Apple iPad Pro Versus Microsoft Surface Pro

Sep 11, 2015

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

Apple iPad Pro Versus Microsoft Surface Pro

Sep 11, 2015

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

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Apple iPad Pro versus Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet review

We’re talking about a toy versus a tool here – iPads are for ordering Sushi, the Surface Pro is for actual work.

I wouldn’t normally start an article with my conclusion, but in this case I though it would be fun to take a little bit of a lighthearted look at the differences between the newly announced iPad Pro versus the year old Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

While the iPad Pro will no doubt gather all the celebrity glitz from the usual suspects – the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (and the soon to be announced Microsoft Surface Pro 4) are so far superior when it comes to performance and real world productivity it hardly seems fair to even compare the two.

The Microsoft Surface Pro is for Creative Professionals

First, lets take a look at the operating systems and processors.

With the Microsoft Surface Pro you get an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 running full blown Windows 10.  This means you can run any software you can run on your desktop/laptop and standard mobile apps.

The iPad Pro runs iOS 9 on the new and improved A9X processor.

I don’t think that you can seriously compare the capabilities of iOS 9 and Windows 10 with a straight face.

However, the biggest fail of the iPad Pro is its lack of useful connectivity.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 comes with a full size USB3 port, a Micro SD card reader and Mini Display Port.

In other words – the Surface seamlessly connects with your external hard drive, USB drive, camera, card reader, USB mic and other accessories necessary to do your job.

In contrast, the iPad Pro has USB2 via the famously crippled Lightning Port (one-way upload of jpg photos from an external hard drive or USB drive only).

Apple iPad Pro versus Microsoft Surface Pro 3 USB ports

Apple’s iPad Pro tech specs don’t mention any other external connectivity except WiFi or LTE, so while Apple claims:

…you can quickly open even the largest files. Like the big 4K movie you just edited or all the RAW images you imported from your HD camera.

How you are actually supposed to get those 4K video files – or even RAW image files on and off of your iPad Pro is a bit of a mystery (WiFi I guess???).

Seriously, how much 4k video do you really think you could store on the iPad Pro’s puny 128 GB of internal storage anyway?

Apple iPad Pro versus Microsoft Surface Pro 3 iOS 9 A9X processor

The iPad Pro Is An iPad That Runs Microsoft Office With an Optional Keyboard & Stylus

There are two areas where the iPad Pro beats out the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

First, the Apple App Store has a much bigger app selection than what is available from the Windows Store.  While all of the popular mobile apps like Facebook, Instagram etc. are there – some specialty apps are missing like Easy Release, DSLR Controller or DSLR Dashboard (technically you can run DSLR Dashboard from Windows – but it’s a bit of a hassle to setup compared to running it on an Android device).

In particular the auto form fill function of LastPass isn’t supported on the Surface, which is a bit of a pain in the butt.

However, this point is of course somewhat redundant since you can run full desktop software on the Surface Pro too.

Second, the iPad Pro has a better screen than the Surface Pro 3 (12.9 inch 2732×2048 resolution for the iPad Pro versus 12 inch 2160×1440 resolution for the Surface Pro 3).

Apple does build gorgeous screens, so if displaying your portfolio on your tablet is one of your prime uses – the iPad Pro would certainly take the cake there.

Apple iPad Pro versus Microsoft Surface Pro 3 screen resolution review

Oh, and if for some unknown reason you feel compelled to take photos and video with your tablet, the iPad Pro has a better rear facing camera, while the Surface’s forward facing camera is superior.

In all seriousness, the most useful feature of the new iPad Pro (and this should tell you something) is that it runs Microsoft Office.

It was a big enough concession for Apple to finally add a keyboard and a stylus (aka the “Apple Pencil”) to an iPad, but they just couldn’t quite bring themselves to go all the way and add a mouse too.

If you plan on doing any actual work on your tablet, the lack of a mouse is a deal killer.

Apple iPad Pro versus Microsoft Surface Pro 3 apple pencil review

Which Pro Tablet Offers More Value To Your Business?

Unless you are running a Sushi restaurant, I don’t think there is any question between the value an Apple iPad Pro offers versus the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

Besides being far more useful, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is still less expensive than an iPad Pro.

