iPad Pro, Google Pixel C, Microsoft Surface: which should you get?

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 30, 2015
Updated • Mar 22, 2016

Google revealed the Pixel C Chromebook yesterday and Apple the iPad Pro earlier this month. Both devices are designed to add productivity features to tablets running Android and iOS, for instance by offering first-party keyboards that you can attach to the device.

Microsoft has yet to reveal the new iteration of its Surface line but is expected to do just that before year's end.

If you are looking for a new productivity device currently, you are probably wondering which of these three devices -- if any -- you should get. You may also be interested in core differences and hardware specs.

Not all the specs of Apple's iPad Pro and Google's Pixel C have been revealed yet. What we know so far is this:

Apple iPad Pro Google Pixel C Microsoft Surface 3
Operating System iOS 9 Android 6.0 Windows 10
Chip A9X Nvidia Tegra 3 Atom x7-Z8700
RAM 4 GB 3GB 2-4GB
Display 12.9" 10.2" 10.8"
Resolution 2732x2048 2560x1800 1920x1280
ppi 264 308 213
Storage min 32GB 32GB 64GB
Storage max 256GB 64GB 512GB
expandable Storage none none microSD and USB 3.0
Starting price $799 $499 $499
Max price $1,079 $599 $699
Keyboard $169 $149 $129.99
Pen $99 not available included

Update: Both Apple and Microsoft have announced or released new products. You find information about Apple's new iPad Pro 9.7, and Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book below.

Apple iPad Pro 9.7
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Microsoft Surface Book
Operating System iOS 9 Windows 10 Windows 10
Chip A9X Intel Core m3, i5, i7 Intel Core i5, i7
RAM unknown 4GB-16GB 8GB-16GB
Display 9.7" 12.3" 13.5"
Resolution 2048x1536 2736x1824 3000x2000
ppi 264 267 267
Storage min 32GB 128GB 128GB
Storage max 256GB 1TB 1TB
expandable Storage none yes yes
Starting price $599 $899 $1499
Max price $1,029 $2699 $3199
Keyboard $169 $129, $159 with fingerprint reader included
Pen $99 included included

The first difference that becomes obvious right away is that all six devices use different operating systems that depend on which company manufactured them. The operating system is often a deciding factor considering that you may have used a certain system before and want to keep using programs or features that it offers.

It is clear as well that Apple and Google have created tablets while Microsoft hybrids that work as a tablet but also as a laptop replacement as it runs a full copy of Windows which means that you can run all Windows desktop programs on the Surface that are compatible with Windows 10.

If you select Apple's or Google's device, you will have access to apps available in the company's store and web applications.


Apple's and Google's tablet start both with 32 Gigabyte of storage space while Microsoft starts the Surface Pro 3 with 64 Gigabyte and the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book with 128GB instead. Google customers can upgrade storage for a price to 64 Gigabyte but that is about it. Considering that the device does not offer expendable storage options, it may be a deal breaker for some.

Apple's iPad Pro is maxed out at 256 Gigabyte with no option to extend the storage further, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 offers a capacity of up to 512 Gigabyte while both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book a maximum capacity of 1 Terabyte. In addition to offering larger storage options, both allow you to add external hard drives and microSD cards on top of that to add more storage.

Accessories and Price

Google's Pixel C and Microsoft's Surface start at $499 while Apple's iPad Pro at $799. The new Apple iPad Pro 9.7 starts at $599, the Surface Pro 4 at $899, and the Surface Book at $1499.

This means that you can add the keyboard to the Pixel C or Surface Pro 3 and still pay less than you would for Apple's tablet without one.

All three companies have created keyboards for their devices. Microsoft's offering is the cheapest at $129.99 followed by Google's for $149 and Apple's for $169.

Both Apple and Microsoft offer pen accessories for their tablets. Apple charges $99 for the pen and Microsoft $49 but the Pen is included out of the box on Microsoft devices.

Microsoft is the only company of the three currently that is offering extra accessories. The company offers a dock to transform the Surface into a workstation, a wireless display adapter to connect it to big-screen HDTV and monitors, and a USB 3.0 Ethernet adapter.

