Compared: Microsoft's Surface Book 3 versus Apple's iPad Pro

The advent of Microsoft’s Surface Book 3 has given mobile workers another option for a high-performance laptop-tablet hybrid, but could potential buyers be better served by an iPad Pro?

Microsoft introduced updates to its Surface tablet line on May 6, including the iPad-style Surface Go 2 and the Surface Book 3 hybrid tablet-laptop. As with the previous Surface Book 2, the third generation offers a tablet with a removable keyboard element, one that effectively transforms it into a notebook.

With Apple’s continued pressure to make the iPad Pro range a highly portable workstation and an alternative to laptops, especially given the launch of the new Magic Keyboard, it seems more appropriate to compare it to the latest version of Microsoft.

While it is more appropriate to compare the Intel-based Surface Book 3 to something like a MacBook Pro for comparison, this would not take into account the simple fact that the Surface is also a tablet, what a MacBook cannot become without some important after-sales modifications. The touch screen interface and additional camera on the back also make the tablet-to-tablet comparison more appropriate than the tablet against the laptop.

Characteristics

iPad Pro (2020) Surface Book 3 Price (initial configurations) From $ 799 to $ 999 From $ 1,599 to $ 2,299 Dimensions 247.6 mm x 178.5 mm x 5.9 mm,
280.6mm x 214.9mm x 5.9mm
312 mm x 232 mm x 23 mm,
343 mm x 251 mm x 23 mm
Weight 471 g, 641 g 1.5 kg, 1.6 kg, 1.9 kg Bionic A12Z Chip Processors with neural engine and M12 Core i5 quad-core 1.2 GHz coprocessor,
Quad-core Core i7 1.3 GHz, storage 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB SSDMemory 6 GB8 GB, 16 GB, 32 GB 3733 MHz LPDDR4X, 11 inch display 2388 x 1668 screen wide color (P3) with True Tone,
12.9 inch screen 2,732 x 2,048 wide colors (P3) with 13.5 inch True Tone screen 3,000 x 2,000 PixelSense,
15 inch screen 3240 x 2160 pixels PixelSense – Graphics – Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 4GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6 GB keyboard Magic keyboard, Smart Keyboard Folio case (available separately) Detachable keyboard (included) Connectivity1 USB-C, Smart Connector2 USB-A 3.1, 1 USB-C, 2 Surface Connect ports, SDXC card, socket headset, Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax networking, Bluetooth 5.0 Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0 Cameras Front: 7MP TrueDepth with Face ID
Rear: Wide 12MP, Ultra Wide 10MP, LiDAR. Before: 5MP with Windows Hello
Rear: 8MP Audio Four speakers, five microphones Front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, dual array of far-field studio microphones
28.65 watt-hour battery, 10 hours of use,
36.71 watt-hour battery, 10 hours of use, 15.5 hours of typical device use,
17.5 hours of typical device use

Height and weight

The Surface Book 3 is offered in two versions, equipped with 13.5-inch and 15-inch screens. Since they are both larger than the two 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro screens, it’s understandable that Microsoft’s offering is considerably larger than Apple’s version.

Although Surface Books have luxuriously large footprints to accommodate larger screens, they are considerably thicker than iPad Pro models, from 23mm to 5.9mm. IPads are almost a quarter of the thickness of Surface Book 3.

Surface Book 3 keyboard can be attached to the back, storing it behind the screen when used as a tablet

The difference in size also informs the weight, which again places Microsoft at the heaviest end. While iPads weigh 471 grams and 641 grams depending on size, the Surface Book 3 weighs differently depending on the configuration, ranging from 1.5 kg to a heavy 1.9 kg at the top end.

It’s easy to forget that Microsoft includes a keyboard with the Surface Book 3, which adds extra weight and thickness to the package.

The equivalent of the iPad Pro side would be to fix a magic keyboard. In terms of weight, the combination of the larger iPad Pro model and its respective Magic keyboard represents a total of more than 1.3 kilos, which makes it even lighter than the Surface.

