Microsoft Surface v. iPad and MacBook Air

Discussion in 'Alternatives to iOS and iOS Devices' started by B..., Apr 22, 2013.


Which device would be your first choice?

  1. MacBook Air

    57 vote(s)
  2. iPad

    13 vote(s)
  3. iPad mini

    3 vote(s)
  4. Microsoft Surface

    5 vote(s)
  5. Microsoft Surface Pro

    33 vote(s)
  6. Other: indicate in comments

    6 vote(s)
  1. macrumors 68000


    Mar 7, 2013
    The Microsoft Surface seems to be trying to take on both the iPad and the MacBook Air (with the Pro version). I have recently been looking into the Surface, probably not Pro but not necessarily, and would like to hear opinions from people who have used all the above devices, or just opinions from people who have tried it out.

    Is it an iPad killer or an Air killer? What do you think about Windows 8?

    I would love to hear all viewpoints and sides of this argument.
  2. macrumors 603

    Jun 11, 2009
    The surface Pro, IMO, is more of an Air killer than an ipad killer. The Atom powered windows 8 tablets are more of the ipad killers, and they kill the ipad quite nicely. The Surface Pro just has too many handicaps in terms of battery life and form factor/size/weight to be an ipad killer. But IMO it's certainly an Air killer, same weight/form factor as the 11" air, same price, slightly worse keyboard but the incredible (IMO) option to detach it and make it a tablet. They both run a "real" OS so at that point it's about preference, although the Air has the advantage where you can run both OS', not sure if the Surface Pro has OSx hacked onto it yet.
  3. macrumors 6502

    AC Rempt

    Feb 24, 2008
    I am thinking very hard about the Surface Pro, and the real killer feature for me that is rarely brought up, is the Wacom pen and pressure sensitivity. This adds a whole other dimension to the SP that both the MBA and iPad lack. Yes, you can get a pressure-sensitive pen for the iPad, but the SP can run PhotoShop and SketchBook Pro as well as store large image files.

    So the SP can challenge the MBA, make a run at the iPad, and on top of all this, it can be a graphics tablet.

    Very tempting.

    The cons remain the weight and the battery life. I also find the aspect ratio odd.

    But I'm still thinking about it.
  4. macrumors 6502a

    Mar 14, 2012
    My first instinct was to say Macbook Air, however I have an iPad and MBA, and use the iPad 95% of the time.
  5. MuffCabbage, Apr 22, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013

    macrumors regular

    Nov 11, 2012
    I have the Samsung Ativ 500T which has a keyboard dock and digitizer. I love it for school. OneNote with the digitizer is awesome for my lectures and keeping everything together since Im engineering so its a lot of writing/drawing vs typing in class.

    It gets about 10 hours of real battery life, but really I would wait until the next round of Intel Atom tablets before jumping on any convertibles.

    One thing I dont love about it is the aspect ratio being 16:9 but it's okay. Just kind of long for pure consumption tablet use which I use it for least often actually.

    I attached a PDF of my notes today in class which was a lot of matrices and done on my Win8 convertible with digitizer. I have access to all my OneNote notes on my computer, 2 tablets (Android and Win8), and my phone as well so I can review or add to my notes using my phone on the bus for example. The iPad just cant reach the level of accuracy at the speeds required for taking notes when compared to a tablet with a digitizer. And if you are looking to do artistic stuff, its not even a question how much better a digitizer is.

    The Macbook Air and iPad cant really do what I want them to do even together. The Surface Pro could, but its hampered by being bulkier and getting lower battery life than my Atom tablet. The Surface RT dos not have a digitizer.

    Attached Files:

  6. macrumors 603

    Jun 11, 2009
    Yeah the atom tablets have much more functionality than the surface pro. Against the iPad they completely blow it away IMO.
  7. macrumors newbie

    Apr 22, 2013
    Been reading these forums for years and just now joined because of this post. I have owned an Air, an iPad 1, 3 and 4. I used all of them extensively but no longer own any of them because I now have a Surface Pro. Had it for about a month now. I am absolutely blown away by it. My reasons: I decided that a tablet is the best form factor for me. I don't always need a keyboard and I prefer touch interface most of the time. But when I want to do photo editing/management or real productivity work I want a mouse, keyboard and plenty of processing power. I love Apple products but I just got so tired of the limitations of iOS. That's all gone now. I can do ANYTHING I want now. Even use my CAD software. All my files are always with me. Not just synced or in the cloud, they actually live on the Pro. I am not committed to any platform and generally just go with what works best. Windows 8 took a bit of getting used to, but now with some real world usage under my belt, I like it a lot. Very smooth and easy to get around. The snap feature is very useful. Anyway, not really trying to criticize Apple, just saying the Surface Pro is everything I've always wanted.
  8. macrumors 68020

    Dec 13, 2012
    Southern California
    My MacBook Air is my favorite in that list.

