iPad Pro vs Surface Pro

by Volker Weber


Surface Pro has been my daily driver for two years. Now I am trying to do the same on iPad Pro. Which means I am going to use it in laptop mode a lot. And there are some surprising similarities between the two.

First of all they weigh about the same. iPad Pro is about 120 grams lighter than Surface Pro but Smart Keyboard Folio is heavier than Surface Type Cover. iPad Pro itself is thinner, but the whole package for both devices has the same thickness. Since the iPad Screen is 4:3 and the Surface screen is 3:2, the iPad is more square.


When you set them up on a desk, Surface Pro with its fluid kickstand is easier to adjust and more stable. You can also remove the keyboard cover and still prop it up with the kickstand. When you want to draw on it, it provides a very flat angle that is comfortable, which is not possible on iPad Pro. You have to hold it in your hand or place it on a cushion. Smart Keyboard Folio is always flat on the desk where Surface Type Cover can be raised slightly to make it more convenient.

It is close to impossible to use Surface Pro on your lap with the keyboard attached. I know people who manage to do that but there are also people who can walk a high rope. iPad Pro however has a solid base which lets you use it on the couch or while sitting on a chair.

Both devices attach the pen magnetically to the side, just in different positions. For iPad Pro it is the top, for Surface Pro the left side. Apple Pencil uses inductive charging while attached, Surface Pen needs a new AAAA battery about once a year. Apple Pencil can be double tapped to switch between two modes, for instance drawing and erasing, while Surface Pen has a button on the side and an eraser button. You just flip the pen to switch between drawing and erasing. You can program the eraser button for click, double click and hold. I use click to draw a new note without unlocking Surface and double click to make a screen shot. When iPad Pro is off, you can just start drawing on the dark screen and it will create a new note in Apple Notes. Unfortunately you cannot program it to a different note taking app. But you also cannot set the default mail application, so that is in line with Apple expectations.

iPad Pro has a fantastic 12.9 inch display but the Surface 12.3 inch display is also quite impressive. Screen resolution is 2732 x 2048 pixels at 265 ppi and 2736 x 1824 pixels at 267 pixels per inch for Surface Pro. They both adjust their white balance relative to the ambient light color.

Given all the similarities there is of course a huge difference in software. iPad Pro runs on the much simpler iOS whereas Surface Pro is a full Windows PC. Where iPad Pro has lots of apps and is often treated as a mobile device by sites you visit, Surface Pro can run the full suite of Windows applications. There are workflows where I am really quick on Surface which I need to completely relearn on iPad Pro. Downloading a bunch of PDFs over SFTP, renaming and editing them and pushing them to OneDrive is one such example. I am automating as many of them as I can with Shortcuts, previously known as Worflow.

Currently I am struggling with two limitations. iPad Pro has touch, but it has no touchpad. You always have to raise your arm to move around on the screen. Also, the keyboard has no escape key, so there is no simple way to go back.


"When Surface is off, you can just start drawing on the dark screen and it will create a new note in Apple Notes"

I think you meant to write Ipad Pro here.

Patrick Bohr, 2018-11-08

No touch pad and no escape key, those are two things that I also miss on my iPad Pro with the Logitech keyboard...

I probably need to familiarize myself with Shortcuts more.

Ragnar Schierholz, 2018-11-08

„When you want to draw on it, it provides a very flat angle that is comfortable, which is not possible on iPad Pro“

For this reason i have bought the new Folio Case in addition to the Smart Keyboard Folio. Another 119€...

I use the Folio Case whenever i don‘t have a need for the Keyboard, which is often.

Bernd Hofmann, 2018-11-08

Just out of curiosity: On the Surface Pro I can program the pen’s button to click through a Powerpoint presentation: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/use-your-digital-pen-as-a-slide-show-clicker-e36da834-7d34-4b71-aafd-071727549f7a

Can I use the iPad pro’s pencil to double-tap the pencil to move through a Keynote presentation?

Steffen Nork, 2018-11-08

Not yet. But Microsoft could make it so in the Powerpoint app.

Volker Weber, 2018-11-08

The Pencil still feels like hard plastic moving over glas?
How do you feel about writing with the Pencil on a flat laying surface?
How does the double tap feel? Do you have to adjust the grip of the Pencil or can you fluently switch between modes?

Waiting for my iPadPro to arrive. Really love the Microsoft pen though and suspect I will miss it.

Mariano Kamp , 2018-11-08

Das beschreibt recht gut, was das bereits länger bestehende Problem am iPad ist: die Software. Es gibt einfach sehr viele Dinge die einfach Mist sind. Angefangen vom Homescreen, der bei 12,9" wirklich schon fast lächerlich wirkt bis hin zur indiskutablen Keyboard-Unterstützung. Und auch das Dateihandling ist trotz Verbesserungen immer noch ziemlich mies.

Ich sehe das so: das iPad Pro kommt ein Jahr zu früh. Erst mit iOS 13 wird das hoffentlich richtig ausgenutzt und es kommen die entsprechenden Änderungen von Apple.

Also reines Konsumgerät hingegen liebe ich mein iPad.

Karl Heindel, 2018-11-08

The feel is exactly the same and the double tap is not appealing to me. You can tap anywhere on the lower part of the pencil, not in any particular place. Gernerally speaking I like Surface Pen better, even if Apple Pencil is slightlly more responsive.

Volker Weber, 2018-11-08

I agree. The first i mentioned was the lack of an ESC Key and a Home button on the Keyboard. Second the lack of an touchpad. As an user I am forced to switch between the Keyboard and the Screen. It is an either or decission where the user should have a choice.

I agree (as you stated in a previous post) that the larger iPad Pro is the better choice for a every day device when you planto use the keyboard. I probably will swap mine to the larger one.

However, there is still a way to go for Apple. The hardware would be good for years but the software and the accessories (i.e. keyboard) need substantial improvement.

Dominique Roller, 2018-11-08

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