Despite this, although it adds weight to the entire iPad, the end result is one that is roughly three times the thickness of the iPad Pro alone at 15 millimeters, but still much thinner than his rival.

Poster

Higher, the screens used by Microsoft are larger than the Apple versions. The 13.5 inch and 15 inch PixelSense screens have aspect ratios of 3: 2 and a contrast ratio of 1600: 1. Their resolutions of 3000 by 2000 and 3240 by 2160 respectively give them a pixel density more than adequate 267 PPI for the 13.5 inch model, 260 PPI for the 15 inch.

Surface Book 3 can be detached from the keyboard section quite easily

Surface Book 3 can be detached from the keyboard section quite easily

On the iPad Pro side, the P3 Liquid Retina IPS color screens with ProMotion and True Tone have resolutions of 2,388 by 1,668 and 2,732 by 2,048, depending on the size. The resulting pixel density of 264 PPI for the two models places them in the same stage as the Surface Books.

The two are relatively comparable on paper in this regard.

Performance

The performance of Apple’s mobile processor has improved steadily and has reached a level where it is on par with desktop related equivalents, although that is only part of the equation.

The iPad Pro uses the SoC Bionic A12Z with the neural engine and the M12 coprocessor, associated with 6 gigabytes of memory. According to Geekbench tests, it obtains 1,112 or 1,113 in single-core tests, varying according to the model, increasing to 4,578 and 4,608 for multi-core tests.

Microsoft’s new Surface Book 3 models use either a tenth-generation Intel Core i5-1035G7 quad-core processor or a Core i7-1065G7 quad-core chip, with the 13-inch being configurable with both and the 15-inch having only the Core i7. It is associated with 8 GB, 16 GB or 32 GB of LPDDR4X memory at 3,733 MHz in the 13.5 inch model, while 16 GB and 32 GB are available for the 15 inch version.

Research on Geekbench for chips gives results from May 11 of a “Microsoft Corporation Surface Laptop” and a “Microsoft Corporation Surface Pro 7” for the Core i5 with 8 GB of memory and the Core i7 with 16 Go respectively. It is very likely to be the same model, but poorly labeled.

According to the results, the Core i5 managed between 1,113 and 1,057 on the single-core score, and 3,906 to 4,299 for the multi-core tests. The Core i7 list fared better with 1,255 and 4,861 scores.

While it’s easy to say that the Core i7 Surface Book 3 is the most powerful in the group, the fact that the iPad Pro is roughly at the same level says a lot about Apple’s designs, even with the downside of memory.

Apart from the references, the Surface Book 3 is also assisted by Intel Iris Plus Graphics on the Core i5 model, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 4 GB GPU on the 13.5-inch Core i7 and a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6 GB on the model 15 inches. The inclusion of Nvidia GPUs will certainly help with intensive graphics tasks and with applications that can take advantage of GPU acceleration.

Connectivity, audio, battery

As usual for Apple, the iPad Pro offers relatively few physical connection options, with the use of a smart connector on the back or the USB-C port on the base. On the wireless side, it offers Wi-Fi 6 support and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, which covers a wide range of wireless connection needs.

The Surface range generally goes further than Apple by offering connection points, and the same goes for the Surface Book 3. On board are a pair of USB-A 3.1 ports, one USB-C port, two ports Surface Connect, an SDXC card, and a headphone jack, as well as the same wireless connectivity as the iPad Pros.

Microsoft keeps the map on the keyboard section

Microsoft keeps the map on the keyboard section

In terms of audio, the Surface Book 3 has Dolby Atmos-compatible stereo speakers on the front, as well as two far-field Studio microphones. The iPad Pro chooses four speakers, allowing sound to output correctly from the left and right channels, regardless of its orientation, and a collection of five microphones.

The battery life of the iPad Pro pair would be 10 hours of use. Microsoft certainly wins because the 13.5-inch model offers up to 15.5 hours of “typical device use” from a single charge, down to 17.5 hours for the 15-inch model.

Cameras

Since the Surface Book and iPad Pro can be used as tablets, the situation of the camera is more important than in a comparison of laptops. As you would expect, both offer better camera configurations than the typical laptop.

