Could I use a 64-bit iPad 5 or a Surface 2 as my main work computer?

Could I use a 64-bit iPad 5 or a Surface 2 as my main work computer?

Summary: We've asked these sorts of questions before, but now we have (or are about to have) a new crop of even more capable hardware. ZDNet's David Gewirtz put it to the acid test: could either serve as his main computer?


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  • Can it be used for anything I need, even if I don't know it now?

    Can it be used to do whatever I need, from video transcoding to DVD playback to conferencing using whatever tool the client wants to anything else I need?

    What about all those demands we put on our work machines that we can't predict? Each new day introduces new ideas and new projects. I need a machine that can handle almost all of them with ease.

    64-bit iPad 5: Not really. The iPad is surprisingly capable, but also has baffling limitations based on how iOS is designed.

    Surface 2 RT: No. Not at all. Don't even think about it.

    Surface 2 Pro: Yes. If you get the version with 8GB RAM and a pretty big SSD, this is a pretty capable business machine.

  • And the winner is...

    I decided to award 2 points to every "Yes," one point to every "Maybe," and no points to every "No". The total possible points (and what we're shooting for to be able to replace my current laptop) is 22. Let's see which gets closer.

    64-bit iPad 5: The iPad got a 9 (with a few generous gimmees). It's a pretty capable device, but it fails completely on the need to work with the educational systems. Almost everything else could be crudely hacked, but the fact I can't access the learning management systems I need to grade students is a complete deal-killer.

    Surface 2 RT: The RT machine got a 7 (and I was generous here, too). This machine is valuable pretty much only if you need to run Office and nothing but Office. I'd have a much better chance doing my job on the iPad than this.

    Surface 2 Pro: I originally thought this was going to be a pretty anemic machine because I thought it was limited to 2GB or 4GB of RAM. While I prefer 16GB or 32GB of RAM because it makes things easier, I could do my entire job using a Surface 2 Pro equipped with a big SSD and 8GB of RAM. It got a perfect score of 22.

    The winner is... the Surface 2 Pro!

    Would I get a Surface 2 Pro? I'm not sure. I don't need the tablet form factor as much as I do the laptop form factor, but it is intriguing. I'll tell you this: after putting together this shoot-out, I'm far more inclined to the Surface 2 Pro than when I set out to do the comparison.

    Image: GraphicStock and Microsoft

Topics: Windows, Apple, iOS, Microsoft Surface


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Pretty much Mac vs PC in a real world

    Pretty and fashioned consumption device vs workhorse.
    • ?????

      A Mac can run pretty much any software a PC can in some really nice Mac only software.
      • Yeah, sure...

        I guess that's why most people who have Macs are running Windows in Bootcamp or thru Parallels.
        • Fact Check

          Exactly where do you get your information that 'most' people who have macs run windows on them, I'm not running windows on my macs nor is any other mc owner that I know. I'm sure there are some people who need that ability in business for specific software, but those of us who have realized that Mac is a better format have abandoned windows forever.
          • Winodws on Mac

            Most of the people I know who own a Mac, own it ONLY b/c it's required if you want to develop for iOS. When they're not developing for iOS, they're running Windows on their Apple hardware.
            Obviously you and I don't hang in the same circles, but nihilist is not the only person to see this trend.
            Jason Barkley
          • Clueless Windows fanboys

            Always funny how Microsoft sheep fanboys pretend that people buy Mac to run Windows.

            Reality check: I, like all the people I know buy Macs because they need a serious workstation, not some crappy Windows system, poorly performing and prone to all kind of stupid problems. Educated, wealthier people buy macs, there is a reason.
          • Educated, wealthier people buy macs, there is a reason...

            Somehow it seems appropriate to add, 'a fool and his money...' here!

