by Jim Lynch

Apple’s iPad Pro vs. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4

Feb 08, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsiPadTablets

Is the iPad Pro a better buy than Microsoft's Surface Pro 4? Or are both products flawed in their own way?

Apple vs. Microsoft is a very old story indeed. The two companies have been battling it out for many years in many different market segments. But what about the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4? Which one is the better buy?

Jean-Louis Gassee has a great head to head comparison of the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4, and his conclusions might surprise you. I’ll share my own thoughts below, but here’s a sample of his post:

Jean-Louis Gassee reports for Monday Note:

The Microsoft product is a decent laptop but it’s better as a tablet. The iPad Pro is also not a laptop replacement, but it’s a substantial enhancement of the tablet genre, thanks to a better/bigger screen, a very good stylus, and plenty of processing power.

…as a “pure” tablet — no keyboard, flat on a desk or in your hands — the Surface works really well. The Windows 10 App Store offers many drawing and CAD (Computer Assisted Design) apps and the bundled Surface stylus works well — it actually sticks to the side of the screen with a magnet, imagine that.

On one’s lap, things deteriorate. Adjusting the leg stand is awkward, especially when compared to a laptop that lets you set the screen angle without reaching behind the device. In my customary writing position, the keyboard cover feels flimsy and too easily detaches.

There is much to praise about the iPad Pro: iOS 9 provides split-screen flexibility which makes it possible to consult a Web site or to forage around my Dropbox, iCloud Drive, or OneDrive file stores as I write. The official keyboard features Mac-like keys such as Control, Option, ⌘ (a.k.a. Command), as well as once-heretical cursor keys. Far from the early iOS Touch UI dogma, we now have a new pragma: split-screen, a file system, and laptop-like keyboard and keys. But, unlike the Surface Pro, no trackpad.

Despite these improvements, the iPad Pro is (still) not a laptop replacement. Actually, for my uses, it’s the other way around. The new, light Retina MacBook (935 grams, 2.06 pounds) I bought when it came out last March has taken screen and lap time from my iPad.

More at Monday Note

I’ll pass on the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4

While I can appreciate what the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 have to offer users, I’ll pass on both of them. I have absolutely no use for Windows at this point, for any reason. So that eliminates the Surface Pro 4 entirely. I’m sure it’s a fine product if you are a Windows user, but it will never be my cup of tea.

The iPad Pro is a slightly more complicated matter. I spent some time in an Apple store with one, and I absolutely loved the bigger screen. Web pages and ebooks looked phenomenal on it, it may be the best ereader ever created. You can see so much text on the screen that it blows away any other tablet or ereader I’ve seen or used.

But I still won’t buy the iPad Pro.

The bigger screen is also the greatest weakness of the iPad Pro. Because the iPad Pro is so large, it makes laying on the couch or sitting in a chair with it to be very problematic. I really can’t imagine doing so for any length of time in the way that I do with my iPad Air 2. The Air 2 is light and small enough that it can be comfortably held for long periods of time. Not so with the iPad Pro as far as I could tell.

I think that this could change if Apple ever manages to eliminate a lot of the bezels on the iPad Pro and shrinks the height of it down to a more manageable size. They need to do this with the iPhone and the other iPads as well, but the iPad Pro would probably benefit from smaller bezels the most.

So as much as I like the iPad Pro, it’s just not something that would be comfortable enough for me to use for reading web pages, ebooks, etc. I’m sure that the folks who are using the iPad Pro for productivity purposes probably love it, but I don’t want to sit in front of a desk with it. For work I would simply opt for the 12-inch Retina Macbook instead since OS X still eclipses iOS for work.

Hopefully we’ll see some tweaks to the size and design of the iPad Pro in future releases. But for now I have to take a regretful pass on it.

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