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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.

Form factor and weight

Form factor and weight can’t be ignored. While I think the Surface line-up has a pretty big advantage over the competition with its kickstand and adjustable viewing angles, there are just some things the Surface doesn’t do well—like laps. Despite its funky keyboard, the iPad Pro does OK on a lap. As does the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S. That’s because those clumsy keyboard covers offer more surface area to sit on your lap. The Surface requires more space to set up, and unless you play for the NBA, your legs won’t be long enough. With that said, none of them are great. Type with any energy on either the iPad Pro or Galaxy TabPro S while its on your lap, and it feels like the tablet might simply detach and flip off.

The big advantage for Apple with the new iPad Pro is its weight. The company specs it at just under one pound. Apple doesn’t list the weight of the keyboard, but if it’s like the big iPad Pro’s keyboard, it’ll be about 9 or 10 ounces. That makes the entire package maybe one pound and 10 ounces. That’s even lighter than the slow Microsoft Surface 3, which already feels like nothing. Again, I’m still not sold on “real” desktop productivity on an iPad Pro, but at that weight, it might well be worth taking a performance hit.

Winner: iPad Pro

Camera

Apple uses a high-performance 12MP camera in the iPad Pro that can shoot 4K UltraHD video. Compared to the Galaxy TabPro S and Surface Pro 4 cameras, it’s likely to take the best pictures and video, but is this really a good thing? Do you want to be that person at an event blocking everyone’s view with your 10-inch tablet? Just don’t, OK?

Winner: iPad Pro, but really no one wins.

Productivity

Yes, yes, you do X in Y all day on your big iPad Pro. Whatever. iOS might be “the perfect expression of the future of computing,” but today, when I want to run multiple desktop apps with fine-grain control and a precision trackpad, I’ll take a desktop-focused OS such as Windows 10 or OS X over iOS. Period. We just need to agree that a desktop OS is better for productivity applications right now.

Between the two Windows machines, though, I’d have to pick the Surface Pro 4 over the Galaxy TabPro S. The Surface Pro 4 has a better keyboard, variable screen angles, and the ability to plug in standard USB Type A and Mini DisplayPort without needing to break out a dongle.

Winner: Surface Pro 4

Overall winner

The Surface Pro 4 doesn’t take all the categories, but I’m going to crown it the overall winner here. If your aim is to get the best productivity tablet or 2-in-1, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 is the undisputed winner.

 

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