            Your self stereotypification and derogatory loathing of those you disagree with seem a little over the top?
          • LOL

            Reality check: I, like all the people I know buy Macs because they need a serious workstation, not some crappy Windows system, poorly performing and prone to all kind of stupid problems. Educated, wealthier people buy macs, there is a reason.
            1) Spoken like true fanbois
            2) I've never seen wealthier, "educated" people running around with Macs and I'm in an industry surrounded by wealthy people.
          • performance for mac is a myth.

            there is a misconception of performance is better than windows. I have tried installing mac s/w for my clients and they are not as fast as what I thot. even the same for Photoshop. try installing both mac and windows with previous generation both running 2gb of ram and you will see they are the same or maybe windows is faster.
          • Isn't that ironic...

            ... a Mac is a PC. In fact, you can even run OSX on a Surface Pro. So this idea that a Mac is something special is a false notion. When I used to use macs back in the PowerPC days, a Mac was definitely unique and different. Today, a Mac is EXACTLY THE SAME as a PC....100%. It seems like Mac people get all offended when we they discover that a Mac IS A PC.
          • In theory, MacOSX can run on a Surface Pro ...

            ... just as Windows can run on a MacBook but I don't actually know if that has been done. On a MacBook, you need special software, such as Bootcamp or Parallels. On a Windows PC, I imaging that just about any VM solution would work.

            As for functionality, Windows, MacOSX, and Linux are pretty much interchangeable. All are equally capable. That is not to say that they are equally popular, or that they are equally user-friendly, or that software developers provide the same tools across all three platforms.
            M Wagner
          • A serious workstation

            You are kidding me. I think you couldn't get a mush bigger head with your "Educated, wealthier people buy macs" remark. I bet you are one of those people I see in Starbucks, who only go there to show off their Macs.
          • and buy over-priced coffee

          • Doomed by your own ignorance and prejudices


            Many years ago, Seymore Cray, the man who designed and built the worlds fastest computes, was asked for his reaction to Apple buying a high end Cray to design and simulate preproduction Macs.

            He thought it rather amusing, since he designed Cray's on his Mac.
            Henry 3 Dogg
          • You and your friends

            probably bought macs because you thought it was more of a status symbol. I bet it sits on your desk and you just look at it. Do you know to actually turn it on? Windows machines would be beyond your mental ability.
          • Really Now?

            Wow for someone who knows nothing of the real word you sure sound like you know nothing. I agree the comment your reacting to is stupid, but you just rebutted with an equally stupid comment.
          • Oh, that's adorable.

            This guy actually bought into every ridiculous notion introduced by apple cultists.

            Reality check: If you spend the same money on a PC as you spend on a Mac, you can actually get a serious workstation, not some form over function POS that likes to flash spinning rainbow wheels are you constantly. I run windows on my macbook because windows 7 is more stable, more intuitive, and above all because it plays well with others.
            And Apple's die hard customers consist of visual artists and hipsters that think they're photographers. The end.
          • Really


            Generally Mac users are people who

            - Don't need an animated paperclip and puppy to help them use a computer

            - Expect high quality and reliably machines, software and support. And have the sense to buy systems from a single vendor who will take responsibility for both the hardware and the OS

            - Buy the machine to do a job, rather than to give them 10 more jobs to do.

            - Value their own time and can afford to spend a little more for something that will cost them significantly less in the longer run.

            I do meet some over the Mac fanatics. But they're generally the people who have spent years as Mac Haters out of ignorance and fear, and then have over reacted once they've finally plucked up the courage to make the change. They usually become normal happy users after a few months.
            Henry 3 Dogg
          • Reality Check !!!!

            Time for you to readjust you reality perception. In every business and every Corporation they use Windows for day to day work.

            Apple product is more like a social status gadget. Only the unsuccessful and uneducated peoples need those gadgets in order to give them the impression they are educated and successful.
          • Reality Check 2 !!!!

            Windows is only users by patients in lunatic asylums who are given it to keep them busy. Frustration therapy.

            Does saying it make it true?
            Henry 3 Dogg