Apple iPad Pro (11-inch, 256 GB)
Great tablet, okay laptop
The iPad Pro has a faster processor, a larger, better screen, and a more capable camera than the standard iPad, and access to a wide library of great finger-friendly tablet apps. But coders, Web developers, and anyone who needs to use a lot of external accessories will find iPadOS limiting.
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 256 GB)
Great tablet, okay laptop
This model is identical to the 11-inch iPad Pro but has a huge, 12.9-inch screen that’s better for multitasking or serious creative work such as digital illustration or audio editing.
The 11-inch and 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro models—which are nearly identical aside from their screen size—are great if you primarily intend to use your tablet as a tablet, controlling things with your fingers or the excellent Apple Pencil add-on. Both iPad Pros work great with Macs and iPhones in an Apple-centric workplace, and iPadOS (formerly iOS) is easy to use and simple to update, back up, and restore. It has a huge library of finger-friendly tablet apps, including lots of options for drawing, writing, or editing photos, audio, and video, and the latest version of iPadOS handles keyboards and mice, external storage, file sharing, and Web browsing better than previous versions did. But the Apple Smart Keyboard isn’t as pleasant to type on as the Microsoft Type Cover, and iPadOS and its apps are limiting if you do any kind of coding or Web development or if you want to use external monitors or other accessories.
Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Great laptop, okay tablet
A more comfortable keyboard, a flexible kickstand, and a desktop operating system make the Surface a better option than the iPad for writers, developers, or people who use lots of external accessories.
|Processor:||Quad-core Intel Core i5-1035G4|
|Storage:||256 GB SSD|
|Weight (with keyboard):||2.4 pounds|
The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is essentially a great ultrabook with a kickstand. It runs Windows 10 and decades’ worth of desktop apps, including full-featured Web browsers and the full versions of professional apps such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and Illustrator. The Microsoft Surface Pro Type Cover and its excellent trackpad make the Surface more comfortable to type on than the iPad. Windows is also better at handling external accessories such as monitors, hard drives, and mice. But relatively few Windows apps are designed specifically for tablets, making this model a worse choice when your work is over and it’s time to read or to play a game, or when you want to put the keyboard away and hold the tablet in your hands. And the Surface costs a bit more than a great ultrabook; our recommended configuration goes for around $1,400 after you add the Type Cover and the Surface Pen.
Apple iPad Air (3rd generation, 64 GB)
The best cheap alternative
The iPad Air’s great performance and bright, colorful screen are almost as good as the iPad Pro’s, though it’s on the small side and uses a more-limited Lightning port rather than USB-C.
The third-generation iPad Air can do virtually anything the iPad Pro can do—it runs the same library of tablet-friendly apps, multitasking works the same way, and it has a Smart Connector for you to attach an external keyboard. We recommend it over the cheaper 10.2-inch iPad because of its higher-quality screen and significantly faster processor, both of which make it a better tablet for getting work done. But compared with the iPad Pro models, the Air’s screen isn’t as large, it uses a Lightning port instead of the more useful and versatile USB-C, and it still uses the first-generation Apple Pencil, which isn’t as nice to hold as the second-generation Pencil and is more awkward to pair and charge. But for $300 less than the cheapest 11-inch iPad Pro, there’s no better value if you want to get work done on a tablet (as long as you can work around iPadOS’s limitations).