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How to Turn Your iPad Air 2 Into a Surface Pro 3



The iPad Air 2 is often described as the best tablet money can buy, but people also love the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 because it works like a laptop and runs full Windows software and it works like a tablet. However, if you just forked over between $500 and $830 for the new iPad Air 2, then you probably can’t afford to grab another computer. Even if you’re still using the original iPad Air, you may not like the idea of springing for another tablet just because it runs full Windows software. Using this guide, iPad Air or iPad Air 2 owners can get most of the functionally of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Grab a few accessories, some apps from the App Store and subscriptions to a couple of services, and you too can begin using the Apple iPad Air or iPad Air 2 like a Surface Pro 3 computer.

how to turn your ipad air 2 into a surface pro 3

With a great keyboard and excellent stylus, you can turn your iPad Air 2 into a Surface Pro 3 style computer.

BrydgeAir Keyboard

brydgeair keyboard

The BrydgeAir Keyboard is one of the best Bluetooth keyboards for the iPad Air or iPad Air 2, even though it costs more than most. That’s because the BrydgeAir Keyboard includes a couple of great features, plus excellent design and build quality. iPad Air 2 users should consider the BrydgeAir keyboard if they want a Surface Pro 3 style experience, because the hinges hold the iPad at any typing angle they like, just like the Surface Pro 3’s kickstand.

brydgeair keyboard hinge front

The designers created a beautiful keyboard that matches the iPad Air’s sleek and attractive style and build quality. They make three colors that match the three colors of the iPad Air 2. It’s built with aluminum. The excellent island style keyboard comes with special iOS keys like a home key, lock screen button, brightness and sound controls, media play/pause/fast forward/rewind controls and a button to turn on/off the onscreen keyboard. In the bottom left corner we get a dedicated Siri button next to the CTRL key.

brydgeair keyboard hinge back

The keyboard holds the iPad firmly in place and, when closed, turns off the screen thanks to the magnetic wake feature. Two rubber bumpers keep the screen from hitting the keys when it’s closed. Thanks to the stiff hinge, the user can hold the iPad Air in any angle.

They keys make typing comfortable and spacing, which means fast touch typists won’t slow down due to cramp key design or placement.

brydgeair keyboard buttons

You pair the keyboard using the Bluetooth button along the front edge in between a power slider switch and a 2nd button. The 2nd button turns on/off the keyboard’s speaker. Press and hold each button to pair the keyboard. One Bluetooth connection pairs the keyboard and a second connection transmits sound.

The built-in speakers amplify the sound better than the iPad’s built-in speakers. I could hear music played on the iPad through the BrydgeAir Keyboard’s speakers even in a noisy room. The amplification sounds about three times as loud as the iPad speakers. The keyboard’s sound seems a little muddled, but it’s far better than the iPad speakers.

brydgeair keyboard bottom

If $169 directly from Brydge Keyboards seems too steep, then look at the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard for iPad Air 2 or iPad Air or any of Logitech’s Bluetooth keyboards. They all cost under $90 and give users a decent keyboard, but no sound like the BrydgeAir Keyboard, and they won’t hold the iPad at any angle like the Surface Pro 3 kickstand.

Just Mobile Alupen Digital

Just Mobile sells the best stylus money can buy. The Alupen Digital ($49.99) comes with a fine tip, just like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3’s Surface Pen.

alupen digital fine tip

An amplified signal makes the capacitive connection when the fine tip hits the iPad screen.

The Alupen Digital doesn’t need a Bluetooth connection like other styli with fine tips. Instead, it uses a special technology that amplifies the capacitive touch connection made between the person’s hand through the pen to the screen via the 1.8mm tip.

The fine tip makes it more accurate and precise, just like the Surface Pro 3’s Surface Pen. The smaller 10-inch size of the iPad Air 2 feels better in the hands while taking notes in a meeting. Drawing and sketching feels great with this stylus.

Grab the Cleanint Cleanstylus to hold your iPad stylus like the Surface Pro 3’s Type Cover loop. They make one for the Surface Pro 3 that works great.

Parallels Access Subscription

Most people think of Parallels as a virtualization program that runs Windows or other operating systems on a Mac. Add Parallels Access ($19.99/year) and users get a Windows style environment on their iPad.

The video above shows Parallels Access running on an Android phone, but it behaves the same way on an iPad. Install the app from the iPad App Store and the Parallels Access Agent on a Windows PC or Mac.

