The iPad vs. Surface debate has raged for years, but with Apple's new 4th generation iPad Air joining the discussion, the competition is even tougher.
Since Apple recently claimed at an event that the new iPad Air is equipped with a 5nm processor and can be twice as fast as a best-selling Windows laptop, it will be interesting to see how the latest Apple tablet fares against that latest and greatest from microsoft can claim.
There may be some new Surface products coming out soon, but right now Microsoft's lineup consists of the Surface Pro 7, Surface Go 2 and Surface Pro X. These 2-in-1s have what it takes to compete ? Apple's new iPad Air?
Depending on how you look at it, the design of the iPad Air and the Surface Pro range can be very similar. The devices are thin and light, ultra-portable tablets. However, the iPad Air is slightly thinner and lighter than any of Microsoft's Surface devices, and the Surface has a built-in stand.
The iPad is made from 100% recycled aluminum, and the Surface Pros are made from magnesium (with the exception of the Surface Pro X, which is aluminum). This means that the iPad Air is 0.24 inches thick and 0.24 inches in weight and 1.01 pounds. The extremely light weight of the iPad makes it the easiest to hold in one hand and use as a tablet.
The Surface Go 2 is now 0.33 inches thick and weighs 1.2 pounds. The Surface Pro 7 weighs 1.70 pounds and is 0.33 inches thick. The Surface Pro X is 1.74 pounds and 0.28 inches thick – the thinnest, but heaviest Surface option.
The iPad Air has a 10.9-inch screen that is the closest thing to the 10.5-inch Surface Go 2. The Surface Pro 7 is slightly larger with a 12.3-inch screen, while the Surface Pro X is the largest with a 13-inch screen.
However, the key design differences between these devices are bezels, stands, screens, and color choices. Microsoft Surface devices have a built-in stand that makes it easy to support and watch videos. The only way to elevate the iPad Air is to purchase an Apple keyboard stand with a magnetic stand separately.
The Surface Pro X is black, while the Surface Go 2 and Surface Pro 7 are platinum. The iPad Air is available in silver, space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue.
With these bezels, the iPad Air is the clear winner for its slim design, where the home button no longer matches the design of the iPad Pro. While the Surface Go 2 made improvements to removing the side bezels, the bezels are still thick compared to the iPad Airs. The same applies to the Surface Pro 7 with thick bezels (to keep the device comfortably in tablet mode).
Only the Surface Pro X can hold its own against the iPad Air in terms of bezels. The side bezels are thinner than Apple's, although the top and bottom are a bit thicker.
Screen and ink
Riley Young / Digital Trends
There's a good reason creative professionals have long preferred iPads for their ink experience. The screens are some of the brightest on the market, and the Apple Pencil is one of the most reliable color devices available. The pens are separate purchases, however, and cost $ 129 for the Apple Pencil 2 for the iPad, $ 144 for the Surface Slim Pen for the Surface Pro X, and $ 100 for the standard Surface Pen.
On paper, the Surface has more pixels on the screen compared to the iPad. The Surface Pro X has a resolution of 2880 x 1920 (267 PPI), the Surface Go 2 a resolution of 1920 x 1280 (220 PPI) and the Surface Pro 7 a resolution of 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI). It now has a resolution of 2360 x 1640 (264 PPI). If pixel density is what you're looking for, the Surface Pro X is the clear winner, but the differences will be subtle.
According to Apple, the new iPad Air has a maximum brightness of 500 nits. That's higher than the Surface Go 2 or the Surface Pro 7 (400 nits), while the Surface Pro X is 450 nits between the two.
Performance is one of the most important things in a tablet, but there are a few differences between the iPad and the Surface. It's like comparing apples to oranges, and performance really depends on what you're looking for.
The iPad is operated with iOS 14 and is a mobile device with multitasking elements. The Surface runs on Windows 10 and is a portable PC. The processors that power the devices reflect this.
In terms of performance, the iPad Air has the A14 Bionic processor, which is based on a 5nm process. It has a 6-core CPU, a 4-core GPU and 11.8 billion transistors. The A14 chip also contains machine learning accelerators for apps. Apple hasn't disclosed the RAM size of the iPad Air, but according to Apple, this processor is twice as fast as a best-selling Windows laptop. We don't know what they're comparing it to, but that's a lot of performance for iOS 14. We look forward to testing it out.