Which is right for you?

The question cannot be answered easily as it depends on what you need the device for. You can be productive with all three devices up to a point but both Apple's and Google's offering are clearly lacking when it comes to business-level software support.

For instance, you cannot create Android apps easily, comfortably (or at all) on Apple's and Google's device while you can create apps for all three operating systems on Microsoft's Surface.

Microsoft's device is also the only one that can run desktop programs such as Photoshop or Steam.

Now You: Would you pick one of the three devices? If so which and why?

iPad Pro, Google Pixel C, Microsoft Surface: which should you get?
Article Name
iPad Pro, Google Pixel C, Microsoft Surface: which should you get?
A look at Apple's iPad Pro, Google's Pixel C and Microsoft's Surface. Find out what they have to offer, how much they cost, and what their capabilities are.
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  1. kalmly said on October 1, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    I won’t be investing in Microsoft products in the future. But . . . damn those iGadgets are costy!

    1. Chris Laarman said on October 1, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      1) I hadn’t expected that I would buy any more Microsoft products myself. Nevertheless, I’m in my second year of an Office 365 subscription, and I have purchased this Surface Pro 3 (that I already mentioned).

      2) Yes, these devices (especially those by Apple) are costly. However, the long-time trend is ever more bang for ever less buck.
      You (anyone) might do the test: see what devices you’re using, note their specs and prices, then find when some of those specs (like CPU-speed or storage) became available at all, and at what prices. That’s progress!
      I do feel privileged in having my gear, and in being able to consider something like that Pixel C to be added to it.
      Be aware that this is merely the hardware side. There also is the software side to make us more productive, more up to date, more expressive, more creative, more interconnected.

  2. Olad said on October 1, 2015 at 9:19 am

    @Yokhannan – Why so eager to use words like”Pathetic… Shame on you…”? Mr Brinkmann wrote a comparison article on the extant tablets, and as he notes above, another one will be forthcoming when the new product becomes available. Many of us enjoyed his article; if you didn’t like the article, you could have said so without being – for lack of a better word – rude. Politeness costs nothing.

  3. JaySee said on October 1, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Because the Surface 4 won’t come out for at least 6 months. What comes out next week is the Surface 4 Pro which is in a totally different category. The Surface 3 came out less than 5 months ago. Shame on you for confusing the 3 with the 4 Pro.

    1. MarDark said on October 1, 2015 at 8:57 am

      6 months or 6 days :D it is scheduled for 6 October

  4. Yokhannan said on September 30, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    Why the hell would you even publish this article when the Surface 4 is expected to be announced in SIX DAYS.

    Would you have posted this article six days before an Apple conference, or a Google conference.

    I am not MS fanboy but what a pathetic act on your part to compare two brand new products with a product near end-of-life-cycle, when that last product (and thus specs) are about to be announced in under a week.

    This entire article should have not been published for at least another week, at which time you used the Surface 4 specs. Shame on you.

    (long time reader/follower)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 1, 2015 at 7:36 am

      I think the Surface 3 is holding its own in this comparison just fine. I’ll update the article once MS reveals it.

  5. Chris Laarman said on September 30, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    I would purchase the Pixel C, mainly because I already have a Surface Pro 3 and an iPad Air 2. :-)

    If I were to have only one device at all, I’d take the Surface Pro 3 (so not the one listed) for its balance between power and portability and for its keyboard cover containing a touchpad.
    I’d love the iPad Pro, but only with a keyboard cover featuring a touchpad.
    I’m really interested in the Pixel C, but the Tegra X1 (listed as Tegra 3 above) seems the least powerful of the CPUs – and I tend to want some power.

  6. Dzw said on September 30, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    I would go with a Wacom cintiq companion hands down every time over those there turds. A referb companion 1 comes in at around £900 and has a proper i7 in it and 500 GB ssd. And proper windows.

  7. Curio said on September 30, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    I would go with Surface if I ever needed one or just but an Ultrabook.

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