Why My Microsoft Surface Pro is not an iPad

I got a Microsoft Surface Pro as my new laptop replacement. Why did I go with a Surface? It was light (the same weight as my 12.9” iPad Pro so is good for traveling), has good specs (I have the 16GB RAM model which can drive a high a good resolution monitor), and it can run Magento, Docker, the full Office suite, etc. (I was not interested in a Mac – this is not a Apple/Mac vs Microsoft/Windows debate.)

I find I use my iPad all the time (I have Office, VPN, Chrome, Slack, etc – I spend most of my time in these tools these days), so I was curious – would the Surface replace my iPad?

TL;DR: No.

This does not mean I don’t like the Surface as a laptop, but here are the reasons why it does not feel like an iPad replacement.

  • The iPad has instant start – you click the button and its on. The Surface hibernates at times so goes through a longer boot sequence.
  • The iPad has a pin code or fingerprint to unlock – the Surface (maybe just my corporate rules) goes through a full “enter your password sequence” which takes longer.
  • The iPad shows me notifications of slack messages, emails, calendar reminders even while off. I can swipe and go straight into the app to view it.
  • The iPad turns off fairly quickly allowing the battery to last all day.

These points combined means I can react to events very quickly without interrupting my normal thought flow. Maybe the Surface can do them too, but its not out of the box.

There are other differences that I notice.

  • The iPad has a bigger screen (taller).
  • The Surface stand is less comfortable on my lap that the iPad Apple keyboard.
  • The iPad has the same charger as all the iPads and iPhones in the family, so we can share charging cables much more easily. The Surface is custom.
  • At the airport I have to put the Surface in a separate tray for security screening (they don’t consider it a tablet, even though it’s the same weight as my tablet).
  • Apps like Netflix, Slack, etc generally feel nicer on the iPad. They just work and are generally minimal.

I still like the Surface over my older laptop. I like having the same files on my desktop at work and home (and on the plane) without worrying about network connectivity. I never use my iPad for authoring PowerPoint presentations – too painful. The Surface is much nicer there. I also find my iPad screen gets greasy much faster as I am always touching the screen.

So for me, I am not letting go of my iPad as a productivity device. But I also like the new Surface so far as my laptop replacement for more serious work.

Oh and which device am I writing this post on? Microsoft Word on my iPad – I like the slightly bigger screen and lap comfort. Word lets me share documents with the Surface trivially when I need to.


  1. erikhansen · · Reply

    Interesting write-up. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Isaac Balbin · · Reply

    Alan, I never thought I’d see the day that you weren’t just using vi and plain text filed 🙂

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