The iPad Pro Surface Book Comparison

I picked up an iPad Pro yesterday and thought I'd share my thoughts in comparison to the Surface Book.


Yesterday was the big day!

The iPad Pro was available and I immediately grabbed one. I remember on the day that Apple was making its announcements while I was in an airport lounge. I thought to myself (and said on twitter), that I figured I could probably replace my MacBook with an iPad Pro—given the screen size, resolution, and the keyboard case.

Of course, I had no idea that the Surface Book would even be a thing at the time.

Nevertheless, like with every other Apple product over the last decade, I picked it up on opening day and the comparison to the Surface Book started immediately.

The iPad Pro's Screen

I'll be honest with you, the iPad Pro is big. Not heavy, mind you. But big. Bigger than I expected—even when hearing about it or seeing pictures.

And immediately after installing a few apps, I was reminded of the first iPads that came out. Many of the applications had no idea how to leverage that old size. These were iPhone apps that just grew to fit the screen.

My experience over the last day has been similar – these apps don't have an idea how to leverage this size effectively and it will take some time to see apps that make use of it.

It made me wonder if the iTunes app store would suddenly have a section of apps that were specifically for the iPad Pro. I doubt it. But I wouldn't mind it.

Most of the apps I installed on the iPad Pro suddenly just had a lot more white space. Bummer, but I hope things get better over the next few months.

[tweet “The new iPad Pro has tons of screen space – most of which is wasted at this point.”]

Comparison: The Surface Book has a slightly larger screen with slightly better resolution. And the apps tend to make better use of it right now.

Typing on the iPad Pro

Before we talk about keyboards that can be attached—whether Apple's which isn't yet available to me, or my new Logitech keyboard—let's talk about the onscreen keyboard for a second.

The challenge with a device this big is that the onscreen keyboard wants you to type on it like a keyboard, but the way you hold a device this big makes it hard. And my constant need to type numbers (credit card numbers, etc) is even more challenging because it doesn't give me a number pad like the Surface Book.

So right off the bat,  you'd need to use a cover / keyboard if you wanted to think about this as a replacement. The onscreen keyboard won't do the trick.

The Logitech Case / Keyboard felt like a better approach to me—because a) it was available and b) it had additional keys. But I'll be honest, it's a crappy rubber keyboard.

[tweet “I really hate thin, rubber keyboard covers—on the Surface or the iPad Pro.”]

Comparison: The Surface Book has a better, stronger and more responsive keyboard than typing onscreen with an iPad Pro or with the Logitech keyboard.

Photos & Sound on the iPad Pro

I was pretty sure that this wouldn't be a competition and it wasn't.

The iPad Pro has better cameras, takes better photos and video, and plays sound better than the Surface Book. Not just a little bit better. Much better.

I don't know how I hadn't known that the new iPad Pro would have much better speakers but it blows anything I was expecting away.

Everything I tried, to shot cruddy photos or video, didn't work. The shots looked clean and were in focus – regardless of how close or far I was and how much light was in front or behind me.

I'm not saying I pointed it into the sun, but in everyday use today, the iPad Pro killed it on photo, video and sound.

[tweet “The cameras and sound on the iPad Pro blow everything else away.”]

Comparison: There is none. The iPad Pro wins. By a landslide.

Applications on the iPad Pro

Because the iPad Pro is so big, I started looking at apps I wouldn't normally have on my iPhone (or even my iPad mini). And, of course, this is again where the iPad Pro shined. Microsoft has just struggled to get developers to build on their platform—for many years. So when I use the Surface Book, I'm talking about the apps that come on the computer and Office Applications. Maybe Adobe too. And a few utilities—DropBox, etc.

But when I work on the iPad Pro, I have tons of apps available to me—and as more developers build for this screen real estate, I'm excited to see what will arrive.

Comparison: The iPad Pro has more applications for it. But the Office applications on the Surface Book are native, not iPad versions. So maybe it's a tie, depending on use.

Final thoughts on the iPad Pro Surface Book Comparison

I fly a decent amount each year. Something like 75,000 miles a year (or more). On those flights, unlike many other passengers, I take the time to rest and relax. So that means I watch movies.

One of the first things I did yesterday evening was to play a movie on my new iPad Pro. I own a lot of iTunes movies—so I had 560 to choose from. I picked Any Given Sunday—because with those speakers, who could not want to test out Al Pacino, LL Cool J and Jamie Foxx. The video and sound were incredible—both natively and using my headphones.

That's not a reason most people would keep the iPad Pro, just for movies. And I get that.

But my hope is that in the near future we'll see more apps that leverage the screen real estate and the introduction of the pencil will provide some options in applications that I'm looking forward to.

I know most would return it. It's just big. And not nearly as functional as my Surface Book. But for entertainment, it's pretty incredible.

So in the end, I find that I'll use these two devices differently. The iPad Pro is great (right now) for entertainment. The Surface Book is great for writing, and as a laptop / tablet hybrid.

Lastly, since starting with the Surface Book, I've not used my MacBook again. I've taken it as backup to two conferences, in case something went wrong with the Surface Book, but nothing did.

And have I mentioned that I love typing on the Surface Book?

So for now, I'm keeping both.