Head-To-Head: Apple's New 9.7-Inch iPad Pro Vs. Microsoft's Surface Pro 4

The Battle For Tablet Supremacy

Calling it the "ultimate PC replacement," Apple Monday unveiled a 9.7-inch iPad Pro, looking to inject some mojo into its tablet line while doing battle not only with PCs, but Microsoft's line of Surface Pro tablets.

Apple currently sells the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the 7.9-inch iPad Mini, which were introduced last fall. It left its 9.7-inch iPad – its most popular tablet size – as is and sold it alongside the iPad Air 2, which was introduced in 2013. Despite the introduction of the iPad Pro line, however, iPad sales have declined steadily over the past two years and fell 25 percent to 16.1 million units in the fourth quarter.

During the event introducing the new iPad Pro Monday, Apple executives claimed the majority of iPad Pro buyers come from Windows-based machines. By the same logic, Microsoft would surely love PC users to upgrade to a member of its Surface Pro line, which comes in 10-inch, 12-inch and 12.3-inch sizes.

So, how does the latest addition to the iPad Pro line stack up against the Surface Pro? Click through to find out.

'Big Enough'

Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief, called the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro "big enough to get work done, but small enough to carry." The tablet is based on Apple's Retina display and a 64-bit A9X processor. It weighs less than a pound, and can be attached to a keyboard, and works with Apple's Pencil. The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro will be available in 32-GB, 128-GB and 256-GB models. The 256-GB iPad Pro will tout the most storage in any iOS device to date.

Surface Pro 4

The Surface Pro 4 comes with 16 GB of storage, but can be configured with up to 1 TB of storage. Microsoft claims the Surface Pro 4 is 30 percent more powerful than its previous model, the Surface Pro 3. The tablet features Intel’s 6th Generation Core m3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

iPad Pro Processor

Apple claims that the new A9X processor is a desktop-class processor that runs faster than the Surface Pro 4 family of processors that include 6th Gen Intel Core m3, i5, or i7. There is no question the A9X is a big step up from the previous-generation A8X chip. Apple claims the chip is two times faster than the A8X and is 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.

Surface Pro 4 Processor

The Surface Pro 4 houses the top-of-the-line Core i-series processors. The sixth-generation i5 runs at 1.1GHz (with Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.7GHz) with Intel HD Graphics 515. At the high end of the Surface Pro 4 SKU is the $1,500 model that features Intel's sixth-generation i7 running at 1.2GHz (with Turbo Boost Technology up to 3.1GHz).

The Surface Pro 4 also packs a model with an Intel m3 processor. Intel boasts its Core M processors help systems wake faster, have integrated graphics that support 4K screens and support True Key security, allowing users to use their face, fingerprint or multifactor authentication.

Bright Lights

While Apple's Schiller clearly framed the 9.7-inch iPad Pro as an alternative to PCs, he also pointed out that its display is entirely superior to that of the iPad Air 2, saying the Pro display is 40 percent less reflective than the Air 2, 25 percent brighter than the Air 2 and has 25 percent greater color saturation than the Air 2.

The Surface Pro 4 also boasts a display upgrade from its previous generation, sporting a 12.3-inch display, an upgrade from the Surface Pro 3's 12-inch screen.

Keys To Success

The Surface Pro 4 has a new keyboard (compatible with Surface Pro 3) that has a trackpad that is 40 percent larger than the Surface Pro 3 model. Microsoft said the Surface Pro 4 has a redesigned mechanical keyboard that delivers more fluid typing. A Pro version of the Surface 4 also includes a fingerprint reader.

Apple's Smart Keyboard ($149) is designed especially for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and Apple says it is thin yet durable, never needs to be charged and folds easily into a protective cover.

Pens And Pencils

Apple's first stylus for the iPad Pro is called simply Apple Pencil and costs $99. 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 strokes. Two sensors on the tip work with Multi-Touch display to detect whenevera user is 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 4. Sold separately, the Surface Pen will run you $60. Microsoft says the stylus supports 256 levels of pressure sensitivity and uses palm-blocking technology so users can draw, take notes and mark up documents. Unlike the Apple Pencil, Surface Pen uses disposable batteries to power the stylus. The Surface pen docks with strong magnets to the sides of the tablet.

Camera Work

The Surface Pro 4 touts a nifty, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with 1,080p HD video capabilities.

The new iPad Pro comes with the 12-megapixel iSight camera designed to shoot "live photos" and a 4K video, 5-megapixel HD camera.

Pricing And Availability

The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro can be had in the 32-GB version for $599, 128-GB for $749 and 256-GB, the most storage in any iOS device, for $899. It will be available to order from Apple.com and in its retail stores on March 24. Select carriers and Apple Authorized Resellers will be able to sell the new tablet a week later on March 31. The Surface Pro 4 has a starting price of $800 with 16 GB of storage, but can be configured with up to 1 TB of storage. A 256-GB Surface Pro 4 with the Core i7 runs about $1,799. The Surface Pro 4 is currently available. The device's stylus is included, but to get the keyboard users will have to shell out an extra $130.