Parallels gives users a trial period to test Parallels Access before paying for the annual subscription. The service offers the best virtualization system for an iPad because it makes desktop/computer applications behave like iPad apps.

If Parallels doesn’t meet your needs, consider an app like Splashtop, a free app and service for personal use. They make their money by charging businesses or offering premium services to consumers, but the app works great for individuals.

Microsoft Office Apps for iPad

word for ipad editing

Microsoft came late to the party, but they came in a big way with their Office Mobile apps. Windows users can install OneDrive on their computer and save their files to the syncing and backup service. The Office iPad apps will open the files, let users edit the files and then save them back to OneDrive in a seamless way.

To get the full experience users need an Office 365 subscription which costs either $69.99 for the personal version or $99.99 for the Home Premium version. Shop around because online retailers often sell it for less. For example, get the more expensive Home Premium version for the price of the personal edition at Amazon.

word for ipad recent documents

Word, Power and Excel work great on the iPad. They don’t offer all the features that the Windows programs do, but most of what the average user needs will work. Add to that OneNote, OneDrive, Skype and some of the other lesser known apps like Lync and Yammer.

Notability for Note Taking

notability for ipad

Notability gives iPad users the feature that OneNote offers Surface Pro 3 users.

Unfortunately, the OneNote iPad app doesn’t let users take handwritten notes inside the app yet. Until they do, if ever, users will want a nice handwritten notes app like Notability. The app organizes notes into folders and lets users write on the screen, type using a keyboard and add visual content like photos.




  1. ctitanic

    12/07/2014 at 2:45 pm

    Sorry but you can’t convert an Apple in a Pear. The pen experience that I see in those videos posted in this article is just pathetic. Also, you will never get the browning experience that you get with a full browser running in the SP3. Just to mention some of the biggest differences. If you want a SP3 get one but do not try the impossible with your iPad.

    • benfrankart

      12/08/2014 at 1:46 pm

      That’s not the best pen money can buy. The Adonit Jot Touch Pixelpoint is. I draw with it daily. And I browse with a cheap app that supports flash called Puffin. My Targus cover has a loop for my Jot, and on the rare occasion I want a keyboard, I just pull out my bluetooth keyboard. It’s just an iPad, but that little guy covers a lot of ground. Value.

      • ctitanic

        12/08/2014 at 6:02 pm

        I own an iPad and I have been lucky enough to have tested the best pens for iPad. A capacitive screen can’t be compared with an active digitizer. The precision is not there and the performance is not there.

  2. Hildy J

    12/07/2014 at 3:20 pm

    A few questions. 1) Does the iPad and the software you added support handwriting recognition in the virtual keyboard? Windows (since XP) does and is excellent. 2) Does the iPad with added software allow enterprise security programs to be installed for LAN or extranet WAN access? 3) Does the iPad and software allow corporate IT to restrict patches and updates and push curated patches to the device? 4) Does the iPad and software allow you to join into all of the multitude of conferencing software, most of which require additional browser or standalone software?

    Frankly, I don’t know the answers but until the iPad scores a 4 out of 4 it will remain a great tool for bloggers but not a tablet for corporate work (as my HP Slate 500, Thinkpad Tablet 10, and Venue 8 Pro have been).

  3. Buddy Green

    12/07/2014 at 3:24 pm

    Sorry. The best tablet that money can buy is — by far — the Surface Pro 3. And that keyboard above is missing one critical feature. A trackpad.

    • gamerscul

      12/07/2014 at 5:22 pm

      Surface is a joke. It’s not a laptop because it’s not built like one, but beyond that, tablet with keyboards to this day change nothing. Who needs old school buttons for a touchscreen device? Besides if it was a computer, I would not get the “monitor” dirty, but even the ports aren’t built beside the keyboard or every component in general that goes into computers, but for the os, hands down since 2012 windows proves how money hungry surface was and would have been better if it wasn’t for 8. Long story short nowhere as simple as the ipad to this day.

      • Ben Haad

        12/07/2014 at 6:23 pm

        We have two iPads here at my home, and a Surface Pro 3… After upgrading to the Surface and consolidating my tablets and laptops into that one device, the iPads just stay in the bathroom for casual browsing while “bombing the Russians”…

        We call them “poopPads” now…

        • immeen

          12/07/2014 at 6:27 pm

          Don’t go there with that! 😒

          • Ben Haad

            12/10/2014 at 11:24 am

            On second thought, considering my use case scenario, calling it an “iPoop” may be more appropriate…

          • gamerscul

            12/10/2014 at 4:33 pm

            More like iPremium than iPoop.

