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?
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Row 0 - Cell 1||Row 0 - Cell 2|
|Row 1 - Cell 0||Microsoft Surface Pro 3||Apple iPad Air|
|CPU||1.6-GHz Core i5-4300U||Apple A7 64-bit CPU|
|Display||12-inch, 2160 x 1440||9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 Retina display|
|OS||Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro||Apple iOS 7|
|Size||11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches||9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches|
|Weight||1.76 pounds||1.05 pounds|
|Cameras Rear/Front||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.
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.
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.