A 128GB i5 Surface Pro 3 lists for $814 compared to $1048 for the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil (a stylus is included with the Surface Pro).

From a creative professional’s standpoint – the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 will run all of your Photoshop CC desktop applications including Photoshop, Lightroom, Acrobat, Premiere Pro etc.  Why anyone would be satisfied with Photoshop Fix or Lightroom mobile when they could just roll with the real deal is beyond me.

In addition to Office – a necessity in any true business environment, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 will also run common small business desktop applications such as QuickBooks and other industry standard software.

Apple iPad Pro versus Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

Really, I have no idea to whom Apple would be marketing the iPad Pro.

If you’re a business owner who wants to invest in a true portable productivity tool, the Surface Pro is both more capable and more cost effective.

If you’re an everyday consumer who just wants to check your email and update your Facebook status – you can already do that on a standard iPad.

Apple iPad Pro versus Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review desktop apps

What Do You Think?

If your business was in the market for a productivity tablet, what would you choose – the Apple iPad Pro or the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (or wait for the Microsoft Surface Pro 4)?

What do you think of the Apple iPad Pro versus Microsoft Surface Pro 3?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

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13 responses to “Apple iPad Pro Versus Microsoft Surface Pro”

  1. emergphotog Avatar

    It’s unfair to compare a product released yesterday with one that has been in market for a while. Especially with regard to applications.

    My sister has a Surface Pro and it still doesn’t send email reliably. And this isn’t user error.

    The Surface Pro is a great machine, I am sure. But I can’t imagine anyone considering an iPad pro would buy a Surface, or vice versa. They’re very different and as you correctly note the Surface Pro 3 has been out and if people wanted it they would buy it,

    1. Gunzta Avatar

      Email works flawlessly for me on multiple Surfaces and Pro devices. Are you sure its not user error? If you are sure, then its time to get the device fixed (or reset) because this problem is local to your sister. Just saying.

      1. Paul Menard Avatar
        Paul Menard

        its likely a software glitch
        theres also other competitors, like the big samsung tablet, i went with a surface pro as i was able to get one really cheap second hand, but first version and 64gb.
        but the connectivity will be a pain for videographers and photographers, usb2 will get you 15-20mb a sec at most transfer speed, wifi even less ? (5mb a sec?) and eat battery, im getting 70/80 and thats the limit of the sd cards and hd that i have, so it may well be able to go faster

  2. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    The gist of it is this: iPad Pro makes absolutely no sense to any of the markets it seems to be trying to target. It’s no replacement for a Surface Pro 3 when it comes to photo and video editing on the go, it’s not a good alternative for business purposes, it can’t replace a professional tool for artists like Wacom tablets, and if the question is ease of use and basic functionality, then an iPad Pro makes no sense over regular iPad models…. UNLESS you really really want a big screen.

    Say you, for some reason, like to do very simple, non-professional sketches… or just likes to do hand-writting, while still having an iPad for it’s simplicity, plus the occasional Microsoft Office work, it’s there. You can also do it with a Surface 3, but those used to iOS simplicity will rather get a bigger iPad Pro, even if it means trading of lots of power for it.

    Windows 10 interface got better for tablet usage, but I’ll be very honest here, I think it still pales in comparison regarding user experience and interface design when compared even to older iOS versions. I had an iPad 2 and I currently own a Dell Venue Pro 11 (core i5, 8Gb of ram – Windows 10 installed after a lot of roundabout work), it’s a personal opinion.

    That said, while the idea might not sound appealing to us, I’m pretty shure it’ll still have a market. Mainly Apple loyalists, and people who can’t bother to do proper research for their aspiring areas, because that’s how Apple usually sells their stuff. Tons of people who don’t care for what is best, or can better enable them to do whatever they want, but find comfort in simplicity and few choices. Because this is the one thing you gotta give Apple credit for: User experience design. No one has tackled it quite as well as Apple just yet.

    Overall, I think the Apple fad is becoming more tonned down over the years in press, but it’s still rather problematic. You go look at any major news network this week, you’ll see articles about all the keynote announcements. Even when reviews are negative, they dominate the press for at least a couple of weeks (sometimes extending to months), and products are announced like they were something that was never done before.

