iPad Pro vs Surface Pro features and specs showdown

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2020
In this iPad Pro vs Surface Pro comparison, we look at features, specifications, and how both fare vs the MacBook Air.

The 12.9 inch iPad Pro vs Surface Pro
Comparing the 12.9 inch iPad Pro vs Surface Pro


When we reviewed Microsoft's Surface Pro, we mentioned that Microsoft picks and chooses what aspects of Apple products it wishes to compete against, obviously in a bid to make the Surface Pro look better. Whether or not it does depends highly on the user, so let's look at these three, together, piece-by-piece in an iPad Pro vs Surface Pro vs MacBook Air showdown.

We're looking at the Surface Pro that retails for $1499 (currently on sale in-cart) with a Core i7 processor, 256GB of storage, and 8GB of RAM, plus at least another $129 for a keyboard, bringing it up to a bit over $1600.

The Surface Pro
The Microsoft Surface Pro


Let's compare it to a 2018 MacBook Air with a 1.6GHz i5 processor, 256GB of storage, and 16GB of RAM for $1599, and a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with 512GB capacity for $1349 (also on sale), plus a generous allowance for a third-party keyboard and other accessories.

iPad Pro vs Surface Pro vs MacBook Air: Screen

The screen on the Surface Pro 6 is a 12.3-inch touchscreen, with a 2736 x 1824 resolution at 400 nits. In comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Air has a 2560 x 1600 display with 400 nit brightness. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a 12.9-inch display at 2732 x 2048 at 600 nits -- and is also a wide color P3 display touchscreen.





These are all nice screens. Microsoft has historically compared the Surface Pro to the non-Retina MacBook, and not the iPad Pro.

Processor

The Surface Pro we're comparing here has an Intel Core i7 four-core processor with a 2.1GHz base speed. The MacBook Air has a 1.6GHz i5, with the iPad Pro sporting the A12X Bionic chip.

iPad Pro vs Surface Pro
iPad Pro vs Surface Pro


Our Surface Pro scored 3323 single-core, and 11068 multi-core. Our 12.9-inch iPad Pro scores around 5000 single-core, and 17622 multi-core. The MacBook Air trails at an average of 4362 and 7858 on our single-core and multi-core tests respectively.

In our Surface Pro vs iPad Pro vs MacBook Air processing results, from a sheer processing heft point of view, the iPad Pro wins -- and so does the previous model of iPad Pro versus this Surface. And, as you may expect, Microsoft has historically compared the Surface in this regard to the MacBook Air.

Ports

Microsoft has generally compared the Surface Pro to either the single-port MacBook, or the iPad.

As far as ports go, Microsoft has not yet shifted to USB-C or Thunderbolt 3, but it appears that at least USB 3.1 type C is coming for the next model at some point in the future. At present, though, it has one USB 3.0 port, a DisplayPort, the Surface Connect port, a microSD slot, and a headphone jack.

Surface Pro 6 on top of iPad Pro
Surface Pro still doesn't have USB-C


Apple's MacBook Air has two 40Gbit Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack. Apple's iPad Pro has a single USB-C port. But, with that allowance for accessories, there are a host of USB-C docks to load up the device with any number of ports, meeting or exceeding the Surface Pro.

So, mixed verdict on this one. At present, the Surface Pro lacks any kind of high-speed data interface beyond the single USB 3.0 port, but out of the box has more ports.

Software

Windows has more software, period. However, does it matter if you pick between 200 different word processing applications or 100? Either way, on any platform you choose, there is more software than you will ever use in a lifetime.

The main differentiator is games. The Surface Pro isn't exactly a heavyweight, the same way that the MacBook Air isn't, utilizing only Intel integrated graphics. The iPad Pro, on the other hand, has access to the entire iPhone and iPad game lineup -- for better and worse.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Microsoft Surface Pro 6


In regards to the operating system, like we mentioned in our Surface Pro review, Microsoft blew it in integration. Microsoft had the opportunity to control the "whole stack" like Apple does with iOS and the iPad, or macOS and the Mac. It had the opportunity to use tailor the Surface hardware and the operating system beyond what it is -- just another Windows device, and all that entails.

