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iPad vs Surface Pro 7 (2020): Which Pro Tablet Should You Get?

The latest iPad Pro, released earlier in March, is another step closer to being a true laptop replacement with the addition of a trackpad enabling cursor support. Apple is positioning it to compete toe-to-toe with tablet-laptop hybrids like Microsoft’s Surface Pro series which has long dominated this niche. We help you decide which Pro tablet best matches your needs by comparing the Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2020) with the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 below.

iPad vs Surface Pro 7 Tablet Comparison Chart

ModelApple iPad Pro 12.9-inchMicrosoft Surface Pro 7
New Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 256GB) - Silver (4th Generation) Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – 12.3' Touch-Screen - 10th Gen Intel Core i7 - 16GB Memory - 256GB SSD... 
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Rating
 

 
Display Size12.9″12.3″
Resolution2732 x 2048 pixels2736 x 1824 pixels
Pixel Density264 ppi267 ppi
Height11.04″11.5″
Width8.46″7.9″
Depth0.23″0.33″
Weight1.41 lbs1.7 lbs
OSiPadOSWindows 10 Home
System ChipA12Z BionicIntel Core i3 / i5 / i7 10th Gen
GPUM12 CoprocessorIntel Iris Plus Graphics / Intel UHD Graphics
RAM6GB4GB, 8GB, 16GB
Internal Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Front Camera7MP5MP
Rear Camera12MP Wide
10MP Ultra Wide
LiDAR Scanner
4K video @ 24/30/60 fps
8MP Wide
1080p video
KeyboardMagic Keyboard, Smart Keyboard FolioType Cover
ConnectionsUSB-C, Smart ConnectorUSB-C, USB-A, 3.5 mm headphone jack, Surface Connect port, Surface Type Cover port, MicroSDXC
ColorsSilver, Space GrayPlatinum, Matte Black
Battery LifeUp to 10 hoursUp to 10.5 hours
ReleasedMarch 2020October 2019

Design

The iPad Pro 2020 has a sleeker design than the Surface Pro 7.

iPad vs Surface Pro 7 (iPad Pro 2020) Design
You can see how much bigger the display of the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (left) is compared to the Surface Pro 7 (right).

Just how large is the difference between a 12.9″ display compared to a 12.3″ screen? The above side-by-side mockup is a relatively good comparison of how much more screen real estate you’ll be getting with the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (4th Gen) over the Surface Pro 7. A big factor here is the thinner bezels on the iPad Pro, which really maximizes the number of pixels you get. The Surface Pro 7 still sports the same thick black borders of previous generations, and it’s looking mighty outdated as a result.

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You’ll find the iPad Pro 12.9″ to be easier to handle despite being wider (on portrait mode), since it’s slightly shorter, noticeably lighter, and much thinner than the Surface Pro 7. Neither are as portable as smaller models, but the slimmer iPad Pro feels much nicer and easier to hold. Its aluminum casing and glass back brings a premium touch that the Surface Pro 7’s magnesium alloy build doesn’t manage to reach.

One considerable advantage of the Surface Pro 7 over the iPad Pro is the built-in kickstand at its back. It allows you to stand the tablet up on a desk for a better viewing angle, and you can lower it to a 15-degree angle for a natural drawing and writing position. Though designed specifically in combination with the Type Cover and Surface Pen, these features are still welcome sans accessories. Meanwhile, you’ll need to purchase a more expensive accessory for the iPad Pro to achieve the same.

To be fair, neither of these new tablets offer new design improvements over their previous versions. Still, that does mean that the iPad Pro keeps its sizable advantage in being the better looking device, which is quite significant for a product that’s meant to be looked at and enjoyed while you’re using it.

Performance

The Surface Pro 7 can run laptop software and is faster than the iPad Pro 12.9-inch.

iPad vs Surface Pro 7 (iPad Pro 2020) Performance
As far as laptop replacements go, the Surface Pro 7 is better positioned for office use.

Looking at the hardware specs and software capabilities of both tablets reveals the fundamental difference between them. The iPad Pro is a souped-up tablet aiming to provide the power of a laptop in a more versatile form. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 7 is really a high-end laptop packaged into a tablet shell for greater flexibility as well. So depending on whether it’s a tablet or laptop you need more, one device will be clearly better than the other.

As laptops are still the weapon of choice for mobile professionals, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 performs better if you need a device to get work done on. There are several variations of the Surface Pro 7 offering Intel Core i7, i5, or i3 processors as well as 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB RAM. Its Intel Core i7 configuration beats the iPad Pro on benchmark tests, and actual performance improves the more RAM you get on the Surface Pro 7.

