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Friday, 11 March 2016

Surface Pro 4 vs. iPad Pro: Which Tablet Wins?

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The iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 are two of the most powerful tablets yet, but they're not designed for the same type of shopper. Targeted toward creative types and those who like to play as much as they work, Apple's iOS 9-powered iPad Pro (starting at $799) packs a big and beautiful 12.9-inch screen and quad speakers, and it works with an optional Pencil and keyboard.

The Surface Pro 4 (starting at $899) is a laptop replacement, using a 6th-generation Core processor to run full Windows 10. It also features both a built-in kickstand and an included pen, and its optional keyboard is much improved. After 10 rounds of battle between these tablets from Apple and Microsoft, the Surface emerged as the winner, but it was a close contest.


One is big, while the other is almost ridiculously large. The aluminum iPad Pro falls in the latter category, sporting a ginormous 12.9-inch display. Made of a sturdy magnesium, the 12.3-inch Surface Pro 4 is big, too, but it's more manageable because of its more compact footprint.
Measuring 0.27 inches thick, the iPad Pro is thinner and lighter, but the 0.33-inch-thick Surface benefits from having a built-in kickstand. With the iPad, you need to attach a cover to prop it up. In addition, only the Surface sports a full-size USB port, mini DisplayPort and microSD card slot.
When you add the Type Cover, the Surface Pro 4 grows in weight from 1.7 pounds to 2.4 pounds. The iPad Pro starts at a lighter 1.6 pounds and goes to 2.3 pounds when you add the Smart Keyboard.
Winner: Surface Pro 4. 
While the iPad Pro is thinner and lighter — with and without the keyboard — the Surface's extra ports and built-in kickstand give it the edge.


The screens on the Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro are pretty evenly matched. The iPad Pro has a larger 12.9-inch canvas, compared to the 12.3-inch panel on the Surface. However, the Surface's display packs more pixels per inch than the iPad's (267 dpi versus 264 dpi) and is brighter than Apple's slate (382 nits versus 372 nits).
At 111 percent, the iPad Pro's screen covers more of the sRGB color spectrum than the Surface Pro 4 (99.7 percent). It also produces slightly more accurate hues, as Apple's tablet notched a Delta-E rating of 0.19, compared to 0.35 for the Surface (lower is better). Still, both are very close to a perfect 0.
When we put the two tablets side by side when showing the Suicide Squad trailer, Joker's face looked a little warmer on the Surface Pro, and the J tattoo underneath his left eye looked a bit more detailed. Our staff was split when I loaded a 4K photo of Dubai on both slates. Some preferred the iPad Pro for its brighter picture and better contrast, and some preferred the more saturated hues on the Surface.
Winner: Draw. Both of these screens are excellent.


It's hard for two speakers to beat four speakers on a tablet. The iPad Pro's quad-speaker setup produces loud and surprisingly balanced audio, whether you're streaming Pandora or immersing yourself in a flick. The two top speakers on the iPad Pro handle the mid and high frequencies, and all four deliver bass. When you flip the tablet around, the two speakers now on top handle the mids and highs. Clever.
Powered by Dolby Audio, the two front-facing speakers on the Surface Pro provide a pretty good sonic punch. We experienced almost no distortion during our testing, but the bass is lacking compared to on the iPad Pro, and the Surface doesn't get as loud.
Winner: iPad Pro. The immersive audio experience makes this round an easy win for Apple.


The Surface Pro 4's $129 keyboard is a necessity if you want Microsoft's tablet to replace your laptop. The improved design offers a more spacious layout with an impressive 1.4 mm of travel, resulting in the best typing experience yet on a Surface. Plus, the keyboard is backlit. Just as important, the Type Cover comes with a built-in touchpad, complete with a satisfying click.
The pricier $169 Apple Smart Keyboard lacks a touchpad, and has smaller keys with less travel. It's also not backlit. The best thing going for this accessory is that its fabric design makes the layout water-resistant, so it can shrug off spills.
Winner: Surface Pro 4. 
Microsoft's keyboard is cheaper yet more functional.


The Surface Pro 4 has an immediate advantage in this round, because Microsoft includes the Surface Pen with its product. Apple charges $99 for its Apple Pencil. The Surface Pen is also the only one of the two styli to sport an eraser on its back. Plus, you can press the eraser button to quickly launch the OneNote app. When you're done writing or drawing, you can easily attach the pen to the side of the Surface Pro's display. In contrast, there's nowhere to put the Apple Pencil.
The Apple Pencil's chief advantage over the Surface Pen is its lack of latency. The Surface Pen feels fairly smooth when you're writing, thanks to its 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. But based on both my testing and impressions by our infographics artist, the Apple Pencil offers even less lag. The Pencil also has special sensors to detect not just pressure (number of levels not known) but also the angle of your hand. You can also use pen input and touch at the same time.
Winner: Draw (pun intended): Although the iPad Pro offers a better drawing experience that will appeal to the creatively inclined, the Surface's included pen has an eraser and is easy to stow.