With the Surface lineup, however, things are across the board. Apple's A14 processor is the closest to the Microsoft SQ1 processor in the Surface Pro X. It is a custom ARM chip. The A14 from Apple is also based on the ARM architecture. It is also based on the 7 nm process and has an eight-core, eight-thread CPU and an Adreno 685 GPU with 2.1 teraflops of power. RAM comes with 8 GB or 16 GB. There's even an integrated A.I. Accelerators on board, just like Apple. This has already been used for eye tracking in web conferences.
As good as that sounds, the actual performance of the Surface Pro X was across the board due to app emulation in Windows 10. An iPad might be a better choice if you are concerned as Apple has heavily tweaked its operating system for its custom silicon. Microsoft hasn't done this yet.
Since the Surface Go 2 is all about affordability, you'll find that it has budget-friendly Intel Pentium, Gold processors, or Intel Core m3 processors. These aren't exactly the best for gaming or editing photos and videos and shouldn't be compared to the iPad Air. It is best for surfing the internet and casual computing.
The Surface Pro 7 has a much more powerful processor that can rival the iPad Air. It features Intel's 10th generation Ice Lake processors, which are based on the 14 nm process. These have either 4 GB, 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM. The processors can be configured with Intel-dedicated Iris Plus graphics for up to eight cores and eight threads. This is great for light gaming and even photo editing as we found in our review. Ultimately, however, your choice of device will depend on what you are looking for. Mobile productivity on an iPad or desktop-class performance on a Surface Pro 7.
Ports and Connectivity
Ports and connectivity are another major difference between iPad Air and Surface. With the iPad Air, Apple has finally made the leap from Lighting to USB-C at the cheaper end of the iPad range. When the screen was removed, the TouchID in the power switch was also restored. However, depending on the selected surface, different connections and the Windows Hello face login are available on the surface.
The Surface Pro X has two USB-C ports and a Surface Connect port. There is no such thing as a classic USB-A. If that's what you want, you'll need a Surface Pro 7 with USB-A alongside USB-C and Surface Connect. Finally, there's the Surface Go with a single USB-C port and a Surface Connect port.
Adding Surface Connect on all Surface devices is for quick charging with the Surface Connect charger. Charging with iPads is only possible via this USB-C connection and the 20-watt USB-C power supply.
For security reasons, the iPad Air is bringing back the previous generation Touch ID but adding it to the power button. Surface Pro has its own Windows Hello webcam that you can use to sign in to the device with your face. Security is great on both devices.
When it comes to the camera, you'll find that both the iPad and all Surface devices have 1080p webcams – far better than the 720p options that come up in laptops. The iPad Air has a 12 MP wide camera on the back and a 7 MP FaceTime selfie camera. The Surface Go 2 has a 5.0-megapixel front camera and an 8.0-megapixel auto focus camera. The Surface Pro X retains the same front webcam but touts a 10-megapixel rear camera. And the Pro 7 has 8.0 MP rear and 5.0 MP front cameras. When it comes to cameras, the iPad is the winner.
It should be noted that the iPad also supports LTE connectivity. This also applies to Surface Pro X and Surface Go 2. The Surface Pro 7 does not support this.
Finally there are keyboards. The iPad has pogo ports for the Magic Keyboard that provide a complete keyboard and trackpad experience. The latest iPadOS update provides important features for laptops such as keyboard shortcuts, cursor support and support for external mice.
Meanwhile, the surface has connectors for the type cover, which is an indispensable accessory for the surface devices. Both offer similar typing experiences and are separate purchases. Note, however, that these are separate purchases. The Type Cover is $ 129 and the Magic Keyboard is another $ 300.
The price of the iPad Air is downright dangerous
On paper, the iPad is better than the Surface range because of its overall performance, operating system, and display. However, the price is the most important feature. At just $ 599, the iPad Air is $ 200 cheaper than the launch configuration of the Surface Pro 7. When you add 256GB of SSD storage to both devices, you see an iPad Air for $ 749 versus a Surface Pro 7 for $ 1,200 The configuration costs $ 1,300 for the Surface Pro X.
With the support of the Magic Keyboard, the iPad Air becomes a far more versatile device. It has cursor support as well as a full keyboard and trackpad. It can't run the traditional desktop apps the Surface Pro 7 can, but the iPad's app store is deep, even in professional apps, to get the job done.
The Surface lineup is the only one you can buy today, so it wins by default. However, Microsoft could have problems if the iPad Air launches in October.