The winner is...

At this point, for maximum impact, the paradigm is to declare an overall winner of the battle of the hardware. We're not going to do that, though.

The Surface Pro, iPad Pro, and MacBook Air are all aimed at entirely different market segments. They are aimed at entirely different use cases, and there is no clear winner, nor should there be.

The iPad Pro is is a more integrated device while the Surface Pro 6 is the best Windows device
The iPad Pro is is a more integrated device while the Surface Pro 6 is the best Windows device


The Surface Pro is the best Windows tablet, bar none. The iPad Pro is the ultimate expression of iOS devices right now, and that's only going to get better in the fall with iPad OS. The MacBook Air isn't the best Mac, but it is an extremely capable, and very light device, well-suited for macOS use on the go.

How to save on your Microsoft or Apple purchase

Aggressive deals can be found on the Surface Pro, as well as Apple's iPad Pro and MacBook Air. At press time, B&H has the lowest price on several Surface Pro 6 models with a sales tax refund in eligible states using its Payboo Credit Card. Amazon.com is also running cash rebates on Surface Pro configurations, with prices as low as $699.

Results of the iPad Pro vs Surface Pro vs MacBook Air evaluation aside, it is a good time to shop and save. Those looking for discounts on Apple hardware can save up to $250 on iPad Pro models and up to $150 on new MacBook Air laptops, with many Mac systems eligible for our exclusive promo code. To find the lowest prices, be sure to visit our Apple Price Guides, which are updated throughout the day.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    That $850 MacBook 12” at Best Buy should also be in consideration (as see on AI). That might be the perfect budget machine for students...

    The older model Air was also decent (I think it went for $799) but the older screen/design was a deal breaker.  The $850 MacBook (current model) has a fantastic screen, and the improved keyboard.  The only downside is the slower processor, but should be OK for students or non graphic heavy workloads.

    The current IPad Pro 12.9” might also be a winner with iOS 13... iOS 12 on that size doesn’t do it for me.  I expect it to be a big seller this Christmas.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 30
    bigpicsbigpics Posts: 1,397member
    Insert obligatory "but that awful butterfly keyboard" comment about the new MBA here.

    And not without reason. :neutral: 
  • Reply 3 of 30
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    bigpics said:
    Insert obligatory "but that awful butterfly keyboard" comment about the new MBA here.

    And not without reason. :neutral: 
    I’ve only seen the reviews, but that’s an incentive to buy the newer model 12” and why the older Air model gets eliminated. (for price sensitive buyers)

    Anyone still hate the 12” MacBook (new model) keyboard?  It could be an issue with the lack of ports.  Also, getting a full size Bluetooth keyboard might work, but it would put you farther away from the “small” screen.
  • Reply 4 of 30
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 925member
    I own both, only my CPU is an i5. 

    The difference is iCloud integration with other devices - not apps or GPU. The rest of my devices are Macs and iOS devices. BTW I am running the Beta of iPad OS 13.

    The Surface boots faster than the iPad Pro or any Mac and also logs in with face recognition than the iPad Pro. Battery life is better on the iPad. Sound is better on the iPad. I have pens for both, but do not use them enough to offer an opinion.

    The kickstand on the Surface Pro is very nice and much better than any folding case.
    1STnTENDERBITS
  • Reply 5 of 30
    Robert BaumRobert Baum Posts: 5unconfirmed, member
    I honestly don’t understand why on an Apple website we all too often get reviews of and comparisons to Windows or Android. I read Apple news for Apple news.  There are plenty of blogs and reviews sites for the other products. If I want to learn about those products I know where to look. 
    AppleExposed
  • Reply 6 of 30
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    I honestly don’t understand why on an Apple website we all too often get reviews of and comparisons to Windows or Android. I read Apple news for Apple news.  There are plenty of blogs and reviews sites for the other products. If I want to learn about those products I know where to look. 
    For many people, the Surface Pro is in consideration for their next purchase.  By including it in the review, it also provides context.

