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Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4 tablet comparison review

£319 for 16GB; £389 for 32GB

Manufacturer: Google

The Nexus 10, Surface RT and fourth-generation iPad represent the best of each tablet operating system, but how do they stack up against each other? Here's our Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4 comparison review.

iPad 4 Surface RT Nexus 10

Smartphone and tablet users tend to fall into two categories: those who are diehard Apple fans and seemingly willing to pay any price for its fashionable hardware, and those who prefer the semi-open approach of Google's Android operating system and the less costly hardware on which it runs. Now there's a third category, which champions Windows RT.

In most cases, people choose an operating system and stick with it. The OS feels familiar, you already know your media collection is supported, and if you have more than one such device you can expect them to play well together. So, if you have an iPhone you'll probably want an iPad; if you have a Galaxy S3 or Nexus 4 you'll likely want the Nexus 10; and if you're a Windows Phone user, perhaps the most loyal of the lot, you'll almost certainly be eyeing up the Surface RT.

But what if you don't have a particular preference in terms of the operating system? Here, we put head-to-head the best each platform has to offer.

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4: Price

Microsoft's Surface RT starts at £399 with 32GB of storage, whereas this amount of cash will net you only a 16GB fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display - aka iPad 4. Add a Touch Cover, though, and the Surface RT matches Apple's 32GB slate at £479. The Nexus 10 offers great value, with a 16GB model costing £319, and 32GB £389.

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4: Dimensions

Somewhat surprisingly, the iPad is the chunkiest tablet in this trio. The Nexus 10 is the slimmest, at 8.9mm; the Surface RT is also slightly thinner than the iPad at 9.3mm versus 9.4mm. The Nexus is a relative lightweight, at 603g, although the 662g iPad and 678g Surface don't tip the scales much further.

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4: Screen

Every full-size iPad released by Apple has had a 9.7in screen, which is ever so slightly smaller than that of the 10.1in Nexus and 10.6in Surface. Until the Nexus 10 launched, the iPad had by far the best tablet screen resolution on the market. The Surface RT's 1366x768, 148ppi ClearType display looks comparatively low-res in the face of the iPad's beautiful 2048x1536, 264ppi Retina-quality screen, but the Nexus 10 is the real star of the show here, with a 2560x1600, 300ppi display.

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4: Processor and memory

It's difficult to compare the Surface's nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core chip with the dual-core 1.39GHz A6X CPU selected by Apple and 1.7GHz ARM Cortex A-15 preferred by Google, since our usual benchmarks are incompatible with Microsoft's tablet.

In Geekbench, the iPad scored 1,769 points, and the Nexus 10 recorded a massive 2,505 – the best we've seen yet. In real-world use, the Surface felt like the slower tablet – not that it's by any means slow. Animations are smooth and demanding tasks, such as pinch-zooming in Internet Explorer and Bing Maps, is responsive. This is no doubt helped by the 2GB of RAM.

On the iPad and Nexus 10 we also ran the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark and GLBenchmark graphics test. The iPad fared better in both, recording 854ms against the Nexus 10's 1,329ms in SunSpider, and 39fps versus 27fps in GLBenchmark. The latter result is perhaps to be expected, given that the iPad sports quad-core graphics. However, it's equipped with just 1GB of RAM, whereas the Nexus 10 has 2GB.

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4: Storage

Neither iPad nor Nexus allow you to add to the storage capacity through removable media, so it’s important to carefully calculate what capacity you’re likely to need – the iPad is available from 16- to 64GB, the Nexus is 16- or 32GB. The Surface RT, by comparison, has a microSDXC slot, which lets you add up to 64GB to its 32- or 64GB of internal storage.

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4: Cameras

On the photography side of things the Nexus 10 and iPad 4 have a similar setup, and both are better than that of the Surface RT in our subjective tests. Both iPad and Nexus have a 5Mp rear-facing camera capable of 1080p video, and front-facing webcams – the Nexus' offers a slightly higher megapixel rating, at 1.9Mp versus 1.2Mp. Meanwhile, the Surface supports only 720p video, but when propped up with its kickstand the front-facing cam is cleverly angled such that it's level.

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4: Connectivity

Apple's latest iPad replaces the 30-pin docking port with a Lightning connector. This means existing iPad accessories will work only with a £25 adaptor. Both the Nexus 10 and Microsoft Surface RT are more user-friendly in this regard: the Nexus 10 charges via Micro USB and offers a Micro HDMI slot, while the Surface RT has a full-size USB 2.0 port, a microSDXC slot and an HD video-out port.

All three tablets support Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi, although the Nexus 10 and iPad can cope with both 2.4- and 5GHz frequency bands. The Nexus also caters for NFC, while the iPad supports 3G and 4G LTE in the UK.

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad 4: Battery

The iPad has a 42.5Wh battery, while the Nexus 10 has a lower-capacity 33.3Wh pack and the Surface’s is lower still, at 31.5Wh. The results are as you would expect: the iPad can keep going for around 10 hours, while the Nexus can manage nine and the Surface eight.

Google Nexus 10 Expert Verdict »

Google Nexus 10 (WiFi, 16GB) reviews verified by Reevoo

Google Nexus 10 (WiFi, 16GB)Scores 8.6 out of 10 based on 174 reviews
Screen: 10.1in diagonal, 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution (300ppi), WQXGA, Corning Gorilla Glass 2
Memory: 16GB internal storage (actual formatted capacity will be less), 2GB RAM
OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
CPU/GPU: CPU: Dual-core A15
GPU: Mali T604
Cameras: 5Mp (main), 1.9Mp (front)
Battery: 9000 mAh Lithium polymer
Connectivity: Micro USB, Magnetic Pogo pin charger, Micro HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack
Wireless: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (MIMO+HT40), Bluetooth, NFC (Android Beam)
Size: 264 x 178 x 8.9mm
Weight: 603g

It's impossible to give a definitive verdict when so many of the choices in this product category are subjective. The iPad is probably still the best tablet around, but the Nexus 10 gives it a close run for its money despite costing so much less. It will be a bargain for all but the most Apple-devoted iPad fans. The Surface RT, meanwhile, is a bold is slightly flawed attempt at creating a Windows PC in iPad form. It may prove to be the perfect travelling companion for some, but others will find it compromised.

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