The Surface line up once stood alone as one of the only proven hybrid tablet-notebook devices on the market. And, for a while, no one took it that seriously. But as it grew in popularity, other companies followed suit, including Apple with its latest iPad Pro. Both devices are sleek and high-end, but when it comes to their biggest demographic - business users - which one takes first place? [See also: Best iPad apps for business leaders | Best iPad apps for CIOs | 7 apps every CIO should have on their iPad]
iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4 - Portability and Design
In terms of portability and design, it's really a tie between the Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro. You can't go wrong with either device. Both sleek, stylish and lightweight. The Surface Pro 4 measures just 8.4mm thick, while the iPad Pro is slightly thinner at 6.9mm. In terms of weight, the iPad Pro weighs in at 713g, while the Surface Pro 4 is just slightly heavier at 786g. But looking at the differences in size and weight is really a case of splitting hairs. Either device is going to offer a portable experience with a high-end premium finish.
iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4 - Display
Much like the portability and design of these devices, you aren't going to miss out on much in the way of display if you opt for one over the other. The Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3-inch display, while the iPad Pro measures at 12.9in. Both offer a decent amount of real estate for using apps and snapping two apps or windows side by side. In terms of resolution, it's pretty much a draw, with the Surface Pro 4 boasting a slightly higher pixel density at 267 ppi, while the iPad Pro touts a 264 ppi. With either device, you will be treated to a crystal clear display that offers great colour representation and a crisp viewing experience.
iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4 - Connectivity
When it comes to connectivity, the Surface Pro 4 beats the iPad Pro out of the gate. The Surface 4 Pro has a full-sized USB 3.0 port, microSD card reader, Mini DisplayPort and SurfaceConnect port built into the device. The iPad Pro, however, has the Lightning connector for charging the device or the Apple Pencil and a Smart Connector that basically just allows you to connect a keyboard without Bluetooth.
As with past Apple devices, you can purchase a separate dongle that connects to the Lightning port to give you HDMI output or the capability to use a MicroSD card, but the options beyond that are limited. So if someone hands you a USB drive with important documents on it, you'll first need to upload those to a cloud storage service on another device that can read USB devices. And if you want to connect it to a non-Apple display, unless you have an Apple TV that can mirror the device to your TV, you'll need to deal with an HDMI converter hanging out of the charging port, hogging the lightning port.
The Surface Pro 4 comes far better equipped for a seamless transition from your desk to home or while you're on the road. Its connectivity offers a lot more flexibility, and you can even purchase a proprietary docking station that will allow you to hook up the Surface Pro 4 to multiple displays, a keyboard, mouse and more.
iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4 - Keyboards, Apple Pencil and Surface Stylus
Both the Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro have keyboards that you can purchase separately. Each keyboard supports the device and offers a similar experience to a traditional notebook. The one big difference between the two, however, is a trackpad. Apple's iPad Pro Smart Keyboard does not have a trackpad, and you can't use a mouse with the device.
While it's one small difference, it might make or break it for some business users. If you find that you are more productive with a mouse, rather than just a touch screen, you'll want to go with the Surface Pro 4. Another thing to note is that both devices can also be used with a stylus. Apple has the Pencil, while Microsoft has the Surface Pen. You'll have to purchase the Apple Pencil separately, while the Surface Pen comes included with the device.
The Surface Pro 4 definitely wins when it comes to peripherals, it not only allows you to connect multiple displays, but with the option of a mouse, you can easily transition between displays and apps flawlessly. With the iPad Pro, since you can't use a mouse, you'll be stuck turning to the device to tap on the display anytime you need to multitask or change apps.
iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4 - Operating systems
This one depends on what ecosystem you use at work - OS X or Windows. If you have a work-issued Mac and iPhone, an iPad Pro will seamlessly integrate into your working life. Your messages, apps and more will naturally sync between devices. You can even answer a call on your Mac or iPad if your iPhone is in range. Alternatively, even if you use Windows at work, there are a lot of Microsoft apps available in the iOS app store, including Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Excel. However, with the iPad Pro, you're limited in the sense that it's a mobile operating system, rather than a full desktop operating system like OS X or Windows 10.
On the flip side, if you work solely with Windows 10 devices, a Surface Pro 4 offers a seamless experience between apps, programs and even settings. Where you'll run into problems with the Surface Pro 4 is if you have a Mac and an iPhone for business. There aren't nearly as many apps and programs that can run on both, and integration between the two is more difficult. It's not impossible, and you might not care about apps or texting on your Surface Pro 4, but it does have its limitations if you're looking for continuity between operating systems.
When it comes to operating systems, it's going to depend on your needs. If you mostly use app-based programs, rather than desktop or Web applications, you'll be better off with the iPad Pro. The Microsoft App Store is notoriously limited in its tablet-based offerings. However, if you don't use apps for business that often, and you find you need web-based applications or desktop applications, definitely go with the Surface Pro 4 since it runs full Windows 10.
iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 4 - Price and specificiations
Apple doesn't offer much in the way of configuration when it comes to its iOS devices. You basically choose from storage options, and that's where it ends. Each model of the iPad Pro has Apple's A9X chip and 4GB of RAM, which is more than enough for basic computing tasks, streaming content and multitasking. For the entry level 32GB model, it will cost you £679, going up to £899 for 128GB model with cellular connectivity. Also, it's important to remember the memory on the iPad Pro isn't expandable, so you'll want to go with the right amount of storage for your needs.
The Surface Pro 4 starts at £750 for its most basic configuration, with an Intel Core m3 processor and 4GB of RAM, and for most business users an m3 processor might not be enough juice to get you through the work day. The next step up is the 128GB model with an Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM which is more than enough for the average business user. At the top of the range is an i7 processor with 16GB of RAM for £1,799. You can even opt to customise the device with different storage, processor and memory options.
When it comes to the specs you can get for the price, the win goes to the Surface Pro 4. Not only can you get more storage for your buck, the device also has expandable storage through the use of a microSD card reader. For business use, that speaks volumes, because storage space can quickly diminish with apps, files, documents and more. It's around a £50 price difference for the 128GB model iPad Pro and the 128GB model Surface Pro 4 with an Intel i5 processor and 4GB of RAM, but that cash buys you a lot if you are looking for a device for business use.
Conclusion: iPad Pro or Surface Pro 4
Overall, unless you are working in an environment where you focus on design or are entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, you will most likely get the most bang for your buck and productivity out of the Surface Pro 4. While both offer a lot in the way of functionality and portability, the Surface Pro 4 brings more to the table with connectivity and productivity. The capability to use a mouse, connect to multiple displays and have access to the full Windows 10 operating system gives it a slight edge over the competition. Also, when it comes to price, if you're looking for a business focused device over an entertainment device, that extra $50 will get you a lot further with the Surface Pro 4.