Microsoft has fired a salvo across Apple’s bow, launching the smallest member of the Surface family, the Surface Go, recently. But how does the Surface Go stack up against Apple’s iPad Pro? After a couple of weeks flipping between the two devices here’s what I found.
The iPad Pro’s display is both larger, at 10.5-inches vs 10-inches, and runs at a higher resolution of 2224 by 1668 resolution at 264 pixels per inch with The Surface Go coming in at 1800 by 1200 at 217 pixels per inch.
That difference on the spec sheet is born out when looking the two screens. While the Surface Go is by no means awful, the iPad Pro’s display is sharper, brighter and can fit more content. That translates to more rows and columns on a spreadsheet or more text when looking at a webpage.
This round goes to the iPad Pro.
Both devices offer an option for an external keyboard. As both support Bluetooth you can connect pretty much any wireless keyboard to like so, for the purpose of this comparison, I’m limiting things to Microsoft’s Type Cover and the Apple Smart Keyboard.
After tapping away on both keyboards, I give the edge to the Type Cover, The keys are just a little gentler on the fingers during a long session of typing and are around the trackpad make the typing experience more comfortable. Also, the keyboard rests on a slight angle so my wrists were in a more comfortable position during a long work session. It’s also substantially less expensive.
Round two belongs to the Surface Go.
As the two devices have completely different system architectures a simple look at the spec sheet doesn’t reveal anything particularly useful.
In general, the iPad Pro felt zippier to me and apps that run across both platforms opened a little faster on the iPad Pro. But the differences weren’t enough to make me say the Surface Go was terribly slow in comparison.
The performance gap between the two, in real world use isn’t massive but the iPad Pro definitely has the edge.
That’s another round to the iPad Pro
There’s a mountain of difference in how Microsoft and Apple approach getting things done with their respective platforms.
In order to do anything on the iPad, you need to tap on the screen. Whether you’re selecting text, launching an app or drawing – unless you spring for the $145 Apple Pencil -you’re tapping on the screen with your finger.
Microsoft, on the other hand, let you tap on the screen and use the Surface Pen but also supports using a mouse or the trackpad on the Type Cover keyboard.
And while Apple added the Files application to iOS 11, it’s still a pain to manage locally stored files using the iPad. Microsoft’s familiar Explorer is easier to use.
And Microsoft has refined the Start menu now to the point where it’s easy to find and launch applications. In contrast, the iOS, icon-based approach is clunky. And the folder-based group of app icons brings me back to early 1990s and the Windows 3,x Program Manager.
I give the usability round to the Surface Go.
This one’s easy – USB-C and a microSD slot vs the iPad Pro’s single Lightning port.
Surface Go takes the lead.
Value For Money
The easy answer here is the Surface Go as, even when you add the Type Cover and Surface Pen, it costs a lot less than an iPad Pro.
A top of the range Microsoft Surface Go with a Type Cover and Surface Pen costs $1178.90. But that maxes out at 128GB of storage and there’s no option of integrated cellular data. The 64GB option makes that bundle $938.90.
In comparison, the iPad Pro comes with 64GB, 256GB and 512GB options.
The 64GB iPad Pro with WiFi only is $979. Then you can add the $235 Smart Keyboard and $145 Apple Pencil for a total of $1359 – or over $400 more.
If you’re happy with the entry level models then the Surface Go is clearly the less expensive investment.
But Apple offers larger storage options and optional cellular data. So, if those things are important, the Surface Go falls out of contention.
Because of those differences I’m scoring this round a draw.
Unless you’re committed to Apple’s “walled garden” or simply prefer their platform it looks to me that the Surface Go is the better value proposition. Although it lacks larger storage and cellular data options, it’s keyboard accessory is superior and the ability to use a mouse or trackpad gives it the edge in usability.