          • Ben Haad

            12/11/2014 at 1:21 pm

            What specs are you referring to? IPad has not warranted the term premium since mid 2011 when android tablets became equivalent or superior with the Galaxy Tab 10.1

            And to this day your use of the word premium is inappropriate considering tis specs vs. the competitors…

            Apple products were the best out there… back in 2011… but not since… but please indulge me with your “iFantasy”

          • gamerscul

            12/11/2014 at 2:44 pm

            Specs that you continue to ignore. Keep being blinded by sToys. IPad Air 2 has 2gb ram for a reason, or to be clear, the specs have sky rocket since 2011, hence even older models always outperformed the others. You fanboys do what is best for competition but as usual in the end can’t outpace iAlmighty products. Consult From the iReality before you end up like that.

      • Jefro

        12/09/2014 at 12:31 pm

        The ipad and Android tablets are both toys compared to a Surface Pro. I haven an entire desk full of Ipads and Nexus devices sitting beside me, and while they are all great products, they are not in the same category as a Surface Pro. You don’t seem to understand who this product was designed for.

  4. Waverlybrian

    12/07/2014 at 5:31 pm

    I’m curious how much this all costs put together. It sounds like it might be more than the Surface Pro 3 at least the lower end model where the performance would be similar.

    • Aith

      12/10/2014 at 3:53 pm

      I agree and still, even at that point, the Surface Pro 3 offers two major things the iPad does not – an active digitizer display and the ability to install and use full-featured programs as opposed to just ‘apps’ from an App Store.

      You may find ghosts of various full-featured apps running around in the App Store, but they’ll never be the same as the full-featured versions.

      • gamerscul

        12/10/2014 at 4:41 pm

        I prefer ipad because of two hings surface can’t do that matters, jailbreak which now I couldn’t be any happier with my iPad now, and effects. If Microsoft knew better about simple layout like OS X still has, I would have surface as a second laptop, now it’s hard to pick but never less, it doesn’t compete against ipad.

        • Hildy J

          12/11/2014 at 12:16 pm

          Jailbreak? The Surface (and every other Windows device that I know of) is not jailed in any way. “Jailbreaking” is a concept introduced by Apple. If you don’t like Win8.1, you can run another Windows, OS X (yes, OS X), Linux, or Android on it. If Apple produced an x86 compatible version of iOS or an emulator, it would run on it.

          I don’t understand why fanbois like to be told “no you can’t” so much. It’s time to break out of jail permanently.

  5. Ben Haad

    12/07/2014 at 6:31 pm

    The title of this article should have been phrased as a simile, utilizing the word “like”. As in, “turn your iPad into a SP3 like device”…

    The only way to turn your iPad into a SP3 is to take your iPad down to a pawn shop and use the pittance they give you for it on upgrading to a SP3…

    • gamerscul

      12/07/2014 at 6:49 pm

      In other words, jailbreaking your ipad to act like OS X with ios and get a keyboard with it. There’s your surface.

  6. Tarerbro

    12/07/2014 at 7:41 pm

    I think what it boils down to is what you will need a tablet for. Casual use or power user/corporate work. I live the simplicity of the iPad, yet I require a few native Windows apps.
    For awhile now I have been wanting to ditch the desktop in favor of a tablet. For me, I think it would serve up what I need in a computer quite well. I just can not decide between a iPad or Surface. But I have always liked the iPads, yet when you use specific Windows based apps daily, its a hard pill to swallow. I guess if one could find comfortable replacement native iOS apps than, perhaps that would help ease the shock of switching totally. I think I could live without a physical mouse and keyboard…

  7. Greg Lowe

    12/08/2014 at 2:44 am

    It depends on the type user you are. If you are more of a content consumer get S2 or iPad. If you are a power user get SP3 only not both. Office on S2 and iPad are lite versions of what you get on a PC. You want get the full suite. You won’t get Access or Publisher. Not everyone needs that. Also even though photo and video editing is possible. Nothing beats using the full versions when used on SP3. There’s a whole lot of content creation software available to SP3 that will not work on iPad.

