iPad Pro vs. Surface Pro 4 – Trade Offs Galore!!!

So first let me say I don’t normally do this, I’ve used this blog entirely on educating folks about the amazing automation stack that VMware has enabled both for traditional IT and the new cloud native world. Today I felt it was worth sharing a very personal experience and decision that has been tough for me. I also see this as an opportunity to spread my wings on this blog and hopefully you’ll enjoy some of the new topics as much as my previous ones!

October and November introduced two great devices that I finally felt would meet a need and desire for a very portable, multifunction, and (most importantly a) white boarding/note taking tool that could be used daily in customer interaction. I spent time at the stores with both devices and read what seemed like 100 reviews or comparisons. It seemed almost impossible based on the info that was available to me.

Enter my birthday/Christmas present! My family invested in an iPad Pro and Pencil for me and since I hadn’t made up my mind yet I was still hesitant so I also picked up a Surface Pro 4. Here’s what I found

TRADE OFFS for both devices that didn’t make the decision much easier! First let me say both of these devices are amazing and serve some very specific needs for me personally. I feel like either device could be adopted to be my go to device for everything I highlighted above and more. That said I’m not keeping both so time to weigh the trade offs and select the device most useful for my needs. One thing of note is that I’m not interested or concerned about cost at this point. I want the right tool for my particular use case. Additionally I’m not here or interested in the denominational battle that is Win vs. IOS vs. Android. I’m a firm believer of the actually meeting my needs and not tied to any single provider for anything in technology!

iPad Positives:

  • Amazing battery life!
  • Great size
  • Eco-System

Surface Positives:

  • Full Desktop OS
  • Trackpad or Mouse support
  • Stand included

So let’s dive into more detail about each of these


Amazing battery life, seriously I’m shocked at how long this thing continues to work with such a large screen. I have gone a few days and only needed to charge it not to mention it’s been used for music, videos, games, and apps for at least a few hours each day

Great size is entirely a personal feel kind of thing but the 12.9 seems to be perfect mix of weight and screen space to feel comfortable. One important thing of note between the two devices is that I found the iPad when using purely as a tablet on my lap to be FAR more comfortable from a weight and shape perspective. I actually handed both to my wife and her response about the edges on the Surface was priceless. “Why would you want to hold that thing?”

Eco-System is something I’m not sure is entirely a fair comparison since I’ve had an iPhone and iPad previously so every app I had in the past seems to just work. For me what’s more important here actually was as much about the mixed experience on the Surface as it was for me to continue to support the Eco-System I have already been invested in. Now all that said the sheer number of accessories and such for the iPad (pro even) seems unlimited. I’m not lacking for options quite like the Surface


Full desktop is a productivity boost that I can’t fully share. It genuinely is as capable as any Windows 10 machine I’ve had the pleasure of using. Anything that loads on Windows, runs on the Surface (including the VMware tools)! This makes it super powerful!

Secondarily the Trackpad with the keyboard and full desktop make it seamless to do things without touching the screen. Again this makes it a spectacular laptop replacement!

The stand of course is pretty impressive, I must say Microsoft did one hell of a job making this functional, look good, and easy to use. Add the additional magnetic holder for the pencil and I can say I fully understand why people love this machine.

Pencil/Stylus and accessories:

Now for both of these, my experience for my particular use case is that the Pencil/Stylus for both do a great job and are well engineered. Palm rejection on either has been unprecedented. I’m loving the use of both of these for note taking and white boarding. There is a difference about how they feel in my hand and I don’t love the AAA battery needed for the Microsoft option. The charging on the Apple Pencil is AWESOME. Additionally my 7 and 5 year old have loved coloring on both of these with the pencil. They have asked again and again to use my new coloring book.

** I can’t and won’t compare keyboards/keyboard cases as I just have a simple stand for the iPad with an external bluetooth keyboard as an alternative to the Logitech or Smart Case.

Now for the neutral or negative feelings…


  • Even with keyboard shortcuts added in iOS 9 there are a number of limitations I found with having to leave the keyboard to launch an app that wasn’t previously open (mostly an annoyance).
  • Lack of a place to keep the pencil… Honestly I fully understand how important the feel of the pencil is to Apple and any magnetic piece takes away from that but not having a simple place to store it is a major issue as well.
  • No trackpad support, this is why I chose not to use any of the existing keyboard case combos… just doesn’t make sense without something on the keyboard to move as if my fingers were on the actual iPad. To me this seems like a simple extension but I can only hope they’re working on it for iOS 10


  • I already stated this above but the weight with hard and semi sharp edges make it’s use a tablet in hand VERY uncomfortable. This design issue is something I’m surprised I didn’t read more about online!
  • Desktop – Tablet mode just feels unnatural in many cases to me. Take into account the bullet above and my findings were I just preferred to use it in desktop mode unless I was taking notes or white boarding.
  • BATTERY!!!! This was actually the deciding factor for me. I am shocked at how badly the power consumption was. I disabled all non-essential functions and the claim of 9 hours is insane. I was lucky to get 5.5 which is just longer than my average flight out west… This was very concerning

So I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, I went with the iPad Pro and have been happy with my decision but will fully admit if you’re a Windows enthusiast the Surface Pro is wicked great device. Far better than any portable PC I’ve ever used and on par with the Macbook Air that I used to use on a daily basis.

I hope for anyone who was struggling like I was this is helpful and gives you some additional things to consider when making your own decision!

BTW on a side note the app duet is worth looking at for the iPad Pro, it enables you to extend your desktop onto the great 12.9” screen and has made my desktop use even more productive!

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