Head To Head: Apple iPad Pro Vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Pro vs. Pro

Apple's iPad Pro monster 12.9-inch-screen tablet doesn't just redefine the iPad in the workplace, it begins to blur the line between a tablet and a MacBook Pro or notebook PC. But it's not alone.

When it comes to the enterprise, there is another tablet that is redefining productivity -- also giving laptops a run for their money. That, of course, is Microsoft's Surface Pro 3.

With the iPad Pro release, both Microsoft and Apple are poised to go mano a mano to win the hearts of business professionals itching to put more portability into their computing without sacrificing productivity.

Here's how the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 3 stack up against each other.

iPad Pro Basic Specs

The iPad Pro is Apple's biggest iPad, with a screen measuring 12.9 inches diagonally. The tablet itself measures 12 by 8.68 inches, 0.27 inch thick and 1.5 pounds. Additional specs include Apple's new A9X third-generation chip with 64-bit architecture, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 1.2-megapixel front FaceTime camera. Battery life is 9 to 10 hours depending on usage, according to Apple. Also, important to note is that the iPad Pro does not have the 3D Touch technology introduced with the iPhone 6s models.

The iPad Pro runs iOS 9.

Surface Pro 3 Basic Specs

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch-diameter display with hardware dimensions of 11.5 by 7.93 inches and 0.36 inches thick. The Surface Pro 3 weighs in at 1.76 pounds. The tablet has a 5-megapixel front- and rear-facing cameras. The high-end Surface Pro 3 has a fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4650U 1.70 GHz 64-bit processor. Surface Pro 3 boasts 9 hours of battery life with tasks such as Web browsing.

Comparing the iPad Pro to the Surface Pro 3, the iPad Pro has a display that is nearly an inch larger than Surface Pro 3, is nearly 0.1 inch thinner and weighs 0.26 pounds less.

The most recent Surface Pros ship with Windows 10 Pro.

Let's take a look at pricing next.

Which Costs More?

Pricing for the iPad Pro starts at about $800 for the 32-GB model with Wi-Fi, goes up to about $950 for the 128-GB model with Wi-Fi, and costs about $1,080 for the 128-GB model with Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities. There is no 32-GB cellular model of the iPad Pro.

Surface Pro 3 pricing ranges from about $800 for a 64-GB model running an Intel Core i3 processor, $900 for a 128-GB model with Intel's Core i5 processor, $1,400 for a 256-GB Intel Core i7, $1,150 for a 256-GB model running Intel Core i5, and at the high end, an $1,800 model running the Intel Core i7. All Surface Pro 3 models include Microsoft's stylus, the Surface Pen, but do not support cellular wireless networks. The best comparison is between the iPad Pro's top, 128-GB, $1,080 model and a similarly priced Surface Pro 3 that costs $1,150 running Intel Core i5 with 256 GB.

Microsoft delivers considerably more storage and also ships with the Surface Pen. Apple sells its new stylus, the Apple Pencil, for about $100. But if you want a cellular data plan with your Surface Pro 3, plan on spending an extra $100 for the capability.

So how does the Intel fourth-generation Core i5 compare to Apple's A9X third-generation chip? Read on.

A9X Chip Vs. Intel Core i5 Chip

Apple claims that the new A9X processor is a desktop-class processor that runs faster than the Surface Pro 3 with the i5 (priced at $1,080).

There is no question the A9X is a big step up from the previous generation AX8 chip. Apple claims the chip is 2 times faster than the A8X and faster than 80 percent of portable PCs released in the past year. Just keep in mind, a good deal of last year's laptops were priced considerably less than the average price of Apple's iPad Pros.

Apple also claims the A9X is up to 70 percent faster overall compared with the A8X and 90 percent faster in processing graphics. These are bold claims, but no independent testing has been conducted, so we'll have to take Apple's claims with a grain of salt until it's tested.

Intel's comparable fourth-generation i5 runs at 1.9GHz (with Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.9GHz) with Intel HD Graphics 4400.

Display Size And Quality Smackdown

The iPad Pro is not only bigger than other iPads -- it's a lot bigger. Compared with the screen on the iPad Air (which measures 9.7 inches diagonally), the iPad Pro's screen is more than 3 inches larger. Compared with the Surface Pro 3's 12-inch display, it has 7 percent more display area than that of Surface Pro 3.

The iPad Pro's screen has 5.6 million pixels in a 2732 by 2048 resolution (versus the 2160 by 1440 resolution of the Surface Pro 3), making it the highest-resolution Retina display Apple says it has ever produced.

As mentioned before, the iPad Pro does not feature the 3D Touch technology introduced with the iPhone 6s models. So, if pixels matter, the iPad Pro is the winner here.

Surface Pen Vs. Apple Pencil

Apple's first stylus for the iPad Pro is called simply Apple Pencil and costs $100. It comes packed with some pretty cool tech, including several sensors on both its case and the tip that can detect the position, pressure, angle and orientation of your strokes. Two sensors on the tip work with Multi-Touch display to detect whenever you're tilting the Pencil to create a shading effect.

The Apple Pencil has a Lightning connector at the eraser end of the stylus. Apple boasts a 12-hour battery life for the Pencil. Run out of juice? Apple claims charging the Pencil for 15 seconds will give you 30 minutes of battery life.

Microsoft calls its active capacitive pen simply the Surface Pen, which is included in the price of the Surface Pro 3. Sold separately, the Surface Pen will run you $50. Microsoft says the stylus supports 256 levels of pressure sensitivity and uses palm-blocking technology so you can draw, take notes and mark up documents. Unlike the Apple Pencil, Surface Pen uses disposable batteries to power the stylus.

Keyboard Crunch

The iPad Pro's $170 Smart Keyboard is like an oversized iPad Smart Cover. The Smart Keyboard can double as a stand for your monster 12.9-inch-screen tablet and, when folded, a perfect keyboard.

The Smart Keyboard connects magnetically to the iPad Pro via a strip of three metal contacts called a Smart Connector port. The Smart Connector powers the keyboard and acts as a data port, allowing the keyboard to run independent of Bluetooth.

The Surface Pro 3's keyboard is $130 extra. But the Surface Keyboard Cover, as Microsoft calls it, clips onto the Surface tablet using magnets and links via a Bluetooth connection. That differs from the iPad Pro’s keyboard, which has dedicated rock-solid data connection that can't be broken.

The biggest difference between the two (without testing them) is Apple’s Smart Keyboard is a full QWERTY layout, with no numeric keypad. Microsoft’s keyboard is slightly smaller and also does not include a numeric keypad.

Port Play

For some, ports are extremely important when it comes to relying on your tablet as a 2-in-1-class notebook. After all, the 2-in-1 form factor appeals to people who want the best of both tablet and notebook worlds. The Surface Pro 3 has a single USB 3.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort and a microSD slot that supports up to 128-GB-capacity cards.

As for the iPad Pro, it has a Lightning connector, a Smart connector and a headphone jack. The port to keep an eye on with the iPad Pro is the Smart connector. Apple said that third-party accessory makers will be able to create their own accessories for the Smart Connector. Accessories maven Logitec is one such manufacturer that says it will be coming out with accessories based on the Smart Connector this November.

The Surface Pro 3 has the clear advantage when it comes to ports. Not only does Surface Pro offer more ports, but it supports adding either a Bluetooth mouse or a USB mouse. No mouse support for a business-class tablet is likely a deal breaker for many.