iPad Air 2 Vs. Surface Pro 3: No Comparison - InformationWeek

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10/17/2014
10:51 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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iPad Air 2 Vs. Surface Pro 3: No Comparison

Comparisons between Apple's iPad Air 2 and Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 are both inevitable and misguided.

that the iPad isn't some kind of PC replacement; it's a new category of device whose uses are still evolving. Yes, iPads support Microsoft Office and Apple's iWork, but the company remains almost stubbornly resistant to the idea of keyboard covers and other accessories that might allow users to mistake Apple's tablets for some sort of ad hoc laptop. The iPad isn't about hunkering down in a cubicle for traditional office work; it's about interacting with the world through a mobile digital interface, consuming content in a more intimate way, and exploring new ways to create and share.

With new unions between OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, iPads also become a more fluid companion for Macs. You probably don't want to tap out a dissertation on an iPad Air 2, but with Continuity, you could type up a few paragraphs on your Mac, pick up your iPad, and have your newly written content immediately available for review as you walk out the door. Windows 8.1 supports content syncing across devices, but whereas Microsoft wants to put tablet and laptop into one form factor, Apple is keeping its devices distinct and instead focusing on ways to seamlessly share data between them.

The Surface Pro 3 can fulfill some of the same purposes as an iPad -- but in a materially different way. The app gap is part of the problem. Modern touch apps available for Windows 8.1 are often less polished and sophisticated than those on iOS, and as mentioned, the iOS library features many more titles. But hardware is part of the problem too.

The Pro 3 is thin and light, perhaps the best hybrid device currently available. But hybridity still demands compromise. If you're going to set the Surface Pro 3 on its kickstand to type a report or watch a movie on Netflix, it's a great device. But it won't handle in your hand like an iPad Air 2 and it won't balance in your lap as easily as a traditional laptop. Microsoft's tablet offers a compelling, if still developing, digital stylus experience, and its beautiful 12-inch screen, which feels like a notepad in your hands, is ergonomically suited to this use. But for other tablet use cases, the device simply feels a bit large and unwieldy.

The Pro 3's most satisfying use is as an ultra-light but still powerful laptop. Indeed, rather than choosing between the Surface Pro and a new iPad, most users should probably compare Microsoft's tablet to the MacBook Air. With its 2-in-1 premise, Microsoft's tablet is technically more versatile than Apple's laptop. But with an immature Modern app catalogue and a design that tries to balance somewhat opposing needs, the Surface's laptop use case is much more compelling than its tablet mode. The Air lacks touchscreen capabilities and has a relatively dated screen, but because it has a traditional clamshell design instead of the Pro 3's kickstand, Apple's laptop is easier to balance on your lap. The MacBook Air and Surface Pro 3 might not be perfect comparisons, in other words, but they overlap much more than the Pro 3 and the iPad Air 2.

Ultimately, if you feel torn between an iPad and a Surface, step back and think about how you're likely to use each device. Even ARM-based Surfaces such as the Surface 2, which lacks support for legacy desktop apps, are more useful as small laptops than as hybrid tablets. Surfaces are not tablets in the same "pure" sense that iPads are. For those interested in a true tablet rather than a hybrid, Google's newly announced Nexus 9 is a better iPad alternative than the Surface Pro 3 is.

Even though the Surface and iPad lines have grown more distinct over time, comparisons between the two product families are likely become more intense in 2015. With Intel's new Broadwell chips shipping, the Pro 3 will be due for a replacement sooner than later. Apple, meanwhile, is expected to release an iPad Pro with a 12.9-inch screen.

The Internet of Things demands reliable connectivity, but standards remain up in the air. Here's how to kick your IoT strategy into high gear. Get the new IoT Goes Mobile issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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YoullNeverCatchMeCoppa
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YoullNeverCatchMeCoppa,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/5/2014 | 1:42:09 PM
Hey Author, your Bias is showing!
I LOVE how the author keeps poo pooing ideas that conflict with his POV regarding these Tablets. Apple Fanboi much? It's obvious he's taken the Kool-Aid and LIKES IT.

To say "well you can only look at the argument THIS way" is a disservice to the reader. The sheer POWER available in an i7 Surface to an iPad is certainly no comparison. The iPad can only run HOBBLED "apps". So Windows doesn't need as big of an "app" store. 450K apps? Great point was made about how many of them are essentially the same thing. If you widdle down to UNIQUE apps, the number drops quite astonishingly.

The ONLY advantage an iPad EVER has is there are simply some apps only available for iOS that aren't available elswhere. Particularly in Music Production and that's only for a small subset of things like Mainstage. In fact the ONLY reason I'm considering one for a current use I have. Because some developers are too LAZY to write for anything outside of iOS. Essentially forcing me to buy what is otherwise an IFERIOR product simply because of the lack of support. Oh, and it's lighter. That's the other "advantage". The Surface will surf the web just as well (and probably be more pleasurable with the larger screen) which is what 90% of tablets are used for. Maybe a few games, maybe to read e-books. Sure there's more you can do, but nothing a surface wouldn't handle easily.

