Apple iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface Pro 4?

Alex Kidman 18 November 2015

Apple and Microsoft both have their own take on a hybrid laptop/tablet style "Pro" device. Which one is right for you?

The answer to that isn’t quite as simple as you might think, because the needs and wants of every individual user will differ. We’ve spent some testing time with both platforms to discern why you might want to choose one over the other. Given their premium pricing, it seems unlikely that too many folk would consider both.

It is certain that the die-hard Apple and Microsoft fans will make their choice irrespective of any advantages of either platform, because we figure you’ve already made up your minds about this one and purchased accordingly. But if you’re on the fence as to which to buy, we’ve lined out the reasons to choose one platform over the other.

Here are the core specifications for the Apple iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4:

ModelApple iPad ProSurface Pro 4
Display12.9in12.3in
Resolution2732x20482736 x 1824
Pixels per inch264ppi267ppi
Weight713-723g766-786g
Rear camera8.0MP8.0MP
Front camera1.2MP5.0MP
ProcessorApple A9XIntel Core M3/i5/i7
Memory4GB4GB/8GB/16GB
Storage32/128GB128/256/512GB SSD
BatteryUp to 10 hoursUp to 9 hours
InterfacesApple Lightning PortUSB 3.0, MicroSD, mini DisplayPort
SoftwareiOS 9Windows 10 Pro
Price:$1249-$1699$1349-$3,399
PurchaseBuy nowBuy now

Consider the iPad Pro if...

  • You prefer drawing with a pencil rather than a pen: Apple’s $165 Pencil stylus manages the interesting trick of actually feeling like a pencil in your hand, rather than the distinctly pen-style feel of the Surface Pro’s Surface Pen. This might sound like an obvious point, but if your interest in either platform is primarily artistic, you’ll be much better off matching your artistic style to the tool that best suits you.
  • You want an uninterrupted work environment: The iPad Pro runs on iOS 9, which currently only supports two concurrent multitasking apps at once. If you want a workspace where you won’t have multiple apps demanding your attention it could be a good match.
  • You don’t want to deal with malware issues: One of the tradeoffs of having the smaller controlled iOS pool to play with is that you also don’t have to deal with antivirus software and the constant patching that is part and parcel of the Windows experience. That’s not to say that iOS is never updated or has absolutely impregnable security, but the difference between these two platforms in this aspect is very stark.
  • You’re already invested in the iOS apps ecosystem: Apple’s approach to iOS apps has always been to allow you unlimited installs across every iOS device you own, and this extends to the iPad Pro. Developers can make iPad Pro only apps, which at this point would have to revolve around its unique resolution, but so far pretty much every app has been universal, and there’s nothing stopping you running a regular iPad (or even iPhone) app on the iPad Pro. Comparatively, many Windows applications install on a single machine user licence model.
  • You want a touch-first controlled experience: iOS has never been anything but a touch controlled interface, which means every single app is built around that premise. The Surface Pro 4 can run any given Windows app, but many of them are highly mouse and keyboard-centric.

Consider the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 if...

  • You want to multitask more with more than two apps: A key differentiator for the Surface Pro 4 is that while the iPad Pro approaches its hybrid design from a tablet-to-laptop perspective, the Surface Pro 4 is the exact opposite. One of the key benefits here is that you can run as many apps as the inbuilt Intel Core processor can handle
  • You want expansion options: You can add a USB port to the iPad Pro via Apple’s $45 Lightning to USB Adapter, but the Surface Pro 4 has USB built in with full device compatibility as well as microSD card and mini DisplayPort connections.
  • You need the full Windows application library: In the tablet space, iOS has a lot more apps than competitor Android, but both are dwarfed by the decades of application development that Windows has. Depending on your work circumstances, you may find Windows to be your only option for meaningful productivity.

The one area that we can’t easily pick a "winner" from is in the keyboard stakes.

Both Apple and Microsoft charge extra for their first party keyboards, both of which also take the effective form of being keyboard cases.

Apple’s Smart Keyboard is rather more expensive than the Surface Pro 4’s keyboard at $269 to $199.95, but it also offers a wider keyboard surface to work from with a unique fabric feel whereas the Surface Pro keyboard feels much more like a standard laptop keyboard. It’s very much a personal taste issue, however, and we’d strongly advise you try either or both before making a purchasing decision.

Apple iPad Pro from Apple

The iPad Pro touts a huge 12.9-inch Retina display, almost twice the CPU performance of iPad Air 2 and improved Multi-Touch. Combine this with the Apple Pencil and you get a designer's best friend.

View details

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft Store

With its 12.3-inch PixelSense touchscreen, Windows 10 operating system and interchangeable Surface Pen tips, the Surface Pro 4 looks to improve upon every aspect that made its predecessor so popular.

View details

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