If you’re looking for the best tablet you can buy and don’t worry that much about its price, you’ve got two options right now. Are you going to get the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 or the Apple iPad Pro? You can spend much over 1000 Dollars on both – especially if you include their accessories. But which is the better one for who? That’s what we’ll discuss in this Surface Pro 7 vs. iPad Pro comparison.
Before we start: I’m using the 11-inch iPad Pro, but you can also get it with a 12.9-inch screen. That one is similar in size to the Surface Pro 7. Besides their screen sizes, both iPad Pro versions are identical.
Hardware & Performance
Let’s start this comparison with their inner values first. With the iPad Pro, we’re getting an Apple A12X ARM processor with 4 or 6GB of RAM. You can choose between 64GB up to 1TB of internal storage. The 1TB one is the only one with 6GB of RAM. LTE 4G is an option too.
Inside the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 runs an Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 10th generation processor. You can get versions with 4 to 16GB of RAM and you can choose between a 128GB to 1TB SSD. There’s no 4G option at the moment.
My Geekbench 5 comparison is very interesting because they get almost the same results in this benchmark. While the Surface gets a better score in the Single-Core-Test, the iPad is faster in the Multi-Core-Test. Those differences are minor. However, you can see a huge difference in performance when looking at the Compute-Test which measures graphics performance. Keep in mind that Apple’s tablet is one year old already. So, the new version should be even faster.
Well, benchmarks are one thing and not a perfect way to compare the two because their platforms are different.
In real life, both are super-fast. You can browse the web with lots of opened tabs with both tablets. And multitasking works great and super-fast as well. All Office apps run fantastic.
However, it’s interesting to see that the iPad Pro feels faster in some cases. For instance, Photoshop is loading faster than on the Surface. That’s not due to pure performance. I think the main reason for that is their operating systems. iPadOS is more modern than Windows is, it’s much newer. And that means that Adobe was able to use modern technologies when developing Photoshop for the iPad from the ground up, while the Windows version is carrying decades of old baggage in addition to new tools. And yes, Photoshop for Windows has more features, of course.
Well, there is one Adobe app that was developed new for both platforms: It’s the video editor Adobe Premiere Rush. To compare their performance, I edited the exact same video on both and rendered it. To push out a 9-minute and 40-second long 4K video, the Surface needed 10 minutes and 31 seconds. However, the iPad Pro was much faster with just 4 minutes and 10 seconds. That’s a huge difference.
Sure, I should also note that you can use many more professional-class video editors on the Surface Pro 7 like Premiere Pro. And you don’t get apps like these with all pro features for the iPad Pro. Some get close, but it’ll probably take a couple of years until we get a true Premiere Pro replacement.
Windows 10 vs. iPadOS
There are tons of differences when you compare their operating systems. In the past, iOS used to be more restrictive than Windows. And that hasn’t changed. However, Apple improved a lot with iPadOS. Multitasking works fantastic now and we get a real files manager. Yes, you can even connect external SSDs or other kinds of storage and transfer Word documents, PDFs and other files. That works very well with the USB C port.
The iPad Pro has a huge advantage if you’re looking for a pure tablet without a keyboard. Inside the app store there’s a much larger selection of apps that are optimized for touchscreens. The selection is not just a bit larger, but a lot larger than the Microsoft Store. You cannot just get one decent video editor that’s optimized for touch but several, for example.
You can also get great note-taking apps, programs for your finances or apps to edit photos with. Yes, some of them are for “generation Instagram”. But Adobe Lightroom runs on the iPad Pro too and is optimized for touch. And you get Adobe Photoshop and even good alternatives like Affinity Photo. Microsoft’s Office apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint run well too. In addition to that, you can a huge amount of optimized games.
Many of these apps do have some restrictions compared to their desktop counterparts. I’d say they offer about 90 percent of the features. That’s the case with both Photoshop and Lightroom but also Microsoft’s Office apps. If you need some specific feature, you might not be able to use it with the mobile versions.
With Surface Pro 7, on the other hand, you get normal Windows 10. It’s the same Windows you’re probably familiar with from your laptop or desktop PC. That means you can use all those apps you might be used to like normal Photoshop, normal Lightroom Classic, as well as the standard Office apps.
