The business case for Surface Pro 3 has successfully convinced many consumers who were in need of a powerful and versatile device. Its launch is the latest chapter in this tablet war, with Microsoft promising that this latest incarnation addresses many concerns about earlier models, while also looking to the future with the promise of a free Windows 10 upgrade. So, to mark the launch of Microsoft’s latest tablet, we ask how it compares to one of the most popular tablets on the market, the iPad Air 2.

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One of the first things an iPad-user will notice about the Surface 3 is the quality of its design and build. The Surface’s trademark kickstand solves a problem faced by many iPad users who need to use their tablet for laptop-like tasks. Similarly, the Surface’s digital pen input – useful for OneNote and a variety of other apps – means that users are unlikely to feel short-changed by the lack of an equivalent to Apple’s Touch ID. It might not possess the razor-thin good looks of the iPad; but, if being used for office work, aesthetic considerations are unlikely to be the primary motivation for the professional user.  In addition, the Surface is far from ugly!

Screen resolution and weight is one area where the iPad Air 2 appears to have the upper hand. Weighing in at a featherweight 437g and boasting a screen resolution of 2048×1536, the iPad Air 2 has the kind of credentials that have, understandably, made it a big hit with graphic designers and photographers. The Surface 3’s screen, although slightly larger, offers fewer pixels at 1920×1280. This factor, when combined with the strength of the Apple App Store, suggests the iPad Air 2 may be the better device when it comes to watching video, picture editing and design tasks.

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The sturdier profile of the Surface 3 does bring one real advantage. In contrast to the iPad Air’s single Lightning connector, the Surface 3 features a USB 3.0 port, microSD card reader, Mini Display Port and micro USB charging port. This combination is likely to bring some comfort to users looking for a genuine laptop replacement. The USB 3.0 port, for example, makes it possible to use the Surface 3 with a universal docking station, whether to extend a workspace with additional screens, input devices or other accessories.

In other areas, such as cost and battery life, there is not much to separate the iPad Air 2 and the Surface 3.  Both devices claim up to 10-hours of battery life, and both are priced at around the $500 mark. Anyone using their tablet for processor-heavy tasks may notice the higher frequency of the Surface 3’s Intel Atom x7 processor compared to Apple’s A8X chip.  This extra processing capability is particularly useful given that Surface 3 owners can run Windows desktop programs and Windows Store apps simultaneously using the split screen function.

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At this point dyed-in-the-wool iPad users will point out the far greater range of apps available on the Apple App store compared to the Windows Store. However, given the Surface 3 comes with a free one-year subscription to Office 365 and the promise of a free Windows 10 upgrade, some may feel that the sacrifice is worth making. Besides, given the availability of many of the most popular apps for business, such as OneNote, Trello and Microsoft Dynamics, the strength or weakness of the Windows Store is unlikely to have a significant effect on day-to-day productivity.

The market is moving fast, with many already predicting that Microsoft’s Continuum will be game changer for the way we use tablets and ‘phablets’.  For surfing the web, watching videos and picture editing, the iPad Air 2 is arguably still out on its own. However, in terms of device consolidation, the Surface 3 is a powerful and adaptable multitasker, which is well-suited to home- and office-based tasks.

Have you recently invested in the Surface 3? Let us know how you think it compares to the iPad Air 2 and other leading tablets.

Images via Flickr: Sinchen.Lin, Scott Akerman