With Apple’s announcement of the iPad Air ended recently and Microsoft’s Surface 2 launching, many users will be comparing the two tablets and how they stack up against each other during the holiday shopping season.
To be frank, they should. Although Google’s Nexus 7 tablet continues as a direct competitor to the Kindle Fire and iPad Mini, it is Microsoft’s Surface 2 that Apple took swipes at for being a tablet and PC hybrid in their announcement.
Here’s is how Microsoft’s Surface 2 stacks up against the iPad Air.
With the Surface Pro weighing in a 1.49 pounds and the iPad Air coming in at just 1 pound, both devices are fairly comparable externally. The difference in dimensions comes down to display size. While the iPad Air includes a 9.7-inch Retina Display, the Surface 2’s wider 10.6-inch high-definition display means that widescreen video doesn’t need borders. Of course, that also means added heft, and the Surface 2 pays the price in the respect.
As for depth, the Surface 2’s casing doesn’t help. Whereas the iPad Air has tapered edges, the Surface 2 is just as boxy as the Surface RT was a year ago..
Raw processing speed is another one of those things that depend on the user’s experience. With a clockspeed of 1.3 GHz, the two cores of the Apple A7 won’t seem any slower than the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor included in the Surface 2. For sheer processing, the Surface 2 has more muscle than the iPad Air. Whether users will notice is a totally different question.
As mentioned, the Surface 2 sports a larger display than the iPad Air, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a better display. The iPad’s 9.7-inch Retina Display has been considered Best in Class for years and the iPad Air isn’t any different. With a resolution of 2048 by 1536 the iPad Air puts the display of the Surface 2 to shame even though Microsoft upgraded the 10.6-inch display to a resolution of 1920 x 1080.
Both tablets feature a few tricks designed to get users on-board with their vision of what a tablet is. The iPad Air includes support for Apple’s M7 motion co-processor so that tailor-made applications can get a more accurate picture of how the tablet is being moved around. While that’s cool, there aren’t many applications that are compatible with it in the iTunes Store today.
For its part, Microsoft’s decision to stick a full-size USB 3.0 port on the Surface 2 is a great idea that has yet to translate into a groundswell of users demanding tablets with USB drives. To the Surface 2’s credit, having the full-size USB port means that users can download pictures from their camera or print a document from any printer around them pretty effortlessly.
Every iPad Air user receives a copy of Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie and iPhoto free. That’s $40 dollars of free software that old iPad users either had to pay for, or go without before iOS 7.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft’s Surface 2 also has more than a few extras designed to get users into Microsoft’s ecosystem. They include a full version of Office Home & Student 2013 RT, 200GB of storage space on the company’s SkyDrive cloud storage solution for two years and one year of Skype landline calling at no extra charge. Purchasing all of that separately would cost a user $300.
Cost is where the comparison gets sort of tricky. Apple’s iPad Air begins at $499 for just 16GB of on-board storage and $629 for users who want LTE compatibility and 16GB of storage. By comparison, a 32GB version of the Surface, which is the lowest price Surface that a user can buy, is $449.
Overall, it’s fair to say that aside from each operating system’s app store, the two are a draw. The Surface 2 is heavier and bulkier than the iPad Air, however users get a bit more screen real estate in exchange for the inconvenience.
iOS users will likely stick to what they know – especially if they’ve already purchased a lot of applications for an iPhone they already own. On the other hand, Windows users should really look at the value they might get out of the Surface 2. At $449, it has double the storage and comes with offers worth seven times more than the free iWork and iLife applications Apple is providing to iPad users.