iPad Pro 2018 vs Surface Pro 6: Apple against Microsoft for the tablet 2-in-1 crown

The latest premium hardware from 2018 compared in all the key categories

iPad Pro 2018 vs Surface Pro 6

It's been quite a year for new hardware launches, and here we're going to compare two of the best devices to arrive over the last few months: the Surface Pro 6 from Microsoft and the new iPad Pros from Apple. Which of them is the best value buy for what you need?

There are a lot of similarities to talk about here – both these devices can work as tablets or as 2-in-1s with an attached keyboard, and both support touchscreen input with an official stylus. There are a lot of differences to talk about as well, and we'll lay them all out for you.

iPad Pro 2018 vs Surface Pro 6: the designs

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6

Slim, stylish and modern: a lot of the adjectives you can apply to one of these devices, you can also apply to the other. The iPad Pros got a more noticeable refresh than the Surface Pro 6 this year, but there wasn't much wrong with the Surface Pro design to begin with – and it's now available in black.

There are two iPad Pros to talk about of course: one with a 11-inch, 2,388 x 1,668 pixel, 264 ppi display (measuring 247.6 mm x 178.5 mm x 5.9 mm overall), and one with a 12.9-inch, 2,732 x 2,048 pixel, 264 ppi display (measuring 280.6 mm x 214.9 mm x 5.9 mm overall). The bezels have been shrunk down to a minimum, and the tablets now support Face ID, because there's no longer any Home button.

Compare that to the Surface Pro 6, with its 12.3-inch,  2,736 x 1,824 pixel, 267 ppi display (measuring 292 mm x 201 mm x 8.5 mm overall). That makes the Microsoft slate slightly bigger and slightly thicker than the biggest of the iPad Pros, though it's arguably a more capable computer. If portability is key, maybe go for the smaller iPad Pro.

iPad Pro 2018 vs Surface Pro 6: the specs

iPad Pro 2018

iPad Pro 2018

The iPad Pros are powered by the super-fast A12X Bionic processor, which Apple says offers twice the graphics performance of the 2017 models, and is up to 90 percent faster at certain tasks than their predecessors. In other words, there's a lot of raw power here, more than enough to handle the most demanding apps and then some.

The Surface Pro 6 comes in a variety of configurations. 8th-gen quad-core Intel i5 and i7 chips sit at the the heart of them, then you get 8GB or 16GB of RAM on top of that. Whether that's enough to beat the iPad Pros in a direct race, well, it really depends what you're trying to do – but as everything on the iPad is designed for stripped-down, mobile use, we'd expect it to feel faster most of the time, even if you're actually doing less.

In terms of storage, your choices are 64GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB for the Apple iPad Pro tablets, and 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB for the Microsoft Surface Pro 6, so pretty similar across the board – note that you will have to pay a lot for those top-end storage sizes, so compare the prices with the cloud storage alternatives.

iPad Pro 2018 vs Surface Pro 6: the features

Surface Pro 6

Surface Pro 6

One of the key differentiators here is of course that the iPad Pros run iOS and the Surface Pro 6 runs Windows 10. iOS is slick and powerful, but ultimately built for mobile (even if full Photoshop is on the way); Windows 10 is a bigger, more bloated desktop OS that can run anything from iTunes to Adobe Illustrator.

Both the iPad Pros and the Surface Pro 6 have front and back cameras that are decent enough. Both work with styluses – the Apple Pencil and the Surface Pen respectively – and both have clip-on keyboard covers made by their respective manufacturers. In terms of ports, the Surface Pro 6 offers a USB 3.0 port, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a Mini DisplayPort socket, whereas the iPad Pros stick with just one USB-C connector.

Apple says you can expect 10 hours of video streaming on the iPad Pros between battery charges, while MIcrosoft says the figure is 13.5 hours for the same scenario on the Surface Pro 6. Oh, and you can unlock both of these devices with your face, if that's something that's important to you.

iPad Pro 2018 vs Surface Pro 6: the verdict

iPad Pro 2018

iPad Pro 2018

Don't spend too long agonising over the choice if you're thinking about picking up one of these devices – they're both going to serve you very well. Your biggest decision, if you're thinking about picking up one of these devices, is probably between the full Windows 10 and the more mobile-focused iOS: which one has the apps and the performance you need?

Once you've picked an operating system, you'll know which tablet (or 2-in-1) you want to go for. Both the iPad Pros and the Surface Pro 6 have oodles of power, and they're all premium devices that are going to set you back quite a bit – the entry level and top end prices of the iPad Pros are a little higher than the Surface Pro 6 at the moment, which is perhaps worth bearing in mind if you're working to a budget.

Both Apple and Microsoft can be happy with the devices they've released this year, and the iPad Pros for 2018 and the Surface Pro 6 are all evidence of companies getting more confident with their hardware manufacturing. It makes us wonder quite how these pieces of hardware can be improved in 2019.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.