Head-To-Head: Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Vs. Apple iPad 412:00 PM EST Wed. Sep. 25, 2013
This week, Microsoft unveiled Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, pressing its bets on a market that so far has been tepid toward Windows 8 and Microsoft-branded tablets. Scratch that latter problem off the list; the company's second-generation tablets now carry only the name "Surface." There's no more Windows 8 logo, and the maker's name is still nowhere in sight.
Meanwhile, Apple and its fruity logo continue to be gobbled up by more people than ever. Though its global market share has dropped according to an IDC report, the company worldwide sold 19.5 million tablets in the first quarter of this year, a 65 percent increase from the year-ago period. While Microsoft remains barely a blip on that global radar screen, the CRN Test Center takes a look at the specs of Surface Pro 2 versus Apple's fourth-generation iPad specs.
The Surface Pro 2 will contain a fourth-generation Intel Core i5-4200U dual-core 1.6GHz processor with 4 or 8 GB of RAM. Thanks to Intel's Haswell, Microsoft's high-end tablet will have all possible power-efficiency advantages plus the display horsepower of the Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU (also known as Intel Iris) running at 200MHz. More on Surface Pro 2's graphics and display capabilities later. Apple's dual-core A6X ARM-based SoC runs at 1.4GHz with 1 GB. The new chip includes four PowerVP SGX 554MP4 GPUs clocked at 300MHz.
Surface and iPad are available with 64 or 128 GB of solid-state storage. With Surface Pro 2, Microsoft adds 256- and 512-GB options. However, Microsoft warns that Windows can occupy as much as 43 GB of device storage.
Surface Pro 2 is built around the same 10.6-inch HD display as its predecessor. It's a 1920-x-1,080 10-point multitouch IPS panel with Microsoft ClearType sub-pixel rendering software at its back. At that size, the pixel count converts to just shy of 208 pixels per inch, well shy of Apple's Retina spec. Apple's 9.7-inch Retina IPS display cranks out 2,048-x-1,536 pixels, or 264 ppi. But hey, when held at an arm's length (which Redmond puts at 17 inches), it's impossible for the human eye to discern individual pixels anyway. By the way, Microsoft claims that thanks to some calibration and jiggering, its display is 46 percent more accurate than before. We'll have to take its word for it.
Both tablets are too large and heavy to hold for long periods. The Surface Pro 2's dark grey metal case is 10.8 inches long by 6.8 inches wide and slightly more than a half-inch thick. The iPad's black or white plastic and metal case measures 9.5 inches by 7.3 inches and is about a third of an inch thick. At a full 2 pounds, Surface Pro is more than a half-pound heavier than iPad's 1.44 pounds.
External device controls are about the same. Both have power and volume buttons, a headphone jack, mic and speakers, and a dedicated "home" button. Apple adds a combo mute and rotation-lock button. Microsoft adds a magnetic power connector that mimics technology that Apple developed and uses only on its laptops. For iPhones and iPads, Apple opts for the all-digital Lightning port, which handles charging, syncing, video output and other communications duties. Microsoft employs a Micro SDXC card reader, one full-size USB 3.0 port and a Mini DisplayPort output that requires one of Microsoft's $40 adapters to use.
Surface Pro 2 comes with Wi-Fi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 only. To those, Apple adds cellular and LTE with service from AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. Both products include two cameras that can capture HD video at 720p. Apple's rear-facing iSight camera also can record 1080p video, and its five-element lens with f/2.4 aperture and autofocus takes great snapshots. Both include the usual array of additional sensors for ambient light, movement, orientation and acceleration. Apple adds a GPS receiver; Microsoft includes a stylus.
Cost aside, choosing between Surface Pro 2 and iPad 4 comes down to the applications it can run and whether it will perform adequately and reliably. Sure, it's possible to run Windows apps on an iPad, but they rely on network connectivity and remotely controlling an app running elsewhere. Then there are group policies to consider. For an already-stretched enterprise IT department, the addition of security challenges for deploying non-Windows devices might seal the deal. Such worries evaporate with Windows 8 Pro. Alternatively, the stability of iOS and the volume of apps make the platform desirable.
Apple starts iPad 4 pricing at $499 for Wi-Fi-only models with 16 GB of memory. Available Oct. 22, Microsoft's 64-GB entry-level SKU costs $899 but includes only 28 GB of available user storage. For $929, just $30 more than Microsoft's entry-level Surface Pro 2, Apple delivers its top-end iPad with Retina display, 128-GB storage memory, and Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities. So unless you absolutely, positively have to be running Windows, Apple still offers a better overall value for a tablet product.