Surface Pro X vs. iPad Pro: A Side-by-Side Comparison
Updated: November 09,2022
Two tech giants, two ARM tablets, two worthy laptop replacements - which one to get? In this article, we’ll make a thorough Surface Pro X vs. iPad Pro comparison, covering the specs, design, and overall enjoyability of use between these two high-end tablets.
Apple’s iPad Pro series kicked off back in 2015 and only got better over time. The latest 2021 release runs on the impressive M1 chipset, boasts up to 2 TB of storage, and has 5G connectivity.
In the other corner, we have Microsoft’s Surface Pro X, the company’s only Windows-on-ARM tablet. While the newest iteration of the Surface Pro X (2020) didn’t bring noticeable hardware improvements, it did come with an upgraded version of the Qualcomm processor dubbed SQ2. The latest Surface Pro X also brought much-needed fixes to app compatibility issues.
Let’s see how they fare in a head-to-head matchup.
IPad Pro vs. Surface Pro X: Design
These two devices are pretty similar when it comes to design. First, they’re both relatively lightweight, with the Surface Pro X weighing 682 grams, and the iPad coming in at 774 grams. The iPad is slightly heavier, but this is a minor, barely noticeable difference.
Second, both the iPad Pro and the Surface tablet are pretty much equal in thickness - 0.28 vs. 0.25 inches. These two metrics make for a fairly similar holding and carrying experience.
There are some notable differences, though. The first you’ll notice is in the screen aspect ratios. The iPad’s screen looks taller thanks to its 4:3 aspect ratio, while the Surface Pro X’s screen is 3:2. The bezels (frames around the screen) are thinner and consistent all around on the iPad, while the Surface Pro X’s top bezels are thinner than the bottom ones.
The Surface Pro X boasts a larger number of ports: two USB-C ports positioned on the left side, a Nano-SIM port, and a Surface Connect port on the right. Microsoft is the clear winner in this Surface Pro vs. iPad Pro matchup as the iPad comes with a single USB 4/Thunderbolt port. Thunderbolt connections are extremely quick, but that doesn’t really offset the fact you have only one port at your disposal.
Both tablets lack a headphone jack; something smartphone users have already been struggling with for a few years now. The only way to solve that currently is to either use a dongle or rely on wireless headphones.
The port situation with the iPad Pro can be remedied somewhat if you purchase the $299 Apple Magic Keyboard, which will net you another USB-C port for passthrough charging. The Surface Pro, too, has its own keyboard you can buy for an extra $140.
Another thing that could help you choose the winner in the Microsoft Surface Pro vs. iPad Pro matchup is the fact that the Surface Pro X comes with a kickstand, which makes using the tablet on a flat surface significantly easier. Furthermore, the kickstand helps you use the Surface Pro X as a true laptop substitute, perfectly equipped for longer work sessions - provided that you purchase the keyboard as well.
Surface Pro X vs. iPad Pro: Display
Since these are high-end tablets we’re reviewing, it comes as no surprise that both the iPad and the Surface Pro X come with high-resolution screens. Let’s start with the iPad Pro, which, as you’ll see, is the clear winner in this category.
The iPad Pro comes with a 12.9-inch (2732 x 2048 resolution) Liquid Retina XDR display, with an older 11-inch version also available for purchase. This display boasts a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, which is top-tier for viewing and editing HDR media or using it as a handy drawing tablet.
Furthermore, the Liquid Retina display brings unparalleled levels of brightness - 1,000 nits maximum full-screen brightness, and up to 1,600 nits peak brightness with HDR. In case you’re wondering whether the iPad Pro is a laptop replacement worth considering, keep in mind that this level of brightness lets you work in direct sunlight without a problem, something that’s rarely seen among laptops, let alone tablets.
Additionally, the ProMotion feature provides you with an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120 Hz, which makes for an extremely smooth and enjoyable user experience.
The Surface Pro X’s display isn’t too shabby either. It features a 2880 x 1920 resolution screen, which is slightly better than what the iPad comes with. However, this is basically the only thing the Surface Pro X has going for itself when it comes to displays, with its screen locked to 60 Hz, and max brightness sitting at a measly 450 nits.
IPad Pro vs. Surface Pro X: Hardware
Unlike all other Microsoft devices of this type, the Surface Pro X doesn’t use an Intel processor. Instead, Microsoft partnered with Qualcomm, a prominent manufacturer of processors mainly used in new-generation smartphones. The two companies produced custom SoC (System on Chip) chips called SQ1 and SQ2, with the latter being available in the latest Surface Pro X version released in 2020.
The Surface Pro X chip is made up of eight cores - four clocked at 3.15 GHz, with the other four clocked at 2.42 GHz. The reason these cores are differently clocked is that they rely on the big.LITTLE architecture. In this setup, the four weaker, “little” cores are used for lightweight processes such as browsing, while the four beefier ones handle gaming and other more demanding apps.
