The tablet battle between Apple and Microsoft is heating up in 2018. The iPad and Surface are two of the biggest tablet brands out there, and both lineups now have new entry-level, low-priced releases available. Those would be Apple's latest iPad (6th gen) and Microsoft's new Surface Go.
While consumers are certainly a target of the new devices, both Apple and Microsoft say the tablets are primed for education and productivity users, too. Which of the tablets is a better fit for you or your organisation?
The two tablets in our comparison are similar on display size, with Apple's iPad measuring 9.7 inches and Microsoft's Surface Go just a bit larger at 10 inches. In terms of display technology, the Surface Go uses Microsoft's PixelSense technology, while the iPad uses Apple's Retina display; both technologies rate high on offering a bright and colorful picture. The iPad boasts a higher-resolution screen though, at 2048 x 1536 pixels and 264 ppi. That's compared to the 1800 x 1200 screen of the Surface Go, which offers 217 ppi.
Both tablets are meant to be used with a digital stylus. Unlike prior iPad releases, the sixth-generation iPad supports use of the Apple Pencil, just like the iPad Pro does. Meanwhile, the Surface Go will support the Surface Pen, the same digital stylus that works with the Surface Pro. Both pens are sold separately from the tablets - the Apple Pencil is priced at $145 and the Surface Pen goes for $139.
At the outset, the Surface Go is only available in a wi-fi version - though an LTE-enabled model of the tablet will be available "later this year," Microsoft said. By comparison, the iPad comes in two models - a wi-fi-only model and a wi-fi/LTE model.
For port connectivity, the iPad features a Lightning connector for charging and data transfer, along with a Nano-SIM tray that supports Apple SIM. The Surface Go is more versatile with the inclusion of a USB-C port, along with Surface Connect and a MicroSDXC card reader.
Apple doesn't emphasise keyboard usage with the iPad (which doesn't feature a "Smart Connector" port for hooking in a keyboard, like the iPad Pro). The iPad does support certain Bluetooth keyboards, though none are made by Apple.
By contrast, Microsoft is promoting the Surface Go as a 2-in-1 capable tablet that is made to work with Microsoft's own Type Cover keyboard, which is sold separately. The Surface Go keyboard comes with keys that are the same size as the keys on the Surface Pro Type Cover - and have some design tweaks that should also improve the feel of the keys, according to Microsoft.
Also akin to the Surface Pro keyboard, the Surface Go keyboard will come in two versions - a standard version (US$99), and a Signature Type Cover with Alcantara fabric around the keyboard ($199). Additionally, the trackpad on the Surface Go keyboard is actually larger than on the Surface Pro keyboard, Microsoft said.
Battery life & portability
Apple promises up to 10 hours of battery life per charge for the wi-fi-only iPad, and up to nine hours for using the iPad over cellular. Microsoft is promising a similar amount of battery life for the Surface Go - up to nine hours of usage for the tablet.
You won't notice much of a difference in the two tablets when it comes to thickness, as the iPad measures 7.3 mm thick and the Surface Go measures 7.8 mm. There's a little bit more of a difference on weight, but still not a wide gap: the iPad weighs 0.43 kg, while the Surface Go weighs in at 0.52 kg
Processor & memory
The sixth-generation iPad uses Apple's quad-core A10 chip, which has a clock speed of up to 2.34 GHz. The Surface Go is powered by the Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y chip, which is dual-core and clocks at a speed below that of the A10 - up to 1.6 GHz. However, the Surface Go easily tops the iPad when it comes to RAM, with the Surface Go offering variations with 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM. That's compared to the 2 GB of RAM included in the iPad.
The latest iPad comes with 32 GB of storage at the base level, and is also offered with 128 GB of storage. Again, as with memory, the Surface Go has more to offer at the base level when it comes to storage: the Surface Go starts with 64 GB of storage, and is also configurable with 128 GB.
With a starting price of $469, the Apple iPad (with wi-fi connectivity only) is the winner on affordability. The Surface Go starts at $599, by comparison. Keep in mind, though, that this pricing for the Surface Go will get you double the storage and double the RAM of the iPad -- as well as the ability to connect to a Microsoft Type Cover keyboard.
Another note on pricing: the Surface Go will actually come in two versions - one for consumers and education, and the other for commercial. The commercial version of the Surface Go will run Windows 10 Pro and cost US$449. The consumer/education version is priced at $599 and will run Windows 10 Home in S mode - which only allows apps that are available in the Windows store. (The consumer/education version of the Surface Go can be switched to Windows 10 Pro, Microsoft noted.)
Pre-orders have begun for the Microsoft Surface Go, and the device will begin shipping as of 2 August.