Ooh, an interspecies specs duel. That’s bound to get interesting. And controversial. Yeah, I said it, acknowledged it and won’t be looking to deny it. I stirred up the hornet’s nest to start a debate. The age-old debate.
Has Android matured enough to take on iOS and Windows Pro when talking utility tools rather than “toys”? Will Microsoft ever learn it’s tough, nay outright impossible to beat Apple at their own game? Can a little fellow like the iPad Air fend off the gargantuan Surface Pro 3 and Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 threats by itself or does it need backup from MacBook Airs or maybe iPad Pros if they’ll ever be a thing?
Clearly, those questions are a wee bit complex for a humble specs comparison to settle them all. But again, I only intend to set up a discussion. Here we go:
Note Pro 12.2 vs Surface Pro 3 vs iPad Air – design, build quality and form factor comparison
Design has nothing to do with operating systems and “ecosystems”, so theoretically, our three contenders enter the arena on even ground. Obviously, the latest 9.7-inch iPad has the portability and sleekness edge, thanks to its smaller footprint, whereas the Surface Pro 3 wins the versatility fight with ease, courtesy of a whole roster of optional accessories, keyboard docks and whatnot.
As a standalone tablet, Microsoft’s newest spearhead is a major aesthetical evolution from previous models, yet still heavier, thicker and bulkier than the largest Galaxy Note. Namely, 45 grams heavier and 1 mm thicker. Does that translate into superior robustness maybe? Not exactly.
Sure, Surface Pro 3’s exterior is covered in brushed metal, but Note Pro’s plastic chassis is actually not as chintzy as you imagine. Ultimately, the iPad Air is both smoother and more elegant than the two, with its premium aluminum construction and incredibly slim 7.5 mm waist. Hate to admit it, but Apple remains the kind of ergonomic design.
Now here’s where things get really, really interesting. In their attempt to find unique identities for their iPad rivals, MS and Sammy have delivered two super-crisp, “Retina”-grade screens with slightly different pixel counts and aspect ratios.
The iPad Air, as I’m sure you all know, sports a 9.7-inch IPS LCD panel with 2,048 x 1,536 pix res, 264 ppi and 4:3 aspect ratio. Meanwhile, Note Pro’s 16:10 display marginally lowers the ppi ante to 247 on a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution, and the Surface Pro 3 comes with its own 3:2 aspect ratio, 2,160 x 1,440 res and 216 ppi pixel density.
Guess you’ll need to take all three of these babies for a spin before proclaiming a winner, eh? Personally, I’m no fan of 16:9 (or 16:10) panels. But Note Pro’s extra screen real estate compared to the iPad Air shouldn’t be overlooked. The Surface Pro 3? It’s a solid contender, no doubt about that, yet at the end of the day, it comes up a little short in ppi.
Processing speed, RAM and storage
Look, there’s really no comparing Intel Core i5 or i7 “Haswell” chips with homebrewed Apple A7s or Qualcomm-made Snapdragon 800s in raw performance. The top-of-the-line Haswells trump the competition any day of the week, particularly when paired with 8 GB of RAM.
Remember, the iPad Air has a measly 1 gig of random-access memory in tow, and the Note 12.2 caps off at 3 GB. Making matters worse for Surface Pro 3’s opponents, Microsoft fitted state-of-the-art humongous 256 and 512 GB SSDs on the tab’s top configs. Meanwhile, the iPad Air supports up to 128 GB of storage, and the Note Pro a pithy 64 internal.
But pitting the highest-end, costliest Surface Pro 3 against the 64 GB Note Pro 12.2 is an apples-and-oranges comparison. I mean, one is nearly 2,000 bucks, and the other $750. Even the most expensive iPad Air is less than half of the 512 GB Surface Pro 3’s price, so yeah, MS has the zippiest, baddest machine, but boy, is it overpriced.
Alternatively, you can score the Core i3-powered new Surface at $799, which also features a 64 GB solid-state drive and 4 GB RAM. But in that case, maybe the 128 GB iPad Air is a better choice, despite its scanty RAM. Oh, decisions, decisions.
Software and battery life comparison
I already admitted to stirring up the hornet’s nest, yet I don’t plan on spending a lot of time surrounded by them angry hornets. It’s obvious each OS has its advantages and flaws. Windows 8.1 fits workaholics perfectly, iOS 7 is the optimal playground, and Android 4.4 KitKat is, well, trying to catch up.
Honest to God, Google’s really going the extra mile in optimizing content for tablets, and soon, you’ll be able to notice. Right now though, I’m afraid us Android junkies have to bow to Windows fanatics and their productivity-focused platform and Apple fanboys and their rich, diverse, lighthearted, easy to understand, easy to master ecosystem.
Battery life? That’s a touchy subject, as usual when talking a barely announced, unreleased product. But if you’ll allow me to go on a hunch, I predict the Surface Pro 3 will offer less juice than both the Note Pro 12.2 and iPad Air. By a whisker, but less.
As for the two, they’re essentially tied autonomy-wise, with roughly 10 hours of continuous use on a single charge.
Accessories, cameras, connectivity, ports and wrap-up
Aside from superior processing speed, the Surface Pro 3 clearly has one more big ace up its sleeve – a multitude of accessories. For one thing, it comes standard with a stylus and built-in kickstand. Then you have all the Type Covers and desktop docking stations.
The Note Pro only retaliates with an S Pen, whereas the iPad Air has exactly zero to offer in this department. Cameras? First of all, who cares? Secondly, if you do care, then the Note Pro is your guy, with 8 MP and 2 MP shooters.
The iPad Air comes in second, thanks to a solid 5 MP rear cam with autofocus and everything, and the Surface Pro 3 impresses with its 5 MP front cam, but disappoints with a 5 MP main photographic unit lacking autofocus and flash.
Finally, I’d rather not pick a victor in connectivity, since all three bad boys support 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The Surface Pro 3 is however the only one with full-sized USB ports, and the iPad Air has no card slot whatsoever.
All things told, I guess the Surface Pro 3 is more laptop than tablet, so maybe comparing it with the iPad Air and Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 wasn’t very fair in the first place. Still, the two came out of the uneven fight pretty clean and honorable, so choosing an overall winner is tough. Anyone care to help me out of my pickle? Much obliged.