The iPad Pro has the front-facing 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera that works with Face ID for authentication. Microsoft is lagging behind here because it only has a 5-megapixel camera on the front, although it’s activated for Windows Hello, its own facial recognition system.

IPad Pro and LiDAR cameras easily beat Surface Book 3 offerings

IPad Pro and LiDAR cameras easily beat Surface Book 3 offerings

At the back, Apple wins again, because the iPad Pro has 12 megapixel wide and 10 megapixel ultra wide cameras and the new LiDAR sensor. The Surface Book 3 has an 8-megapixel rear camera with autofocus.

The lack of cameras on the Surface Book 3 also means that it cannot record video at the same level as the iPad Pro. The Surface can capture 1080P video, while the iPad offers 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, or 1080p at 240fps in slow motion. It can even capture 8 megapixel still images when recording 4K videos.

Pricing

The base models for the iPad Pro are $ 799 and $ 999 respectively for the 11-inch and 12.9-inch versions. For the Surface Book 3, the cheapest 13.5-inch Core i5 costs $ 1,599.99, while the 15-inch range starts at $ 2,299.99.

Again, this is far from everything.

The base 13.5-inch model of the Surface Book 3 comes with 256 GB of storage and 8 gigabytes of memory. Microsoft’s sales page advises switching to a Core i7 equivalent with 16 gigabytes of memory, which brings the price to $ 1999.99, doubling RAM and capacity to 32 GB and 512 GB, making it 2499.99 $, and this brings 1 terabyte of storage to its highest specification is $ 2,699.99.

On the 15-inch side, the base model comes with 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. Going to 32 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage brings the price to $ 2,799.99, 1 TB of storage increases it to $ 2,999.99 and 2 terabytes for a $ 3,399.99.

On the Apple side, the prices are a little cheaper.

The 128 GB of storage for the 11-inch iPad Pro can be increased to 256 GB at a price of $ 899, 512 GB for $ 1,099 and 1 TB at $ 1,299. For the 12 inch, the 256 GB version is $ 1099, 512 GB is $ 1299 and 1 TB is $ 1499. On all models, the upgrade from Wi-FI to Wi-Fi + Cellular is an upgrade from $ 150.

Again, this doesn’t take into account the keyboard, which is included on the Surface Book 3 but not on the iPad Pro. Although the magic keyboard may seem expensive at $ 299 for the 11-inch version and $ 349 for the 12.9 inch, this still does not bring the price of the iPad Pro close to Microsoft equivalents.

If you opted for the larger iPad with the highest capacity and added the Magic Keyboard, you are still considering a maximum expense of $ 1998.

In summary

Surface Book 3 is trying to fix the problem of running a laptop like a tablet. Apple looked at things in the opposite direction, making a tablet work like a laptop. In both cases, the companies involved came up with solutions that most people would probably be happy to use.

They are portable, can be used for typing like a laptop and offer the ease of a mobile device, all in one package. There is not much to fear here, as they both work in their own way.

Surface Book 3 in an assortment of guidelines

Surface Book 3 in an assortment of guidelines

The iPad Pro offers advantages over the Surface Book 3 in a few key areas, such as mass and weight, mobile-centric specs like cameras, and the huge cost difference.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s hybrid has its own advantages, including this extremely long battery life. There are also Windows features that iOS doesn’t offer, like the ability to install business apps outside of a digital market like the App Store, and the ability to develop apps, something that doesn’t isn’t really offered on Apple’s mobile platform.

One could easily say that the acquisition of a MacBook Pro instead of an iPad Pro would address these shortcomings, while going somewhat against the point of comparison.

For those who need graphics performance and are willing to pay for higher amounts of memory, need to use Windows and are ready to face a thicker and heavier device overall, the Surface has its audience. However, since the vast majority of tasks you want to do on a laptop could be done on an iPad Pro instead, this somewhat reduces the potential audience.

Ultimately, if a Windows tablet is required, the Surface Book 3 is an exceptional example of this type of device. For everyone, an iPad Pro will probably suffice.

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