You get access to the full file system in Windows 10 and you can do whatever you want. Do you need an app that you’ve been using for decades? Yes, that’ll probably run great on the Surface. If you’re a software developer, you’ll have the same experience like on your laptop, for instance.
Windows has proper mouse support too. Sure, you can connect one to your iPad Pro as well but it’s just emulating the finger. With Windows, you can use the mouse to be faster and more productive in general.
Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft began to include touchscreen features. They’re not perfect but work fine. Once you turn on the tablet mode, you can use Windows with your fingers very well. At the same time, you get great handwriting recognition and lots of features for the Surface Pen. That stylus is well supported in apps like Photoshop too. And don’t forget that this is real Photoshop with many more features than the iPad version has.
Now, with that being said, Windows 10 is not great if you’re looking for touch-friendly apps for other purposes. There’s no YouTube app, for instance. Yes, you can use it in the browser. But when you want to watch it in bed, a proper app is easier to navigate using just the touchscreen. That’s the case for many other applications: You can use most things on the Surface Pro. But it’s either a desktop program that’s not optimized for touch or a website.
That’s the case with games too. You can play thousands of games on the Surface Pro 7. And especially older ones or not that demanding ones run great. But almost all of them are meant to be controlled by mouse and keyboard and not by the touchscreen.
Some touch-friendly apps do exist in the Microsoft Store, of course. Among those are Netflix, a solid Twitter app, and some feed readers or drawing apps. But the selection is much smaller.
Display: Which is better?
Let’s get to their displays. You can get the Apple iPad Pro with an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch screen, while the Surface Pro 7 has a 12.3-inch display. According to Apple, they’re using a Liquid Retina Display and Microsoft uses a PixelSense Display. Well, that’s just marketing.
What you should know is that viewing angles are great on both and the resolutions are very high. Both iPads have a pixel density of 264ppi while Surface Pro 7 has one of 267ppi. So, to be super exact, the Surface is a tiny bit sharper. But in real life, they’ve got the same amount of detail. I think contrast and color reproduction are excellent on both.
If you look very closely, Apple is the winner regarding the screens. You only notice it when comparing them side by side, but the iPad Pro is a bit brighter. And it has double the frame rate with up to 120Hz. You won’t notice that all the time because Apple is adjusting it dynamically. However, some say they can see a difference immediately.
Apple Pencil 2 vs. Surface Pen
Their pens are different too. In both cases, you’ve got to buy them separately and they usually cost over 100 US Dollars. They’ve got over 4000 levels of pressure sensitivity which means that with both pens, you can draw a thin line by pressing lightly and a hard line by pressing harder. Just like with a real pencil.
The Apple Pencil 2 is made of a matt plastic with one flat side that’s touch-sensitive. Using gestures, you can change tools, for example. A super interesting feature is that you can connect the stylus magnetically to one of the sides of the iPad Pro. Once you do that, the pen gets charged wirelessly.
Microsoft’s Surface Pen is made of metal. It has one button on its side and an eraser button on the back. While you can magnetically connect it to the side of the Surface too, it won’t be charged that way. You’ve got to replace a battery occasionally.
I’ve noticed some differences with their tips. The one of the Apple Pencil 2 is hard which means that you can slide across the screen without any resistance. With the Surface Pen, on the other hand, we get a softer tip that you can also press down a bit. For me that makes it feel more like writing on real paper. However, I’m not a designer or a painter or so. And I’ve heard from some that they prefer the harder tip. I guess that’s a matter of taste.
By the way, you can buy different tips for the Surface Pen if you want a harder one but that’s not an option with the Apple Pencil 2.
Design & Build Quality
Let’s get to their design and build quality. And let’s get something similar out of the way first: Both tablets feature a full metal body and feel very high-end. When picking them up, you’ll notice that you’re holding expensive tablets. The build quality is fantastic.
