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Windows tablets Reviews
15,670 Reviews

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison review

From £399 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Microsoft

Microsoft's Surface RT is a tablet that a lot of people have been waiting for, but how does it shape up next to the Apple iPad 4? We put the two up against each other in this Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison review.

 Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison

The age-old battle of Microsoft vs Apple has been given a new lease of life, this time in the form of tablet PCs. The Microsoft Surface RT and Apple iPad are two of the most sought after tablets on the market, so naturally we wanted to see which one is best. Here is our very own Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison review. See iPad 4 review and Surface RT review.

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Price

The bottom price of each tablet is exactly the same, it is worth pointing out that the £399 price of the surface does not include a Touch Cover, which is an accessory that is pretty integral to the slick use of the Windows tablet. If you want the Touch Cover - and you really should - then you have to factor in another £80 as the price jumps up to £479. Coincidentally that is the exactly same price as a 32GB Pad 4.

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Dimensions

On the face of it, there's not a huge amount of difference between the iPad 4 and the Microsoft Surface. The Surface RT just pips the iPad 4 in terms of which is thinner, measuring in at 9.3mm compared to 9.4mm. Take a look at Apple iPad Mini vs Google Nexus 7 tablet comparison review.

Oddly the table's turn when it comes to weight, with the iPad 4 weighing 662g compared to the barely heftier 678g of the Surface. As we said earlier, these measurements are both too close to really separate the two.

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Dimensions

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Screen

The difference between the two tablets become more apparent when you look at the two screen sizes. With Microsoft's Surface coming in nearly an inch bigger (diagonally) at 10.6in and the iPad 4 measuring 9.7in. Read: iPad 3 vs iPad 4 comparison review.

While the screen size of the surface is bigger than the iPad 4, the screen resolution is significantly lower. The two tablet's resolutions and pixels per inch (ppi) tell a different story - a story where the iPad 4 convincingly whips the Surface. The Surface's 148ppi ClearType HD display looks pretty good at normal viewing distances and in general is pretty good for your everyday tablet needs, but the iPad 4's Retina Display with 264ppi really is in a league of its own. Visit Group test: what's the best tablet PC?

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Processor

Comparing these two's processors is a bit of a tricky one, as our usual benchmarking tool doesn't work on the Surface.

That said it is worth mentioning that the iPad 4 features an upgraded A6X chip that set a new tablet record of 1769 using Geekbench 2, to put that into perspective the iPad 3 had a score around the region of 750. In laymen's terms that means the iPad 4 has a very powerful processor indeed.

The only real way we can compare the two is in terms of what each was like to use on a day-to-day basis. From this we would have to conclude that the iPad 4's processor seemed to be the better of the two as the overall experience what slicker. That's not to say that the Surface was a jumpy slow coach, far from it, we were actually impressed with the Surface's performance; animations are smooth and the more demanding tasks like pinch zooming in Internet Explorer and Bing Maps are extremely responsive. However, we did notice a delay here and there, especially when opening some apps. Something that we did not find with the iPad 4.

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Storage

Apple iPad storage options are pretty much set in stone now - £399 for 16GB Wi-Fi only ranging all the way up to £659 for 64GB with Wi-Fi and 3G/4G cellular data. As usual the iPad 4 features no microSD card slot for expandable storage.

The Microsoft Surface RT really hammers the iPad 4, when it comes to storage options, offering twice as much storage - 32GB instead of 16GB - for £399. Like the iPad 4, the Surface is also available to buy with 64GB of internal storage. The real kicker is that the Surface also features a microSD card slot, which lets you add up to another 64GB of storage, which in theory means the Surface can have up to 128GB of space.

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Camera

Both tablet's cameras are pretty good, but the iPad 4 edges this comparison thanks to its superior rear-facing camera. The Surface and the iPad 4 share the honours when it comes to the front facing cameras, with each of them boasting 720p video recording. However the iPad 4 turns the screw with its 1080p HD rear-facing camera compared to the Surface's 720p rear-facing camera.

