Microsoft Surface: How it stacks up against the iPad

June 20, 2012

Microsoft's recent announcement of their forthcoming Surface tablets was a surprise, but even after the big reveal in Los Angeles on Monday, the big question is: How will Surface fare against the category-leading iPad? We'll have to wait until at least the Fall to test Surface versus an iPad in the real world, but here's what we know now.

Processor
Surface for Windows RT: Nvidia ARM processor
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: Intel Ivy Bridge
iPad (3rd-gen): Dual-core A5

Screen
Surface for Windows RT: 10.6 inches, resolution unknown, but Microsoft calls it an HD display, so 1280 x 720 is possible
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: 10.6 inches, 1920 x 1080 HD
iPad (3rd-gen): 9.7 inches, 2048×1536 Retina display

Ports
Surface for Windows RT: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video
iPad (3rd-gen): Dock connector

Storage
Surface for Windows RT:
32/64 GB
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: 64/128 GB
iPad (3rd-gen): 16/32/64 GB

Size
Surface for Windows RT: No dimensions given, besides thickness of 9.3mm
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: No dimensions given, besides thickness of .53 inches
iPad (3rd-gen): 9.5 x 7.3 x .37 in

Battery
Surface for Windows RT: 31.5 Watt-hours
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: 42 Watt-hours
iPad (3rd-gen): 42.5 Watt-hours

Software
Surface for Windows RT: Microsoft Office, plus Metro apps from the Windows store
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: Microsoft Office, plus Metro apps and Windows 8 applications
iPad (3rd-gen): No official Office apps, but lots of compatible third-party options amongst the 500,000+ apps in the App Store

Keyboard
Surface for Windows RT: Touch Cover & Type Cover 
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: Touch Cover & Type Cover
iPad (3rd-gen): Compatible with Bluetooth keyboards

4G Connectivity
Surface for Windows RT: ?
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: ?
iPad (3rd-gen): Optional

Release Date
Surface for Windows RT: Fall 2012
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: Early 2013
iPad (3rd-gen): Out now, with likely update in early 2013

With so much about Surface still up in the air, there are more questions than answers. Microsoft didn't mention any pricing details, a key concern for both consumer and business users. With third-gen iPads starting at $499, and the iPad 2  still on shelves at $399, analysts agree that the Surface RT model would have to come in near that price-point to gain much traction. And with Apple's commanding lead in the the mobile app space, it remains to be seen how Microsoft plans to stock its virtual shelves, particularly for Surface RT buyers, who will be limited to Metro apps from Windows Store.

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