However, there are huge differences when it comes to their general designs. The iPad Pro looks much more modern because it has slimmer screen bezels and is just 5.9mm thin. This makes it seem a bit fragile at times. Microsoft hasn’t changed the design for years. Surface Pro 7 has big black display-bezels and the tablet is quite a bit thicker with 8.5mm.
Microsoft’s is weighing 775g which is more than the 631g of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and much more than the 468g of the 11-incher. Both are much lighter than most laptops.
I really like the build-in kickstand of the Surface Pro 7. That’s a fantastic feature and that’s why I don’t mind that it’s a bit thicker. I should also note that the Surface has well-hidden air vents which the iPad does not need. The Core i7 version is the only one with active fans though.
Another feature I like on both is their USB C ports. But, on the iPad Pro, that’s it. There’s a USB C port and nothing more. Microsoft is giving us an additional headphone jack, a USB 3.0 type A port, the Surface Connect charging port and a microSD card slot.
The 7- and 12-megapixel cameras of the iPad Pro are quite a bit better than the 5- and 8-megapixel Surface cameras. Here you clearly can see that Apple has more experience with their iPhone cameras.
You can unlock both tablets with facial recognition. It seems like Apple’s Face ID works a bit better than the facial recognition of Windows Hello – especially in the dark. However, overall, I think both are great.
I also noticed that the two speakers of the Surface are very good for a Windows tablet. But the four speakers of the iPad Pro offer a clearer sound and a stronger bass.
Smart Keyboard vs. Type Cover
Microsoft is the clear winner when it comes to their keyboards. You can get official ones for both, and, again, you’ll have to pay over 100 Dollars extra.
The one from Microsoft is connected using a magnetic connector. Once you close it, the display is protected. It also has a magnetic bar which lets you use it at an angle so that it’s not lying flat on the table.
I think the Microsoft Type Cover is the best official keyboard of any tablet. It’s a full size one, you’ve got real keys to press down, they even have a background light, and they feel great when typing. It’s a premium keyboard and the writing experience is like on a laptop. And we get a touchpad too.
Apple’s keyboard is connected magnetically as well and it covers the back of the iPad, so it’s protected from scratches. In this case, the keyboard does lie flat on the table and can’t be angled up. The keys don’t have a background light and you can press them down a little bit only. And sure, the one of the 11-inch iPad is a bit smaller but the 12.9-inch one is similar in size. Overall, the keyboards from Apple are much worse.
Don’t get me wrong. In fact, I’ve written tons of articles with the 11-inch iPad Pro and that keyboard. I like to use it when I’m sitting in a café and want to concentrate on a long text. But it’s only a good choice if you want something small and light – like the 11-inch iPad Pro itself. You’ve got to make a compromise between mobility and comfort.
The keyboard for the iPad is too bad to use for 8 hours every day. With the Microsoft Type Cover, on the other hand, I feel comfortable using it for hours and hours. The only compromise you’ve got to make here is with the small touchpad. But the keyboard is almost perfect.
Their battery life is very different. While the iPad Pro got a runtime of 18 hours in my battery test, the Surface Pro 7 lasted 11 hours only. For this, I’m always looping an HD video at medium brightness and turned-on WiFi.
Now, you’ll be able to get these results when watching movies locally. However, when you’re editing videos and photos or are playing games, both tablets will last a couple of hours only.
Surface Pro 7 vs. iPad Pro: Final Verdict
We’re arriving at the end of my comparison between the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 and the Apple iPad Pro. My final verdict is very clear, and I think for most, it’ll be obvious which tablet is best for you.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is the best choice if you’re looking for a tablet to replace your notebook or Desktop PC with. It behaves just like a normal Windows 10 laptop does. The keyboard is fantastic, and the performance is like the one of a premium ultrabook. At the same time, you can use it as a pure tablet without the keyboard. Either to watch Netflix or to write down some notes with the Surface Pen.
I think the Apple iPad Pro is the best pure tablet, an excellent second device. You can use it as an entertainment tablet and it’s fantastic for games due to the large selection of the App Store. It’s great for digital notes too. And sure, the performance is good enough to get some work done as well. Probably not as your main device, but it’s a perfect compact companion for when you’re on the go. And some, like photographers, for instance, can do quite a lot with it.
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