Tablet Grudge Match – The iPad vs The Surface

It was Steve Jobs’ vision to build a book-sized computer. The idea was to design a device that was ultra portable, while still being easy enough to use almost anywhere and was significantly larger than a mobile handset. Enter the iPad, the tablet that changed the face of mobile computing. Since its big announcement in 2010, Apple has revised its tablet device twice over. They’ve ruled that market in this space for quite a while and even though Samsung and others might have been close at its heels, it seems Apple's age old rival, Microsoft, just might manage to topple the mobile computing giant from Cupertino, California. 

We’ve heard the different rumours about variants of the Microsoft tablets for a few months now. Finally, although still a little away from an official launch, Microsoft’s Surface is here. Two variants of the Microsoft Surface – the RT and the Pro – have been announced. 

There are plenty of Windows users who love using iPads for a variety of purposes, but we’re sure there are significantly lesser Mac OS users using Windows-based laptops or other mobile computing devices running that OS. With the coming of Windows 8 and the unification between PC, tablet and phone on the cards, MS could have quite a bit in their arsenal to fight back with. 

Although the Surface is yet to be officially launched for the Indian or global markets, we thought we’d compare it with the iPad of equivalent functionality. Please keep in mind, this is a purely hypothetical and theoretical comparison as we have not yet tested the Surface device. 

Here’s a quick run down of the devices.

The Ever Loving iPad

From the initial release of the iPad, Apple has been working hard to make the device more powerful and give the user a better experience in terms of productivity, connectivity and performance. The iPad has seen a major upgrade from the second-generation version and now packs in a powerful Dual Core A5X processor, a built-in Quad Core GPU, Retina display, full HD 1080p video recording, Bluetooth Version 4.0 and the latest iOS6 OS. It’s come a long way since the initial model. 

iPad 3rd generation

iPad 3rd generation



The iPad has loads of benefits, but it also has its drawbacks. These range from simple charging issues to device connectivity and storage capacity limitations. 

Getting to the Surface

On the other hand, Microsoft has been quietly watching and learning the market from what users demand and what the competition has to offer. With this, Microsoft has entered the arena ready to try change the game. While the RT is just a bigger version of a Windows-based handset (minus calling functionality), the Pro is a complete desktop PC in a tablet form. The RT runs on ARM-based processors, uses Windows apps and features USB peripheral connectivity and storage expansion options. The Pro edition is pretty much a fully-functional laptop minus the keypad and offers all the goodies one would expect out of a notebook. The all-new Modern UI, formerly known as Metro UI, brings a finger-friendly touchscreen experience to the Windows space, and add-on peripherals like keyboard attachments will ensure users get a fuller PC experience when required. 

Microsoft Surface RT

Microsoft Surface RT



Here’s a quick look at the specs of both devices:

And the winner is....

And the winner is.... (click to enlarge)



The outcome

Going purely by the specifications that are currently available for the Surface, it’s a toss up between the two. That being said, based on our score card, the Microsoft Surface RT manages to come out a little ahead of the Apple iPad. 

The processor on the iPad is of the dual core variety with 1GB of RAM. It has a built-in, quad core graphics processor, which makes the operating system more intuitive and saves power too, while the RT features a 1.4GHz quad core processor with 2GB of RAM, which should ideally not falter. 

Connectivity differences between the iPad and the RT

Connectivity differences between the iPad and the RT



The chassis of the Surface RT seems tougher than the iPad, if we are to believe Steven Sinofsky (Windows President) who used it as a skateboard on the street – imagine doing this confidently with any iPad. The iPad is a tad lighter but a bit thicker too. 

The main differentiator between the two is the display. The iPad has a display almost an inch smaller than the RT but features Apple’s Retina Display and hence, watching a movie or playing games would be more enjoyable. However, a larger screen and the 16:9 aspect ratio of the Surface RT will definitely make video buffs happier.

Flip cover accessory of the iPad only can be used as a stand

Flip cover accessory of the iPad can be used only as a stand



While the iPad features full HD recording using its 5MP rear camera, the Surface RT can only do 720p videos, but on both cameras. 

The iPad has limitations to memory expansion, whereas the Surface RT can hold more storage via the built-in microSD slot. The PC interface is a standard microUSB on the RT, but the iPad has a proprietary connector and you have to tag along the USB cable wherever you go. 

The iPad doesn’t sport any standard USB connector option like the RT and you cannot connect a keyboard or mouse to it without an adapter or Bluetooth. 

A protective cover is available for the iPad and only works as a stand, while the same feature doubles up additionally as a physical keyboard in case of the Surface RT. Keep in mind that they’re both sold separately as accessories.

Flip cover accessory of the RT doubles as a keyboard too

Flip cover accessory of the RT doubles as a keyboard too



Last, but not the least, accessories available for the iPad are huge, but it is just a starting phase for the Surface RT and too early to comment on. The same goes for the app Marketplace for the RT; while the App Store for the iPad and iPhone has more than 6 million apps at present, RT has a few thousand and counting.


Since the Indian consumer market has a blend of Apple, Windows and Android operating system users, the price factor also matters most to them. While an affluent individual might not feel the pinch of the price he pays for the iPad and its apps, an Android user enjoys a lower priced device and low-to-free available apps from the Play Store. The Microsoft app department is still in its infant phase. Developers for the Surface RT Apps section are just beginning to set in, and it will take some time for the Surface RT to settle in the existing tablet market. As long as Microsoft manages to keep the price lower than the iPad, the Surface RT will try to eat into the iPad market here in India and possibly around the world too.

Apple fans rarely deviate from the OS and are staunchly loyal to the company. Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to see if the new tablet launch would make them change their minds. 

Now that you have in front of you, the major differences between the two premium tablets. It is up to you to choose which one is best for you. Do let us know what your choice would be based on our currently available parameters.

Published Date: Oct 22, 2012 06:10 pm | Updated Date: Oct 22, 2012 06:10 pm