Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book Vs. iPad Pro and MacBook Air

Screen shot 2015-10-15 at 4.16.30 PMMicrosoft recently released a few new products that have definitely been turning heads. The Surface Pro 4 and the Microsoft Surface Book have been compared – by reviewers and by Microsoft itself – to Apple’s iPad Pro and to MacBook Air.

So how do the two compare side by side, and should you consider owning multiple devices and brands?

First, a look at how the products compare:

Surface 4 vs. iPad Pro

As far as specs go, the two are very similar; both weigh about the same, have about the same battery life (the iPad Pro, which will come out in November, lasts up to 10 hours and the Surface Pro 4 lasts up to nine hours) and have a display surface just over 12 inches.

When it comes to processor speed, Apple doesn’t give any specifics about how it compares with other devices, although it has said that its new A9X processor is almost two times faster than its predecessor. Microsoft has not compared the Surface Pro 4 with the iPad Pro, but it has said the Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than the MacBook Air, and 30 percent faster than the Surface Pro 3.

Reviewers have noted that the Surface Pro 4 has quite a few more ports than the iPad Pro: a USB 3.0 port, microSD card reader, Mini DisplayPort and a headphone jack, compared with the iPad’s headphone jack and Lighting port. Another big difference, especially given the full-computer pricing for both devices, is that the iPad Pro does not do everything a regular Mac computer can, since it runs on iOS and not OS X. The Surface Pro does have Windows 10, and can do everything a computer can.

The two also have different app selections. Because the Surface has Windows 10, you can use apps like Adobe Photoshop and other pro software. The iOS apps won’t be as capable, but if you prefer the design of iOS apps, that may not be a problem. If you think you’ll be using the device as a working professional, it’s worth considering what you’ll get out of the apps.

As far as pricing, both base models end up at a similar price point once accessories are included. The Surface starts at $899. That includes 128 GB of storage and a stylus, and if you add other accessories, the cost comes out to $1,029. The iPad starts at $799 for 32 GB of storage, but doesn’t include an Apple pencil – that’s another $100. Adding a keyboard brings the total to $1,068. If you want to get an iPad that has 128 GB, the price starts at $949.

Surface Book vs. MacBook Air

The Surface Book represents the first time Microsoft has taken its Surface line away from the “tablet that functions like a laptop” territory and introduced a laptop-tablet hybrid that’s closer to laptop.

In terms of display size, weight, and battery life, the two are very similar, although the Surface Book’s display features 267 pixels per inch, compared with MacBook Air’s 128 pixels per inch.

As with the comparison between the Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro, one main difference comes down to the different operating systems – although since MacBook Air is a full-fledged computer, its OS X El Capitan system is more comparable to the Windows 10 system.

Another big difference is design. Like other Apple laptops, the MacBook Air has a streamlined silver open-and-close design that’s sleek, but pretty straightforward. The Surface Book is more flexible; thanks to a very bendy hinge, you can either use it as a laptop, or take the screen off the keyboard altogether and use it as a tablet.

Pricing is very different, as well. The starting price for a Surface Book – which does include a stylus – is $1,499, whereas the starting price for a MacBook Air is $799.

Which Should You Own?

Of course a large part of how you answer that question will come down to personal preference; for some people the comfort, familiarity, and design of a Microsoft or iOS system will be the most important factor. If that is the case, Mac lovers should go for the MacBook Air, because for not much more money than the iPad Pro, it does quite a bit more. For die-hard Microsoft fans, it might make sense to pick the Surface Pro 4 – it costs less than the Surface Book, even when you add in the cost of a keyboard, and has the same operating system.

If you’re willing to mix it up, or you’re in the market for a tablet and a laptop, it might make sense to pick a Surface Book for for your laptop and an iPad Pro for your tablet. That gives you two worlds of apps to choose from, and both take advantage of touch screen technology. The only case in which that combo might not work would be if your work doesn’t easily transfer between the two operating systems.


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