    Personally, I have an iPad Pro, a iPhone, and a Windows laptop.  My “next” computer/tablet is wide open.  I appreciate the comparisons and discussions.

    I also have a niece that’s in the market for a school/college machine.  The Surface Pro was in the running until she specifically requested a MacBook.  Even then, that doesn’t end the discussion, price is very very relevant.  Purchasing with a $1000 (budget) where the hope is the machine lasts 5 years may be more important than OS preference.

    This article by AI is very timely and relevant, it’s not like many people can get in front of all these machines like AI can.

    The funding for AI comes from companies that both sell Windows and Macs.  AI obviously has an Apple product bent, but that doesn’t mean excluding everything else makes sense.  For example, when AI reviewed HomePod were you not interested to how it stacked up to Amazon and Google’s products...?

    Edit
    Oops.  I just realized my comment was in response to a guy that had commented only 4 times, and 3 of those basically said the same thing (Apple only review requested).
    edited July 2019 davgregCarnagedavenwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 30
    ChrisSDChrisSD Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Not a very thorough review. You only used one benchmark (without naming it) and you simplified the Surface Pro's software advantage down to a choice of word processors? Given that the market dominating MS Office suite would be the choice on either platform, that wasn't really even a good choice for that simplification. No question that Apple has been performing miracles with their Axx line of CPUs and are releasing significant improvements each generation like we used to expect from Intel. The Surface, on the other hand, has been hurt by Intel's struggles with their 10nm manufacturing process. It'll be interesting to see how that changes over the next year now that AMD has their 7nm process running and Intel is shipping their 10nm Ice Lake CPUs as we speak.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 30
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,086member
    Since the Surface Pro can function as a switch hitter -- either as a tablet or a laptop, then shouldn't the cost comparison been against the total cost of both the iPad Pro + the MacBook?   $1,600 vs $2,950?

    But, hopefully Apple fixes that with iOS 13 by opening up the cursor/mouse function to let the iPad switch hit too.  

  • Reply 9 of 30
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,086member

    I honestly don’t understand why on an Apple website we all too often get reviews of and comparisons to Windows or Android. I read Apple news for Apple news.  There are plenty of blogs and reviews sites for the other products. If I want to learn about those products I know where to look. 
    For many people, the Surface Pro is in consideration for their next purchase.  By including it in the review, it also provides context.

    Personally, I have an iPad Pro, a iPhone, and a Windows laptop.  My “next” computer/tablet is wide open.  I appreciate the comparisons and discussions.

    I also have a niece that’s in the market for a school/college machine.  The Surface Pro was in the running until she specifically requested a MacBook.  Even then, that doesn’t end the discussion, price is very very relevant.  Purchasing with a $1000 (budget) where the hope is the machine lasts 5 years may be more important than OS preference.

    This article by AI is very timely and relevant, it’s not like many people can get in front of all these machines like AI can.

    The funding for AI comes from companies that both sell Windows and Macs.  AI obviously has an Apple product bent, but that doesn’t mean excluding everything else makes sense.  For example, when AI reviewed HomePod were you not interested to how it stacked up to Amazon and Google’s products...?

    Edit
    Oops.  I just realized my comment was in response to a guy that had commented only 4 times, and 3 of those basically said the same thing (Apple only review requested).

    In that situation, consider a 2017 MacBook Pro.  Not only does it have a better keyboard but the SSD is replaceable/upgradeable (although Apple would not approve of it) -- but the screen is not as good as a 2018 with Retina but still very good.   And, an 8Gb can be had for well under a $1,000.

