Extensive comparison between Surface Pro and iPad Pro for Business Users

A little bit of background.

I am a Mac User for most part of my “computer” life. I recently ditched my MacBook 2017 and tried to solely work off the iPad Pro 12.9″ and 10.5″ for 4 weeks. As an IT Service Provider and business owner, I do have all sort of tasks to do. From email and Excel to Project Management, creating brochures and managing Server and Cloud Services through Terminal and Admin Consoles.

After I completed the 4 weeks on the iPad Pro, I went and bought the 2017 Microsoft Surface Pro. Three weeks into using the Surface Pro for all my work, I feel confident enough for this extensive comparison and hope it can help those considering either one of those great devices to make a decision.

 

Better on Surface Pro

  • Keyboard
    • The keyboard has Backlight, Fingerscan and Touchpad. It also feels extremely good to type on. The Apple Smart Keyboard isn’t entirely bad but not having backlight is a deal breaker for many.
  • Surface Pen
    • The Surface Pen is superior. The tip is softer, creating much less tapping sounds compared to the Apple Pen, which has quite a hard tip. Furthermore, the convenience of just turning the Surface Pen around to use it as an eraser is priceless. A programmable multi function button is another big plus.
      I set it up for 1 click = Create Sticky Note
      Double click = Take screenshot
      Long press = Open OneNote
    • The Apple Pen’s battery lasts 1 day, 2 days with moderate use. The Surface Pen battery is said to last approximately 1 year. Wow!
    • The Surface Pen can be attached to the left side of the Surface Pro thanks to a strong magnet. That’s great to ensure that you do have the pen with you all the time and not wasting time searching for it.
  • File System
    • While Apple has brought the Files App to iOS, this is still far from being a convenient file manager and has lots of limitations. With the Surface Pro which is running Windows 10, you have all the convenience of a proper file management.
  • Connectors
    • The microSD Card slot on the Surface Pro is not really something you can’t live without. But it does help. I put in a 128 GB card just to have Acronis True Image 2018 cloning my system to it every evening. It’s of course not my only backup destination but it’s the most accessible to quickly recover if the system corrupts.
  • The infinite kickstand
    • Boy, do I love that infinite kickstand! There is always something somewhere causing reflection on the screen. Apple’s one angle approach on the iPad Pro is plain stupid but with the Surface’s infinite kickstand you can always adjust the angle to your convenience and comfort.
  • Face Recognition
    • The iPad Pro comes with ultra-fast touch ID but the Surface Pro’s Face ID is more convenient as you don’t have to reach for the home button on the tablet. Even when I use touch ID on the Surface Pro, the finger scanner sits right next to my touchpad. More convenient to reach than the iPad’s home button.
  • ESC key
    • This is a small thing for most but having an ESC key when working in command line is essential. This is a big miss on the iPad Pro for those who need it.
  • Desktop Browser
    • As I do maintain various systems, I frequently need to access different admin consoles. This is no issue on the Surface Pro as it is a full desktop operating system. But on the iPad Pro, and I have no idea what they smoke to make that decision, Apple is using a mobile version of the browser. Same goes for Chrome. Not having a full desktop browser renders many admin consoles uncontrollable. This applies for many banking sites as well unless they offer an app. And for those who wonder, yes, Safari and Chrome have both the option to request the desktop version of the current page, but that won’t do anything for most (and all my) admin consoles.
    • On the Surface Pro I can open multiple instance of any browser which is not possible on the iPad Pro. This is important for me as I have different browser profiles for each customer’s admin consoles.

 

