Introduction


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!

Design


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.


Display


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.

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