The battle of the hybrids is hotting up. These multi-purpose computers which are just as at home in the office, on the train or lying back with on the sofa are the next frontier in terms of personal devices. The top two contenders for your time and money are Apple and Microsoft, obviously, and with our discount scheme you can get one of their top-of-the range hybrids at a reduced price. To help you decide between the two we take a good hard look at the iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 – two pretty impressive machines – to see which hybrid is right for you.
The A9X processor chip in the iPad Pro is at the cutting edge when it comes to Apple-made tablets, it’s 2.26 GHz and 4GB RAM put it about twice as fast as the iPad Air 2. Models start at 32GB of storage, going up to 128GB if you’re willing to pay a bit more.
When it comes to the Surface Pro there’s a wider range of selection in your tablet. Storage starts at 128GB and rises to 256GB while processing power ranges from the Intel Core M3 with 4GB RAM all the way up to the i7 chip with 16GB RAM.
Verdict: The iPad Pro sits on the lower end of the Surface price spectrum and at that end it might just edge it, but if you move past the base model Surface then there’s no competition. It’ll cost a bit more but the i5 and i7 chip models have got real PC power and they outperform the iPad across the board.
Both these tablets are big, with and without their keyboard peripheries. The Surface Pro 4 is the smaller model with a still impressive 12.3-inch display, while the iPad bulks out at 12.9 inches. Display wise, there’s very little in it between the two screens, the iPad’s a little brighter, the Surface a little warmer but they’re both excellent. The iPad is also (despite its huge screen) both thinner and lighter than the surface, although there’s a compromise with a lack of ports. The Surface features a full size USB port, alongside a micro SD and mini DisplayPort.
Verdict: Neither of these models can be comfortably used one-handed, a little too heavy and a little too long for proper balance, it’s probably a draw. The larger screen on the iPad is great for creatives but the Surface is just a little more functional with its extra ports and in-built kickstand.
If you’re going to be using these tablets as laptops you’re going to have to invest in their added extras. The Microsoft model actually comes with a stylus complete with handy eraser end that you can click to bring up the OneNote app. Its keyboard, the Surface Pro Type Cover comes with a clicking touch-pad, backlit and with magnetic stability features, it’s a satisfying and robust addition.
The iPad Pro requires you to buy both the stylus and the keyboard. The stylus is a great tool for artists, it’s easier to draw with, more sensitive and has sensors that can detect both pressure and angle of your hand for different features, the one draw-back being that it doesn’t have a place to store it like the Surface does. The Apple Smart Keyboard comes with the added benefit of being water-resistant but sadly lacks frills like backlighting or a touchpad.
Verdict: If the question is “what makes for a better hybrid computer for work?” then the winner here is clearly the Surface Pro 4, without a touchpad the iPad Pro forces you to rely on its stylus (or your fingers) for editing documents, which just isn’t practical or enjoyable. If, however, you’re an artist then the iPad Pro is the only way to go, you can use the Surface stylus for drawing but it doesn’t come close to Apple’s offering.
Odd and Ends
Battery Life Verdict: it’s the iPad pro, without question. It’ll average a good 3 or 4 hours more than the Surface Pro. It hits 10 hours battery life compared to the 6 for Microsoft’s offering. Obviously actual life will depend on how you use your device but there’s no competition here.
Audio Verdict: The Surface Pro 4 has two front facing speakers that produce some excellent audio by tablet standards. The winner here though is quite easily the iPad Pro, it’s got four speakers that play louder, produce better bass and handle mid to high ranges with aplomb.
OS & Apps Verdict: When it comes to apps it’s pretty much a draw, the iPad has better touch/stylus based apps whereas the Surface is better for desktop programs. On the OS front, both deal well with multi-tasking and have nice little features to make sure you don’t lose your pages, Windows 10 though, is better. It’s just more robust and better integrated.
Camera Verdict: Again, a clear win for the iPad. Despite technically very similar hardware, it just takes better, crisper pictures.
It’s a funny thing, if you’re looking for an all-round hybrid experience, a 2-1 tablet/laptop, then the clear winner is the Surface Pro 4. It’s more powerful, better for gaming, better for office work and on the model’s higher end price wise there’s no competition. If it had better battery life it’d be perfect.
But, what the iPad Pro does well, it does really well. If you just want a more powerful tablet, with extra functionality then it’s great. Its stylus is the best for art you can find outside of specialised tablets, it’ll run games that other tablets (besides its competition here) just won’t, great cameras, great audio and you don’t need to worry about bringing the charger when you leave the house.
It doesn’t feel like either of these machines is truly better than the other, just that they’re for different things, this is not Messi Vs Ronaldo, it’s football vs rugby.