Apple iPad Air vs Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Interface and Functionality
In addition to getting the customary set of upgraded hardware, these new tablets are also accompanied with refreshed software experiences too – albeit, there’s more of a profound change with the iPad Air’s iOS 7 experience. Let’s not focus on what’s new with them, but instead, we’ll explain some of things that we like and dislike about them.
When it comes to the presentation value, it’s a tough call as to which of the two we prefer more, since they have their own unique elements. On the surface, the iOS 7 experience continues to follow the formula of having a simplified and intuitive interface, which now has been given some new visual changes and enhancements. However, there’s still something about the dynamic look of the Windows 8.1 start screen that catches our attention – thanks in part to the animated live tiles that comprise it. Also worth mentioning, the Surface Pro 2 is running a full desktop OS, as opposed to just a tablet centric one like the iPad Air.
Those live tiles, in fact, are also what Microsoft relies on with the platform’s notifications system. We might drool over how they look appealing and all, but it’s just a disorganized mess trying to hunt down specific notifications. Bearing that in mind, that’s why we absolutely prefer the iOS 7’s implementation, since everything is populated in the notifications center.
Having access to the full power of a desktop OS, the Surface Pro 2’s enhanced Windows 8.1 experience handles multi-tasking in a more ideal manner, seeing that two apps can be placed side-by-side – with the ability to adjust the windows to our liking. In addition, we’re presented with that true multi-tasking experience with software running in desktop mode. Well, the iOS 7’s implementation hasn’t changed, so it isn’t as practical.
You’d think that the Surface Pro 2 would be preloaded with Office, giving it a productivity edge over the iPad Air, but it’s actually not on board with the tablet – sorry to say. Instead, you’ll need to install your own copy, or purchase it separately if you don't have one. It’s not a big deal per se, especially when there are a few free alternatives out there. Well, brand new iPad Air owners have the option to download the iWork suite of apps for free.
There are no concerns trying to type long passages of text on either tablet, mainly due to their spacious layouts, responsiveness, and killer auto-correct features. As a whole, we don’t find one that’s necessarily better than the other, since the experience is so good with the two.
As we continue learning the ins and outs of each respective platform experience, we come to the realization that the iOS 7 experience of the iPad Air is a simple and fun one. Furthermore, the long development cycle of iOS in general has given the tablet platform a healthy ecosystem of third party apps. It might still be trying to establish its foot amongst consumers, but the Windows 8.1 experience of the Surface Pro 2 targets power users who are all about productivity.
Processor and Memory
Sporting two totally different processors, one that’s notable for being based on 64-bit architecture, while the other bears PC-like components, these two tablets have the same thing in common – they’re fast, like speedy fast! On the iPad Air, it’s powered by a 64-bit based dual-core 1.4GHz Apple A7 processor coupled with 1GB of RAM and the PowerVR G6430 GPU, which rarely exhibits any stutter with its performance. At the same time, the Surface Pro 2’s 4th generation Intel Core i5 processor, a dual-core clocked in at 1.6GHz, combined with 4GB of RAM and the Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU, delivers the same lightning fast operations like the iPad Air. Whether it’s simple tasks, or intensive ones, they playfully exhibit a solid amount of finesse with their performances.
When it comes to storage options, it’s nice to know that they’re available in a wide array of capacities. The iPad Air is available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB capacities, but there’s no expandability with it whatsoever. It’s not an issue with the Surface Pro 2, since it boasts a microSD card slot, but considering it’s more PC than anything else, Microsoft gladly blesses it with higher capacities – 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB options to be exact. Though, the latter two models are outfitted with 8GB of RAM, instead of the usual 4GB.
Internet and Connectivity
Not surprisingly, the web browsing experience is spot-on fantastic with these two prized stallions. For starters, they lay claim to all the lovable elements that make the experience so useful – like their speedy page loads, instant page rendering, and buttery smooth navigational controls. Sure, the Surface Pro 2’s Internet Explorer is a full-fledged desktop browser, but the iPad Air’s Safari browser matches it in nearly every features category.
Currently, it’s only the iPad Air that’s manufactured in both Wi-Fi and 4G LTE models – whereas it’s Wi-Fi only with the Surface Pro 2. At the very least, they contain the base set of connectivity features, which consists of aGPS and Bluetooth 4.0. Like we mentioned earlier, the Surface Pro 2 benefits by having PC-like ports – giving it more versatility than its rival.
