Both these devices run on ARM-based mobile processors, but the real difference is in how each of these companies see these devices. It’s clear that Apple wants the iPad to be a “mobile first" device, while Microsoft looks at the Surface as laptop first, but running on mobile chipsets.
Comparisons are usually about telling readers which device is better, but doing that between the Surface Pro X and iPad Pro will be quite unfair. It’s more about what you want from your device.
They both excel in certain things, battery life being the highlight. In strict usage terms, the iPad lasted us an hour or so more than the Surface Pro X with similar usage. But both devices touched the 9-10 hour mark for simple browsing, writing etc.
Both the TypeCover keyboard and Apple’s new Magic Keyboard are near perfect replacements for a full sized laptop keyboard, and they both have Touchpad support.
It’s sad that neither company bundles these with the tablet though. The TypeCover case will cost you an additional ₹13,699 while the Magic Keyboard is more than double the price, starting at Rs. 27,900. Microsoft also has a Pen and Keyboard combo for Rs. 26,299. Apple’s second generation Pencil is priced at Rs. 10,900. More on the keyboard later.
The difference in product philosophies makes the iPad a better choice for creators and power users. That and the fact that the iPad Pro is a faster device in terms of pure performance too. Apple’s integrated graphics processing unit (GPU) makes a big difference here, against Microsoft SQ1 platform.
The iPad, and iPadOS (the operating system on it) are made for mobile processors, so apps they use are already coded for that architecture. Many developers who create productivity tools have already made iPad versions of their apps, like Adobe’s Photoshop.
The Surface Pro X is still waiting for developers to build for it. Microsoft has an emulator layer built into Windows 10 to run apps on ARM, but there are still some unexpected slowdowns and crashes at times. Largely, Microsoft’s big achievement on the Surface Pro X is running a full version of Windows 10, nearly lag free, on ARM.
Earlier ARM-based Windows laptops have been nearly useless because of how slow they were. The Surface Pro X fixes all that. Regular browsing etc, even on Chrome, works more than fine. In fact, even with many tabs open on both Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome, the laptop didn’t show any slowdowns worth complaining about.
The big upside to the Surface Pro X is that it gives you a PC experience, and thought apps downloaded from the web may not always work well, they still can be downloaded. On the iPad Pro, the App Store is your only option for software. This is one of the biggest differences between Apple’s mobile first and Microsoft’s PC-first approach to these devices.
To be clear, neither product is a full laptop or PC replacement for a creator or power user. But the iPad works better as an on the go productivity tool for such users than the Surface Pro X.
That said, the Surface Pro X two functional USB Type-C ports, which many will prefer. It also allows more flexibility in terms of how much you can tilt the screen. Strictly speaking, the Surface Pro X is easier to use on your lap than the iPad. But the latter can’t really be faulted on this either. The iPad Pro also has two very nice rear cameras, whereas the Surface only has a front camera.
The difference in screen tilt angles matter more when you just want to watch a movie etc. You might prefer the Surface Pro X’s tilt angles more if you’re on a flight and the passenger in front of you pushes their seat all the way back.
Apple’s new Magic Keyboard is excellent, with no flex and the right pitch for typing, but so is the Microsoft TypeCover case. In fact, some may prefer the Alcantara fabric Microsoft uses on its keyboard.
The TypeCover keyboard also has a full row of function keys and an Escape key, which is missing from the Magic Keyboard. But then, iPadOS doesn’t have functionality linked to these keys either. Apple’s gestures work seamlessly with the Magic Keyboard just as Microsoft’s do with the TypeCover case.
In sum, if you’re not a power user and want a laptop replacement that’s mobile, either device works. Your choice should really be based on whether you want a PC-first experience or mobile-first experience.
For writers, like us, both these devices almost completely replace laptops without a fault. But both cost over a lakh with the keyboards included, so very few will really be able to afford it. And they really don’t work as replacements without the keyboards.
What’s really funny is that both companies have set the stage for developers to take over now. For Microsoft, it’s up to them to build apps for an ARM architecture, while Apple will need more developers to take iPadOS’ functionalities, touchpads etc. to make the iPad more PC-like.