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In comparison, the iPad Pro has a set 6GB of RAM, and its new Apple A12Z Bionic chip is really just the same as the previous A12X chip but with an additional GPU core activated. It might be only a tiny bit faster than the previous-gen iPad Pro, though with improved graphics power. As such, you’ll find graphics-intensive games to run smoother and in higher resolutions on the iPad Pro than on the Surface Pro 7. Moreover, the iPad Pro’s display is much brighter and has a wider gamut of colors, making it the clear choice for entertainment.

Still, the biggest discrepancy in performance between these two devices is software. The iPad Pro (4th Gen) runs on iPadOS, which can’t run MacOS programs like the full suite of Adobe CC programs. You’ll have to find their counterparts in the App Store to use them, and they don’t offer all of the features of the full versions. In contrast, the Surface Pro 7 runs on Windows 10 Home, letting you install and use any program that can be installed on a laptop or desktop.

Cameras and Storage

The iPad Pro 12.9-inch has better and more cameras than the Surface Pro 7.

iPad vs Surface Pro 7 (iPad Pro 2020) Cameras and Storage
Take photos, record videos, and put them together into a presentation using only the iPad Pro.

Apple gave the 4th generation of the iPad Pro 12.9-inch a massive upgrade. A look at the back shows you the new camera panel housing its 12MP Wide and 10MP Ultra-Wide sensors as well as LiDAR Scanner. The new cameras let you record in 4K resolution at 24, 30, or 60 fps, rivaling the image quality of top smartphones. The LiDAR Scanner enhances its augmented reality capabilities even further by building a 3D map of what it sees at 120 times per second.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 doesn’t really offer up much of a competition here, since its 8MP rear camera and 5MP front camera are rudimentary additions compared to other tablets. They’re handy for video conferences and the occasional snapshot, but they’re clearly not one of the focal points of the device. In comparison, you can take higher quality selfies with the 7MP TrueDepth camera of the iPad Pro using its Portrait Lighting and Retina Flash.

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Storage size options for the iPad Pro 2020 and Surface Pro 7 are identical. You can choose from 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB variants, with the accompanying jumps in price of course. The Surface Pro 7 has a notable advantage in having a MicroSDXC card reader slot which you can use to expand its internal memory. For the iPad Pro, you’ll have to look into cloud-based storage when you can no longer make space for new files.

Battery and Accessories

The Surface Pro 7 has more ports and mostly better accessories than the iPad Pro 12.9-inch.

iPad vs Surface Pro 7 (iPad Pro 2020) Battery and Accessories
The Type Cover for the Surface Pro 7 feels better to type on than the Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro, and it’s cheaper too.

Both iPad Pro 2020 and Surface Pro 7 have keyboard cases and styluses that enhance the experience of using the tablets significantly. We judge the Surface Pro 7’s Type Cover to be significantly better than the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard Folio, as its keys are snappy and comfy to type on and it already has a touchpad. Apple is introducing a new Magic Keyboard that adds a trackpad and raises the iPad Pro up for better ergonomic position, but it’s more than thrice the price of the Type Cover.

The Apple Pencil and the Surface Pen are much more evenly matched. They’re both wonderfully responsive and radically improves note-taking and marking up on both tablets. The Surface Pen is once again cheaper, but the new iPad Pro has a magnetic strip at its side where the Apple Pencil can attach and charge itself. It’s quite elegant and a fantastic solution to keep you from losing the stylus.

For other accessories that you might want to plug in, you’ll find the Surface Pro 7 to be more welcoming with its handful of ports. It has a USB-C port for charging, a USB-A port for flash drives and external devices, a 3.5 mm headphone jack for speakers and earphones, and a Surface Connect port. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch only has the one lonely USB-C port.

Verdict

The Surface Pro 7 performs better as a laptop replacement while the iPad Pro 12.9-inch is better everywhere else.

It becomes pretty clear that the best attribute of the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is that it can function as a true laptop, especially once you add the Type Cover and pair a wireless mouse to it. You can run any Windows program on it, making it an excellent mobile solution to do your work on. It has all the ports you’d want on a laptop too, so you can connect it to a larger monitor and enjoy better productivity. Then once you’re done, you can pop off the case and enjoy movies or play gaming apps on the couch. Note that it’s more expensive than an iPad Pro with the same amount of storage, but its accessories are much cheaper.

The appeal of the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (4th Gen) stretches further as an entertainment device despite its Pro label, simply because it’s still limited to iPadOS versions of actual work software. Certain professionals, such as graphic designers, marketing executives, etc., will no doubt love it due to its gorgeous display and impressive cameras, along with how amazing the Apple Pencil is. It has more expensive add-ons in general, and the price of the upcoming Magic Keyboard sounds frankly ridiculous, but the tablet itself will cost you less than the Surface Pro 7.

Last update on 2020-08-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Derick Bondoc
Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.