and PC users. If you want a device that mimics a computer, the Surface Pro 4 wins by a comfortable margin. But get into pure tablet territory and the iPad Pro reigns supreme. We also found that apps by and large behaved better on the iPad Pro than on the Surface Pro 4, which did witness the odd crash. Battery life was also significantly better on the iPad Pro which regularly went close to ten hours while the Surface Pro 4 generally delivered about eight hours of regular usage. We were also hit by the boot up bug on the Surface Pro 4 in which the device simply refused to boot up sometimes and had to be forced to start up using a key combination. In terms of general smoothness and ease of use, this round goes to the iPad Pro.
Winner: Apple iPad Pro
Value for Money
The iPad Pro starts at Rs 67,900 while the Surface Pro 4 starts at Rs 89,990. However at that price, the Surface Pro 4 brings 128 GB of storage and the Surface Pen, while the iPad Pro only has 32 GB storage. Up the storage to 128 GB (Wi-Fi) and the iPad Pro’s price goes up to Rs 79,900. Add the Apple Pencil (Rs 8600) to it and its price goes up to Rs 88,500, making it a much tighter fight here. Of course, those wanting higher specifications can opt for more expensive variations of the Surface Pro 4 going all the way up to Rs 1,44,990 for a Core i7 processor model with 8GB RAM and 256 GB storage. The iPad Pro on the other hand tops out at Rs 91,900 for the 128 GB version (3G and Wi-Fi). The Type Cover keyboard for the Surface Pro 4 costs Rs 12, 490 while the Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro costs Rs 14,900. All said and done, you can get a 128 GB iPad Pro with 3G and an Apple Pencil keyboard for a slightly higher price than you would get a Surface Pro 4 with a keyboard. Take 3G out of the equation, and the iPad Pro 4 gets slightly more affordable. It is close, but considering that you will get alternatives to the Surface Pro 4 in the Windows world, but none to the iPad Pro, we are awarding this one to the iPad Pro.
Winner: iPad Pro
So which of the two devices suits your needs better? It really depends on what you need, as always. If you are looking for a tablet, the iPad Pro is perhaps the most powerful one of its kind. But if you are looking at a notebook substitute, the Surface Pro 4 slots in better with its USB connectivity and excellent keyboard and touchpad, not to mention the familiarity of Windows. On the flip side, however, the iPad Pro is less prone to crashes, has more apps and delivers much better battery life. It really depends on what you need – if a notebook and a tablet, then the Surface Pro 4, if a tablet that can sometimes let you type, then the Surface Pro 4. In neither case are you likely to be too disappointed.