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Microsoft Surface Pro X vs. Apple iPad Pro: Which Premium Tablet Is Best?

Microsoft's recently unveiled Surface Pro X is shaping up to be the best Surface device for people that are always on the move, especially since it can easily pack its pen into its keyboard and it has crazy 13-hour battery life. But how does that compare to Apple's iPad Pro, which has been the number one tablet/detachable for most business users and creatives?

We got hands-on with the Surface Pro X before its official launch on November 6, and since we've already reviewed the iPad Pro, we've decided to break down the major differences.

Here's our first look at how these two premium machines stack up.

Microsoft Surface Pro X vs. Apple iPad Pro: Specs compared

Surface Pro XiPad Pro
Starting Price$999$999
Display13 inches, 2880 x 192012.9, 2732 x 2048
CPUMicrosoft SQ1 with Adreno 685 graphicsApple A12X Bionic
RAM8GB/16GB4GB/6GB
Storage128GB/256GB/512GB SSD64GB/256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
Battery Life13 hours (rated)10 hours (rated); 13 hours (tested)
Size and Weight11.3 x 8.2 x 0.28 inches, 1.7 pounds11 x 8.46 x 0.23 inches, 1.4 pounds

Design

The Surface Pro X and iPad Pro are roughly the same size. But the iPad Pro still looks more like a regular tablet, while the Surface Pro X is a proper detachable.

There are a few major differences in the design to distinguish them. Firstly, the Surface Pro X has a built-in kickstand to hold itself up, while the iPad Pro relies on separately purchased keyboard to do so. Secondly, the iPad Pro magnetically charges its stylus when its placed on the side of it, and the Surface Pro X's stylus embeds itself within the optional Surface Pro X Signature Keyboard (sold separately as a $270 bundle with the pen). While Microsoft's solution is neater, you still need to buy the keyboard to take advantage of it.

The iPad Pro does have more options when it comes to color, as its available in Silver and Space Gray. The Surface Pro X is available only Matte Black.

At 1.4 pounds, the iPad Pro is a slightly lighter than the Surface Pro X (1.7 pounds), but they both have a very similar footprint, at 11 x 8.4 x 0.23 inches and 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.28 inches, respectively.

Ports

While both the Surface Pro X and iPad Pro sport a similarly slim footprint, the Surface Pro X has the advantage on ports.

The Surface Pro X sports two USB Type-C ports, a Surface Connect Port and a nanoSIM card slot. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro has only one USB Type-C port and a nanoSIM card slot.

Display

The Surface Pro X's 13-inch screen and the iPad Pro's 12.9-inch display are equally sharp, at 2880 x 1920 and 2732 x 2048, respectively.

We didn't get to spring out our colorimeter at Microsoft's event, but we do know how colorful and bright the iPad Pro is. Its panel reproduced 128.4% of the sRGB color gamut and emitted 484 nits of brightness. The Surface Pro X's screen was plenty bright and colorful in person, but if it's anything like the Surface Pro 6, then it'll beat the iPad on color (136%) but lose on brightness (408 nits).

A significant advantage that the iPad Pro has is that its screen is clocked at a 120Hz refresh rate, whereas the Surface Pro X's screen will likely be capped at 60Hz.

Keyboard and stylus

It's hard to say which stylus takes the cake with only a few moments of testing, but choosing the better keyboard couldn't be easier.

With the few minutes we spent with the Surface Pro X's detachable keyboard, our impressions of its typing experience were favorable. The keys offered a decent amount of travel and they had a nice weightiness to them. Meanwhile, we find the iPad Pro's keyboard to be a bit too shallow for comfort.

The Surface Pro X's touchpad was a little small but smooth, which knocks out the iPad Pro's touchpa-- just kidding, the iPad Pro doesn't have one.

Performance

Coincidentally, the Surface Pro X and the iPad Pro both rock proprietary processors, with the Pro X packing a Microsoft SQ1 CPU and the iPad Pro boasting the A12X Bionic chip.

According to Microsoft, the SQ1 offers three times the performance per watt as the Surface Pro 6. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro's A12X Bionic chip scored a blazing 17,995 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, which is significantly better than the Surface Pro 6's 8th Gen Core i5 CPU (13,025).

The iPad Pro absolutely killed it on an Adobe Rush video editing benchmark, transcoding a 4K video to 1080p in just 7 minutes and 47 seconds, whereas the Surface Pro 6 took 31:54.

The Surface Pro X's Microsoft SQ1 CPU needs to be an absolute beast in order to compete with the iPad Pro's A12X Bionic chip.

Battery life

Battery life on both systems are surprisingly neck and neck -- at least based on Microsoft's claims.

The iPad Pro lasted an incredibly strong 13 hours of 14 minutes on our battery test, which forces a system to continuously surf the web over WiFi at 150 nits of brightness. That's a smidge better than the 13 hours of battery that the Surface Pro X is rated for, so we look forward to testing Microsoft's new system in our labs. 

Value and configurations

Both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro X can get incredibly exorbitant in terms of cost.

Both systems start at $999. For that price, the Surface Pro X packs 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, which is better than the starting 12.9-inch iPad Pro's 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. You'll have to pay extra for accessories, but the Surface Pro X's are a tiny bit cheaper. The Surface's add-ons cost $139 for the Signature Keyboard and $144 for the Slim, while the iPad Pro's keyboard and Apple Pencil cost an extra $199 and $129, respectively.

Upgrading the storage to a 256GB SSD on the Surface Pro X will cost you an additional $300, which is pretty nuts. The jump from 64GB to 256GB on the iPad is half the price, costing an additional $150 more. However, adding LTE costs an additional $250.

The maxed out model for the Surface Pro X costs $1,799 and comes with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD ($2,084 with accessories). The iPad Pro that we tested came with 1TB of Storage and LTE connectivity, which cost $1,899 -- putting the accessories on top of that brings the total to $2,227.

From the cost of adding accessories alone, it's clear that the iPad and the Surface aren't winning any awards on value.

Outlook

It's hard to say for certain who will win this bout, but Microsoft's Surface Pro X's victory is looks promising, especially considering that it has an ergonomic design, more ports, a more comfortable keyboard and a colorful display.

However, it ultimately comes down to what kind of system you're looking for. If you do want a full-blood tablet, the iPad Pro is the way to go. It's still super slim, offers a ridiculously bright display, laptop-beating performance and better battery life (as of right now).

Stay tuned for our full review and benchmarks of the Surface Pro X as well as a full update of this face-off to find out which slate really wins.

As soon as Rami Tabari sprung out of the College of Staten Island, he hit the ground running as a Staff Writer for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline in Tom’s Guide, taking on the latest Souls-like challenge.