The iPad Pro's A9X processor is certainly the fastest chip ever in an Apple tablet, and in our review, it had no problem editing 4K video. The Surface Pro 4 gives shoppers a wide range of CPU options, including a 6th-generation Intel Core M3, Core i5 and Core i7. We tested the Core i5 version.
Based on our testing, the Surface Pro 4 offers faster performance. For example, in the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the Surface notched 6,811. The iPad Pro notched 5,296 on the same test.
On SunSpider, which measures JavaScript performance, the Surface Pro 4 turned in a time of 88.2 milliseconds, whereas the iPad Pro took 182.7 ms.
On the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, the iPad Pro wasn't even in the same ballpark as the Intel graphics inside the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft's slate scored 60,424, nearly double the iPad Pro's 32,920.
It's also worth noting that the iPad Pro starts with just 32GB of storage, versus 128GB for the Surface Pro 4. You need to spend $150 more on the iPad to get 128GB.
Winner: Surface Pro 4. Apple's A9X chip is impressive, but it doesn't match the sheer horsepower of a 6th-gen Core i5. The performance delta between the Surface's Core M3 and the A9X should be narrower, though.

Battery Life

If you're on the fence between the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 and endurance is important to you, the iPad Pro is probably the way to go. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the Surface Pro lasted 6 hours and 5 minutes. Apple's tablet lasted about 4 hours longer, at 10 hours and 4 minutes.

Winner: iPad Pro. 
You can leave its charger at home.

OS and Multitasking

iOS 9 may be a mobile operating system, but it offers some welcome productivity features. Slide Over lets you open the last app you were using by sliding your finger in from the right. From there, you can enter Split View mode to use two apps side by side, although the number of apps that support this feature is limited, especially compared to Windows. (Windows 10's Snap Feature supports up to four apps at once.) Last but not least for the iPad, there's picture in picture for viewing videos in a small window while continuing to work in another app.
With its Live Tile interface, Windows 10 is more visually busy than iOS 9, but it's also more versatile. Just having a taskbar on the Surface Book makes it easy to switch between apps. The Start menu packs more info in a smaller area than iOS, pinning your favorite apps to it. Windows 10's Action Center puts your notifications and quick settings options in one place, whereas iOS keeps them separate.
While iOS has Siri, Windows 10 has Cortana for answering all of your queries, finding files and more. Siri is smart, and I like the new Siri suggestions for apps, what's nearby and news, but Cortana's home screen gives you more info at a glance, and Microsoft's assistant is integrated into the Edge browser.
Winner: Surface Pro 4. Windows 10 is just more robust.


The winner of this category really depends on what you're looking to do with your device. The iPad Pro leads the way with apps that are optimized for fun and creativity, thanks to the App Store, which has more than 725,000 apps. There's a dedicated section of the App Store called Amazing Apps for iPad Pro, complete with sections dedicated to things like Enhanced for Apple Pencil (such as Adobe Photoshop Sketch).
Microsoft's Office apps are also available for iOS, but they're not as robust as their desktop counterparts. For instance, while Excel offers a fair number of chart options, it doesn't have macro capability. And you can't collaborate on a document in real time on iOS like you can in Windows.
The iPad also trumps the Surface Pro 4 when it comes to games, whether you're looking to feel the force with Star Wars: Uprising or you want to play as Lara Croft. The Surface Pro 4 lacks these apps and lots of other popular titles in the Windows Store, including Pandora, Spotify, YouTube and Instagram.
On the other hand, the Surface Pro 4 runs all of the most popular Windows apps, including the full-fledged Photoshop and Premiere photo-editing and video-editing programs. And you can run Stream on the Surface for accessing a wide range of games. There's also a wider range of Web browsers available, such as Chrome and Firefox — not the watered-down mobile equivalents you'll find on iOS.
Winner: Draw. The iPad Pro has more touch-friendly and pen-friendly apps, but the Surface Pro 4 has more desktop programs.


We won't judge you for using a ginormous tablet for taking photos or videos. If you do, you'll find that the iPad Pro's rear 8-megapixel camera takes sharper and brighter photos. Based on our tests, the Surface Pro 4's camera can be glitchy, as there was noticeable pixelation and artifacts in the top-right corner of the live-view windows.
The Surface Pro 4's 5-MP front camera took fairly sharp selfies but blew out our background. The iPad Pro's 1.2-MP camera isn't as hi-res, but it took a more evenly exposed selfie.
Winner: iPad Pro. It simply takes better-looking images.

Overall Winner: Surface Pro 4

The Surface Pro 4 wins this face-off overall, 7 points to 6 points. Microsoft's 2-in-1 has a more versatile design (thanks to the kickstand and more ports), and it offers a more comfortable keyboard and faster performance. Windows 10 is also better for productivity and multitasking than iOS 9, even after the latter OS's recent improvements. The chief advantages of the iPad Pro are its 4 more hours of battery life, superior App Store and how well the optional Apple Pencil works for drawing and sketching.
Ultimately, though, it's not exactly comparing apples to apples when you pit the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4 against each other. Apple's tablet is a great slate first, which gets better for creativity when you add the Apple Pencil and a little better for productivity when you add the keyboard. The Surface Pro 4 is the more well-rounded device, with its included pen and optional keyboard. It comes down to whether you want a big-screen tablet with benefits (iPad Pro) or a tablet that doubles as a notebook (Surface Pro).
- See more at: http://www.laptopmag.com/articles/microsoft-surface-pro-4-vs-ipad-pro#sthash.81ZidfJJ.dpuf

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