Surface Pro 7 vs iPad Pro: Which should you buy?

The Surface Pro 7.
The Surface Pro 7. (Image credit: Microsoft)

The iPad and Surface are always compared, but the truth is they're two very different devices. Which you should buy ultimately depends on what type of experience you're looking to get.

Comparing two different types of tablet

It's easy to compare the Surface Pro 7 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 iPad OS, 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 relatively easy to write, edit photos and videos, play games, and plenty more on an iPad.

And thanks to recent improvements since the shift to iPad OS, you've now got better use of your home screen with widget support, proper pop-out menus, and the Files app still isn't a proper file system. Still, it's an excellent way to integrate services like OneDrive into your workflow.

Despite all of the pros, it's still limited in several ways compared to the Surface Pro 7. 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. The iPad can at least now use a mouse, but it's an accessibility feature rather than one designed for productivity.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Surface Pro 7iPad 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 7 is more of a competitor for Apple's MacBook Air. So which you should buy depends entirely on what it is you're looking for in your tablet.

Surface Pro 7 is a great laptop

Surface Pro 7

Surface Pro 7

The Surface Pro 7 is sold as a tablet, in that there's no keyboard included, but it's 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.

The Surface Pro does have access to media apps and some games, with the likes of Netflix and Hulu complementing Microsoft's own movies and TV store. The Surface Pro 7 isn't a gaming machine. Still, with the latest Intel Iris Plus graphics, you'll be able to enjoy lighter titles available from the Microsoft Store, including games like Cuphead and Age of Empires.

The biggest draw to the Surface Pro, however, is one of the absolute best mobile computing experiences money can buy. Whether you're using it as a tablet, laptop, or as a digital notepad, it's the poster child for how a 2-in-1 should be.

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 7 is. Apple's hardware and design are 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 most significant difference is the OS. MacOS is a more direct comparison and a competitor to Windows 10, whereas the iPad Pro runs iPad OS, Apple's mobile platform for its tablets. This means no proper file system, no proper mouse support, and a bunch of other issues you might come across if you're trying to use it as a laptop.

But that's because the iPad isn't a touchscreen laptop and has never been designed that way. Its fans have always come up with creative ways to get the most from an iPad, and the built-in Shortcuts app allows for some genuinely brilliant workflows and automations. But eventually, there's likely to be that one task you try and do that would take seconds on a Windows PC or Mac that just frustrates you beyond belief on an iPad Pro.

Do you want a laptop or a tablet?

If it's the former, then the Surface Pro 7 is the one to go for. The iPad Pro costs similar money, but if it's laptop-like features you want, then Apple's tablet still falls a little short.

The best tablet

If you're looking for a tablet, maybe for light work, but mostly for leisure purposes, then the iPad Pro is still the top dog. Apple's software and the quality of the App Store are unrivaled on a tablet.

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.