Surface Pro 6 vs. iPad Pro: What Should You Buy?

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Editor's Note (Oct. 30, 2018): Apple released a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a slimmer design, a bezel-less display and more powerful internals. We will update this face-off once we review the new tablet. 

The new Microsoft Surface Pro 6 has arrived, with updated internals and a sleek black color variant. The new model offers improved performance and longer battery life compared to its predecessor, but it faces tough competition from the 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro, which we gave a 4.5-star rating and an Editor's Choice award for its excellent performance, gorgeous display and long battery life.

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If you're in the market for a premium tablet, these two devices should be at the top of your list. However, if we had to choose one, we'd go with the Surface Pro 6 for its faster performance, more comfortable keyboard and a wider range of ports when compared to the iPad. 

Note: Apple is rumored to release a refreshed iPad Pro this fall. We will update this face-off when we learn more. 

Surface Pro 6 vs. iPad Pro: Specs Compared   

  Microsoft Surface Pro 6 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro
Price  $899-$2,299 $799-$1,149
Display 12.3 inches, 2736 x 1824 pixels 12.9 inches, 2732 x 2048 pixels
CPU 8th Gen Intel Core i5, i7 A10X Fusion
RAM 8GB, 16GB 4GB
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 64GB
Ports USB 3.0, headphone, Mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect Headphone, Lighting
Colors Platinum, Black Space Gray, Gold, Silver
Size 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches 12 x 8.7 x 0.2 inches
Weight

1.7 pounds

1.5 pounds

 

Design

These two metal slabs look identical to their predecessors, with one exception: The new Surface Pro 6 is now available in matte black, a finish that longtime Apple users will drool over. We found that the dark finish made the laptop look even thinner than it is, and the grippy surface resisted fingerprints. 

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Everything else about the Surface Pro 6's design is familiar, down to the 165-degree rotating kickstand, the power button and the volume rocker. The kickstand lets you place the Surface Pro 6 in three different orientations: tablet, laptop and studio. 

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Also available in silver, the Surface Pro 6 snaps into Microsoft's Type Cover keyboards, which are available in burgundy, blue, platinum and black.

ipad-pro-standing

The iPad hasn't changed much over the years, either. The machined-aluminum and glass rectangle no longer has a flash below the rear camera, and the top reception bar isn't black anymore. Otherwise, it's the same tablet we've seen year after year — a slim, sleek sheet of metal with rounded corners and an Apple logo centered on the rear. Apple also lets you choose from three colors: space gray, gold and silver.

Comparing the designs of these two slates boils down to form versus function. While both devices are extremely portable, the iPad Pro (0.27 inches thick, 1.5 pounds) is thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro 6 (0.33 inches thick, 1.7 pounds). However, the Surface Pro 6 has the more practical design thanks to its rear kickstand and a wider range of ports (more on that below).

Winner: Surface Pro 6.

Ports

It comes as no surprise that the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 6 are short on ports. And while the Surface Pro 6 has the better selection, there remains one infuriating omission: USB-C. Sadly, Microsoft kept with the Mini DisplayPort and Surface Connect port to go along with a single USB 3.0 port, a microSD card reader and a headphone jack.

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The iPad Pro has only enough space for a headphone jack on the top, a proprietary Smart Connector on the left side and a Lightning connector on the bottom.

Winner: Surface Pro 6.

Keyboard and Pen

The iPad Pro and Surface Pro 6 can both be used as traditional laptops when combined with their respective keyboard accessories. We prefer the Type Cover over the Apple Smart Keyboard because Microsoft's keyboard has a touchpad and 1.3 millimeters of key travel. Clad in colored fabric, the Type Cover is so comfortable that we dubbed it the "the best detachable keyboard on the market." The Signature version, with Alcantara fabric, costs $159.99, and the standard, black edition goes for $139.99.

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The iPad Pro equivalent to the Type Cover is the $169 Apple Smart Keyboard. Unlike the Microsoft keyboard, it does not feature a touchpad, and the shallow keys travel a measly 0.5mm. On the bright side, the folio-style fabric keyboard keeps the iPad Pro balanced, even when you use the tablet on your lap.

Microsoft and Apple offer some of the best pens on the market to use with their touch-screen displays. The $99 Apple Pencil writes like a dream on the iPad Pro's ProMotion display, with just a 20-millisecond latency. That's a tad better than the Surface Pen's 21-ms latency, but you probably won't notice the difference.  

MORE: Surface Laptop 2 Hands-on: MacBook-Killing Keyboard, 85 Percent Faster

Unfortunately, a keyboard and pen aren't included in the price of the iPad Pro or Surface Pro. 

