Apple's iPad Pro vs. MacBook vs. Surface Pro: The price, spec bake-off

Apple's iPad Pro is expected to poach some sales from the MacBook, but may not. For corporations, the iPad Pro vs. Surface Pro creates an interesting bake-off. Expect Microsoft discounting ahead.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Apple's iPad Pro pricing creates an interesting bake-off between the MacBook and Microsoft's Surface Pro. What's unclear is how tech buyers will evaluate the three and ultimately make a decision.

Let's crunch some numbers with the iPad Pro vs. Microsoft's Surface Pro and Apple's MacBook.

At the high-end of the enterprise spectrum, the iPad Pro will start at $1,079 with 128GB of storage Wi-Fi and LTE connectivity. Toss in Apple Pencil at $99 and the Smart Keyboard for $169 and you get a grand total of $1,347. For a prosumer, it's hard to argue that anyone will want the 32GB version. Why there isn't a 64GB iPad Pro in between the high end and low-end is beyond me.

Without LTE, the iPad Pro will run you $949. Include the keyboard and Apple Pencil and you get a total of $1,217.


Before getting into the Microsoft Surface comparison, the better bake-off is probably with the MacBook. Given the choice between a MacBook and iPad Pro, I'm still likely to go with the laptop for bridging work and home. The packaging and weight in the backpack is simply easier to digest with the MacBook. Meanwhile, OS X is simply better suited for content creation than iOS.

The MacBook starts at $1,299 with a 12-inch Retina display. The MacBook Air 13-inch starts at $999.

'Must-have' MacBook and MacBook Pro accessories (Sept 2015)

Now there are differences, but if you go high end with the iPad Pro the pricing rhymes with the MacBook. The specs aren't directly comparable, but once you add in accessories the weights won't be that different. Processors will be different---Intel vs. Apple's homegrown chip---but few corporate warriors will care.

In other words, the MacBook vs. iPad Pro isn't an easy decision. The similar pricing makes the decision even more difficult.

But for corporations the real iPad Pro decision revolves around platforms. Do you want iOS or Windows? Microsoft has made its position clear. Microsoft will sell you Office on the iPad or Surface. As long as you get Office and markup your docs, Microsoft is pleased. It was almost comical to see a Microsoft exec tout support for the Apple Pencil.

On the hardware front, the Surface decision is also tricky. After all, there's the cost of the tablet and then the keyboard and stylus. It's a safe assumption that corporations are lumping the tablet and accessories together. Like the iPad Pro, Microsoft promises desktop performance with the Surface Pro. The difference is that the Surface has a real desktop OS on it, but one that has struggled on the mobile front. Apple's iOS is clearly mobile first.

Nevertheless, this comparison is about the limited dollars in your account. The Surface Pro breakdown goes like this:

  • $899 for 128GB with Intel Core i5, 12-inch screen and Surface Pen
  • Type Cover (Red) for $129

There is no LTE option for the Surface, but you could toss in an Ethernet adapter for $39.99 for a grand total of $1,067. Microsoft currently has a bundle that includes a case, Office 365 Home and a protection plan for $1,168.

Sitting back with the Surface Pro 3: Ten apps to use in tablet mode

Based on pricing, Surface Pro has the bundled price edge, but here's the catch. Microsoft is going to discount the Surface Pro 3 soon. Microsoft is likely to update the Surface Pro and rest assured the company is going to discount as soon as the iPad Pro is available in November.

Bottom line: Corporations need to evaluate the iPad Pro vs. Surface Pro as well as the app ecosystem and platforms. The decision is Windows vs. iOS as much as hardware. The decision also revolves around alliances: Microsoft, HP, Dell and Accenture vs. Apple, IBM and Cisco.

On the prosumer front, I'm willing to bet that folks will opt for a MacBook over the iPad Pro. We'll know how this bake-off turns out in the months to come.

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