Apple has always been fairly consistent in its design of the iPad, landing on a hit format early on that has remained popular with fans. However, with the launch of the iPad Pro, Apple was keen to demonstrate that its humble tablet is capable of much more than browsing the internet and watching videos - that it has the potential to evolve from a companion device into a genuine laptop replacement.
With Apple having recently refreshed the iPad Pro range, we decided to put that claim to the test, pitting its 10.5in model head-to-head against another device gunning to replace your laptop, Microsoft's similarly refreshed Surface Pro.
Microsoft's fifth-generation Surface Pro is the most refined yet, having trimmed away most of the fat of the old models and made noticeable improvements to battery life and the detachable keyboard.
With both devices vying for the same thing - an audience that wants the functionality of a laptop paired with the portability and flexibility of a tablet - which one will come out on top?
|iPad Pro 10.5||Surface Pro|
|Dimensions||250 x 174 x 6mm||292 x 201 x 9mm|
Apple's refreshed iPad Pro range deviates little from the design of the originals. It has all the telltale iPad features you'd expect, such as the characteristic home button, curved frame, and front and rear cameras - the only significant difference being the new screen size. By cutting away some of the bezel on the 9.7in model, Apple has been able to fit in a larger 10.5in screen into a frame that is only 10mm taller and 2mm wider than its predecessor. At 469g, it is also only marginally heavier than the 9.7in, but we felt the overall balance of weight as a result felt a little more comfortable.
The Surface Pro is a noticeably different beast. It is thicker and heavier and, as a result, slightly more difficult to wield as a tablet. The added weight and thickness over the iPad, as well as the lack of curved edges, makes the Surface Pro look chunkier than its rival. However, this is largely to accommodate for ventilation for some serious internal hardware options - entirely forgivable for a device that is still easy to carry around an office. It is also a beautiful machine, using a striking magnesium body finished in metallic-grey, with a chrome windows logo on the back.
The Surface Pro does have an ace up its sleeve in the form of a truly excellent built-in kickstand. It provides enough strength to easily hold the device at any point on its arc, and because it doesn't use notches, its movement is smooth and adjustable with one hand. With the iPad Pro you are only able to prop up the tablet with the detachable keyboard.
Given the size of these tablets, a built-in kickstand makes sense - you need that support to compensate for the added bulk, and it offers a way to hold a device upright without using a keyboard. Whereas the iPad relies on a cover to prop it up, the Surface Pro can stand on its own, which looks great on a desk and means you're not needlessly carrying around a keyboard.
Verdict: Surface Pro
|iPad Pro 10.5||Surface Pro|
|Size||10.5in (Retina display)||12.3in (PixelSense display)|
|Resolution||2,224 x 1668, 264ppi||2,736 x 1,824, 267ppi|
As is to be expected with Apple products, the iPad Pro boasts an excellent screen, offering superb viewing angles and an impressive 96% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut. The LED backlit Retina display features a 2,224 x 1,668 resolution, with an impressive max brightness of 528cd/m2 and an excellent contrast ratio.
Apple's trump card is the ability to set the display to 120Hz and have it automatically adjust refresh rates depending on the capabilities of the app running. It's a wonderful addition that not only makes the screen feel far smoother and more responsive, but helps to significantly reduce eye strain.
The Surface Pro's screen is similarly impressive, again offering wide viewing angles and an only marginally lower performance output to the iPad Pro. It does have a noticeably lower contrast ratio to the iPad, and side-by-side it can't quite match the deep blacks and bright whites of Apple's tablet.
The biggest issue is that Windows 10 does not scale particularly well with higher resolutions. With many installed applications, including suites like Adobe, we frequently encountered text that was blurry or difficult to read, or objects that were too small. This was even the case with some Windows menus, like the device manager screen. Sadly this requires no small amount of tweaking to Windows 10 display settings, and even then it is an unreliable fix.
Verdict: iPad Pro 10.5