    As much as I enjoy my iPad mini & iPad 4, I'm still a laptop guy. The iPads are a nice relaxing way to surf the web & consume other entertainment. I just can't get enthused about using one for anything else.

    But to be fair I do resource intense engineering & design work that no tablet could perform.
  9. macrumors regular

    Feb 23, 2013
    Same here. Either is better than the Surface. $700 for a tablet with a keyboard? LOL. If you are a Windows user, you can get a much nicer laptop for half the price.
  10. macrumors 6502

    Jul 23, 2012
    The Surface Pro is a full i7 processor, it is not going to be a slower/weaker experience. The Pro is meant to be more of a laptop replacement, did you mean the regular surface?


    I would like a touchscreen base osx system, a Macbook Air built like the Surface Pro. I prefer OSX over Windows.
  11. macrumors 6502

    AC Rempt

    Feb 24, 2008
    The SP actually uses an i5, and it kills Atom-based systems at the cost of the battery.

    What appeals to me is the idea that the SP can do the laptop thing and the tablet thing. Okay, so maybe it doesn't do either as well as a dedicated tablet or dedicated laptop, but it does them well enough to work as the only device you need to carry versus carrying two devices.

    I wish it were about $300 cheaper . . .
  12. macrumors 603

    Jun 11, 2009
    It depends on the user, certainly. For me the surface Pro was a MUCH weaker experience. Why? Simple, the i5 power was simply unused in the vast majority of functions I performed on it, ie: I could do the same functions on my Atom powered tablet including Photoshop, MS Office, etc etc. There was virtually no difference in those programs, or inking speed, etc etc. The only difference I noticed was write speed, which is much faster on the Pro. That doesn't mean there aren't users out there who will use the i5 power, but IMO they will be few because many would rather just use a desktop or a larger screened laptop.

    But besides the real world non difference in cpu power (relative to how the tablet is used) the Pro just had several severe achilles heels which made it functionally far inferior to the Atom tablets, the most glaring ones being the battery life and the weight/thickness.

    I like the Pro, I really do, I owned one for a couple of weeks. But IMO it's just a tech enthusiast computer until they can figure out the form factor and battery life. The Atom tablets are not perfect either, but they fill out the role of a "tablet" quite nicely and do pretty well as a "laptop" as well. The Pro does neither of those jobs very well.
  13. macrumors 68020


    Jun 18, 2009
    City of Angels
    I own a Pro and an iPad. Used a MBA plenty of times.

    The Pro is a converged device, the first of its kind, disrupting a bunch of different markets. You got a device that acts like an iPad, a MBA, and a Mac Mini all rolled into one. It's like when the first smartphones came out and disrupted phones, PDA's, cameras, etc. Notice the first smartphones also didn't do these tasks as well as the devices they disrupted. Yet they're everywhere now.

    It's not gonna kill either market any time soon but it's a welcome paradigm shift that could become a gold standard in a few years, especially because Intel's roadmap is set to make midrange x86 chips extremely viable on mobile and because MS is currently laying the groundwork in creating a singular mobile/desktop OS.

    There are a lot of tablet benefits to using the Surface Pro. For one, it uses Win 8 instead your typical mobile OS. With a full desktop OS, you don't have to wait for things like ARM based apps for web services (IE Yelp, Tumblr, etc) to hit app stores - you can just pin the actual website and get full functionality. You also have a blazing fast SSD instead of slow flash memory. You can immediately tell the difference doing everything from browsing the net to using it as an E-reader.

    Far as an Win8 Atom tablet vs the Pro, you wanna play a game or use something that requires processing power, you're gonna need that i5. I'm running Sim City and Guild Wars 2 on my Pro. Those games would slideshow on an Atom device.

    Something that's not talked about a lot is you can also use it as a small form factor PC like a Mac Mini. When I bring it home, I stick it on my desk and hook it up to an HDMI monitor and the touchscreen basically becomes a huge trackpad.

    All I use the iPad for nowadays is clicking on mines in Clash of Clans once a week.
  14. macrumors 603

    Jun 11, 2009
    Hmm, about gaming I didn't have much luck with gaming on the Surface Pro I had for a couple of weeks. I actually did load up Guild Wars 2 and it ran at like 2 fps and was unplayable to say the least (I think I got 10-15 fps with everything turned down, playable I suppose but not enjoyable IMO), if I could have made games work on it then I would have considered keeping it if only as a novelty. I tried many games and no relatively modern game I tried was playable, the HD4000 GPU while having some power isn't regarded very highly as a mobile gaming solution.

