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Surface vs. iPad: A tale of the tape

The biggest questions in this fight are the questions Microsoft has yet to answer

Image Credit: REUTERS
New Surface tablet computers with keyboards are displayed at its unveiling by Microsoft in Los Angeles, California, June 18, 2012. Microsoft Corp introduced its own line of tablet computers on Monday at a much-hyped press event in Los Angeles, marking a major strategic shift for the software giant as it struggles to compete with Apple Inc and re-invent its aging Windows franchise. REUTERS/David McNew (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
Gulf News

June 19-Microsoft has finally stepped into the modern tablet market following its unveiling of the Surface tablet Monday.

The new device is clearly Microsoft's attempt to go toe to toe with the current champ of the tablet realm, the iPad, but how do the two stack up?

We've put together a comparison of the two devices to help you measure them. In some cases, the new Surface gets a jump on the iPad, while in others Apple's tablet fared better. But the biggest variables in this fight are all the questions Microsoft has yet to answer.

Keep in mind the iPad is available in different versions but most are the same, so I'll only point out variations when relevant. As for the Surface, it comes in two versions and they have more differences, so I'll be bringing them up more often.

But let's cut to the chase:

Operating System

Apple's tablet runs on iOS, its mobile operating system. Currently the iPad is on iOS 5; come fall - around the Surface's scheduled launch date - it will upgrade to iOS 6.

Both versions of the Surface will run on Windows 8, but there will be two variations of the upcoming operating system. The simpler version of the Surface will run on Windows RT, which is an operating system Microsoft has built for tablets, while the more powerful Surface will run a full Windows 8 OS.


The iPad edges out the Surface on this front, but not by much. A 3G iPad, which is the heaviest form, weighs 1.46 pounds while the lightest Surface will be 1.49 pounds. But the Windows 8 Surface will be much heavier, coming in at nearly 2 pounds.

The Surface both wins and loses in this category. The Windows RT version literally edges out the iPad with a thickness of 9.3 millimeters, just a sliver thinner than the iPad's 9.4-millimeter depth. However, the Windows 8 version is much thicker at 13.5 millimeters.


There's no real winner when it comes to the screen, but the two devices are drastically different. Both iterations of the Surface have 10.6-inch high-definition displays although only the Windows 8 version has full 1080p HD. Meanwhile, the iPad's screen isn't as big - at just 9.7 inches - but it does have a better resolution thanks to Apple's Retina display, which puts it at 2,048 by 1,536 pixels.


In this round, the iPad appears to be the winner, but ultimately, it remains inconclusive. The iPad has a 42.5-watt-hour battery that can run the device as long as 10 hours. Microsoft didn't specify how many hours its devices will stay powered, but the Windows RT Surface will have a battery with 31.5 watt-hours while the Windows 8 version will have 42 watt-hours.

None of the three devices have the same chip powering them. The iPad runs on Apple's custom-designed A5X chip. The Windows RT will be running on an Nvidia Tegra chip, and the Windows 8 Surface, not surprisingly, will be running on the most powerful chip, the Intel Ivy Bridge.


Without a doubt, hands down, the Surface is the top choice for this category. The iPad arguably has two ports: one for its charger cable and the other for a Micro-SIM for the purpose of 3G connectivity. The Surface, on the other hand, will have microSD slots, USB slots - including USB 3.0 for the Windows 8 - and a Micro HD Video connector, which on the Windows 8 is a Mini DisplayPort Video port.

Though it is possible to purchase converters for the iPad that allow display connectivity and SD card connectivity, they don't come installed already the way they will with the Surface.


For now, this is a tie simply because Microsoft didn't go into details regarding its devices' cameras. The iPad has one camera on either of its sides, with one capable of shooting 1080p video. From the Surface's pictures, it looks like it too will have two cameras, but their specifications weren't made available.


The Surface Windows RT is available in two forms, a 32 GB version and a 64 GB version. The Windows 8 model comes in a 64 GB version and a 128 GB version. The iPad is available in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB increments, which are available in Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and 3G versions.


For the other things, Apple also builds and separately sells the iPad Smart Cover and Smart Case, which offer some protection for the device and include a cool feature that lets the iPad turn on by simply flipping the cover open.

But Microsoft may have one-upped Apple here. The Surface not only includes a built-in stand that flips open, but Microsoft has also built a cover for the Surface that doubles as a keyboard for its tablet. No word though on whether they will come included.


This is the biggest question of the all. Anyone can build a powerful tablet, but can they do it at a price consumers can afford? Apple has been able to and offers its device starting at $499 and going all the way up to $829. But Microsoft didn't specify the price of the Surface, only saying it will be competitive to other tablets on the market.

It looks like Microsoft has built a great device, but if it doesn't get the price right, the entire effort could be doomed.