1. noler (Posts: 153; Member since: 19 Aug 2013)
"it seems as though there’s more value out of the Surface Pro 2"
But PhoneArena rating:
Microsoft Surface Pro 2: 8.5
Apple iPad Air: 9.2
Can you explain it?
2. noler (Posts: 153; Member since: 19 Aug 2013)
Apple iPad Air vs Microsoft Surface 2
"Seriously though, we can go either way with this comparison"
But PhoneArena rating:
Microsoft Surface 2: 8.0
Apple iPad Air: 9.2
Can you explain it?
3. rawbow (Posts: 405; Member since: 30 Mar 2012)
the 9.2 is for the build quality and the name ;)
7. MobileKicker (Posts: 212; Member since: 19 Sep 2013)
Can anybody explain me that how iPad Air beats surface pro 2
Ipad air crushes surface pro 2 in everything
8. shreyas.s666 (Posts: 80; Member since: 24 Aug 2012)
in what? can you explain? may be surface 2 not really pro
9. ihavenoname (Posts: 962; Member since: 18 Aug 2013)
iPad Air has better screen, lighter, thinner, more accessories, better app ecosystem, better quality, better brand=cool. As a tablet, it´s better and if you want Windows, get proper Windows 8 laptop.
10. papss (Posts: 3429; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)
Right! Air wishes it could do everything that the pro 2 does. Don't be dumb
11. wildfiregt (Posts: 66; Member since: 10 Jun 2013)
Surface Pro 2 features an intel i5 processor. more RAM. and a real Windows 8 with all programs of PC compatible. It is a PC itself. So no ,even if it is expensive. Nothing beats the Pro 2
13. JunitoNH (Posts: 757; Member since: 15 Feb 2012)
If you want all that raw power, why not purchase an Ultrabook at those prices? sometimes we forget the purpose of tablets. Hell, you even have to carry the keyboard around. Tablets, "not" meant to replace your current laptop.
17. wildfiregt (Posts: 66; Member since: 10 Jun 2013)
Currently you can use it without keyboard. just like any other. Why did Apple introduce keyboard to its new tablet ?
And yes it's true ,i'm rather buying an ultrabook at that price or even cheaper. But beside the price, this tablet is awesome. Dunno if the Ativ Q would be released cuz this one is a killer too
23. NEDM64 (Posts: 2; Member since: 14 Nov 2013)
Except a proper laptop, MacBook Air, for example, with a REAL KEYBOARD, and a REAL TRACKPAD, and a REAL OS.
18. alpinejason (Posts: 251; Member since: 06 Sep 2011)
but with the surface pro 2 it does not need to rely on applications as much since it runs the full o.s. unlike the scaled down version of the ipad
22. Altair (Posts: 295; Member since: 02 Feb 2012)
- Surface has A LOT more accessories ranging zillions of different PC compatible things. Apple has only lightning cable and some regular stuff.
Better app ecosystem?
- dude, Windows 8.1 has like million softwares. We are talking about some serious stuff here, like Call of Duty, Skyrim, Photoshop and zillion others. Apples best shot is some Infinity Blades ;)
- There is nothing wrong with surface quality
- Totally matter of taste
5. VeloRabbit (Posts: 1; Member since: 14 Nov 2013)
This seems like an odd comparison to me. This is Tablet vs Tablet PC.
Would it make more sense to compare iPad Air to Surface 2 (Not Pro) to get a better tablet vs tablet comparison?
Then things like Price difference, weight, lack of full office vs free iWorks, would be more valid.
This is like comparing a compact SUV to a full size SUV and saying the compact is a better value with price and gas consumption, despite not being able to carry as much.
12. nortoja79 (Posts: 33; Member since: 21 Feb 2010)
Sales will tell the tale...How much has Microsoft lost in revenues since its inception?? a LOT. It won't sell because it has no real identity...consumers are confused, is it a laptop or a tablet? too expensive for tablet buyers, and too limited for those looking at laptops.