    Gaming is one aspect where the iPad trounces the windows tablets and IMO is one area where MS really needs to beef up their product.
  15. macrumors 68020


    Jun 18, 2009
    City of Angels
    I get above 30 fps on GW2 at x768 resolution with occasional framerate dips. You should be getting higher than 10-15 because that's what people were getting on an HD3000 and the HD4000 is leaps and bounds better. I don't max out settings on the games I've tried but they're totally playable for me.

    The iPad might have a larger budget library but the HD4000 easily outperforms the iPad's GPU. You can't really compare a laptop grade GPU with a mobile GPU that needs feature stripped API's to compensate for lower processing power.
  16. macrumors 68000


    Mar 9, 2009
    MacBook Air.

    Why? It's a full but lightweight computer.
  17. macrumors regular

    Nov 11, 2012
    But what if you want more than a computer? Theres no touchscreen, no digitizer, and no ability to use it like a tablet.

    I can say that I use my Win8 convertible's touchscreen A LOT in laptop mode and its great.
  18. macrumors 6502a

    Apr 11, 2010
    For me, at this present time:

    iPad or Surface = iPad. The bigger range of apps and mobile browser support sway me. I have enjoyed using an Acer Windows RT tablet though.

    Macbook Air or Surface Pro = I couldn't give an answer. I would first have to have a good play with a Surface Pro before hand. I've used a 11" and 13" Air, great wee laptops!
  19. macrumors 68040


    May 10, 2010
    I'm have all animals from that zoo, kind of. MBA, iPad and an Acer W700 (also an i5 tablet, W8 nonPro, no Wacom;else close to SP).
    I got the Acer to "touch" Win 8 in real tablet environment plus for some native Windows app and because MS don't sell SP in Japan yet.
    Once you leave the funny Metro UI and end up in regular desktop (e.g. for Excel or Access) it gets a bit difficult with touch screen and without mouse/trackpad.
    But that is also the big advantage: it just runs all Windows software.

    Overall it's kind of fun to play with Win 8 tablet but I still prefer Mac OSX. That why I clicked "others": I want a native Mac OS X Tablet :D
  20. macrumors member

    Jan 19, 2013
    You're correct that Mac is not compatible w/ a digitizer. But a touch screen does not make the Surface Pro more functional than a MBA. W/o peripherals, Surface Pro functions as a tablet and computer, but not too well in each category. I agree w/ previous posts though, one thing it brings is the ability to dock and expand that experience on a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
  21. macrumors 603

    Jun 11, 2009
    I agree with you on a specs basis, but from a gaming consumers point of view the ipad trounces the surface pro in gaming. The ipad has some great titles which are optimized for touch tablets, including the control schemes. The pro has zero games optimized for it, although you can shoehorn regular PC games into it by reducing the settings and also adding a mouse and realistically having to use a desk or flat surface to play them, and even with the games handicapped by settings I don't think many games work with the Pro.

    Hopefully in the future MS will integrate Xbox more into the tablets like they are starting to do with the Pro, but at the moment gaming is kind of pitiful.


    It depends on use, for me it makes it HUGELY more functional than a macbook, but then again I don't use a Pro because of the battery life. It does not function well as a tablet due to battery life and weight.
  22. macrumors 6502

    AC Rempt

    Feb 24, 2008
    Touch screen, maybe not, but the digitizer might end up closing the deal for me. While there's a pressure sensitive pen for the iPad, you can't run CS6 on an iPad while you can on the Pro. That makes it a great deal more functional than either the iPad or the MBA for the likes of me.
  23. macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2012
    Tablet games vs desktop games. Entirely different animals. Nothing can compare to the back-catalog of PC games that will run extremely well on the Pro.
  24. macrumors 603

    Jun 11, 2009
    Yeah it's all subjective of course, but you still have the control scheme to deal with, none of that back catalog is touch compatible so you are going to have to find a flat surface and a mouse, plus the awful battery life will be that much more awful, the Pro might then only get an hour compared to the ipad's 3 or 4 hours with gaming. I'd be curious if anyone did a round up of which games play well on the Surface Pro, at what resolution/settings/frame rate, etc and if they really made sense or were kinda useless which is what I suspect is the case.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a windows tablet supporter, I threw out my iPad as a FAR inferior device a long time ago and I use a windows tablet daily. But I'm just making the point that when it comes to gaming the surface Pro, and really any current windows tablet are woeful at best and any solution is pretty much shoehorned. I'd rather play a modern touch optimized game on the ipad than a 5 year old PC desktop game on low settings on a tablet forced to use a mouse.
  25. macrumors G5


    Aug 17, 2007
    I would also choose a MBA for the same reason.

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