Better on iPad Pro

  • Performance
    • The iPad Pro is a beast. It is incredible fast and smooth. Even the Surface Pro i7 can’t compete with it
  • Display
    • The iPad Pro has a stunning display with its 120hz true tone display. You just can’t beat this.
  • Battery Life / Power Supply
    • I get in average between 10-13 hours of work time out of my iPad Pro. This counts for both, the 10.5 and the 12.9 model. On my Surface Pro, the average is 6-8 hours.
    • The iPad Pro is using USB-to-lightening cable to charge. You can use any USB charger for it, whether from your MacBook or any other standard USB charger. The Surface Pro uses a prorietary charger and if you lose it you are forced to find one from Microsoft again.
    • The iPad power supply is much smaller than the one from the Surface Pro, hence more portable.
  • Speakers
    • While the speakers on the Surface Pro aren’t entirely bad, the iPad Pro’s speakers are superior.
  • Handwriting
    • Albeit missing some features from the Surface Pen, such as the convenience to turn around the pen to use it as an eraser, the actual handwriting experience on the iPad Pro is far ahead of the Surface Pro.
  • LTE
    • While Microsoft announced an LTE version of the Surface Pro, by the writing of this comparison there is none available yet. The convenience of using the iPad Pro with a SIM Card is worth a lot (to me).
  • Apps
    • iOS apps tend to be much more polished and are looking more elegant and modern compared to those on either Windows or Android. Using iOS apps always feels so much better. One of the latest examples I stumbled over is 1Password. I have been using it for years on macOS and iOS. Now I installed it on Windows and it’s pure pain. Extremely slow, often unresponsive, just terribly designed. I know that this is not Microsoft’s fault but the developer’s. Keeps me wondering why they don’t put more afford / love in.
  • Backup / Restore
    • Using iCloud, I can have my entire iOS setup backed up. If anyone steals my iPad or if I lose it, I can buy a new one, put in my iCloud credentials and choose “restore from backup”. In no time, you will have a new iPad with exactly the same setup as the previous one, ready to continue work. On the Surface Pro I use Acronis True Image which works OK, but restoring takes ways more steps and more time. And it’s a third-party service I need to use (and pay for). Apple has it all built in.
  • Availability
    • This might depend on your location. But here in Thailand, I can find an iPad Pro pretty much everywhere including plenty of accessories. The Surface Pro on the other side is much harder to find. And I waited more than 3 weeks to get the Surface Pen. You just won’t find it in any shop. I don’t know why but this is my experience.
    • Probably arguable and just a convenience but iMessages and Facetime is something I frequently use. Being able to make calls and respond to messages right from the iPad is a big plus. Unfortunately, it seems obvious that Apple will never bring it to Windows.
  • Security
    • It’s not new that iOS is very much sandboxed to the dislike of many. However, it makes iOS undoubtedly the most secure operating system for mobile devices.

 

Issues I have with

  • iPad Pro
    • In split screen the Copy function often does not work. I select something in the left window and want to copy but can’t. I need to go back to single window mode to get it working.
    • Apple Mail often stops updating my Exchange account and mails deleted on another device still show in Apple Mail and can’t be deleted.
    • Printing is still an issue. I set Airprint for all our Fuji Xerox DocuCenter machines using a third-party software and tried the Fuji Xerox App for iOS. But you are missing too many functions on both. So, other than standard printing, you won’t get through this. Frequently, landscape and portrait printing is getting mixed up. Documents which on a MacBook or PC in Portrait mode are printed in landscape mode on the iPad.
  • Surface Pro
    • Sleep of Death bug which is causing your Surface Pro every now and then to not wake up anymore from sleep. You will have to force turn off the device and restart to get it back working.
    • Many programs have small and not adjustable fonts.

 

Conclusion

It all depends on what you do, how you work and what software you need to use. There is no general conclusion and there is even less a winner. Some people will need a Surface Pro or any other Windows machine while some can go with the iPad Pro.

iOS 11 is a much-desired upgrade bringing the iPad Pro a step closer to be a full working machine. But it’s simply not there yet.

If you are mainly doing emails, online research, taking notes, social media marketing, then you are probably good to go for an iPad Pro. For me the main barrier are the mobile  versions of the web browsers. If Apple would consider implementing a full desktop browser I could get most of my work done. This would bring me very close of being able to use the iPad Pro as my main device.

 

What I did not consider

  • The price. This comparison is for business users and I don’t think that price plays an important role. Functionality, security, convenience, reliability, availability; everything weighs in but hardly the price point unless it would be excessive, which neither one is.

 

*Disclaimer
– I am not a native English Speaker. Please do not get upset on grammar or spelling errors. Complain to my former English teacher instead.
– This comparison is based on my requirements and workflows and might not apply to everyone.

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