14. Pdubb (Posts: 236; Member since: 08 Aug 2011)
You are thinking Surface2 the Surface Pro2 has no limitations compared to full sized laptops. It's favorable in fact to any ultrabook.
19. bigwavesurfer4 (Posts: 10; Member since: 13 Jun 2011)
I feel like Phonearena has this same idea in mind which is frustrating when it comes to reviews. I own a surface 2 and the difference is clear. The surface 2 is a tablet. Meant for apps, productivity through office and watching movies. Surface pro 2 is not an ipad like tablet. Its an utlrabook with a touchscreen....how is that confusing?
Secondly i don't agree that sales should dictate reviews. Phonearena often bases its reviews on popularity...no one is talking about how the surface rt was given an 8.5....the surface 2 is better in every way...why the low score? Sales were poor for the rt. Imagine what the score would be and the review if the apple sales migrated to microsoft. Either way...both are great pieces of tech. Just think that not too long ago these monsters were non existent.
15. 7thspaceman (Posts: 900; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)
People in the know realize that the Surface Pro is an Ultra book in the Shape of a Tablet. and that there are really 2 types of tablets on the market built for 2 different proposes.
type 1=touch screen Apps only Tablets. in that group you have the Apple ipads, Android Tablets, Surface RT, Surface 2. and the New Nokia 2520. these devices do not do full fledged Desktop/Server applications. Type 2= PC Tablets these tablets run Touch screen Apps, and can run complex full Desktop/Server programs, CAD programs ECT. The Surface Pro and the other tablets MS OEM partners Tablets out there. Running Windows 8.1 or old Windows 7 OS tablets are in this group, What a person really has to do is ask them self is what do they want to do with a tablet. If they want to use it to do full desktop/Server Programs then you buy a Windows 8.1 tablet PC, if you do not want to run
full desktop/Server programs on your tablet then get a Apple Ipad , Android tablet. or a Surface RT, Surface 2, or the new dynamic Nokia 2520. Folks what do you want to do with your TABLET! Do you know!
16. znellu (Posts: 64; Member since: 05 Dec 2012)
Seriously a play tablet compared to a PC?! Weird...
20. twens (Posts: 446; Member since: 25 Feb 2012)
Hahaha, this site is so pro apple. How can you even compare a toy to a pc? This is a full pc which is almost slim as an iPad with equally same battery life. That is what I call innovation. With blue stacksyou can get almost all the apps on android play store plus you get lots of windows .exe apps. Don't ever make this comparison again. You guys are not professionals at all.
21. Furbal (Posts: 141; Member since: 22 Sep 2012)
How did this pass a review board? These should not be compared.
A PC that can run LoL, connect to a bluetooth/usb OBD tool and diagnosis my cars check engine light, connect a external hdd/blu-ray drive for the long hauls in the car or air plane, run native flash etc.
24. taikucing (unregistered)
lol, iPad air is like a toy compared to Surface Pro 2. Ipad & iPhone will always be icons for launcher. I can make a java & .NET program in Surface Pro 2 or run Linux in VirtualBox. Can iPad do that? Until now iOS 7 doesn't even have true multitasking capability.
25. TheNeighbor (Posts: 42; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)
Is it me or the Surface Pro 2's Wacom active pen digitizer wasn't featured with this article? It's running the full latest Windows OS,something people are even using on their Mac laptops or ultrabooks.
The iPad Air can't run stuff I personally use for work like CAD, 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, SketchUp. The Wacom pen would even be more useful for sketching out ideas and it comes free with the Pro. To be able to have those running smoothly at a certain capacity on a package like the Surface Pro 2 is incredible enough. I want one to even to play certain full PC games with the graphics mirrored onto large smart TVs. I'd gladly carry the lighter Surface Pro 2 than my Alienware MX14R2 daily.
This is not to say the Air isn't useful and handy. I'm impressed with the Air's battery stamina. But for $200 more, I'd get more for my money's worth with the Surface Pro 2 and would spend another $100+ for the new thinner type cover with backlighting. The Pro would certainly far offer more functions than the iPad Air. I can bump up the capacity with a 64GB micro SD card which cost less than $60, or hook up an entire 2TB HDD easily. I don't have to hook it up to another computer to load media.