    From B&H camera -- one of ai's sponsors - and no sales tax!:
    Apple 13.3" MacBook Air (Mid 2017, Silver)

    B&H # APMQD32LLA MFR # MQD32LL/A

    TOP HIGHLIGHTS

    • 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core
    • 8GB of 1600 MHz LPDDR3 RAM | 128GB SSD
    • Integrated Intel HD Graphics 6000

    More on the Way

    Expected availability: 7-14 business days
    $919.00
    Add to Cart
    ORRequest Stock Alert
    ------------------------------------------------

    Oops!  Sorry -- I just saw your earlier post and it looks like you've already done your homework well.  Best of luck!
    edited July 2019 applesnorangesseanismorriswatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 30
    firelockfirelock Posts: 225member
    I honestly don’t understand why on an Apple website we all too often get reviews of and comparisons to Windows or Android. I read Apple news for Apple news.  There are plenty of blogs and reviews sites for the other products. If I want to learn about those products I know where to look. 

    It’s hard to evaluate any system or device in isolation. As a part-time historian I liken it to trying to evaluate US tanks from WW2 without comparing it to tanks from other countries like Germany and the USSR. It’s not possible to understand how good or bad the Sherman is without comparing its strengths and weaknesses to a Panzer IV or T-34.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 30
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    firelock said:
    I honestly don’t understand why on an Apple website we all too often get reviews of and comparisons to Windows or Android. I read Apple news for Apple news.  There are plenty of blogs and reviews sites for the other products. If I want to learn about those products I know where to look. 

    It’s hard to evaluate any system or device in isolation. As a part-time historian I liken it to trying to evaluate US tanks from WW2 without comparing it to tanks from other countries like Germany and the USSR. It’s not possible to understand how good or bad the Sherman is without comparing its strengths and weaknesses to a Panzer IV or T-34.
    I’d like to see that review ; )
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 30
    I honestly don’t understand why on an Apple website we all too often get reviews of and comparisons to Windows or Android. I read Apple news for Apple news.  There are plenty of blogs and reviews sites for the other products. If I want to learn about those products I know where to look. 
    There are many reasons.  Most people aren't ecosystem exclusive and use gadgets from multiple vendors.  Intellectual curiosity-people like to know what the other side is doing.  Natural competitiveness - confirmation bias: what I purchased is the best.  Some Apple enthusiast also appreciate the advances in other brands that push Apple to improve their tech.  Most'y though, people aren't myopic in their viewpoints.  Those who are usually have the good sense to avoid the offending articles instead of wondering why content outside of their area of interest is on site.  The most elemental reason for articles about tech outside of the main focus is to drive discussion.  No one wants to visit a site where every opinion is lock stepped bland agreement.

    Like you said if you want to learn about other products, you know where to look.  If you don't want to learn about other products, you know where NOT to look.  An article about other products would probably be the first place not to look.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 30
    thttht Posts: 4,205member
    ChrisSD said:
    Not a very thorough review. You only used one benchmark (without naming it) and you simplified the Surface Pro's software advantage down to a choice of word processors? Given that the market dominating MS Office suite would be the choice on either platform, that wasn't really even a good choice for that simplification. No question that Apple has been performing miracles with their Axx line of CPUs and are releasing significant improvements each generation like we used to expect from Intel. The Surface, on the other hand, has been hurt by Intel's struggles with their 10nm manufacturing process. It'll be interesting to see how that changes over the next year now that AMD has their 7nm process running and Intel is shipping their 10nm Ice Lake CPUs as we speak.
    This isn’t a review. It’s not a product comparison. It’s a shallow listing of features in a few products and it is not their intent to declare a winner. Maybe there will be a subsequent article that is more thorough, but nobody should be buying anything based on this article, even if they were cross-shopping. 

    The GB4 benchmarks for the Core i7 seems wrong though, but I’m not going to find out right now. 