  8. wordtoyamoms

    12/08/2014 at 6:56 am

    day i got my SP3 – was the day my iPad Air went on Craigslist

    • Nephalaty

      12/08/2014 at 12:59 pm

      The day I used 8 the first time was the last I got involved with surface. It foreshadowed future Microsoft plain simple.

  9. Hildy J

    12/09/2014 at 3:19 pm

    Ultimately, it comes down to what you are going to use it for. But keep in mind that for many things it’s what you are EVER going to use it for.

    Take the pen argument, above. The best pen is the latest Intuos pen from Wacom, bar none. It doesn’t work with the iPad or Surface Pro, it works with the Intuos range of tablets which are peripherals to a Mac or Windows PC (like the Surface). If you anticipate EVER needing to plug in a peripheral besides a keyboard, you probably want a Surface.

    Similarly, if you EVER think you might want to use your device in a corporate setting, you’ll need to deal with software that works fine on Windows but not on iOS. The biggest problems you’ll run into are security software, video conferencing software, and web enabled corporate applications that require capabilities or compatibilities not found in iOS browsers.

    If you’re looking for a video and games player, the iPad is great. For blogging or simple documents and spreadsheets, the iPad plus keyboard will probably be fine for you. In these situations the Surface Pro 3 would be overkill. OTOH, there are plenty of Windows tablets that are cheaper than the Surface or the iPad. Right now I’m using last year’s model of a Dell Venue 8 5000. It starts at half the price of an iPad Air 2.

  10. Aith

    12/09/2014 at 8:39 pm

    We have both in my family and they are so not even the same that it isn’t even funny and though I primarily use PCs, I highly respect both devices for what they are and own an iPod Touch 5th Generation which has been given as much productivity-related functionality possible.

    To get the best out of a Surface Pro 3 with the specs of a full-featured higher end laptop (8 gigs RAM, i7 Intel, etc), you should ideally be what I would call a ‘power user’ and someone who’s a bit on the artsy side because otherwise, you might not see or use these features. They are designed for the power user who needs and wants the best of both worlds – what a full-featured computing machine can do and what a full-featured tablet can do.

    I’m a writer, graphic designer, illustrator, and I also do desktop publishing and front end web design and I regularly run: full-featured Microsoft Office suite, Adobe CS 6 suite, Sketchbook Pro, Notepad++, and all the major standards-compliant web browsers (and some that are not because people still use them).

    As a writer and someone who does desktop publishing, being able to run a full featured and fully formattable document creation program (such as those offered in Office products) is very important. Half-baked doesn’t do it. Having the entire Office Suite at hand and linked to my Surface Pro 3’s account and OneDrive means I can power through projects no matter where I am on or offline and move from Word to One Note and back again and then port what I need into PowerPoint if I need to and so on and so forth and with minimal difficulty.

    Sitting down and with my keyboard and mouse, I can do everything the traditional way, but when I’m sitting on the couch or at a coffee shop or on the go, I can get rid of the keyboard and mouse and go into vertical screen mode and continue typing up my documents using my on-screen keyboard and continue using something like OneNote using my stylus and on-screen keyboard.

    As an illustrator and someone who does digital drawing and coloring, ONLY an active digitizer in conjunction with a graphics editing/creating program that can make full use of it such as what is offered on a Surface Pro 3 can offer the pressure sensitivity and precision that is needed to get an experience that is closest to using traditional tools.

    With the ability to do my drawing on-screen as opposed to on a graphics tablet, I have better control over my brush and pencil strokes and the best thing is, I can cradle my Surface Pro 3 in my arms and hands like I would a clipboard – again, vertical screen mode is my best friend – and simply continue drawing or coloring and that is one of the biggest reasons why I love my Surface Pro 3.

    I used to own an HP TC1100 – a convertible tablet PC from 2005 which had an active digitizer screen but was much much bulkier and heavier than my Surface Pro 3. It could be turned into a slate by detaching the keyboard and I oftentimes would do my drawing and coloring in slate mode directly on top of my screen’s surface. I loved it so much (way cheaper than a large Cintiq) and it worked really well and at the time, the digitizer used Wacom technology so it was even better. Additionally, it was a full-featured laptop-sized machine as well and so I could use all of my necessary full-featured programs to boot which included all of the programs I’m using on my Surface Pro 3 now… but downgraded to suit the OS that I was running on that particular machine.

    In regards to the necessity and value of a full-featured computing machine blended in with tablet functionality, as much as I hate to say it, there’s a reason Adobe dominates the market (Autodesk products are awesome, too).