Microsoft does not state the megapixels for either of the Surface's cameras. From our own use of the device we felt that the iPad 4's 5Mp rear-facing camera was superior to the Surface's unstated sill image camera, while we couldn't split the performance of either's front facing camera.

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Camera

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Connectivity

Things really start to heat up when you take a look at the connectivity options of the Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4, with both taking very different approaches.

Lets start of with the controversial main data/power port of the iPad 4. Apple's reluctance to join the USB bandwagon has been a sore spot for many for sometime now, so when Apple decided to replace its standard 30-pin connector to a new unique-to-Apple data connector that was not USB, the company annoyed more than a few people. That's not to say that the new Apple Lightning connecter is bad (it's not), it just means that people who had bought previous Apple cables and/or docks now had equipment that was redundant without a £25 adapter.

In our opinion the Surface's physical connections is one of its best qualities. It offers full-size USB connectivity, a microSD card slot and a HD video out port. That's three key ports that the iPad 4 doesn't offer.

While we think the Surface trumps the iPad in terms of physical connectivity, it's also clear that the iPad has the run on the Surface with its wireless capabilities. Both tablets offer pretty standard Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.0 technology; however the iPad 4 can be bought with 3G and 4G cellular connectivity whereas the surface can't.

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Connectivity

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Software

Things get pretty interesting when you compare the software for the Surface and the iPad 4. It's interesting because the iPad 4 completely blows the Surface out of the water with its fantastic app store. Microsoft made big noises about the quality of it's own Windows store, but it's going to take a lot of time and effort before Microsoft gets anywhere near the stand of Apple's App Store.

Our review of the Surface RT - by Chris Martin - explains the situation well. "As it stands, this is the area where the Surface RT falls down. There are a few big name apps like Netflix and Microsoft's own like Skype and Xbox SmartGlass. However, there's a lack of the apps most iPad and Android tablet owners use every day including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Maps, Dropbox, Spotify, BBC iPlayer, IMDb, ESPN Goals and Sky Go. Games not available include Bad Piggies, Words With Friends, World Of Goo and the lists go on."

"Most of these services, such as BBC's iPlayer, can be accessed via IE10 but this is only a small consolation. Services like Facebook and Twitter can be accessed by the People Hub but this isn't a suitable replacement for a dedicated app. The idea of a tablet is to have tailored apps, not access services via a web browser like you would on a laptop. Until the situation improves, the lack of app support is a big issue."

Microsoft Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison: Battery

This is pretty tricky one, as our experience with the Surface's battery life wasn't at all as Microsoft advertised. After fully charging the Surface and using it very lightly and briefly during the day, we left the tablet with ample battery left during the night. When we attempted to use the Surface in the morning we found the battery had gone completely flat and it required power from the mains to bring it back to life. We'll let you know whether this was a one off or not when we get a second review sample in the coming days.

What we can tell you is that the iPad 4 has a very good and reliable battery, that gives you 10-hours of use before it conks out.

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Microsoft Surface RT Expert Verdict »
Microsoft Surface RT 32GB WiFi Scores 8.5 out of 10 based on 146 reviews
Windows Surface RT tablet specs Weight: 676 g Size: 9.3 mm Screen: 10.6in ClearType HD Display Processor: NVIDIA-made ARM chip Battery: 31.5 W-h Connected: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae Software: Office Home & Student 2013 RT, Touch Cover, Type Cover Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand Storage: 32 GB, 64 GB rt Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae Software: Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block Practical: VaporMg Case & Stand Storage: 64 GB, 128 GB

It really is difficult to say one of these tablets is "the tablet you should buy" as the needs of each person are completely different. We can say - in very loose terms - that if you're looking to buy a tablet to be used alongside your laptop, then the iPad 4 is probably the more polished of the two. However if you want a tablet that you can put in your bag and use instead of your laptop, then you'd have more of a fighting chance with the Surface (and its Touch Cover) in your arsenal. On a side note it's worth mentioning again (in case you missed it) the iPad 4's app store wipes the floor with the Surface's, so if it's apps you're after, then we suggest you go for the iPad 4 all day long, however, if the Surface gets its apps in order then it has the potential to be huge and a real game changer.

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