    AMD does not have a 7 nm process. They used TSMC 7 nm for their bleeding edge chips. They likely fab their older chip products on 12 and 14 nm using GlobalFoundaries, which is an independent company formed with IBM and AMD’s divested foundry business. I do not believe GlobalFoundaries has declared they are moving to a 7, 8 or 10 nm fab process just yet. Probably waiting for cheaper and mature equipment. 
  • Reply 14 of 30
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member

    I honestly don’t understand why on an Apple website we all too often get reviews of and comparisons to Windows or Android. I read Apple news for Apple news.  There are plenty of blogs and reviews sites for the other products. If I want to learn about those products I know where to look. 
    For many people, the Surface Pro is in consideration for their next purchase.  By including it in the review, it also provides context.

    Personally, I have an iPad Pro, a iPhone, and a Windows laptop.  My “next” computer/tablet is wide open.  I appreciate the comparisons and discussions.

    I also have a niece that’s in the market for a school/college machine.  The Surface Pro was in the running until she specifically requested a MacBook.  Even then, that doesn’t end the discussion, price is very very relevant.  Purchasing with a $1000 (budget) where the hope is the machine lasts 5 years may be more important than OS preference.

    This article by AI is very timely and relevant, it’s not like many people can get in front of all these machines like AI can.

    The funding for AI comes from companies that both sell Windows and Macs.  AI obviously has an Apple product bent, but that doesn’t mean excluding everything else makes sense.  For example, when AI reviewed HomePod were you not interested to how it stacked up to Amazon and Google’s products...?

    Edit
    Oops.  I just realized my comment was in response to a guy that had commented only 4 times, and 3 of those basically said the same thing (Apple only review requested).

    In that situation, consider a 2017 MacBook Pro.  Not only does it have a better keyboard but the SSD is replaceable/upgradeable (although Apple would not approve of it) -- but the screen is not as good as a 2018 with Retina but still very good.   And, an 8Gb can be had for well under a $1,000.

    From B&H camera -- one of ai's sponsors - and no sales tax!:
    Apple 13.3" MacBook Air (Mid 2017, Silver)

    B&H # APMQD32LLA MFR # MQD32LL/A

    TOP HIGHLIGHTS

    • 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core
    • 8GB of 1600 MHz LPDDR3 RAM | 128GB SSD
    • Integrated Intel HD Graphics 6000

    More on the Way

    Expected availability: 7-14 business days
    $919.00
    Add to Cart
    ORRequest Stock Alert
    ------------------------------------------------

    Oops!  Sorry -- I just saw your earlier post and it looks like you've already done your homework well.  Best of luck!
    Thanks for the input.  The hard drive would need to be upgraded... I can just see her saying “Why does my iPhone have more memory than my computer” ; )

    There is some definite advantages to that model.  I’ve also looked at the MacBook Pro 13” Core 7i 8GB/256GB (current model) for $1500.  It has good bang for the buck, but the price is a tougher sell.  Maybe Amazon Prime Day (July 15th) will get it into a range I can sell her on it...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 30
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 4,092member

    I use the Surface Pro at work and it's pretty much a BYOMKM device for me. Windows just doesn't have that finesse to work as a good tablet.

    Left to me, I'd never buy a Surface Pro as my device of choice and it's not all because of Windows.

    The hardware itself suffers from being less durable than an iPad (real life experience of dropping a Surface Pro from a height of about a foot resulted in the screen shattering, whereas multiple iPad drops resulted in dented edges but no screen cracks), the ports suffering the usual reliability issues (what angle should I plug the external monitor connector to get it to work) and the keyboard being unusable on the lap.


    My next personal machine would be the next iPad Pro, mainly because I've got some very good use cases for the Notability app and the new iPad Pro and Pencil would be ideal for it. I'm not keen on getting a keyboard for the iPad, again because it would not be usable on the lap.

    macplusplustobybeaglewatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 30
    I have most of the tablets, and each has positives and negatives.