    Like Microsoft and Apple, more often than not, their products play best with their own products and it is easier to move from one application to the next to the next. But because of the necessity of artists, for example, to utilize programs from companies like Adobe and Autodesk, a high-powered machine is imperative as opposed to being a luxury as these programs are always very resource intensive.

    As such, you NEED a machine that CAN run these programs and run them well and the Surface Pro 3 not only offers the computing power, but it also offers that beautiful on-screen active digitizer technology which allows precision drawing right on the screen itself.

    It isn’t Wacom, but NTrig isn’t bad, either, and Adobe supports it but if you still want your Wacom, you can still plug in your old graphics tablet and use that instead.

    Add on the bonus that Microsoft was prepared for people to hook up these Surfaces to projectors and such and you have a full computing machine whose creations can be easily showcased on larger screens and in a more fluid fashion (via the more tablet-friendly interface).

    In work mode, my Surface Pro 3 is my portable and lightweight power machine – able to power me through my Office Suite and Above Suite and Autodesk needs. In downtime mode, my Surface Pro 3 lets me easily pick up where I left off… but I can kick up my feet and relax while I do it.

    My productivity has increased because of this as I have found myself working even AFTER my normal working hours are done just because it is THAT easy (once you get acclimated to the tablet/metro feel + normal desktop feel and switching between the two) to pick up where I last left off – especially when it comes to writing in Word, brainstorming on paper and pencil in OneNote, and drawing and coloring in my graphics editor of choice.

    And, on the occasion that I want to play some games… that’s the benefit of a full-featured machine, too. I can play full PC games if I want to in addition to playing the tablet-friendly games offered in the App Store.

    And music and videos? I can either cloud everything in or import it all in or do a combination of both.

    To end this post, I will share the moment that I officially fell in love with my Surface Pro 3.

    Settled in my armchair and huddled in blankets while sipping coffee, I decided to see what I could do without adding on my keyboard and mouse. I flipped my Surface Pro 3 into vertical mode and locked the screen orientation. I clicked my stylus and queued up OneNote 2013 and I opened up the last Word document that I had been typing on. To my astonishment, I discovered that setting my View in Word to Screen Width in vertical mode didn’t change the readability much (then again, I used to work on a 1024 x 768 resolution machine) and that I could easily continue my typing on my on-screen keyboard.

    Soon, with my Surface Pro 3 cradled in my arm like a legal-sized clipboard, I was easily swapping between typing, scribbling notes, and drawing while listening to my music library and before I knew it, I had gotten another hour’s worth of work done and had managed to do some online research and email checking to boot.

    The Surface Pro 3 is its own animal just like an iPad is its own animal and trying to turn one into another is doing both a great disservice in my sincere opinion.

    I love my iPod for the quick note-taking without additional frills (you ought to see how many Notes I have), for all the wonderful pocket-sized apps and games I can play on it, for all the music and videos that I hoard in it for quick offline access at any time, for the quick referencing I can do online and quick mail, and for the absolutely awesome messaging systems that it can support like iMessages and LINE, WeChat, etc and all through wireless without worry of using data.

    I love my Surface Pro 3 because it’s a full-featured machine that lets me go into power mode and take everything to the level that I need it to be for the writer, artist, and web designer that I am and being able to play full-featured PC games on it doesn’t hurt, either.

    I love them both and if I was the one who owned an iPad, I would love it, too, but they’re two different machines and I personally prefer to respect them both as such.

  11. dksmidtx

    12/10/2014 at 10:46 am

    How wonderful – spend MORE than the cost of the Surface Pro 3 to do a half-job trying to duplicate a subset of what the Surface Pro 3 does. Brilliant…just brilliant.

  12. Scott Hickey

    12/28/2014 at 8:35 pm

    Have your really tried this an iPad Air 2 I purchased two different styli – including Jot – and I couldn’t get either one to work at all. I know it’s not my handwriting. I have Note 4 and it works flawlessly with my handwriting.

    As far as I can tell from surfing the web as well as my own experience, there is currently no stylus that actually works well for converting handwriting to text.

  13. Psysword

    02/07/2015 at 9:51 pm

    Guess I’m a minority when I say that I had bought the lovely sp3 and after the update the blue screen! Sad but true! A familiar windows nightmare. Never trying windows again. IPad will just have to do matched with an aging windows laptop that has a jail broken office 97. Runs fine for me without all that jazz.

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