Comparison: Microsoft Surface vs Apple iPad

Comparison: Microsoft Surface vs Apple ipad

By Chris Messenger | Published 18/10/2012


Rare is the chance for me to comment on a real battle of champions.


Rarer still is a clash of industry titans where the stakes are this high.


In less than a fortnight, Microsoft will not only launch their brand new tablet-friendly operating system, Windows 8, but also their brand new tablet, the Microsoft Surface. The Surface is already being billed as an ‘iPad Killer’ by certain insiders and commentators, so anticipation of this battle is very, very high.


Apple released the 3rd generation iPad back in March of this year and the reviews were the strongest that the iPad has gotten since the release of the first version back in 2010. It’s safe to say that the iPad is at the peak of its powers right now, so if the Surface proves to be the better tablet, then it will knock the iPad from its pedestal entirely.


Other tablets have been hailed as ‘better’ than the iPad, of course, but the very fact that these reviews hold the iPad up as the ‘apex device’, or ‘the one to beat’, proves that these are minority views. With the release of the Surface, however, comes a challenger that may actually beat the iPad on more than just price.


Microsoft are attempting to take back the tablet PC market, a market they created back in 2002 and then spectacularly lost to Apple 8 years after it fell flat on its face. The Surface is more than just Microsoft’s new baby, then. It is one of the most advanced tablets in the world and, in a shocking move, has been created by its parent company without any outside assistance. It is an entirely in-house job. A lot is riding on the Surface being a success, but even more is riding on it outselling Apple’s golden delicious, the iPad.


So, at last we come to the big fight itself and those of us with ringside seats are positively salivating.


Everyone from the casual customer to the CEOs of industry rivals will be watching and awaiting the outcome. So, who will still be standing when the final bell rings?


Round 1: Weight, Price and Design

surface vs the ipad

Microsoft’s relatively understated presence in the world of tablet PCs, is completely obliterated by the 100,000+ apps currently being offered by Apple.

First, the weigh-in. The reigning champion weighs in at 650g, whereas the challenger is considerably heavier at 903g, if we were boxing or wrestling, the Surface would have a big advantage, but despite my rhetoric, we are talking about essentially portable devices, meaning that the iPad takes first blood in this department.


Next, the price. Despite the iPad being out since the Summer, it hasn’t dropped in price to any significant level, whereas the Surface is going to be released at a decidedly reasonable rate. A brand new Surface should cost about half as much as a brand new iPad – advantage? Surface.


Now we’ll look at the design. The Surface has been designed with an array of options, from bright and gaudy ‘fun’ colours to jet-black professional tones. Microsoft have a really attractive and versatile bit of kit here, which flies in the face of their usual pedestrian, stentorian designs. The challenger has really taken some cues from its opponent and clearly hopes to beat it at its own game, but can it? Apple’s baby has taken on the same sleek, white and defiantly futurist design as all other Apple products. Not only has this proved to be an exceptional move in the field of brand awareness, but it also looks damn cool. With personal users eager to have a neat talking point and corporations anxious to get away from their stuffy, uptight image, Apple has brought many a wandering customer into the fold. This design (that the iPad perpetuates) was the first to make computers fashionable and for that, despite a valiant effort on the part of the challenger, the points stay firmly with the iPad.


Round 2: Display, Processor Speed and Storage

We’ll go straight into the action with the display. The iPad 3 has the best display in the history of tablets... Or does it? With a quad-core graphics processor and what Apple have termed their ‘Retina Display’, the massive 9.7 inch screen in like an Action man movie theatre. The Surface actually has a bigger screen at 10.6 inches and uses Microsoft’s ‘Clear Type’ HD software. This would be enough to beat any other challenger it might come across, but is not quite enough to beat the iPad. Advantage? Apple.


Now we’ll go ‘under the hood’ (as I like to say) and check out the technology inside the devices. First? The CPU processors. The iPad runs dual core 1GHz Arm Cortex-A9 processors, which makes for fast, efficient usage. The Surface is going to have to go some to beat that, but, storming into the second round, Microsoft’s newest prodigy is actually equipped with dual core Intel Core i5 processors with integrated graphics... However, ARM are a known quantity in tablets, whereas Intel processors are not usually used here. Making this round Apple’s...For now.


Next, the storage space. The iPad has up to 64GB of storage space (minimum 16GB). The regular Surface matches this figure, but can be boosted by MicroSD. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro (the best version of the Surface – though much more pricey) will actually feature 128GB (as well as a MicroSD slot). The points definitely go to The Surface on this one.


Round 3: Connectivity, Apps and Battery Life

surface vs the ipad

Microsoft are attempting to take back the tablet PC market, a market they created back in 2002 and then spectacularly lost to Apple 8 years after it fell flat on its face.

With the iPad still looking to be the stronger contestant, I thought I’d venture even further inside the Surface and have a look around. With that said, lets ring the bell and begin our third and final round by looking at Internet Connectivity. The iPad 3 is generally reliable when it comes to the Internet, but the options are rather limited. With only WiFi or WiFi cellular to choose from, the iPad is thoroughly trounced by the Surface, which allows WiFi, but also USB connectivity and a couple of others.


Next up, apps. Being a Microsoft tablet, the Surface is likely to be really strong in terms of apps. However, Microsoft’s (until now) relatively understated presence in the world of tablet PCs, is completely obliterated by the 100,000+ apps currently being offered by Apple. That’s a drubbing that will cost the Surface heavily.

Finally, battery life. The Surface is justifiably proud of its 8 hours of guaranteed battery life, but an iPad 3 can be left alone for days without needing a recharge. The iPad 3 will officially give you up to 10 hours (and then some) and gets the points here as well. The Surface is a worthy opponent, but not quite worthy enough.


Our Verdict

Its a solid effort from Microsoft and one that will surely pay dividends, but their new tablet is still quite far away from being an ‘iPad killer’. For an affordable, yet cutting edge purchase, The Surface is going to make a lot of friends, but make no mistake, the iPad 3 is the clear winner and still champion of the tablets.


You can pre order the Microsoft Surface Tablet PC from the Microsoft Store today. RT Prices start at £399.


Surface with Windows RT


Windows 8 RT






31.5 W-h


32GB, 64GB


10.6”, 16:9, 1366x768


Stereo speakers
Full-size USB 2.0
microSDXC card slot
Headset jack
HD video out port
Cover port

Apple iPad (New iPad)


iOS 6






42.5 W-h


16GB, 32GB, 64GB


9.7", 2048x1536


Stereo speakers

30-pin dock connector port

Headset Jack


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Tags: microsoft surface tablet pc, windows 8 tablets, surface vs ipad, apple ipad


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