The debate between the Surface Pro vs. iPad has been raging for a few years now. This comparison is going to focus on the two hybrids as mobile productivity devices.
My use case is this: I need a device that lets me write articles, review contracts, do light graphics design, sketch user interfaces, and is extremely mobile.
I have been buying iPad Pros and Surface Pros since the beginning and using both heavily to see where they naturally end up in my tool chain. Each has its strengths and weaknesses that make them more or less useful to me depending on the circumstance. Hopefully these observations will be helpful to you.
Surface Pro 6
For the past few years, the Surface Pros have been my go-to device when I travel. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 6's design is becoming quite dated, and with the collapse of the UWA (Windows Store Apps) ecosystem, I am having a harder and harder time recommending it.
- Great keyboard
- Pen performance is quite good
- It's reasonably light (1.6 pounds)
- Supports full Windows apps
- Has a microSD slot
- The kickstand is amazing
- The bezel consumes a lot of the screen
- Windows 10 is still flaky at times as a tablet OS
- No Thunderbolt or USB-C support
- Touch is sometimes less responsive than I'd like
- Touch-based software for it is very limited
- Lack of "mobile app" ecosystem (looking at you, Kindle)
iPad Pro 2018 (12.9)
I was reluctant to pick up another Pad Pro. The iPads are terrific consumption devices, but have traditionally been mediocre at productivity - except in specialized cases. That, however, changed with the introduction of iPadOS 13. iPadOS supports mice, better split-screen use, has a real file system, and is being released just as the pencil support in apps is reaching critical mass.
- Very light (about 1.3 pounds)
- Very little bezel
- Not flaky in use
- Amazing app ecosystem that makes it easy to get apps to work together
- Pencil "feels" better for sketching than the Surface Pro's pen
- iPadOS can't touch Windows or macOS yet for power user productivity
- A cool case (I have a Zugu) can't touch the built-in kickstand of the Surface Pro
- The Apple Pencil does not have an eraser (extremely annoying)
- Limited to lightweight apps currently
- Front camera position not ideal for horizontal use
At the risk of this sounding like a cop-out, you can't really go wrong with ether. But if I could only take one device with me on a trip, it would still be the Surface Pro 6, despite the fact that I enjoy using the iPad Pro more.
The Surface Pro's kickstand and attachable keyboard are just irresistible advantages that outweigh the fact that its design is aging and that its "app" ecosystem is weak. I just wish that Microsoft would update the design, even if it meant creating a more premium model. As a result, I'd gain some additional screen space, and I'd even be able to attach an external GPU to it when not traveling.
The end result is that I find myself using the iPad Pro whenever possible, and use the Surface Pro whenever I have to. This means that when I absolutely have to get work done, I reach for my Surface Pro, but otherwise it's my iPad Pro that gets the attention.
Let me hear your thoughts in the comments. What matters to you in a tablet device these days?