iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4: Apple takes on Microsoft in battle of the tablets

Apple's newest iPad is its most impressive, but how does it shape up against its old rival?

(Image credit: Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 is now on sale in the UK, packing more power and performance into the thinnest Surface yet. It went on sale just a day after Apple's new iPad Pro – and the similarities between the two tablets has not gone unnoticed.

Launching the Surface Pro 4, Microsoft devices chief Panos Panay said it was 30 per cent faster than its predecessor and 50 per cent faster than Apple's MacBook Air, despite being just 8.4mm thick.

Both tablets have large screens and support for a stylus - or "Pencil" as Apple calls it - and both have been touted as a replacement for laptops. After downsizing the iPad with the Mini series, Apple appears to be chasing business users with a supersized device.

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Previously, the Surface Pro had dominated the hybrid corner of the tablet market. But this week Apple's chief executive Tim Cook suggested the iPad Pro would not only kill off laptops but desktops too, boasting that users will "conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phone".

However, while the Surface Pro 4 runs Windows 10, the iPad Pro is running the mobile version of Apple's iOS9 operating system rather the company's latest computer operating system El Capitan. Unusually, the device is also pitched at a lower price.

So how do the two hybrid tablets match up head to head?

iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4: display and size

Both tablets offer stunning visual displays: the iPad Pro is the slightly larger of the two devices with a 12.9-inch screen in comparison to the Surface Pro's 12.3 inches. However, the Surface Pro has the higher screen resolution, but only marginally – 267 pixels per inch compared to 264 – and according to PocketLint: "To the human eye it'll be tough to see the difference."

Both Apple and Microsoft hope their tablets will offer enough power to replace a laptop, but portability remains a key factor in that department, Apple definitely has the upper hand. The iPad is both thinner and weighs less than the Surface Pro – 712g to 766g – a noticeable difference says GizMag.

iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4: power and performance

The Surface Pro 4 runs Windows 10 – an operating system that aims to bring desktop PC functionality to tablet devices. However if you view them as tablets first rather than mini-desktop computers, many reviewers say that the iPad offers a better user experience.

Under the hood, the two are very different says Ben Radding at PCMag. The iPad Pro comes as standard with 32GB of storage that can be upgraded to 128GB. The Surface Pro 4 starts at 64GB and can be upgraded to include 1TB of data.

Processor-wise, the iPad Pro runs Apple's latest A9X chipset while the Surface Pro at its base configuration has an Intel Core M chipset, and at its highest configuration, an Intel Core i7 chip.

This means, according to Radding: "The Surface Pro 4 has the guts of a laptop, whereas the iPad Pro is still just a tablet, albeit one with the latest, fastest Apple chip."

Juan Martinez at TechRadar agrees, highlighting the difference in storage capability, saying: "The iPad Pro was worse than the Surface Pro 3 in terms of capacity, but compared to the Surface Pro 4 it should be ashamed of itself."

Connectivity is also a big plus for the Surface Pro as the device includes a full-sized USB 3.0 port alongside a microSD card slot and a mini DisplayPort output. "You could attach a USB hub and connect a full-size mouse, as well as a hard drive or printer at the same time, while it's harder to use the iPad as a laptop replacement in the same way," says Jim Martin for TechAdvisor. This is because the iPad Pro only has one Lightning connector, meaning adaptors need to be bought for most connectivity options.


In order to truly replace a laptop or desktop PC, both the Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro will need to have separate keyboards purchased alongside them – as the sheer size of their screens make touch-typing pretty much impossible.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Type Cover keyboard has been "perfected over generations" says PocketLint, "and now offers physical backlit keys 19mm apart for a real keyboard layout, plus a 40 per cent larger trackpad than previous versions".

Apple's Smart Keyboard doubles as a case and stand using a magnetic connector to transfer power. But it isn't backlit like Microsoft's, it doesn't have a fingerprint reader and it only comes in one colour.

Another win for Microsoft comes in the form of its stylus: the Surface Pro 4 offers a free stylus which "comes with a digital eraser and interacts directly with Windows 10 to launch applications like OneNote and Cortana", says TechRadar.

Apple's controversial new Pencil stylus comes at the additional price of £79 and remains charged for an hour at a time. Storing the stylus is far easier on the Surface Pro 4, too, as the Surface Pen clips directly onto the tablet using magnets.


On the face of it, Apple's iPad Pro is the cheaper option, starting at £679 for the 32GB option and stretching to £899 for the 128GB version with cellular data included.

However, the Apple Pencil will cost an extra £79 and the additional keyboard will cost £139.

While the Microsoft Surface 4 starts at £749 (128GB, Core m3, 4GB) and rises to £1,799 (512GB, Core i7, 16GB). The Surface 4 stylus is included for free and, with Microsoft's device packing more power, it would argue the higher price may be justified.


"Game, set, match: Microsoft," says Juan Martinez at TechRadar. "What we've got here are two tablets with similar builds, screens and processing speeds – but one of these devices can store up to 1TB of data, it's got a more innovative stylus and it runs on a desktop operating system."

But Jim Martin is not so sure, saying, as always, it will depend on an individual user's needs: "The iPad Pro is likely to be the opposite of the Surface Pro: a fantastic tablet and an acceptable laptop."

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