    1. The Surface can: + run the full set of PC/Windows programs, such as R, C compilers, etc... Often in a work or school environment this is essential. - The tablet interface is the worst of all, its keyboard is flaky, often doesn’t come up, hides part of the window, doesn’t work well with other browses, etc. MS may be fair with some of their own programs, but doesn’t seem to know what makes a friendly, flexible, Tablet gestalt. Pity, I wanted to like it.

    2. The iPad, 9.7, is a: + very great hardware platform, smooth scrolling, fast, maintained for a long time, running the clean Apple IOS Tablet OS. - but that means that many PC programs don’t run, there are barriers to configuring it in ways that Apple doesn’t feel are Applish, and the a hardware is less diverse than the Android hardware.

    3. The Android tablets: + are/were more diverse, 7 in to 12, low and high pixel density, low and high price, Configurable via more interesting/useful software and GUI extensions, etc. - but the hardware market is narrowing, the support of the OS is slow, and only for a few years of upgrading, and of course these don’t run PC-ish programs either, 

    So what I want is: 

        The fully supported open Android OS, with a variety of hardwares and GUI softwares.
        The hardware integration and speed and length of time on the Apple system.
        The ability to run all the PC-ish programs that are available for the MS Surface, or IMac’s.

    .end.



  • Reply 17 of 30
    kimberlykimberly Posts: 384member
    tht said:

    This isn’t a review. It’s not a product comparison. It’s a shallow listing of features in a few products and it is not their intent to declare a winner. Maybe there will be a subsequent article that is more thorough, but nobody should be buying anything based on this article, even if they were cross-shopping. 

    Agreed and a comparison pointless > apples / oranges.
  • Reply 18 of 30
    temperortemperor Posts: 56member
    So with iPadOS experience on my 12.9 inch iPad Pro, I can move completely over from my Surface, it has better battery life, lighter, more performance, always connected and last but not least better innovative Apps that don’t exist on Windows or Mac OS, or if they do, are limited. I love pointing up my iPad to the night sky with app’s like  StarmapHD, Star Walk ... I love the powerful games (Apple Arcade just looks awesome), support for game controllers ... Last but not least the new way multitasking is implemented is just awesome for my productivity apps ... On holiday now I’m always connected, planning our trip with a slew of App’s just not available or not that easy to use on standard desktop platforms ... It truly is the first time I really believe Apple is on to something, the vision of what iPad could do is finally taking shape (hey even remotely managing my servers with TeamViewer and AnyDesk is a charm with mouse support). It’s only a start, if they move further in this direction adding features like external monitor support (where you can use trackpad or mouse to do even more powerful things will make the traditional OS a thing of the past) 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 30
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,858member
    Windows has more software, period” - does it though?  We tried to look for viable, functional alternatives to Outlook and cam up wanting.  I get there’s a stack of niche & bespoke in-house corporate applications but what do these have to do with mainstream use? Which brings me to…
    the paradigm is to declare an overall winner of the battle of the hardware. We're not going to do that, though” - gutless!  The manufacturers’ intent with all these products is mainstream professional use, not specialist pro, not base consumer/education (regular iPad/Surface address these). & the OS serves that end so which is it? Which product+OS+App/service is best?
  • Reply 20 of 30
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,858member
    Since the Surface Pro can function as a switch hitter -- either as a tablet or a laptop, then shouldn't the cost comparison been against the total cost of both the iPad Pro + the MacBook?   $1,600 vs $2,950?

    But, hopefully Apple fixes that with iOS 13 by opening up the cursor/mouse function to let the iPad switch hit too.  

    The portmanteau of “switch hitter” is “shitter” and nobody wants one of those.  It would be an unfair comparison too; two products which ace their respective categories vs one which addresses neither well.
    StrangeDaystobybeaglewatto_cobra
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