There’s a new Microsoft Surface in town, and it’s gunning directly for Apple’s iPad Pro. The Surface Pro X is shaping up to be Microsoft’s most advanced 2-in-1 yet, sporting a striking edge-to-edge display, a powerful custom CPU and the thinnest design we’ve ever seen in a Surface.
Still, the Surface Pro X has to bring its A-game if it wants to dethrone the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which delivers ludicrously fast, laptop-beating performance, one of the best tablet displays out there and impressively long battery life.
Keep in mind that we’ve yet to give the Pro X our full review treatment, and we may see new iPad Pro models at Apple’s rumored October 2019 event. But if you want an early look at how these high-end flagship slates stack up, here’s how the Surface Pro X compares to the iPad Pro.
Surface Pro X vs iPad Pro: Specs Compared
|Row 0 - Cell 0
|Surface Pro X
|Screen Size, Resolution
|13 inches, 2880 x 1920
|12.9 inches, 2732 x 2048
|Microsoft SQ1 with Adreno 685 graphics
|Apple A12X Bionic
|13 hours (rated)
|10 hours (rated); 13 hours (tested)
|Size and Weight
|11.3 x 8.2 x 0.28 inches, 1.7 pounds
|11 x 8.46 x 0.23 inches, 1.4 pounds
The Surface Pro X is the first Surface in years that looks truly different, with edges that are just 7.3mm thin and a nearly edge-to-edge 13-inch PixelSense display. At 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.28 inches and 1.7 pounds, the Pro X shouldn’t weigh you down much on the road.
That size and weight is relatively on par with the iPad Pro, which comes in at 11 x 8.46 x 0.23 inches and 1.4 pounds. The latest iPad Pro takes some design cues from the newest iPhones, with relatively thin bezels and slim silver edges.
In terms of ports, the Pro X sports only two USB-C connections, though that beats out the lone USB-C port on the iPad Pro.
The bottom line? Both of these devices are the thinnest and lightest yet in their class, though we’ll have to see how the Surface Pro X holds up in our labs and on the road.
On the display front, the Pro X packs a 13-inch, 2880 x 1920 PixelSense display compared to the 12.9-inch, 2732 x 2048 Liquid Retina Display on the iPad Pro. We’ll have to see how the two look side by side, but we currently consider the iPad Pro’s Retina display to be one of the most gorgeous and vibrant tablet screens available.
The Surface Pro X packs a custom Microsoft SQ1 processor that was built in collaboration with Qualcomm and promises “PC-class” performance. You’re also getting an Adreno 685 integrated GPU, up to 16GB of RAM and up to 512GB of SSD storage. Additionally, the Pro packs LTE support for staying online on the go.
While the Pro X’s SQ1’s processor sounds promising, it will have to compete against Apple A12X Bionic chip found in the latest iPad Pro. Apple’s slate delivers some of the fastest performance we’ve ever seen in a tablet, and its benchmark scores even beat out some of the best laptops, including the Dell XPS 13. (We would expect Apple to upgrade to the A13X Bionic for the next iPad.)
Microsoft says the SQ1 chip offers three times the performance per watt as the Surface Pro 6, so this will be a very interesting contest.
Other key iPad Pro specs include up to 1TB of storage, optional LTE support and a crisp 12-MP camera. The iPad Pro also benefits from signature Apple features such as Face ID for hands-free screen unlocking and Apple Pay for making quick payments online.
Keyboard and accessories
The Surface Pro X and iPad Pro both require a few external accessories in order to become true laptop replacements. The Pro X supports Microsoft’s new Surface Pro X Signature Keyboard, as well as a new Slim Pen and Surface Arc Mouse. The Signature Keyboard now has a storage slot for the Slim Pen that also charges the stylus, which is a nice touch.
The Signature Keyboard also has something the iPad Pro’s $199 keyboard doesn’t: a full touchpad for laptop-like navigation. And while you can technically get a mouse working on an iPad Pro, the Pro X supports wireless and wired mice out of the box. On the flip side, we are fans of the $129 Apple Pencil that works with the Pro, as it allows for smooth, lifelike drawing and attaches conveniently to the top of the iPad.
The Surface Pro X is rated for 13 hours of battery life, which is identical to the 13 hours of juice we saw from the iPad Pro in our lab tests. We’re eager to see how Microsoft’s 2-in-1 holds up during real-world use.
Price and availability
The Surface Pro X is available on Nov. 15 and starts at $999 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. If you want to max things out, you can get it with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage for $1,799.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has the same $999 starting price as the Pro X, but has half the starting storage at 64GB (Apple doesn’t specify the amount of RAM in its tablets). You can get up to 1TB of storage for a total $1,549, and tack on LTE support for an extra $150.
Of course, this is before you factor in the accessories you’ll need to make the most of these PC-like slates. The Surface Slim Pen goes for $145, and while we don’t yet know the cost of the Pro X Signature Keyboard, we expect it to be more than the $160 Signature Type Cover. So you’re looking at upwards of $1,300 or more if you get the starting Pro X with all accessories.
The iPad Pro gets expensive fast, too. The Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro starts at $169 ($199 if you want the Folio cover edition), and the Apple Pencil 2 goes for $129. So that’s at least $1,297 if you want to use the iPad Pro for typing and sketching.
The Surface Pro X offers more bang for the buck when comparing the starting models, though Apple’s iPad Pro can be maxed out with more storage. And both models get similarly expensive when you toss the keyboard and pen in.
The Surface Pro X is shaping up to be one of Microsoft’s most compelling 2-in-1s yet. You get an attractively slim design, long battery life, a rich 13-inch display and what should be blazing performance from Microsoft’s SQ1 chip.
Still, the iPad Pro is currently best-in-class when it comes to performance, and offers one of the best displays we’ve seen on a tablet.
If you prefer the flexibility of Windows or want more value out of the box, the Pro X might be the right pick for you. But we’ll know for sure which tablet reigns supreme when we get the Pro X in our labs later this year.
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.