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Surface Pro 6 vs. iPad Pro: Which should you buy?

The iPad and Surface are always compared, but the truth is they're two very different devices. Do you want a Windows PC or a tablet to consume media, browse the web, and play casual games on? Sure, you can do work on the iPad, even edit photos and videos, but the workflow is very, very different.

Comparing apples and oranges

It's easy to compare the Surface Pro 6 to the iPad Pro. It's a tablet by design and the iPad is, still, about the best all-around tablet money can buy. It runs Apple's iOS, which is efficient, easy to use, and has an insane app library. The iPad has come a long way since the early days, and it's now not only possible but fairly easy to write, edit photos and videos, play games, and plenty more on an iPad.

Despite all of the pros, it's still limited in a number of ways compared to the Surface Pro 6. iOS, for as good as it is, is still a mobile OS. Windows 10 is what you find on desktop and laptop PCs, complete with full mouse support, something Apple won't give to the iPad.

Surface Pro 6iPad Pro
Display12.3-inch PixelSense (2736 x 1824)11-inch or 12.9-inch Liquid Retina (2388 x 1668 and 2732 x 2048)
StorageUp to 1TBUp to 1TB
KeyboardYes (optional)Yes (optional)
PenYes (optional)Yes (optional)
PriceFrom $799From $799

While there are plenty of similarities on a hardware level, when it comes to the experience of using them, it couldn't be more different. The Surface Pro 6 is more of a competitor for Apple's MacBook Air and Pro lineup than it is for the iPad, frankly. So which you should buy depends entirely on what it is you're looking for in your portable computer.

Surface Pro 6 makes a great laptop

The Surface Pro 6 is sold as a tablet, in that there's no keyboard included, but it's actually a full, 2-in-1 laptop. That means Windows 10, access to both Store and legacy win32 apps, a proper file system, mouse support, keyboard, digital inking, the ability to use external drives and accessories, and so much more.

Some of the iPad Pro's media consumption prowess can be applied to the Surface Pro, with apps for services like Netflix, Spotify, Plex, and many others, and Netflix through Microsoft Edge is one of the best ways to enjoy content from the service. However, there are gaps. There's no Prime Video, for example, and the battery life when consuming media will likely fall a good way short of the iPad Pro.

However, that's not really why you'd want a Surface Pro. It offers the very best PC experience in something you can toss in any bag. Write and draw with a pen, or use the Type Cover to get some work done. Anything you would ever want to do on a PC you can do on the Surface Pro 6.

The iPad Pro is a superb tablet

Is the iPad Pro still the best tablet you can buy? Pretty much, but it's not a great tablet for the same reasons the Surface Pro 6 is. Apple's hardware and design is stunning, and the iPad Pro boasts a beautiful display, an almost unnaturally slim form factor, skinny bezels, USB-C connectivity that can even charge your phone, and an optional keyboard and pen.

The biggest difference is the OS. MacOS is a more direct comparison and competitor to Windows 10, whereas the iPad Pro runs iOS, Apple's mobile platform. This means no proper file system, no mouse support, awkward multitasking, and a bunch of other issues you might come across if you're trying to use it like a laptop.

Simple things like dealing with email attachments and renaming files is an extremely convoluted process on the iPad Pro. But that's also by design. Apple doesn't want the iPad to be a touchscreen Mac tablet. But with the scale of the iOS app catalog behind it, the iPad Pro is an incredible tablet. Sure, you can use it to work — many people do — but you'll potentially have to change your workflow, and at some point, if a laptop is what you want, the iPad is going to fill you with frustration.

Do you want a laptop or a tablet?

If it's the former, then the Surface Pro 6 is the one to go for. The iPad Pro is a similar cost but if it's laptop-like features you want, then Apple's tablet will disappoint.

The best tablet

If you're looking for a tablet, maybe for very light work, but mostly for leisure purposes, then the iPad Pro is still the top dog.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.