Winner: Surface Pro 6.

Display

The iPad Pro has a slightly larger display, at 12.9 inches, compared to the Surface Pro 6 and its 12.3-inch screen. This is not a huge difference, but every tenth of an inch counts at this size.

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Both displays are packed with pixels, but the 2736 x 1824-pixel panel on the Surface Pro 6 is a hair shaper, with a ppi of 267. But don't worry iOS fans, the iPad Pro's 2224 x 1668-resolution, 264-ppi display also produces crisp images. Unfortunately, both displays are flanked by large bezels.

Like its predecessor, the Surface Pro 6's display is more colorful than the vibrant panel on the iPad Pro. Our colorimeter found that the Surface Pro's display covers 136 percent of the sRGB color gamut, just beating out the iPad Pro's panel, which covers 122 percent of the sRGB spectrum.

However, the iPad Pro wins when it comes to maximum display brightness, although that was expected considering it reached a blinding 555 nits. While well shy of that mark, the Surface Pro 6 hit a respectable 408 nits of display brightness.

Winner: Draw.

Performance

The Surface Pro 6 and iPad Pro are some of the best performing tablets on the market, but Microsoft has a slight edge in this round. The Surface Pro 6 scored 13,761 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, outperforming the iPad Pro's score of 9,414.

The same goes for graphics performance, where the UHD Graphics 620-equipped Surface Pro 6 scored a 73,697 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, beating the very good 54,198 results achieved by the iPad Pro.

Winner: Surface Pro 6.

Battery Life

Battery life is significantly improved on the Surface Pro 6 when compared to its predecessor, but it still can't compare to the everlasting iPad Pro. The Surface Pro 6 stayed powered for 9 hours and 20 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of display brightness. That's almost two hours longer than the 2017 Surface Pro (7:30), but still well short of the epic 12 hours and 9-minute endurance of the iPad Pro.

Winner: iPad Pro.

Value

The Surface Pro 6 starts at $899 while the base iPad Pro goes for $799. Both tablets soar in price when configured with upgraded specs. The base model of the Surface Pro 6 comes with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM a 128GB SSD. For comparison, the least expensive 12.9-inch iPad is powered by the A10X chip and only has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

MORE: Best Apple Laptops

Apple charges much less than Microsoft for upgraded storage. It costs an additional $150 to boost the iPad's storage from 64Gb to 256GB, whereas increasing the Surface Pro's SSD from 128GB to 256GB costs an extra $300.

The maxed-out iPad Pro comes with 512GB of storage and goes for $1,149 while the Surface Pro 6 with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD costs $1,899. Microsoft sells a top-of-the-line model with a 1TB SSD for $2,299, but it's only available in the platinum color scheme.

Winner: iPad Pro.

Overall Winner: Surface Pro 6

  Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Apple iPad Pro
Design (10) 8 8
Ports (10) 6 3
Display (15) 13 13
Keyboard and Touchpad (15) 12 7
Performance (20) 17 13
Battery Life (20) 15 18
Value (10) 5 7
Overall (100) 76 69

While the Surface Pro 6 may not seem like a huge improvement on the surface, a number of changes under the hood give it the edge over the iPad Pro. The new detachable from Microsoft has blistering performance thanks to its new quad-core CPUs, and the black color scheme adds sophistication to an already appealing design. Yes, the iPad Pro still gets longer battery life, but with more than 9 hours of endurance, the new Surface Pro narrows the margin considerably.

The Surface Pro 6 also wins big points for its flexibility. The laptop has a useful built-in hinge, and the optional keyboard is not only more comfortable than the iPad Pro's, but it also has a touchpad. And even though it's still missing a USB-C connection, the Surface Pro offers a wider range of ports than Apple's slim tablet.  

 Credit: Laptop Mag

Add a comment
6 comments
  • SMDBill Says:

    Your article identifies both Surface Pro 6 CPU's available, yet lists a benchmark in the comparison against the iPad Pro without identifying from which CPU the benchmark was achieved. If it was the Core i5, then we can expect even better from the i7. If it was the opposite, we have to expect worse from the i5.

  • Dexin Says:

    This article ignores one critical fact: Surface has expandable storage.

  • Roger murfitt Says:

    It’s it a bit cleverer than that..!

  • Wizzy Watkins Says:

    DKatman, I believe iPads can make phone calls through FaceTime audio

  • DKatman Says:

    @Wizzy , That is not completely fair- The iPad cannot make a phone call. ;-)

  • Wizzy Watkins Says:

    In my opinion the iPad and surface pro are not comparable. The surface pro is a pc that runs full windows 10 and only aesthetically looks like a tablet. The iPad is more or less a giant iPhone.

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