Microsoft Surface Pro 3 vs. Apple iPad Air

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Though it's billed as a laptop replacement, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 is still a tablet at heart. Thanks to its newly slimmed-down design, the Pro 3 is starting to look a bit like Apple's iPad Air, which is one of our favorite slates on the market right now.  Each of these high-res tablets has its strengths, like the Pro 3's 12-inch pen-optimized display and the Air's elegant and ultra-portable design.

In order to see how these slim slates stack up, we put similar configurations of each device head-to-head. The Pro 3 is clearly after your laptop, but can it also replace your tablet?


Surface Pro 3



Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Apple iPad Air


 $999  $799


 1.6-GHz Core i5-4300U

Apple A7 64-bit CPU


 12-inch, 2160 x 1440 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 Retina display


 Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro Apple iOS 7 


 128GB  128GB


 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches  9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches


 1.76 pounds  1.05 pounds



 5-MP, 1080p front and rear cameras  1.2-MP, 720MP FaceTime front camera, 5MP iSight rear camera



The iPad Air is one of the thinnest and most attractive tablets around, but Microsoft has caught up in a major way with the Pro 3. The new Surface's 1.76-pound, 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36-inch build is only a tad heavier and thicker than the Air (1.05 pounds, 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches), and Microsoft's slate is the only of the two to feature a built-in kickstand in the back. 

MORE: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 vs. Apple MacBook Air 13-inch


If screen size is your priority, the Surface Pro 3's 12-inch 2160 x 1440 screen provides more real estate than the Air's smaller but similarly sharp 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 retina display. The $999 Pro 3 and $799 Air both get you 128GB of storage, with the former being powered by a 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4300U processor and the latter running on Apple's proprietary 64-bit A7 chip. The Pro 3 sports 5-MP cameras on both the front and rear, while the Air has a 5-MP camera in the rear and a 1.2-MP shooter in the front. 

The Pro 3 has more to offer when it comes to ports, packing a USB 3.0 port, microSD reader and Mini DisplayPort for using external displays. By comparison, all the Air has is headphones and charging jacks. 

Features, Accessories and Software

The Surface Pro 3 aims to be Microsoft's most versatile tablet yet, with an included Surface Pen that can open apps on its own and a flexible kickstand that is optimized for lap use. If you want to transform your Surface Pro 3 into a full-on PC, you can nab the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station for $199. The Surface's optional $129 Type Cover has been bolstered for the Pro 3, touting a thinner design and significantly more touchpad space. 

The iPad Air doesn't ship with an advanced stylus like the Pro 3 does, but it does deliver on the software side. The included iLife and iWork software suites carry tons of creative and productivity value, and Air owners have access to over 475,000 iPad-optimized apps via Apple's App Store. By comparison, there are roughly 400,000 apps on the Windows store, but not all of them are optimized for tablets. 

MORE: 25 Best iPad Apps

Pricing and Configurations

While the iPad Air is pricey for a tablet, its starting cost of $499 for 16GB of storage is cheaper than the Pro 3's starting price of $799 (Core i3, 64GB storage and 4GB of RAM). The Air maxes out at 128GB for $799, while you can configure your Surface Pro 3 with up to 512GB if you're willing to pony up a whopping $1,949.

Bottom Line

The iPad Air and Surface Pro 3 are both sleek, lightweight tablets with sharp screens, but the similarities end there. The more expensive Pro 3 packs a nifty stylus and plenty of ports to help it function as a full PC, while the iPad Air is more of a companion device that provides access to hundreds of thousands of great apps. You're paying extra for versatility with the Pro 3, but you'll have to make sure its feature set is right for you before you make the splurge. 

Author Bio
Michael Andronico
Michael Andronico, Editor
A devout gamer and tech enthusiast, Mike Andronico joined the Laptop team in July 2013. With a B.A. in Journalism from Purchase College and experience at GameNGuide, Examiner and 2D-X, Mike tackles everything from iPhone rumors to in-depth hardware reviews.
Michael Andronico, Editor on
Add a comment
  • sgu Says:

    Even thought Surface 3 is a tablet but functionality is almost the same as than with a real laptop. The pen is beautiful, not laggy as any bt pens with iPad air. And connectivity! It is more like do you want a toy or a working tablet irl.

    So… it is your choice which you prefer. Ipad air cost way too much, even samsung galaxy Notepro 12.2 is better and give more if you want to use it as a real phone too.. but if you want something which is similar than a laptop, get surface pro 3. If you want all-in-one, get notepro… if want a fancy toy, get ipad air. I own ipad air myself, and i really dont like it: it doesnt let you "choose" (when you own ios you know what i mean), poor connectivity, bt pens are laggy and even to get it work with macbook pro was difficult. Ok, i can surf it, play it… but still, my old note 10.1 do the same and even better. Im real disappointed to a device which costs 900 euros, but it is so last season.. it is like apple doesnt get it and we want flexibility. If you can handle with poor connectivity but easy to use, go for it. Ipad air is not a bad product, it is just too expensive and restricted compairing what you get for the price.

    Im using more often windows than osx, so i would choose surface 3 nowadays and i could even replace my laptop! All im saysing, try them and think about what you really need and how to use them. One is quite restricted while other is quite flexible.

    I prefer note 10.1 over ipad air and definitely get the surface pro 3 256gt i7. I dont think that 12 inches is too big. I feel my 10.1 is abit too small. I was thinking to upgrade to note 12.2. But im pissed off about samsung and lacking updates.

  • Atif Says:

    There is finally a Surface that grabbed my attention. A tablet that can run AutoCAD, SAP, Autodesk Inventor, Microsoft Access, MS Office, Photoshop, etc, and still looks sleek and is very light to hold. That screen size is perfect for a work tablet. For me, this will be a goodbye to Android and iOS devices. Currently, I have iPad 2 and Asus MeMO Pad HD7.

  • john Says:

    Weak case... The Air has plenty of storage and connection options based off the lighting connector. I do not see this as an advantage for MS, nor would I base my purchase on this. Its the eco-system which trumps all else and for Apple that is a hugh lead. I enjoy Apple products and their eco-system. I don't trust MS anymore and am sick'n tired of their products. No more windows in my life.

  • March Says:

    interesting how Apple has Proprietary Chips while Intel Doesn't? Thats just d-u-m.

    And a Tad heavier? 3/4 of a pound, when the total is 1&3/4? D-U-M all caps

    And it has a built in kickstand? Well, THAT is certainly worth Hundreds of dollars more.

    Not all the apps in the windows marketplace are tablet optimized? How bout 4%? D-U-M -D-U-M all caps x2

    Ummmm.. and how about the surface is SADDLED with 8.1, which even windows diehards hate?

    You could not have more obviously somehow been paid or reimbursed or rewarded by MS for writing this Shill piece. Apple can buy microsoft for CASH if they want to RIGHT NOW. But why? when the stock just keeps languishing in the 30's, while Apple will soon enjoy a 7-for 1 split.

    Idiot PC mongers.

  • Stephen Whit Says:

    One other tablet worth noting to launch this week is the first Windows 8.1 - Android O/S Hybrid. Ramos technology partnered with Intel for the new Ramos i10 Pro ($399) which originally showcased at CNET 2014 - and offers the first Dual-boot tablet on the market and makes it easy to switch between using the two operating systems and offers a 10-inch, full HD display, an Intel Bay Trail 64-bit processor, Bluetooth, GPS, and a 8000 mAh battery with 9 hours battery life.

    One source with more details on the new Ramos i10 Pro is the site -- iProTablet

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