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Surface Pro 7 vs. iPad Pro (12.9 Inch): Which Is Right for You?

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Microsoft's new Surface Pro 7 is similar to its predecessor but introduces a few useful features, including a USB-C port and speedy 10th-Gen processors. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 7 doesn't have the same endurance as the previous model, opening the door for other tablets and 2-in-1 laptops to take Microsoft's throne. 

Chief among the competition is Apple's 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Unlike the Surface Pro 7, the latest iPad Pro received major updates when it was released last year. With a slimmer, lighter design, an improved Apple Pencil and a USB-C input, the iPad Pro is a more competitive alternative to the Surface Pro than ever before. 

Here is how the Surface Pro 7 fares against the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. 

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 vs. Apple iPad Pro (12.9 inch): Specs compared

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 Apple iPad Pro (12.9 inch)
Starting Price (as configured)$749 ($1,199)$999 ($1,899)
ColorsPlatinum, matte blackSilver, Space Gray
Display12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel (touch)12.9-inch, 2732 x 2048-pixel
CPUUp to Core i7 (10th Gen)A12X Bionic
RAMUp to 16GBUp to 6GB
SSDUp to 1TBUp to 1TB
PortsUSB-C, USB 3.1, microSD, headphone, Surface ConnectUSB-C
Size11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches11 x 8.5 x 0.2 inches
Geekbench 4.117,22517,225
Battery life (hrs:min)7:3013:14
Weight1.7 pounds, 2.4 pounds (with keyboard)1.4 pounds

Design

The Surface Pro 7 desperately needed a design overhaul similar to what Apple did with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Alas, the Surface Pro 7 looks identical to the Surface Pro 6 apart from the new USB-C port.   

Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Future)

This slim magnesium slate has a shiny Microsoft logo on the rear kickstand, which folds out so you can prop up the Surface Pro 7 and use it as a laptop. Doing so requires an all-important, yet still-optional Type Cover keyboard, which is available in a rubber, black version or with an attractive and comfortable Alcantara finish. 

The Surface Pro 7 is by no means an ugly tablet, but its thick bezels don't cut it in this day in age. Apple got the memo and made wholesale improvements to the iPad Pro's design, changes that resulted in a sleeker, more portable tablet.  

iPad Pro 12.9 inch

(Image credit: Future)

The new iPad design starts with thin display bezels, which draw your eyes toward a large, 12.9-inch display and reduce the tablet's overall footprint. Doing so meant ditching the Home button, a worthwhile concession for a more modern design. 

The industrial design of the iPad Pro won't please everyone, but its practicality will win you over. One especially useful feature is the ability to charge the Apple Pencil wirelessly by magnetically attaching it to one edge of the tablet. Surface Pro 7 users will need to stock up on AAAA batteries to keep the Surface Pen powered. 

The iPad Pro (1.4 pounds, 11 x 8.5 x 0.2 inches) is lighter and thinner than the Surface Pro 7 (1.7 pounds, 12.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches), despite having a larger display. 

Winner: iPad Pro

Ports

It took longer than we hoped, but USB-C is here. 

Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Future)

Both the Surface Pro 7 and iPad Pro added the port to their respective tablets. Neither slate has Thunderbolt 3, so you won't get the fastest transfer speeds. Regardless, USB-C is better than any proprietary solution.  

iPad Pro 12.9 inch

(Image credit: Future)

As a laptop replacement, the Surface Pro 7 gives you more connections to work with, including a USB 3.1 Type-A port, a headphone jack and a microSD card slot. For better or worse, the Surface Pro 7 still charges via a magnetic Surface Connect cord, not USB-C. 

USB-C is all you get on the iPad Pro, which doesn't even have a headphone jack. 

Winner: Surface Pro 7

Display

Both tablets have gorgeous displays, but the iPad Pro's 12.9-inch Retina panel edges out the Surface Pro 7's screen. 

iPad Pro 12.9 inch

(Image credit: Future)

According to our colorimeter, the iPad Pro's display covers 128% of the sRGB color gamut, making the Apple display more colorful than the Surface Pro 7's screen (102%) and nearly even with the category average (129%).

Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Future)

You shouldn't have any problems using either display outside, thanks to their impressive brightness. The iPad Pro peaked at a blinding 484 nits, whereas the Surface Pro 7 illuminated to 395 nits. Both results are above the 348-nit category average.  

