iPad Pro 12.9 (2017) vs Surface Pro 5: Which is the best laptop replacement?

On 23 May 2017 Microsoft unveiled a new model in its Surface line of Windows-based tablets - the main rivals to Apple's iPad Pro devices in the high-end laptop-replacement tablet market. Technically this is just called 'Surface Pro', but most tech fans are carrying on calling it the Surface Pro 5, so we've decided to do likewise.

In this article we compare the design, specs, performance, features and price of the new Surface Pro 5 and the second-generation 12.9in iPad Pro, first announced at WWDC 2017, although we'll also include specs of the new 10.5in iPad Pro where applicable. 

Read next: iPad buying guide 2017

Design

Here's what the two devices look like.

They're both nice designs. Apple's is starting to feel a bit dated, having stayed much the same, with variations in scale, since the iPad Air 1; the Surface 5 is arguably a little less sleek than its Apple rival (and is indeed a bit thicker at 8.4mm compared to 6.9mm, despite having a smaller screen).

iPad Pro 12.9 vs Surface Pro 5: Design

Surface Pro 5...

iPad Pro 12.9 vs Surface Pro 5: Design

...and iPad Pro 12.9in

iPad Pro 12.9 vs Surface Pro 5: Design

Surface Pro 5...

iPad Pro 12.9 vs Surface Pro 5: Design

...and iPad Pro 12.9in

Specs

Let's take a look under the hoods of these two high-power tablets.

Processor

Like the laptops it's intended to replace, the Surface Pro is available with a range of processors; each iPad comes with one processor and one processor only.

iPad Pro 12.9in: A10X Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture, embedded M10 coprocessor

Surface Pro 5: 1GHz Core m3-7Y30; 2.6GHz Core i5-7300U; 2.5GHz Core i7-7660U

RAM

iPad Pro 12.9in: 4GB (the 10.5in iPad Pro also has 4GB RAM)

Surface Pro 5: 4GB/8GB/16GB

Storage

iPad Pro 12.9in: 64GB/256GB/512GB

Surface Pro 5: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB SSD

Screen

iPad Pro 12.9in: 12.9-inch 'Retina' screen, 2732x2048 resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi)

Surface Pro 5: 12.3-inch 'PixelSense' screen, 2736x1824 resolution at 273ppi

Cameras

iPad Pro 12.9in: 12Mp (rear-facing), 7Mp (front)

Surface Pro 5: 8Mp (rear-facing), 5Mp (front)

Battery

iPad Pro 12.9in: battery capacity unknown; claimed battery life 10 hours (using Wi-Fi) or 9 hours (cellular)

Surface Pro 5: battery capacity unknown; claimed battery life 13.5 hours

Ports and connectivity

iPad Pro 12.9in: Lightning port, 3.5mm headphone port, Smart Connector, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2

Surface Pro 5: USB 3, microSD, 3.5mm headset, Surface connector, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0

Accessories

iPad Pro 12.9in: Compatible with Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard (both cost extra. You can buy the Apple Pencil here and the Smart Keyboard here)

iPad Pro 12.9 vs Surface Pro 5: Apple Pencil

Surface Pro 5: Compatible with Surface Pen, Surface Keyboard and Surface Mouse (all cost extra. Microsoft has announced a new Surface Pen with improved tilt sensitivity, and says this works with older Surface models - but not the Surface Laptop)

Dimensions/weight

The 12.9 iPad Pro model is significantly larger than the Surface Pro 5 in terms of both length and width, as you'd expect given its larger screen. But it's also slimmer, and a bit lighter too.

iPad Pro 12.9in: 305.7mm x 220.6mm x 6.9mm and 677g/692g (Wi-Fi/cellular models)

Surface Pro 5: 292.1mm x 201.4mm x 8.5mm and 766g/786g (m3 models/all other models)

iPad Pro 12.9 vs Surface Pro 5: Design

Release date

The new Surface Pro was announced in a special Microsoft event on 23 May 2017. 

The second-generation 12.9in iPad Pro was announced weeks after the Surface Pro, on 5 June 2017 during Apple's WWDC 2017 keynote, alongside the new 10.5in iPad Pro. 

iPad Pro 12.9 vs Surface Pro 5: Design

UK price

The two devices start at a similar price point in the UK, but the Surface tops out at a much more expensive top end if you select the highest processor, memory and storage allocations. Read next: Best iPad deals

iPad Pro UK price

  • iPad Pro 12.9 (64GB, Wi-Fi): £769
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (256GB, Wi-Fi): £859
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (512GB, Wi-Fi): £1.039
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (64GB. cellular): £899
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (256GB, cellular): £989
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (512GB, cellular): £1,169

Note that if you're prepared to compromise on screen size, the iPad Pro 9.7in is available for a lot less: it starts at £549 (and comes with better specs in a few area, including a rear-facing camera flash).

Unlike Microsoft, the 12.9in iPad Pro was made available immediately after the announcement and can now be bought from Apple's Online Store.

Surface Pro 5 UK price

The entry-level model costs £799 in the UK. Here's the full price list:

  • Surface Pro 5 (128GB, Core m3, 4GB RAM): £799
  • Surface Pro 5 (128GB, Core i5, 4GB RAM): £979
  • Surface Pro 5 (256GB, Core i5, 8GB RAM): £1,249
  • Surface Pro 5 (256GB, Core i7, 8GB RAM): £1,549
  • Surface Pro 5 (512GB, Core i7, 16GB RAM): £2,149
  • Surface Pro 5 (1TB, Core i7, 16GB RAM): £2,699

Following a 15 June 2017 release, you can now order the Surface Pro from Microsoft's website.

OUR VERDICT

They're widely marketed as pretenders to the same throne - the laptop-replacement tablet of choice for business and creative users - but the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 5 are quite different in a lot of ways.

In many areas the Surface Pro has superior specs, with more storage and options for quicker processors and far more RAM; it's also a more versatile device in terms of connectivity, offering USB 3 and microSD. Set against this, the Surface Pro rapidly rises to a much higher price point and is thicker and heavier.

Perhaps the key difference is between Windows (the Surface comes with Windows 10 Creators Update) and iOS 10, which is preinstalled on iPad Pro models bought at this point. Windows is a full desktop OS and allows you to more closely replicate the apps and general experience, but as a touchscreen tablet OS we prefer the iOS interface. Your choice between the two is likely to depend on which OS you're used to, and which apps you need to use.

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