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The iPad Pro vs. the Surface Pro 3: We check Apple's lofty performance claims

Gordon Mah Ung | Sept. 17, 2015
Apple claims the iPad Pro is faster than "80 percent of portable PCs." The truth is, of course, more complicated.

What exactly is “80 percent of portable PCs?”

The problem with Apple’s claims is the lack of detail. What did Schiller mean by “Portable PC?” Does that figure include Atom-based tablets? Does it include Chromebooks? Does it count Macbooks? I reached out to Apple for clarification. A few days on, I still haven’t heard back, and I suspect I won’t.

I decided to approach it from another angle and figure out what 80 percent of the portable PC market looks like today. Neither Intel nor AMD disclose that kind of granularity to the public, so spoke with analyst Dean McCarron of Mercury Research. McCarron closely follows the chip market using public and private data civilians can’t access.

He said if you exclude Atom and count only Core i3, Pentium and Celeron, plus some of the Core i5 CPUs, and then lump in AMD APUs, you get pretty close to 75 percent sold, which is pretty close to Apple’s 80 percent number. 

I can’t speak for Apple, but if they’re saying faster than 80 percent of notebook PCs in the past 12 months, it would have to compete with Haswell dual-core pretty far up the Haswell product stack—not all the way, but at least past most i3s and some i5,” McCarron said. “Again, they’re in control of their own metrics for measurements, and it’s pretty much the industry norm to pick ones that show your product most favorably.”

Because Intel moves the most laptop chips, I’m pretty certain Apple feels the iPad Pro stands up even to Intel’s Haswell and Broadwell CPUs. The A8X is already generally faster than the bulk of the Atom-based chips .

iPad vs. Surface: Fight!

To see how Apple’s fastest tablet stacks up against the Surface Pro 3, I dug up performance numbers I’ve run internally to compare to some publicly available data. In this story I wrote when BAPCo’s TabletMark v3 first came out, we can see how the iPad Air 2 and the A8X rate.

Tabletmarket V3 simulates photo editing, web browsing and other typical tablet functions. It’s cross-platform and obviously runs on iOS, Android and Windows. Tabletmark V3 doesn’t leverage Apple’s newer Metal API, which is like the company’s take on DirectX 12 and OpenCL rolled into one and could show a nice bump in performance.

To be fair to the PC, the Surface Pro 3 is hardly the fastest thing out there. A typical two-year old laptop will be faster. Still, the dual-core Core i5-4300U Haswell CPU in the Surface Pro 3 soundly destroys all of the ARM-powered devices.  

 

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