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Pro tablet face-off: 9.7-inch iPad Pro vs. Galaxy TabPro S vs. Surface Pro 4

Gordon Mah Ung | March 23, 2016
After Apple's latest dig at PC users, we find out how the new iPad Pro really stacks up against Pro PC tablets.

Apple thinks PC users are ready to make the jump to the iPad Pro. Not to the original 13-inch iPad Pro, which everyone can agree is just too damned large and pricey. But to the newly announced 9.7-inch iPad Pro, which the company expects Windows PC users will adopt in droves. Obviously, a claim like that can’t go unchallenged. To see how the new iPad Pro really stacks up, I put it against its two natural Windows-based competitors: Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Samsung’s Galaxy ProTab S. Read on to see how the new iPad Pro rates in several key categories.

Price

I’m going to ignore the 32GB iPad Pro here (seriously, 32GB?), and focus on the 128GB model, for an apples-to-apples comparison. I’m also throwing in the peripheral goodies, because a productivity tablet without the keyboard or pen isn’t actually productive.

That puts the iPad Pro right at $997. That’s slightly cheaper than the Surface Pro 4 with its optional keyboard (pen is included) at $1,029. That Surface Pro 4 model comes with 128GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, and a Core i5 Skylake CPU.

Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S is decently priced. For $899, you get 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a Core m3 CPU, and the keyboard, which comes stock. The only unknown is the price of the as-yet-unavailable pen for the Galaxy TabPro S. If it’s, say, $50, I’d say we have a three-way tie on the price front.

Winner: Tie

Performance

I could expend 3,000 words on why the iPad Pro isn’t really faster than a PC, or you can just read this story. Because the new, smaller iPad Pro has the same CPU, I expect the performance to be the same or slightly worse. So this is one category where I’m pretty comfortable making a ruling without ever touching the hardware. First place goes to Intel’s Skylake Core i5-6300U in the Surface Pro 4. I don’t think anyone who is rational will doubt that.

It’s a hotter, more power-hungry chip than the others, so it’s no surprise that it’s also faster. The real contest is for second place. What’s faster, the low-power Core m3 6Y-30 in the Galaxy TabPro S or the Apple A9X CPU in the iPad Pro? (As a bonus, I’ll also throw in the “I’m a productive tablet, too” Google Pixel C.)

The benchmarks tell the story: For second place, it’s Intel again, with the Galaxy TabPro S’s Core m3. In TabletMark V3, which uses each platform’s APIs to simulate various tasks such as word processing, email, and photo editing, the Skylake Core m3 beats both the A9X in the iPad Pro and the Tegra X1 in the Google Pixel C.

 

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