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Microsoft Surface Pro 3 vs. iPad Air: Which tablet does it best?

microsoft surface 3 vs ipad air tablet best pro3 ipadair
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Microsoft claims that the Surface Pro 3 can replace your laptop, but what if you don’t want it to? If you’re interested in the Surface Pro 3 purely as a tablet, you’ll need to take a good hard look at the specs, and the price, before you make your decision. At the high, entry-level price point of $799, the Surface Pro 3 is one of the most expensive tablets on the market, which is probably why Microsoft wants to depict it as so much more. So, how does it compare to the iPad Air? Let’s take a look at the specs.

 

Surface Pro 3

Surface-Pro-3
Image used with permission by copyright holder

iPad Air

iPadAir
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Size 7.93″ x 11.5″ x 0.36″ 240 x 169.5 x 7.5 (mm)
Weight 1.76 pounds 469g
Screen 12 inches 9.7-inch LCD
Resolution 2,160 x 1,440 2048 x 1536 pixels
Keyboard Type Cover (optional – $130)  No
Operating System Windows 8.1 Pro  iOS 7
Storage 128GB SSD 16/32/64GB
Ports 1x USB 3.0, Micro SD card reader, headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Cover port, charging port 3.5-mm stereo headphone minijack, Built-in speakers, dual microphones, Nano-SIM card tray (Wi-Fi + cellular)
Processor 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Dual-core A7
RAM 4GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 1GB
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4400 Intel HD Graphics 5000
Cameras 5MP 1080p front- and rear-facing Front 1.2MP, Rear 5MP
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+
Battery Up to 9 hours 8820mAh (10 hours of use)
Charger Proprietary Microsoft charger Lightning connector
Marketplace Windows Marketplace Mac App Store
Price $999+ $500+
Availability Pre-orders begin May 21 Currently available

Size and dimensions

The iPad Air is the clear winner here. The Surface Pro 3 may have a 12-inch display and a lot more ports, but at almost 800 grams, it also weighs a whole lot more than the 469 gram iPad Air. Obviously, given the fact that the Surface Pro 3 has a full-size USB port, SD card slot, and kickstand, it’s also quite a bit thicker, measuring  9.1 millimeters thick compared to the iPad Air’s 7.5 millimeters. If you’re interested in having a full-size USB 3.0 port and an SD card slot on your tablet, the Surface Pro 3 has you covered. During the event, Microsoft avoided this negative comparison and put the Surface Pro 3 up against the Macbook Air instead. As a tablet, the Surface Pro 3 looks and feels unwieldy, especially in comparison with the svelte iPad Air. However, it looks perfectly normal as a laptop.

Power and performance

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 undoubtedly has a ton of power. Since it’s running Windows 8.1 Pro, you can use it like a desktop, which is something you can’t do with the iPad Air. The entry-level model features an Intel Core i3 processor and 64GB of storage, while the most jacked-up version of the Surface Pro 3 comes with a Core i7 processor and 512GB of storage. You can also add more space, using the SD card slot. On the other hand, the iPad Air only comes with one processor option: the 64-bit A7. Apple claims that the A7’s 64-bit architecture gives the iPad Air laptop-like processing power. However, with the Surface Pro 3, you will actually get the same high quality processors that come with laptops and desktop PCs. In terms of processing power, the Surface Pro 3 undoubtedly has more umph. Still, if you’re looking for a pure tablet, the Surface Pro 3 isn’t ideal. It only makes sense if you’re looking for a tablet that can do almost everything a laptop can do and more. Even then, that’s debatable. Check out our Surface Pro 3 vs. MacBook Air comparison article for more.

Extras

Accessories are always a big deal for tablet buyers. Most of the iPad accessories are made by third-party manufacturers and come in a range of prices. Microsoft markets the Surface Pro 3 and its accessories as an ideal package, but every accessory comes at a high price. The entry-level Surface Pro costs $799 for the tablet and the stylus, but if you want to get the full Surface experience, you’ll have to pay a whole lot more. If you want the keyboard, it will cost you $130 and if you lose the stylus, you’ll have to pay $50 for a new one.

When deciding between the Surface Pro 3 and the iPad Air, you really have to ask yourself the one question Microsoft wanted to avoid: What is it that you want to do with it?

Update 05/22/2014: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the Surface Pro 3 comes with the stylus included.

Malarie Gokey
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As DT's Mobile Editor, Malarie runs the Mobile and Wearables sections, which cover smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and…
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