27. iampayne (Posts: 104; Member since: 12 Aug 2013)
I think your still missing the point. The iPad is a tablet and the Surface is a PC, bottom line. To use those programs you talked about, same ones I use in my profession everyday, you need a keyboard and a mouse. I hope your smart enough to just get a full fledged laptop than spend all this money on a surface tablet. You speak about money, well for less than either of these, iPad/Surface, you can get a full laptop which would still run circles around the Surface. CAD and Photoshop are not ideal on a touch screen for heavy editing. Good luck trying to edit an elevation or floor plan not using a mouse on CAD (without wanting to pull your hair out). And a laptop does not take up all that much more space than a surface with keyboard and mouse.
All Im saying is yes this surface runs circles around the iPad, but its because your talking about 2 different categories. If you work in construction and haul stuff around you get a pick-up truck not a cadillac. Yes you could throw lumber in the back of the caddy but its not ideal.
28. dogma (Posts: 2; Member since: 10 Jul 2013)
I think the only one here missing the point is you.
So, what exactly stops you from hooking up a full keyboard and mouse to a surface?
You do realise also that it features a displayport through which you can hook up an additional big monitor, right?
At home, I also use a USB 3.0 dual video docking station. In addition to a big monitor that is hooked up through the display port. This effectively gives me a workstation of 4 HD screens (3 monitors + the surface screen itself). And to get all that, I just need to plug in 2 cables (a USB cable and the displayport).
Plugging in those 2 cables gives me full keyboard, mouse, 3 big HD monitors, gigabit ethernet and (in total) some 11 additional USB ports I can use.
If I would plug it in, then hide the surface, sit you down at my desk and then tell you that what you see on screen is my desktop workstation... You would buy it. You literally wouldn't see the difference in terms of performance at all. Unless if we would fire up GTA5 or something - off course.
But for everyday productivity work (I'm a software engineer, so I live in Visual Studio, sql server, profiling tools etc) this is a bomb.
I used to have a desktop tower at home and at the office. Additionally, I used to carry a laptop around to customers. And at home, I'ld read the mails/news/etc on an android tablet in the sofa.
All 4 of these devices were thrown out in favor of a single surface pro and 2 docking stations (one for home, one for the office).
The pro and the docking stations + cables in total set me back some 1600 euro. Yes, it's not cheap.
However...... try calculating the cost of 2 desktop towers, a laptop and an ipad/android tablet. See if you can get that for less then 1600 euro.
People have this weird idea it seems that it is somehow "forbidden" to use anything but touch on a surface. Ridiculous.
It has a USB3.0 and a display port for a reason. And that reason is exactly the way I use it. It transforms the thing into a power house with 4 monitors. And the funny part is... I could make it 6 monitors.
An i5 with 4 or 8 gigs of ram is a more then decent machine you know...
30. TheNeighbor (Posts: 42; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)
Dude, I already have a full laptop as I have mentioned. It's about 5kg which includes the power adapter. Did you know that Microsoft had produced qwerty board and mouse for the Surface Pro specifically? Heck, I do Revit too. I'm even an instructor. I know my hardware requirements for the programs I use. I'm considering getting the Surface Pro 2 256GB model for the 8GB RAM. I'd like something thinner at times, but still can do some heavy lifting. My job is mostly out of the office, and on site.
The Surface Pro's Wacom digitizer is something I want too for digital painting or sketching on-location occasionally. I don't need to find the a flat surface to hook up a separate Wacom Cintique to sketch something I am observing or thinking.
Yes, I do recognize the iPad Air is a different category. I never got any of the iPads because they can't satisfy my requirements for a tablet form device. Phone Arena should have compared this with the Surface (RT) 2 instead for a closer match. But I'd choose the Surface (RT) 2 over the iPad Air for the active digitizer, backlit keyboard cover, removable memory expansion, USB 3 ports, and no need to connect to another PC to load media.
26. iampayne (Posts: 104; Member since: 12 Aug 2013)
Everyone calling the iPad a toy is just sily. Please explain to me how its a toy. The only legitimate apps you can not run on an iPad are heavy programs like CAD and FULL Photoshop. You can use word processing apps, google docs, word (soon to be released), pages, etc. There is not a local file manager, unless its built into the app, but most things are moving to the cloud anyway. You can even do some decent video editing on the iPad. So Im not seeing how you would classify it as a toy. I am not saying its more productive than the Surface but by no means is the iPad a toy.
