Apple started a revolution when it launched the original iPad back in 2010, one that redefined the way consumers viewed the tablet segment entirely. Before its arrival, the only wide spread tablets in existence were those hulky laptop convertible ones that merely added touch functionality to the usual Windows experience. By no means were they intuitive, as many people quickly found out. So when the iPad exploded onto the scene, it really shook up things from a design and experience point of view. Throughout the iPad’s reign (and its successors), Microsoft has been hanging back, plotting the next logical move to make a stab – and as we’ve seen, it was only recently when its Surface tablets were introduced. Microsoft has both the Surface 2, running on the new tablet-friendly Windows RT OS , and the Surface Pro 2, which has the full-fledged Windows 8.1 OS that is also running on laptops and desktops.

Rather than waiting until after the busy holiday season, Microsoft decided to launch its latest high profiled tablet, the Surface Pro 2, well ahead of Apple’s iPad Air – a daring move that will hopefully entice consumers. These two mighty devices are different no doubt, as their starting price points indicate to us, but nevertheless, they’re indeed tablets that have a lot to prove at the end of the day. So how do they stack up against one another? Let’s cut the chit-chat and dive right into the nitty-gritty!


Tablets are supposed to be travel friendly, right? Like seriously, they absolutely need to be easier to handle than laptops. With that in mind, it’s comforting to see that the iPad Air abiding by these rules, since it’s impressively designed – to the point that it makes the Surface Pro 2 look grossly massive. For a tablet, there’s no kidding that the Surface 2 is a hefty fella, but at least it’s still easier to carry around than a full-sized laptop.

Thankfully though, the constructions with these two tablets are solid, thanks in part to their premium choice of materials. Specifically, the brushed aluminum casing of the iPad Air, and “VaporMg” chassis of the Surface Pro 2 gives them plenty of sturdiness, but due to the weightiness of Microsoft’s tablet, it just seems more fragile. Therefore, we’re constantly handling it with more caution than the iPad Air.

Visually, the designs of both tablets are likable. We’re astounded by how easy it is to hold the iPad Air with a single hand, as its lightweight feel and the subtle curves around its trim provide us with a solid grip in the hand. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same thing for the Surface Pro 2, since its heavy girth and the sharp angular cutouts, doesn’t make it as comfortable to hold. However, those design characteristics blend to give it a distinctive industrial design that we find favorable.

Due to the wealth of ports on board with the Surface Pro 2, it proves its versatility over the iPad Air, which only bears a Lightning docking port for all of its connectivity. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 2 is armed with ports that are akin to today’s premium laptops – like a mini display port, microSD slot, USB 3.0 port, and a magnetic power port. Oh yeah, it also bundles in a useful kickstand, which is an appreciated item that’s still a rarity with tablets in general.


Neither tablet actually received upgrades to their respective displays, so the story here is the same as last year’s comparison – a 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS LCD panel with the iPad Air, and a 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD display with the Surface Pro 2. On paper, the iPad Air’s Retina display churns out the higher pixel density count of 264 ppi. Although it’s better, the Surface Pro 2’s 208 ppi pixel density figure is still potent enough to give it plenty of detail and clarity. Therefore, it’s nearly indistinguishable from a normal viewing distance to tell who has the upper hand – so they’re equally sharp to the eye!

Since their displays employ IPS LCD technology, they appear to exhibit many of the same characteristics that make them pleasant. However, upon closer inspection, we realize that the iPad Air’s panel offers slightly better viewing angles – while the Surface Pro 2’s display has a warmer tone to it. As we take them outside where the sun is shining its rays down upon them, we’re pleased to find that the two screens retain their clarity and visibility.



40. katreka

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

Correction: I just bought a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to replace my Toshiba laptop, and all I can say is that I've never been happier. I absolutely love my Surface Pro 3. And as a result of this, I am also going to buy a Surface Pro 2 to use as my tablet when I'm out of the house. Regarding the build quality of this device is absolutely high-end. I mainly love the straight edges, no curved edges like on the Ipads and other companies' products. It's absolutely comfortable to hold in your hands, plus the addition of the kick-stand is just a very convenient feature. This device is all metal construction. I bought a Bluetooth Logitech keyboard and a Bluetooth Microsoft mouse and I am all set. One more thing, I just hate the curvy edges of all products; to me straight edges give more grip than any other edges.

39. katreka

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

I just bought a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to replace my Toshiba laptop, and all I can say is that I've never been happier with my choice. I absolutely love my Surface Pro 3. And as a result of this, I am also going to buy a Surface Pro 2 to use as my tablet when I'm out of the house. Regarding the build quality of this device is absolutely high-end. I mainly love the straight edges, no curved edges like on the Ipads and other companies' products. It's absolutely comfortable to hold in your hands, plus the addition of the kick-stand is just a very convenient feature. This device is all metal construction. I bought a Bluetooth Logitech keyboard and a Bluetooth Microsoft mouse and I am also set. One more thing, I just hate the curvy edges of all products; to me straight edges give more grip than any other edges.

38. cincella

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 06, 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.

37. TheNewNormal

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 22, 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.

32. Pancholo

Posts: 380; Member since: Feb 27, 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: Nov 14, 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: 380; Member since: Feb 27, 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: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 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.

31. diyi75

Posts: 73; Member since: Oct 30, 2013

Phonearena is biased. How do u compare a tablet with a tablet PC?

26. iampayne

Posts: 322; Member since: Aug 12, 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: Jul 10, 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: 380; Member since: Feb 27, 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.

25. TheNeighbor

Posts: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 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: 322; Member since: Aug 12, 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: Jul 10, 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: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 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.

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.

21. Furbal unregistered

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.

20. twens

Posts: 1191; Member since: Feb 25, 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.

16. znellu

Posts: 82; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

Seriously a play tablet compared to a PC?! Weird...

15. 7thspaceman

Posts: 1597; Member since: Feb 14, 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!

12. nortoja79

Posts: 34; Member since: Feb 21, 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: 250; Member since: Aug 08, 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: 13; Member since: Jun 13, 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 is that confusing? Secondly i don't agree that sales should dictate reviews. Phonearena often bases its reviews on 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.

6. CX3NT3_713

Posts: 2365; Member since: Apr 18, 2011

Surface pro 2 \m/ ftw

5. VeloRabbit

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 14, 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.

4. JMartin22

Posts: 2422; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

I think it's mostly for the name.

1. noler

Posts: 326; Member since: Aug 19, 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: 326; Member since: Aug 19, 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: 428; Member since: Mar 30, 2012

the 9.2 is for the build quality and the name ;)

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