    But dig just a bit under the surface and you’ll find out that there’s nothing new in any of this. Apple hasn’t been releasing new products in the market for quite a while.
    That’s another discussion though, I’ll leave it aside.

    If there is one damning thing about the iPad Pro that I have to point though, is it’s price. I could forgive it all if it was just a reasonably priced bigger iPad. No problem with that, at the least minimum for people who would rather have an iPad with a bigger screen. But if you are gonna charge for a tablet with a tablet OS, the same price that you can get a tablet with a full laptop inside it (which is an incredible feature by itself) and a laptop/desktop computer OS running without any restraints, then I can’t abide.

    It’s not that I hate Apple stuff or anything of the sort. I had and enjoyed using an iPad 2 for a long time. I really liked how they thought out the whole interface. But the iPad Pro, both for it’s own name’s sake and for the price they are asking, should at least have something closer to MacBook specs in it, with perhaps an adapted version of OSx running. I’d love to see something like that happening, though I fully realize it’d be tons of work.
    But if Microsoft was able to do it, even if the actual usability is slowly becoming better over time, Apple shoud look in the same direction.

    And I bet even the most hard wired Apple loyalists would rather see an “iPad Pro” more like that then what was announced. A Macbook in tablet form, that still keeps the entire tablet functionality (otherwise it wouldn’t make much sense) while also sporting OSx. I’d then fully agree with the “Pro” part, price, all the ads and keynote content. Doesn’t have to be Windows, but it has to be more than a mobile operational system.

  3. Lee Daley Avatar
    Lee Daley

    As an animator and VFX artist the Surface pro has been a revelation to my work. As for the BIG iPad I’m sure it will do well but my issue with the iPad was never the screen size but as you mentioned connectivity. Currently contracting at a large advertising agency so surrounded by a plethora of mac devices and yesterday mornings team meting of around 40 creatives the consensious was its for doing creative thinkings and not necessarily for creatives who want to do “serious” work. Apple are changing and i have no doibt they will pick a time when they will add a USB C port or what ever to an iPad.

  4. aron nelson Avatar
    aron nelson

    There are lots of musicians that want a bigger screen. Especially for reading music on stage. I know quite a large group that was waiting for a larger iPad. That’s one segment.

  5. Alberto Echeverri Avatar
    Alberto Echeverri

    This is an interesting discussion. As a consultant, ipad pro won’t fit my needs, working with excel Without pad or mouse is very difficult and take a lot of time. Also, a few days ago I received a message from office in my ipad saying than office for ipad won’t be supported anymore… I am heavy user of apple hardware but I am seriously thinking to move to surface If I don’t find a light device from apple to work office on daily basis

    1. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      that is why they made the apple pencil… once you try using it .. you will never touch a mouse again.. believe me.

      1. JP Danko Avatar
        JP Danko

        Excel is unusable without a mouse. Same for pretty much all accounting and standard office productivity software – most were designed to be used on a desktop with a mouse – a stylus is not a usable substitute. Word is surprisingly good with just touch and the keyboard. A stylus is good for Photoshop and drawing applications of course – but that’s about it. Handwritten note software just isn’t user friendly enough to be useful – again no point to a stylus if you are going to be typing notes anyway.

  6. Balázs Fazekas Avatar
    Balázs Fazekas


  7. Roger Toliver Avatar
    Roger Toliver

    The only issue I have with editing images on the Surface Pro in Lightroom is that I’m left handed. All of the develop tools are on the right which makes for using the pen a pain. Other than that I love using the Surface Pro 2 for the majority of my business and field editing.

    1. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      are u F’ing kiddin me bro??? For real that is your issue ??? that would affect your workflow? if you are such a prissy dude i can’t imagine what would happen if they gave you a Wacom Cyntiq…you would curl into a ball in a corner and start crying mommy…

    2. JP Danko Avatar
      JP Danko

      I agree – using a stylus with Lightroom when you’re left handed is a royal pain. I think in general it is much harder to adapt to a tablet/stylus when you’re left handed – because we mouse with our right, using the stylus to replace the mouse makes everything completely backwards – its a rightist world.