29. dogma (Posts: 2; Member since: 10 Jul 2013)
I think what people generally mean by calling it a "toy" is that its obvious prime focus is on consumption of data. Be it reading of mails, news, blogs or watching movies, listening to music, playing a game,...
Off course people can write some apps for it that give you some limited productivity capabilities. But the keyword here is "limited".
This entire idea that tablets are only good for specific use-cases is an apple invention that the world has just swallowed without questioning.
Microsoft now is saying "there isn't a single reason why a tablet couldn't do what a full pc can do". And they are correct about that. Yes, this will always involve hybrid machines...
For detailed/specialised productivity work, you're gonna want to have precision input (keyb/mouse) and sufficient screen real estate (display port; docking station...).
Look at it this way...
ipad / android tablets = giant phones that can't place calls.
surface pro style tablets = small pc's (in physical size - not necessarily in terms of power... an i5 with 8 gigs of RAM is very decent)
surface rt style tablets = dumbed down pc's with limited capability (= approaching the 'giant phone' equivalent, but with some extra sauce on top)
In terms of operating systems the above comparision is spot-on.
ipad/iphone = ios
surface / laptops / desktops = full windows
The bottom line is simple...
No ipad or android based tablet is capable of replacing your full pc.
Every intel based windows tablet IS a pc - and thus very capable of replacing a full desktop pc and/or laptop.
An ipad is a "toy" to pc's just like a smartphone is a "toy" to pc's.
33. Pancholo (Posts: 370; Member since: 27 Feb 2012)
"This entire idea that tablets are only good for specific use-cases is an apple invention that the world has just swallowed without questioning."
As an anthropologist, I will agree that you just hit the nail right on its head with that. I have studied this phenomena myself and it couldn't be more correct. We have all become so accustomed and molded on how to use our devices, generally thanks to the programs/limited apps made for them.
For now, nothing will beat a PC regardless of its form, state or shape.
31. diyi75 (Posts: 9; Member since: 30 Oct 2013)
Phonearena is biased. How do u compare a tablet with a tablet PC?
32. Pancholo (Posts: 370; Member since: 27 Feb 2012)
And this is why people will forever hate Windows 8 RT. This should have been between the RT and the iPad ONLY. Comparisons like these confuse people further and make no sense unless we're only talking about portability.
iPad = Tablet; good for web surfing, music and playing Angry Birds.
Surface Pro = PC; good for EVERYTHING in life.
34. NEDM64 (Posts: 2; Member since: 14 Nov 2013)
10 years from now on, we will talk about who was right. If we aren't already using all tablets, and all the computing muscle will be acessible through the cloud.
That's how things are, and the iPad is just the face of it.
36. Pancholo (Posts: 370; Member since: 27 Feb 2012)
In the future we will simply observe an even bigger and more obvious immersion/hybridization of devices to cater for what everybody will desire at some point - a true all-in-one, which is what Microsoft and various OEMs have been trying to provide.
Personally, I would find it interesting if Apple would eventually swallow their pride and release a touch-screen-optimized Mac OS to put on MacBooks, or they will probably continue to rely on their divided playing field as it is right now: desktops, laptops, tablets. Whichever path they choose, an iPad will always remain a toy or a light workstation only limited by the hardware and apps provided.
The future is now. Windows will just get more and more portable and optimized with further releases, and the rest will only level the playing field (if not surpass them).
35. TheNeighbor (Posts: 42; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)
Yes, I agree with what you're saying. But I think future devices will be full PCs.
Right now, Microsoft has done a good with the Surface Pro lineup, providing us amazing processing power in a small nice package.
37. TheNewNormal (Posts: 1; Member since: 22 Nov 2013)
No mention of the excellent wacom active digitiser. Aside from it's obvious uses, hovering above the screen to move through 'mouse-over' web menus is really cool.
38. cincella (Posts: 1; Member since: 06 Jan 2014)
The Pro2 is a laptop that detaches. The iPad is a real tablet. The late Mr. Steve Jobs was right when he said Microsoft has no taste. Leave the innovation and quality to Apple and let Mr. Gates trail behind with some clunky "me too" product.