With demand continuing to grow for tablets, two of the biggest makers of tablets are refreshing their lineups for 2021. Apple used its fall product event earlier this month in part to introduce updated new models in the iPad portfolio, while Microsoft’s own product event—held this week—included a major focus on refreshed models in the Surface family of tablets. Among the new releases are Apple’s ninth-gen iPad and Microsoft’s Surface Go 3. Both tablets offer a compact form factor, compared to their larger “pro” counterparts, as well as a comparatively affordable price tag. But the new iPad and Surface Go 3 offer plenty of differences from each other, too. Among the key differences: the ninth-gen iPad runs a mobile operating system, iPadOS 15, while the Surface Go 3 will be preloaded with a full PC operating system, the brand-new Windows 11.
Which of the two tablets will be the best fit for your needs? What follows is our comparison of the Apple iPad (9th Gen) vs Microsoft’s Surface Go 3 on specs, features and price.
Display and Keyboard
In terms of the iPad and Surface lineups, Apple’s ninth-gen iPad and Microsoft’s Surface Go 3 are the closest in size for the display. The Surface Go 3 display measures 10.5 inches, just a bit larger than the 10.2-inch display on the new iPad. Both tablets use LCD technology, with Microsoft’s PixelSense display on the Surface Go 3 and Apple’s Retina display on the new iPad—both of which offer vibrant and colorful viewing quality. The iPad comes out ahead on display resolution, however, with resolution of 264 pixels per inch compared to 220 ppi on the Surface Go 3. The iPad also gets a boost from the addition of Apple’s True Tone display technology—which “makes images appear more natural and provides users with a more comfortable viewing experience in all lighting environments,” Apple said in its news release on the new iPad. Plus, the ninth-gen iPad goes up to 500 nits of brightness. While Microsoft didn’t disclose the brightness for the Surface Go 3, the predecessor device, the Surface Go 2, had a display that reportedly maxed out at 400 nits. For accident-prone buyers, the Surface Go 3 may have an advantage on durability with the use of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the display.
Both Apple and Microsoft tout their tablets’ compatibility with detachable keyboards (sold separately). For the Surface Go 3, it’s the Surface Go Signature Type Cover (featuring fabric around the keys) or the Surface Go Type Cover (which doesn’t include the fabric). Both of the Surface Go keyboards offer a respectable 1 mm of key travel and come with a trackpad. The ninth-gen iPad is only compatible with Apple’s Smart Keyboard, which does not include a trackpad and has shallower key travel. Thus, for users who intend to get a lot of typing done using their tablet (or would be thrown off by not having a trackpad), the Surface Go 3 is likely going to be the better choice.