The problem with these ARM-based chips is that Windows 10 apps aren’t really optimized to run on them as efficiently as they do on Intel. This led to some apps just refusing to work on previous versions of the Surface Pro X. The situation is better now with the latest release, but you can still face issues with some programs like Photoshop.
When we compare the SQ2 of the Surface Pro X vs. the iPad Pro M1 chip found on the Apple device, the M1 comes out on top. The M1 chips are used in MacBook Pro 13, MacBook Air, and other devices in that range and have been proved as quick and reliable. It comes with both an eight-core CPU and an eight-core GPU and easily outperforms the SQ2. On top of that, the M1 has no app compatibility problems, although you are limited to apps found in Apple’s App Store.
When it comes to storage, you can put up to 512 GB in the Surface Pro X (user-replaceable), while the iPad Pro is available in versions with up to 2 TB in storage. RAM-wise, the iPad Pro comes in 8-GB and 16-GB variants, while the Surface Pro X can house up to 16 GB, also user-replaceable.
The iPad Pro camera is a 12-MP Ultra Wide one. This Ultra Wide camera is great for video calls and streaming as its 122-degree FOV helps always keep you in the frame. Apple obviously recognized the COVID-induced heightened need for video calling, which probably prompted it to add the Center Stage feature. This tool uses machine learning to automatically move the camera to keep you centered in the frame. The front camera is also 12 MP.
On the iPad Pro, you have a 5-MP front-facing camera with full HD video and a 10-MP back camera with full HD and 4K video. This is another area where Apple takes the win.
Surface Pro X vs. iPad Pro: 5G Connectivity
5G is the talk of the town right now, as the revolutionary technology is set to massively improve connection speeds across the board. Most newer smartphones come with 5G compatibility, as well as some tablets.
Unfortunately, the Surface Pro X doesn’t have 5G support. For connectivity, you get access to Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5 technologies.
On the other hand, the iPad Pro ships with optional 5G support, Bluetooth 5, and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity guaranteeing you the best possible speeds no matter how you connect.
As with any portable device, battery life plays a huge part in that device’s overall usability. The iPad Pro’s declared battery life is 10 hours, which proved true in most tests. The iPad Pro battery can also be fast-charged via the optional USB-C power adapter. Of course, if you jack up the brightness, the battery will naturally dry up faster.
The Surface Pro X’s stated battery life is 13 hours, a solid three-hour advantage over the iPad. The Surface Pro can also be fast-charged through the Surface Connect port.
We’ve already mentioned that both tablets have optional keyboards - Apple’s Magic Keyboard ($299) and the Surface Pro Keyboard ($149). Another important accessory is the stylus, which also comes at an extra charge and isn’t bundled with the devices originally.
The Apple Pencil is probably the best tablet stylus out there. Besides the usual features such as scribbling, it can convert your handwriting into typed text anywhere on the interface. It also magnetically attaches and can be charged wirelessly. Currently, the Apple Pencil goes for $129.
Microsoft redesigned its stylus along with the release of 2020’s Surface Pro X. The new version is smaller and flat, matching the looks of the newly-released tablet. The Surface Slim Pen can also be wirelessly charged and features tilt to allow shading. It’ll set you back $144.99.
While the Surface Pro X is a worthy contender, the iPad Pro simply outperforms Microsoft’s tablet in practically all areas except design and battery life. The iPad’s hardware is more powerful, apps work perfectly, the camera is better, and its display features adaptive refresh rates and higher brightness levels.
However, if you’re deciding whether to go with the iPad or the Surface Pro, another factor you have to consider is the price. The iPad will set you back from $799 (the 11-inch version) or $1,099 (12 inches), with higher prices for variants with more storage. The prices for the Surface Pro X start at $799, so it can turn out a few hundred dollars cheaper in some instances.
Furthermore, thanks to its design, the Surface Pro X acts as a better laptop substitute. Still, the iPad Pro is a much better and more feature-packed device overall.
Frequently Asked Questions
While the iPad Pro beats the Surface Pro in most areas, the Surface Pro is lighter, has more ports, and has a longer battery life of 13 hours.
There were no huge improvements over the previous version; the latest Surface Pro X that was released in 2020 brought a new SQ2 processor and better app compatibility.
Both devices are great for note-taking, but the iPad’s Apple Pen is a better stylus that allows you to easily convert handwriting into typed text on the screen.
As we’ve mentioned in our Surface Pro X vs. iPad Pro comparison, iPad users are limited to the Apple App Store applications. However, the Office Suite, including Excel, is available to iPad users.
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While Damjan started his career in humanities, his interests quickly moved on to the tech and IT world. VPNs, antiviruses, firewalls, password managers - cybersecurity is what he knows best. When Damjan’s not losing hair over the dwindling of our collective sense of tech safety, you’ll find him looking for solace in 100-hour-long RPGs and rage-inducing MOBAs.