iPad Pro, Surface Pro: super fast and out to replace your laptop

The new 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros are blazingly fast.

New contenders in the battle of the boardroom tablets.

Tablets have become a must-have in many meetings, and the battle for the high end of the market is fiercely contested. On one side is the Apple iPad Pro; on the other, the Microsoft Surface Pro. 

The face-off has cranked up a notch with new releases from both sides: two new iPad Pro models and the new Surface Pro (2017). Here’s how the new devices line up, along with some other options.

Apple iPad Pro: A$979 – A$1849

Apple has upgraded both of its iPad Pros, with a new 12.9in model and a 10.5in version that replaces the 9.7in model. Both include a faster processor (a six-core A10X Fusion chip) – so they’re blazingly fast – and three storage options: 64GB, 256GB and 512GB.

The Apple Pencil turns the iPad Pro into an easy-to-use designer's tool.The most notable change is to the 10.5in iPad Pro which, as the name suggests, has a larger, higher-resolution (2224 x 1668pixel) screen – though the device itself is only marginally larger overall due to design improvements. 

Prices start at A$979 for the 10.5in 64GB wi-fi only model, ranging up to A$1849 for the 12.9in 512GB model with 4G. 

The Smart Keyboard, which many will want for everyday work, is an extra A$235 for the 10.5in iPad Pro or A$245 for the 12in model.

If you need to write and sketch as well as type, the pressure-sensitive Apple Pencil, sold for A$145, lets you do just that in apps including Notes, Paper and Penultimate. 

Microsoft Surface Pro: A$1199 – A$3999

Microsoft wants you to think of the Surface Pro as a laptop, but unless you attach the optional Type Cover keyboard, it’s actually a tablet. 

However, once you connect the Type Cover, the Surface Pro turns into a very nice ultraportable laptop – and the new model has some significant improvements.

The new Surface Pro, with Type Cover keyboard, is now faster, with all-day battery life.The 2017 version looks no different from the Surface Pro 4, and the 12.3in display is much the same, but inside it has one of the latest, seventh-generation Intel Core processors: a Core m3, i5 or i7. Even better, battery life has improved to the extent that the new Surface Pro can now last a full day in most normal business circumstances.

Microsoft offers a variety of configurations and pricing varies accordingly: from A$1199 with a Core m3 processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB storage, to A$3999 with a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage. There’s no 4G version at the moment, so you’ll need to use your phone’s hotspot when away from wi-fi.

The new Type Cover keyboard is even better to use but you still have to pay an extra A$199 for it, which seems odd, considering the Surface Pro is being marketed as a laptop.

Still, the mid-range to top-shelf models are very quick indeed – and because the device runs the full version of Windows, the Surface Pro can be a genuine laptop replacement. 

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Other options

A Brydge keyboard transforms the iPad Pro into a laptop replacement.The new iPad Pro and Surface Pro are excellent devices, but you don’t need to limit your choice to them. Apple’s regular 9.7in iPad is a step down from the Pro but a lot cheaper – starting at A$469. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is still a great device, from A$899. 

Elsewhere, any number of budget Android tablets are available, including Lenovo’s 10in Yoga Tab3 for about A$300. You’ll find Samsung’s 9.7in Galaxy Tab S2 with wi-fi, from A$699, is a step up in quality, while Lenovo’s Yoga Book, priced from A$799, is an ultra-thin hybrid with a unique built-in keyboard that can double as a virtual piece of paper – and it’s available with either Android or Windows. 

Lenovo's Yoga Book has a keyboard that doubles as virtual paper.If you’re looking for hybrid Windows tablets there are also plenty of choices, ranging from Lenovo’s A$399 MIIX 320 to Acer’s Switch Alpha 12 (A$1390) to HP’s enterprise-grade Elite x2, priced from $1759. 

Flip-over two-in-one laptops could be another option, although they are generally too heavy to use as a tablet for any great length of time.

Some tablets offer matching keyboards, although generally at extra cost. However, there are other options, such as third-party keyboards and covers for specific tablets. Brydge keyboards, for example, can turn just about any recent iPad or Surface Pro into a laptop (keyboard from US$100–$150, depending on the device). Alternatively, a multi-device bluetooth keyboard, such as Logitech’s K380 (A$69.95), may suffice.

Read next: 7 tech trends that will change the way you work

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September 2017
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