Winner: iPad Pro 

MORE: Can the iPad Pro Replace Your Laptop? Here's What 3 Pros Think

Keyboard and stylus

Microsoft's Surface Pro 7 will maintain an advantage in this category until Apple pairs the iPad Pro with a better keyboard. 

iPad Pro 12.9 inch

(Image credit: Future)

We have several problems with the optional Smart Keyboard Folio ($199). Not only is Apple's accessory $70 more expensive than the standard Surface Pro Type Cover ($129), but it doesn't even have a touchpad for cursor support. And as we noted in our iPad Pro keyboard face-off, the Smart Keyboard Folio's keys aren't particularly comfortable to type on.

Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Future)

In contrast, the Surface Pro 7's Type Cover keyboard is the best detachable keyboard we've ever used. The accessory's backlit keys are large and well spaced, and they offer surprisingly deep travel. You can even upgrade to the fancy Alcantara fabric "Signature Type Cover" and still pay less than you would for the Smart Keyboard Folio.

Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Future)

If you prefer handwritten notes, you'll need a good stylus. Here, Apple wins. Although the Apple Pencil ($129) is pricier than the Surface Pen ($99), the Pencil's wireless-charging capabilities will save you money in the long term. The Surface Pen is a perfectly capable stylus, but it relies on AAAA batteries and its buttons feel clunky compared to the Apple Pencil's intuitive touch controls. 

Winner: Surface Pro 7

Performance

Apple's beastly, 7-nanometer A12X Bionic chip pushes the iPad Pro past the Surface Pro 7, not to mention most premium laptops. 

iPad Pro 12.9 inch

(Image credit: Future)

That laptop-level performance was proven in the Geekbench 4.1 benchmark, in which the iPad Pro scored a 17,995. That just edges out the 17,225 from the Surface Pro 7 and its 10th-Gen Core i5-1035G4 and 16GB of RAM. Both tablets easily surpassed the category average (13,796). 

Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Future)

The iPad Pro also dominated in our video-transcoding test, converting a 4K video into 1080p resolution in just 7 minutes and 47 seconds. That is much faster than the shortest time we clocked on the Surface Pro (32:47), although our test results were inconsistent. To get a better idea of the iPad Pro's incredible speeds, compare it to the Surface Pro 6, which needed 23 minutes and 22 seconds, right around the category average (22:28). 

Winner: iPad Pro 

Battery life

This is a bigger blow out than we were expecting, and the Surface Pro 7 has only itself to blame. Lasting 1.5 hours less than the Pro 6, the Surface Pro 7 endured for only 7 hours and 30 minutes on our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits). That's a staggering 5+ hours less than the iPad Pro's excellent 13-hour and 14-minute runtime. 

Winner: iPad Pro 

Value and price

Apple and Microsoft designed these two tablets for professionals, or the sorts of folks who can afford to spend big bucks on work equipment. As such, the Surface Pro 7 and iPad Pro are more expensive than your average tablets. 

Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Future)

The base-model Surface Pro 7 starts at $749 and comes equipped with an Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Microsoft still sells the Type Cover ($129) and Surface Pen ($99) separately, so you'll spend $878 to make the Surface Pro 7 a convertible and $977 for the full package.

iPad Pro 12.9 inch

(Image credit: Future)

Our $1,199 review unit came equipped with an Intel Core i5-1035G5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Yes, Microsoft still charges $300 to upgrade storage. 

The base 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $999 for the Wi-Fi model, which comes with 64GB of storage. Adding the keyboard ($199) and stylus ($129) brings the price to $1,327. For more storage, you can upgrade to a 256GB model, which will bring your bill (with accessories) to $1,477. Apple sent us a $1,899 model with 1TB of storage. 

Winner: Surface Pro 7

MORE: Best 2-in-1 Laptops: Best Tablet Laptops - Laptop Mag ...

Overall Winner: Apple iPad Pro (12.9 inch)

Apple's 12.9-inch iPad Pro wins this face-off, cementing that slate's status as the best tablet you can buy (especially if money isn't a factor). With a slim, modern design, outstanding performance and incredible battery life, the iPad Pro exposes the Surface Pro 7's shortcomings better than any other tablet. 

Surface Pro 7iPad Pro (12.9 inch)
Design (10)79
Ports (10)74
Display (15)1314
Keyboard/touchpad (15)1310
Performance (20)1720
Battery life (20)1419
Value (10)64
Overall (100)7780

That being said, the iPad Pro doesn't offer full cursor support, so the Surface Pro 7 with the excellent Type Cover keyboard is the better option if you want a true laptop replacement. Microsoft's tablet is also cheaper, although you'll still spend around $1,000 once you throw in the optional accessories. 

Overall, the iPad Pro (12.9 inch) is the more well-rounded tablet, largely due to its faster performance and much longer battery life.