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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.

Moving on to graphics performance, I ran Futuremark’s 3DMark on all four devices. Below, you can see the overall performance of each device in the Ice Storm Unlimited test. The test factors in the CPU performance for games physics and employs real-world techniques that are used by game developers.

Here’s the pure graphics performance of the four devices. PC faithful should take note: ARM chips, once thought to be inferior to the mighty x86 in the PC (not including Atom, of course), are getting pretty damned close.

Winner: Surface Pro 4

Screen

Full details on the new iPad Pro’s screen aren’t known, but Apple has said it’s a photo-aligned IPS panel similar to the one used in the big iPad Pro. Display experts have described the big iPad Pro’s panel as “Very Good to Excellent.” So take that screen and decrease its reflectivity, then give it the ability to adjust its color temperature based on the environmental light, as Apple has done, and you’re probably going to get a top-notch panel.

That said, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 is no piker. Display expert Ray Soneira called it “one of the very best and most accurate displays available on any mobile platform and OS.” Soneira, who apparently tore down a Surface Pro 4’s screen to measure its power consumption said it uses less power than an iPad Air 2.

The wild card here is really Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S, which uses an incredible 12-inch Super AMOLED panel. The Surface Pro 4 and new iPad Pro both have IPS panels, which use traditional LED backlighting that can sometimes be uneven or blotchy (although Microsoft and Apple usually bring their best efforts to this game).

Super AMOLEDs are hard to beat when it comes to pixel persistence and black levels. The latter is a consequence of the way AMOLEDs work: When something’s black, there’s no light being produced, while traditional IPS panels have to mask or block the light, with varying degrees of success.

Still, without a visual confirmation of the iPad Pro’s screen qualities, there’s no way to determine a winner, so I’ll leave this category TBD for now. But I can tell you that Galaxy TabPro S’s display is to die for, and will be a tough one to beat.

Winner: To be determined

Battery life

Comparing the battery life of different devices is no less difficult than trying to compare the gas mileage of different cars—particularly when you take usage into account. For example, it’s unlikely even a Prius would get great gas mileage if it were being driven by NASCAR star Danica Patrick.

Still, we can look at the specs and make a few guesses. The Surface Pro 4 packs a 38-watt-hour cell and features one of the most power-efficient IPS panels around. The small iPad Pro packs a 27.5-watt-hour cell, which is about 25 percent smaller than the big iPad Pro’s 38.5-watt-hour battery. The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S’s gas tank is 39.5 watt-hours.

 

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