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Surface 3 vs iPad Pro: What to Buy?



In years past, Apple and Microsoft were the bitterest of enemies. Apple blasted Microsoft’s Windows operating system for terrible security and being hard to use. It said that Windows PC makers were putting out subpar machines, that didn’t hold a candle to the high-end machines that it made. In turn, Microsoft let upgrades to its Microsoft Office productivity suite lag and dragged its feet on Microsoft Office for iOS.

Today’s iPad Pro announcement is indicative of the two firm’s more cozy modern relationship. Microsoft created the Surface line of tablets and PCs to grab attention away from Apple’s iPad. Rather than focusing on looks, Microsoft focused on providing Surface buyers what they couldn’t get on the iPad. The Surface 3 has a full-size USB port, Windows programs and a large 10-inch display. The new iPad Pro is a Apple’s answer to Microsoft’s growing relevance in the tablet space.

iPad Pro (1)

Read: iPad Pro Release Date & Price Confirmed

Here’s how the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 3 compare in terms of design, extras and pricing.

Surface 3 vs iPad Pro: Design & Internals

Microsoft didn’t have much to go on with the Surface tablets. Every manufacturer who could was already creating entertainment tablets, so Microsoft focused on productivity. Its original Surface RT had a kickstand for propping up its 10-inch display. A full-size USB port made it easy to connect extra storage, printers and controllers. The Surface Pro 3 will get all sorts of mentions in comparisons to the iPad Pro, but Microsoft’s entry level Surface 3 is the iPad Pro’s biggest threat, I think.

Microsoft Surface 3

The Surface 3 has a 10.8-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1290, making it capable of playing back full HD video. Microsoft added a third position to its kickstand, and the base model comes with 64GB of storage. Inside is an Intel Atom X7 processor for running desktop applications. An expansion port on the bottom of the Surface Pro 3 allows users to attach an extra keyboard if they want. There’s a front-facing 3.5 megapixel camera, a rear-facing 8 megapixel camera, a headset jack, a MicroSD card reader, a USB charging port and a year of Office 365.

Apple seems to have borrowed most of these ideas for the newly announced iPad Pro. The iPad Pro doesn’t have a kickstand but does have a rather large 12.9-inch 2732 x 2048 Retina display. A 3RD Generation 64-Bit A9X Chip lets users do whatever they want – work or otherwise for 10 hours. That’s the same as the Surface 3. Users who like to take pictures still can with the iPad Pro’s 8 megapixel camera. There’s a Touch ID fingerprint reader built-in below the device’s display an LTE compatibility for users who need it.

iPad Pro (5)

The Surface Pro has two front-facing speakers, but the iPad Pro goes with four. A special connector on the bottom of the iPad Pro allows it to communicate with accessories.

Surface 3 vs iPad Pro: Accessories & Productivity

To be clear, users accessorizing the iPad Pro is what Apple is counting on. Like with the Surface 3, to get the most out of the iPad Pro you need the right accessories. The Surface 3 supports Microsoft’s Surface Pen, a $49 accessory that lets users skip their lockscreen and take notes immediately, navigate Windows or draw. The iPad Pro has a pen of its own, called the Apple Pencil. It’s $99 and allow users to do take notes too.

iPad Pro (3)

To really keep users productive Apple has added the Apple Smart Keyboard to its line-up. The $169 accessory connects to the iPad Pro using a special port and includes a fold out kickstand of its own so that users don’t have to fiddle with an internal kickstand if they don’t want to.


No doubt, physical keyboards let users stay productive on the go, but to be of any actual use, the software has to be there. Apple revealed in June that it’d be introducing a split-screen multitasking system for running more than one app at a time. Strikingly similar to what’s available in Windows 10. iOS 9 will come with the new iPad Pro.

Surface 3 vs iPad Pro: Specs

iPad Pro Surface 3
3rd Generation 64 Bit A9X Chip Intel Atom X7 Processor
Four Speaker Audio Stereo Speakers
12.9 inch display (2732 x 2048) 10.8-inch display (1920 x 1280)
8MP iSight Camera 8.0 megapixel rear-facing camera, 3.5 megapixel front-facing camera
802.11AC 802.11AC
Touch ID MicroSD Card reader, full-size USB port
Apple Pen Support ($99 add-on) Surface Pen Support ($49 add-on)
Smart Keyboard Support ($169 add-on) Surface 3 Keyboard Support ($129 add-on)
Starts at $799 Starts at $499


Surface 3 vs iPad Pro: What to Buy?

