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Surface Pro X vs. iPad Pro | Spec comparison

If you’re looking for a tablet that can double as a laptop, the two best options are the iPad Pro and freshly-announced Surface Pro X. Both devices sport super-slim bezels, support for a pen, and a keyboard accessory that you may need for typing.

The Microsoft Surface Pro X is the newer of the two devices, though you might be wondering how it stands up to the latest iPad Pro. In this guide, we’ll compare design, performance, and portability, and help you choose the right one for you.

Design

In terms of design, both iPad Pro and Surface Pro X are super slim and pack a large, immersive display. There are some notable differences, however. First off, the bezels on the iPad Pro are much slimmer all the way around on the top, left, right, and bottom sides of the device. The bezels on the Surface Pro X have been cut down on the sides, but the top and bottom borders still remain a bit chunky.

As for the display between those borders, both devices are high-resolution options. The Surface Pro X comes a 2,880 x 1,920 (267 PPI), and the iPad Pro has a 2,732 x 2,048 (264 PPI) screen. The Surface Pro X also sports a 3:2 aspect ratio, whereas the iPad Pro sits at 4:3. That makes the Surface Pro X a better option for productivity, while the iPad feels a bit more square, making for a nicer tablet experience.

The Pro X also has slightly more pixels per inch than the iPad, but the iPad Pro sports a brighter 600 nit 120Hz True Tone display, which we found makes scrolling smoother and more responsive. The Surface Pro X is slightly behind with a dimmer 450 nit 60Hz panel, which is common for most Windows devices.

Importantly, the Surface Pro X benefits from the built-in kickstand, which makes the device easier to use on your lap or on a desk.

Next, there’s connectivity, which is also different between the two tablets. On the iPad Pro, there is a single USB-C port, as well as a keyboard connector port and a nano SIM Slot. The Surface Pro X, meanwhile, doubles that up. It features two USB-C ports, nano SIM, as well as Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect port for charging. You’ll also find the connector for the keyboard on the bottom.

Both products lack a headphone jack, which means you’ll need to buy a dongle or use a pair of wireless headphones. There’s also no SD-card slot, so you’ll have to settle on a storage option that fits your needs, though the Surface Pro X does feature swappable SSDs.

Finally, both 2-in-1 devices sport an option for a keyboard cover. Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio cover starts at $179 for the 11-inch model. It’s fairly comfortable and has a lot of key travel, as we found in our review. It also doubles as a stand, propping up the screen to up to two angles. However, there’s no touchpad on board (although that may soon change). That holds it back from being a true laptop replacement.

The Surface Pro X, meanwhile, sports an optional $140 Type Cover. In terms of comfort, we found it was essentially the same as what we experienced with the Surface Pro 6, but it now also houses a special spot in the top for the Surface Pen — which we’ll discuss later. However, note the Pro X does not support older Microsoft Type Covers, as the connector is different.

iPadOS has come pretty far toward offering a better software solution for multitasking and productivity, but the full version of Windows 10 offered on the Surface Pro X will be more familiar for most people. The iPad Pro wins the tablet comparison, but the Surface Pro X is the better laptop replacement.

Performance

In terms of performance, there’s quite a bit of difference between the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro X. Unlike previous Intel-based devices, Microsoft partnered with Qualcomm to create an ARM-based Microsoft system on a chip (SoC), dubbed the SQ1 processor. The iPad Pro, meanwhile, sports a custom ARM-based Apple SoC named the Apple A12X Bionic.

The SQ1 runs at 3GHz, sports eight cores and two teraflops of graphics power. Microsoft says this SoC features three times more performance per watt than the Surface Pro 6’s Intel 8th-gen chip. However, there are some limitations to take note of, as some areas of Windows 10 and 64-bit apps aren’t optimized for ARM-based chipsets. More testing is needed, but it should still be great for web browsing and other day to day activities. Other apps like Photoshop might not work quite as well.

Now for the iPad Pro and its A12X Bionic processor. This has eight cores and also an embedded M12 co-processor. We found this to be a hugely powerful processor, and very capable for editing in Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as for gaming in Civilization VI. In our Geekbench tests it scored 5,029 for single-core performance and 18,042 in the multi-core test. That absolutely destroys the competition; while we haven’t been able to test the Surface Pro X’s chip yet, it’ll have its work cut out to keep up with the iPad Pro. No matter what you download from the app store, the iPad Pro will run it at breakneck speeds.

The iPad Pro is limited to apps in the App Store, as it is powered by iPadOS. The Pro X meanwhile runs full Windows 10 and is compatible with Google Chrome and other traditional Windows programs, though there will be limits to 32-bit apps.

Portability

In terms of portability, the Surface Pro X and the iPad Pro are almost neck and neck. The Surface Pro X measures in at 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.28 inches; the 12.9-inch iPad Pro sits at 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.23 inches, while the 10.9-inch iPad Pro is 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23 inches. In weight, Surface Pro X is about 1.7 pounds, whereas the iPad Pro is 1.4 pounds or 1.03 pounds depending on the configuration.

Now for battery life. With the iPad Pro, Apple promises up to 10 hours of battery life, though we were able to push our iPad Pro through several days with a few hours’ usage at a time. The iPad Pro also supports fast charging with the optional 30-watt USB-C Power Adapter.

Microsoft promises up to 13 hours of battery life on the Surface Pro X with the screen at 150 nits of brightness. We need to test it more, but judging the fact that the Pro X is an always-connected PC — which we’ve seen get up to 13 hours of battery — it may prove correct. It also supports fast charging via the Surface Connect port. Microsoft claims that this can get you to an 80% charge in just one hour.

We’ll also mention the support for LTE on the devices. All models of the Surface Pro X have a nano-SIM tray. That means that you get LTE with any configuration, whereas with the iPad Pro, you need to pay $150 extra if you want a model with LTE.

Finally, there is the pen. Microsoft’s new Surface Slim Pen with the Surface Pro X slots right into the Type Cover keyboard and recharges wirelessly. This makes it easy for portability, but it’s also a separate $145 purchase. That’s significantly more than the $129 Apple Pencil, which also charges wirelessly and can attach to the top of the iPad Pro.

For now, the iPad Pro is the winner

The Surface Pro X and iPad Pro are similar in many ways, but we think most people will be happier with Apple’s offering. The base 11-inch model (with 64GB of storage and without the LTE option) starts at $799, which goes up to $1,499 with the maximum 1TB of storage and LTE. If you want the larger 12.9-inch version, the price starts at $999 and ranges up to $1,699. You’ll have to add $129 for the Apple Pencil and between $179 and $199 for the Smart Keyboard Folio, depending on which size you go for.

With the Surface Pro X, you’ll be paying $999 for just the device, when configured with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. That is then pushed up to $1,217 with the keyboard and pen (when bought as a bundle). Sure, you get much more storage space in the base model than the equivalent iPad Pro, but you also need to consider whether its ARM-based processor will be compatible with the apps you want to use.

We need to test the Surface Pro X some more to see the true performance of the SQ1 chipset, as well as whether the battery performance matches Microsoft’s claims. But the iPad Pro is the way to go right now, even if that could change when we get more time with the Surface Pro X.

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