 

The GLARING issues with the iPad is you get locked into the whole Mac ecosystem which is essentailly a WALLED GARDEN. You're also capped for storage at 128GB. Need more? Too bad, because this is a TOY, not a serious TOOL. See the difference? There's a reason why 12 yr olds LOVE iPads!

Things will get interesting with Windows 10. The iPad will either need to evolve (Beyond just goig "Pro" LOL) or deuce the price to about what they're REALLY worth: About $500 for the top of the line version. The fact that the Surface 3 entry level is as (possibly still more) powerful as the best iPad at the same price should tell you a LOT. The only interesting point is BOTH are still overcharging for storage.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2014 | 12:08:31 AM
Re: Good analogy
"Nice anology by the writer: "comparisons between the Surface Pro 2 and the iPad Air 2 are misguided, somewhat like comparing a smart car to a station wagon."

I kinda disagree. It doesn't sound like a good analogy. Because the smart car and the station wagon are cars and can take you from point A to point B. Whereas we can certainly call the iPad a tablet, we really can not say the same of the Surface Pro 3, The latter -I think- would be better called a hybrid or as  Army12Monkeys puts it "a full fledged computer, but in tablet format."

And as we see in the article and in the comments, there are things that the IPad can do and the Surface can't and viceversaa.

 
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2014 | 9:26:25 PM
Re: Different devices
Great article. I truly understand the differences between these two devices.  In the end, it all depends on what you would use it for. I wouldn't want to write my dissertation on a tablet, it would give me a nightmare.  I think Ipad have been very popular because it is a great device for consumer use rather than productivity. 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2014 | 8:43:58 PM
Re: Different devices
Good point, zaious, but what if you have all of those needs a different times? There are few who can afford to have the optimal device to use for each and every different working environment. Most of us are going to have to choose the most common use cases and compromise usability in a few areas.
zaious
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zaious,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2014 | 12:36:04 PM
Re: Different devices
It actually depends how you work and what you want to do. There are people who work in desks and read on tablets. There are people who need multiple monitors. There are people who need to be very mobile. So, just one sentence for everyone: "Pick yours- suit yourself" 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2014 | 8:27:11 AM
Re: Stupid
The iPad and the Surface Pro 3 are different kinds of devices. Two interesting things I can add from my anecdotal experience. First, by far the majority of iPads I see in the office and in various other locations (largely business-related so that is a differentiating factor) use a keyboard case of some sort. With that add-on, the categorization is blurred with folks (myself included) using a keyboard on an iPad more often than not. Makes it much more comparable to the Surface Pro 3.

The other point is about being an IT director for a non-profit organization. I have limited funds to work with to outfit staff in my organization. By necessity, I have to lump the devices into similar categories. I can't justify issuing a Surface Pro 3 and an iPad. For the work our staff do, you can use an iPad on the road to connect back to our servers or remote into a Windows desktop. If we're going to pay the premium for a higher-end laptop or Surface Pro 3, that will be the portable device in most cases.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2014 | 7:50:32 AM
Re: Stupid
I agree as the size of the app ecosystem is an important measure to take into account for both consumption and productive apps. If the utilization of these apps were below acceptable levels, then over time the app ecosystem would shrink because demand would not be enough to cover the cost of developing an app.

Initially, it is difficult for consumers to compare a product that is aiming for a new category. For instance, a segment of the population required smart phones with larger screen and tablets with small screen, hence, the hybrid phone/tablet or phonelet. In the same way, the Surface line is also an attempt to cater to a segment that exists between the PC and tablet world. However, this category has no name as yet.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
10/18/2014 | 5:55:23 PM
Different devices
The surface and iPad are really 2 different devices. The surface can be a laptop replacement where the iPad cannot. However, depending on how you work you could get away with an iPad. The surface may do more but if you don't need to do those things then who cares.

 
anon9585915949
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anon9585915949,
User Rank: Strategist
10/18/2014 | 1:05:22 PM
Re: Stupid
The ipad continues to dominate for one reason: it's easier to use for the casual user - especially without a keyboard.  The surface pro could POTENTIALLY do it all (APPS and full versions of APPLICATIONS) but the support just isn't there. 
anon9585915949
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anon9585915949,
User Rank: Strategist
10/18/2014 | 12:57:47 PM
Ipad vs surface pro 3
All, 

 

The way I see it, apps were created to deal with not having a keyboard (i.e. an interface issue).  Coming from a computer, apps feel like hamstrung applications; you can get things done, but there are limitations.  The sad part (for Microsoft) they could have the potential it do it all, but the support (for APPS) is simply not there. SO for now, both will exist.
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