THE iPad Pro, Apple's first foray into the business tablet market, looks familiar, not simply because it resembles a larger iPad Air but because it seems to borrow a wealth of features from Microsoft's Surface range.
Besides the hefty display, the iPad Pro is designed to work with the suspiciously familiar Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard - a Surface Pen stylus and Type Cover keyboard, essentially - to offer an enterprise-ready workhorse in a tablet body. Microsoft has successfully occupied this territory for years, and continues to do so despite losses elsewhere.
Thus, there are few better candidates for a spec-by-spec comparison with the iPad Pro than its biggest competitor and apparent inspiration, 2014's Surface Pro 3.
Dimensions and design
iPad Pro: 306x221x6.9mm, 713g/723g
Surface Pro 3: 292x201x9.1mm, 800g
The iPad Pro's sleekness is appealing. Even the LTE model is significantly lighter than the Surface Pro 3, in addition to being thinner than many smartphones. Microsoft's tablet is marginally more compact in the first two dimensions, although this is to be expected considering the smaller screen.
The Surface Pro 3 really outshines the iPad Pro in its range of connectivity options, which include a micro SDXC card reader and, crucially for business use, a full-sized USB 3.0 port. The iPad Pro, by contrast, features only a Lightning connector, which might make physically transferring data difficult if used in a Windows-heavy IT environment.
Both devices are compatible with a dedicated stylus - the Surface Pen and Apple Pencil respectively - but the Surface Pro 3 has the benefit of including the pen in the box. The iPad Pro's Apple Pencil must instead be purchased separately - for a whopping $99.
iPad Pro: 12.9in 2732x2048 resolution at 264ppi
Surface Pro 3: 12in 2160x1440 resolution at 216ppi
The iPad Pro's display wins it back some points. At 264ppi it's a touch sharper than that of the Surface Pro 3, even with an additional 0.9in diagonally. That extra real estate isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but might at least be enough fit an extra Excel column.
The Surface Pro 3's glossy screen also makes it susceptible to glare. The iPad Pro, by contrast, includes an anti-reflective and anti-fingerprint coating, although admittedly we haven't tested its effectiveness.
iPad Pro: 64-bit A9X
Surface Pro 3: 4th-gen Intel Core i5, i5 and i7 options with TPM chip
The inclusion of Intel Core chips has always been central to the Surface Pro 3's enterprise credentials, offering desktop-grade performance in a tablet form factor. These processors also work in conjunction with a Trusted Platform Module chip, a handy security tool that prevents the device booting up if it detects that a component has been tampered with.
The 4th-generation Haswell family has now been superseded by the Broadwell and Skylake lines, but we can't be sure of the new A9X chip's competitiveness until benchmarking it ourselves. Apple has compared it only with the old A8X, claiming that the new model is up to 80 percent faster in graphics tasks and up to 70 percent faster in CPU tasks. It might well need to be even faster to keep up with a decent i5 or i7.
iPad Pro: iOS 9
Surface Pro 3: Windows 10 Professional
iOS 9 introduces a number of attractive new features, including a split-screen multitasking view, an improved Notes app which can record handwriting - potentially useful with the Apple Pencil - and security additions like six-digit passcodes and two-factor authentication.
Even so, Windows 10 Pro will almost certainly be better for business use. Besides offering far greater compatibility with legacy applications and newer productivity software, Windows 10 Pro can switch between a touch-optimised tablet mode and a more PC-like desktop view. In the latter, users can open and manually resize as many different tasks as they can fit on the screen, thoroughly beating the two-app limit of iOS 9's split-screen feature.
Ultimately, this is a case of a mobile OS going up against a desktop OS, and Windows 10 Pro is just a better fit for devices that aim to be laptop replacements.
iPad Pro: 8MP rear, 1.2MP front
Surface Pro 3: 5MP rear, 5MP front
Interestingly, the iPad Pro has the higher-spec rear camera, while the Surface Pro 3 has the sharper front camera.
Which of these is ‘better' for photos and video recording will therefore depend on their intended use. The iPad Pro is clearly more suitable for those who want the most detailed images possible, but the Surface Pro 3 offers a finer quality 1080p webcam for video conferencing and Skype calls.
iPad Pro: Up to 10 hours for WiFi-only models, up to nine hours for WiFi+LTE model
Surface Pro 3: Up to nine hours
Both machines will last a full working day, but the WiFi-only iPad Pro variant wins out with a prolonged 10 hours of battery life, which should be good news for frequent travellers.
iPad Pro: 32GB, 128GB
Surface Pro 3: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Microsoft claims another victory with a wider range of high-capacity internal drives. As for the iPad Pro, 128GB is good by tablet standards but we can see the 32GB option filling up fast. Both are dwarfed by the generous 256GB and 512GB drives of the more expensive Surface Pro 3s in any case, so these are definitely the models to go for in a creative or design field.
The original iPhone and iPad are proof that Apple knows how to break into a market, and yet, judging by this spec comparison, the Surface Pro 3 already has the iPad Pro outmatched.
Apple's device may look cooler and have a crisper screen, but we'd wager that the Surface Pro 3's solid processors, high storage capacities and robust operating system will make it difficult for the iPad Pro to stake a claim as the superior business tablet. We'll find out either way when the latter launches in late November. µ