Microsoft Surface Pro 3 vs Apple iPad Air spec comparison

Microsoft has just launched the Surface Pro 3, a tablet with lofty ambitions to fully replace your ailing laptop. But attempted assassination of the entire portable PC industry aside, how does the Surface Pro 3 stack up against the Apple iPad Air?

After all, it stands to reason that this super-slate should stand head and shoulders above its tablet siblings if it can give laptops a run for their money. Let's break down the specs and see.

Size and dimensions

At first glance, you may think that the Surface Pro 3 has pipped the iPad Air to the post here. But whilst Microsoft's offering does indeed have a larger 12in display, at almost 798g it weighs a hell of a lot more than the 469g iPad Air. So unless you wish your expensive new slate to double as a weight for bicep curls on the go, the iPad Air is a winner here.

The Surface Pro is also thicker, measuring 9.1mm compared to the iPad Air's 7.5mm. However in fairness this is because it offers a full-size USB 3.0 port, SD card slot and a kick stand to boot.

Basically, if you view the Surface Pro as a tablet it looks and feels unwieldy, even monstrous. As a laptop, however, it's perfectly normal.

Processor and storage

If the Surface Pro looks like a hulking powerhouse on the outside, it's only fitting that it packs a hefty punch below the surface (pardon the pun.) It runs Windows 8.1 Pro, meaning that it essentially functions as a desktop which is completely beyond the capabilities of the iPad Air.

The most affordable model packs an Intel Core i3 processor with 64G of storage, while those wanting to splash cash can treat themselves to a Surface Pro 3 with a Cor i7 processor and 512GB of storage. Those wanting even more space can also beef up their storage with the SD card slot. Meanwhile the iPad Air only offers the 64-bit A7 processor which Apple claims offers laptop-like processing power. However there's a difference between "laptop-like" and the same actual processors used in current PCs.

Camera

Budding photographers will likely lean towards the Surface Pro 3, which boasts a 5 megapixel camera both on the front and the rear. It also offers 1080p video recording, while the iPad Air only offers 720p. Apple's tablet also has a 1.2 megapixel front-facing snapper but matches the Surface Pro 3 with a 5 megapixel rear camera.

Still, it's worth mentioning that while on paper the Surface Pro 3 performs better, it will be a lot heavier and ungainly to lift and snap photos with. Bear that in mind before you lug it halfway up a mountain to "capture the view" and come back down with Popeye-esque arm muscles.

Accessories

Apple tends to let its hardware speak for itself without attaching lots of bells and whistles, and the iPad Air is no exception. You can pick up a Smart Cover and Case to protect your tablet, but that's around it.

Microsoft meanwhile is offering a keyboard cover for the Surface Pro 3 which actually includes a trackpad. You can also pick up a Surface Pen stylus to use alongside your shiny new tablet.

Verdict

Really the question you should be asking is not "which is more powerful?" but "what do you want from your tablet?" If you want something that is essentially a laptop without the hinged screen, the Microsoft Surface Pro should be right up your street. It's powerful, comes in a range of price options for most budgets and packs a PC operating system.

Still, for those who want a lightweight option the iPad Air comes out on top. Sure it doesn't have as powerful a processor, but it is a tablet through and through and for a tablet has decent specs. Its screen will be sharper too with a higher 264ppi pixel density versus the Surface Pro 3's 216ppi offering.

Which one are you swinging towards? Let us know in our poll or the comment section below. Meanwhile, check out our hands on review of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to see exactly what we thought of it.

Apple iPad Air

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Display

Screen size

9.7in

12in

Resolution

2,048 x 1,536 pixels

2,160 x 1,440 pixels

Pixel density

264 PPI

216 PPI

Type

IPS LCD

LCD

Processor and battery

Family

Apple A7

Intel i5

Cores

Dual-core

Dual-core

Clock speed

1.6GHz

TBC

Battery

8820mAh (Claimed 10 hrs life)

Claimed 9 hrs life

Storage and memory

Internal memory

16 / 32 / 64 / 128GB

64 / 128 / 256 / 512GB

Card slot

No

Yes

RAM

1GB

4GB

Camera

Megapixels

Front: 1.2MP

Rear: 5MP

Front: 5MP

Rear: 5MP

Video

720p

1080p

Dimensions

Size

240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm

7.93 x 11.5 x 0.36mm

Weight

469g

798g

Operating System

iOS 7

Windows 8.1 Pro

Price

Wi-Fi: £399 (16GB); £479(32GB); £559 (64GB); £639 (128GB)

Wi-Fi + Cellular: £499 (16GB); £579 (32GB); £659 (64GB); £739 (128GB)

£639 (64GB / intel i3)

£849 (128GB / intel i5)

£1,109 (256GB /intel i5)

£1,339 (256 GB/intel i5)

£1,649 (512GB /intel i7)

UK Availability

Available now

Available for pre-order