Being an direct, but low-cost competitor to the iPad Pro gives the Surface 3 some advantages. The Surface 3 has a smaller screen, but basically matches what the iPad Pro offers. What’s more it has a few advantages: built-in support for external storage, a full-size USB port for connecting to devices, Windows Apps and support for Desktop Windows Programs. To top it all off, users can get it for $499 before any accessories. Add the $50 Surface Pen and the $129 Surface 3 Cover and it isn’t cheap.

iPad Pro (2)

The funny thing is that with accessories it is still cheaper than the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro comes with 32GB of storage for $799. The Apple Pencil is another $99 and the Apple Smart Keyboard is $169.

If you were considering a Surface 3 already, you should still buy one. It’s cheaper, comes with more storage, and is compatible with all the apps you already have. The slightly smaller screen should be more manageable too. If you were already an iPad users and finally considering unloading your notebook, your choice is clear: the new iPad Pro is made just for you.

Apple says the iPad Pro and its accessories will go on-sale this November. The Surface 3 is already on sale.



  1. neonspark

    09/09/2015 at 12:10 pm

    ipad pro= ipad replacement. surface pro = pc replacement.

  2. Tom

    09/09/2015 at 1:14 pm

    Why compare the iPad “Pro” to the Surface 3? Surely the most important metric is price and there the iPad and Surface Pro 3 go head to head and the Surface Pro 3 annihilates the iPad an almost all fronts. Even resolution, which many sites are giving as a win to the iPad, only has higher numbers on the iPad due to the weird aspect ratio.
    No! The big threat to the iPad is the Surface Pro, not the Surface.

  3. Hildy J

    09/09/2015 at 3:07 pm

    The iPad Pro would be a competitor if it ran OSX. As is, it’s still a big phablet. If it cost less than the Surface, I could see it for content consumption. As is, there’s no particular reason to pay extra except for the logo.

  4. Kyith

    09/10/2015 at 6:27 pm

    the surface 3 is a great productivity tool for the price paid. it is portable and gives you a full windows productivity experience. it is better than competitors due to the additional 1 inch difference.

    still many can consider the atom processor powered windows 8.1 or 10 competitors that are running $200 cheaper than the surface 3 for budget.

    Windows 10 is competent.

  5. Lauren

    11/22/2015 at 7:25 am

    The Surface 3 can’t even compete with my 3 year old iPad 4. Comparing it to the iPad Pro is ridiculous. The Surface 3 is cheaper, has a ton of features and that pen function is amazing…but it just doesn’t perform. It lags, it freezes, the software has weird quirks that make you frequently restart the Surface to get it to work normally. I’m a mac person, so I found the duel OS situation difficult to figure out (why do you need two different versions of IE on the same device?). Trying to preform the same tasks on the Surface as I would on my iPad drained the battery in 3 hours, when my iPad is still going strong after 8 hours. The Surface 3 was also difficult to use without a keyboard, whereas a keyboard is nice but not necessary to use my iPad. The Surface 3 looks great on paper, but the quality, simplicity and attention to detail aren’t there.

    I’m pretty sure the guy/gal writing this review never used either device outside of a store or a conference. It’s a comparison of spec sheets only, not of actual usability. The Surface 3 doesn’t have many didicated apps, which is a problem because it also doesn’t have the power to run desktop applications without problems. So even though it’s theoretically more capapable than a regular iPad, the Surface 3 much less usable for higher level tasks. And I have absolutely no idea why you’d compare it to an iPad Pro, which is a niche device.

  6. Jo

    03/04/2016 at 5:29 am

    Sorry Lauren but I beg to differ as it’s a matter of personal preference.

    It depends on your workflow (do you normally run legacy x86/x64 based apps or iOS ARM based apps).
    I do have both iPad and Surface 3, and I can say that Surface 3, hands down, is more versatile for my workflow and I do agree with you in terms of processing power that iPad Pro has more muscle compares to the Surface 3 (Non Pro).

    I guess it depends on the objective:
    1. If the aim is to look for one device to do all things, then Microsoft Surface line is the better option of the two, nevertheless;
    2. If the aim is to get a companion device, then iPad Pro can be the better option for some people.

    I did try iPad Pro in store to see whether it can fit my workflow and I can comfortably say that if I’m looking to replace my laptop/desktop and to get one device only, then the answer is no. I will be better off getting a Microsoft Surface device.
    However, if I’m looking for a companion device (not to replace my desktop or laptop), then the answer is yes (although a very expensive one).

    Microsoft is right to say that (as of now) iPad Pro is a companion device (and it’s an excellent one) that can do (subjective view) 70-80% of works for most people, yet they will still need either a laptop or desktop to do the remaining 20-30%.

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