Surface RT vs. iPad: A comparison

On Tuesday, with the release of pricing and pre-orders for the new Surface RT tablets, Twitter exploded with comparisons to the iPad. So, I decided to put together a little comparison chart to contrast two equivalent models.

loader small Surface RT vs. iPad: A comparison

These are basic versions and do not come with any accessories.

Let’s add a keyboard and screen cover to the mix.

loader small Surface RT vs. iPad: A comparison

You can use either device to surf the Web, check email, and play some games, but what if you want to catch up on some work?

loader small Surface RT vs. iPad: A comparison

OK, so we’ve addressed costs of ownership. Surface is ahead by about $115 at this point. Now let’s look at the strengths of each device:


The number one differentiator for the iPad has to be its screen. The Retina display is without question the best screen on the market for any tablet, and it is certainly something that should be considered when you’re buying one. Some people will no doubt say that the Retina screen is worth the additional $115 you’re paying for an iPad, but I don’t think it will be the majority.

Another thing that gives the iPad a leg up is the application ecosystem that exists for iOS devices. When I hear about 600,000 apps, I’m just in awe. As I’ve said many times before, however, I don’t think it’s the right number for comparison. Nobody is using more than a couple dozen applications on their device. You might have many more than that installed, but you’re not using them. In fact, this summer a report was released that showed that 2/3 of the apps in Apple’s store had never been downloaded.

I believe it’s far more important to have the “right” apps, and with such a new ecosystem for Microsoft, Apple still wins this one hands down. Microsoft is making strides, but it’s going to take some time.

Finally, there’s the accessories market. Want to treat your iPad like a steering wheel? There’s a case for that. Want to mount it in a retro-gaming cabinet? You got it. Just about anything you can imagine already exists for the iPad. Since the Surface isn’t even available yet, you can guess how many accessories there are for it: none.


Despite the iPad’s strengths, Surface RT holds its own in several other categories.

First, there’s a full-size USB 2.0 port. This means you can connect your existing peripheral devices, including a mouse, printer, or phone, to your tablet. (Ever wish you could charge your phone with your iPad?) This also makes moving movies or other large files to and from your device super easy with a USB thumb drive.

Second, it accepts microSD cards. This means that you can expand your on-board memory up to an additional 64GB. You can’t add more memory to an iPad. The average 64GB microSD card costs about $60. Add to this that just about everything on your device will also be stored using SkyDrive, and you’re unlikely to ever run out of space on this thing.

Third, Windows 8 provides a true multi-user experience. (Thanks to @lmaung for the reminder.) Every member of my family can have their own credentials on the Surface RT, which includes their own apps, settings, Start-screen layout, files, levels, etc. In short, it allows each of us to treat the device as our own.

Finally, there’s the integrated screen cover/keyboard and kickstand. On either device, you don’t ever need a keyboard. The on-screen keyboard is perfectly sufficient to knock out a quick tweet or Facebook message, or even a short email. But any lengthy amount of typing is inconvenient. With Surface’s Touch or Type covers plus the kickstand, you’re able to turn your tablet into a laptop. Yes, the iPad’s Smart Cover can prop up your device, but you will still need to tote an additional Bluetooth keyboard around if you want this option. I think this is a big win for Surface RT, especially because it also includes an integrated trackpad.


With the Surface RT not even available for another eight days, there’s LOTS to prove yet. However, I truly believe that Microsoft has made a strong, bold move here with this set of devices, and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on one soon. Having used Windows 8 for the past few months, I’m a convert.

It’s time for all of you, my faithful readers, to tell me why I’m wrong. If you were shopping for your first tablet today, which one would you buy?

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