If you’re in need of a powerful, versatile tablet that’s perfect for both work and play and won’t empty your pockets, both Apple and Microsoft have great options for you.
Apple’s least expensive tablet, the iPad, is now in its 8th iteration and continues to serve up a winning combination of capability and value. But Microsoft offers the Surface Go 2, which also offers its own combo of power and value for money–just interpreted Microsoft’s way.
Can’t decide which to pick? That’s what we’re here to help you with!
If what you’re after is a larger screen, then it’s the Surface Go 2 that might get your nod. Its 1920 x 1280 (220 PPI) screen is 10.5in on the diagonal, which is a smidgen larger than the iPad’s 10.2in Retina display. The iPad’s display is a little sharper, though, at 2160 x 1280 (264 PPI), and also features a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating to ward off smudges.
Dimensions and Design
Both tablets are almost identical in terms of their size and heft, with the Surface Go 2 measuring 9.7in x 6.9in x 0.3in and weighing 1.2lbs, whereas the iPad 8 measures 9.8in x 6.8in x 0.3in and weighs in at 1.08lbs (a tiny bit heavier for the Wi-Fi + Cellular variant). It’s worth mentioning that the Surface Go 2 comes with an inbuilt kickstand while the iPad doesn’t–you’ll need to buy a case that can also act as a stand or a dedicated stand to keep an iPad upright.
As for design, while the iPad’s bezels have been slimmed (currently 0.8in on top and on the bottom and 0.3 on the side), they’re still somewhat larger than those of the Surface Go 2 (0.4 inches on top and at the bottom and 0.5 inches on either side). And in terms of color options, the Surface comes only in Silver whereas the iPad can be had in Silver, Gold or Space Gray.
Port- and connector-wise, the iPad has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a connector for the optional Smart Keyboard and a single Lightning port, whereas the Surface Go 2 does better by offering a 3.5mm headphone jack, its Surface Connector for its own keyboard option, a USB-C port and a microSD slot.
Processor, Storage, RAM
This is an area where the iPad really pulls ahead of its Microsoft competitor. The iPad comes with Apple’s powerful yet energy-efficient A12 Bionic chip and 64-bit desktop-class architecture, which can easily overpower the Surface Go 2’s Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y processor. Microsoft tries to make up for this by offering 64GB of standard storage space, which is double the iPad’s 32GB standard storage, and 4GB or 8GB of RAM which is rather higher than the iPad’s 3GB of RAM.
When it comes to the cameras these devices mount, their positions are reversed, most especially when it comes to their front-facing selfie snappers. The iPad’s is just a 1.2MP camera, which is easily overpowered by the Surface’s 5MP camera. Both tablets have 8MP main cameras–neither are particularly good, but both will take decent photos and video if required.
Both of these tablets are frugal in terms of how much power they consume. The Surface Go 2 will last a little over 11 hours and a half with moderate usage. However, the iPad pulls ahead quite a bit–our test unit lasted nearly a whopping 13 hours on a single charge.
Much has been made of Windows 10 and how it outperforms, or doesn’t outperform, iPadOS in terms of productivity and work applications. However, it needs to be said that the Surface Go 2 comes standard with Windows 10 S Mode–unless and until you switch to Windows 10 Home (which, in all fairness, can be done quickly and for free too), you can only use Windows Store apps. For the iPad’s part, it runs iPadOS 14, which helps make it a much better productivity device than older iPads running older software thanks to how it can be used with the Apple Pencil, as well as user interface refinements.
Lastly we take a look at the peripherals on offer. Neither the iPad 8 nor the Microsoft Surface Go 2 come with standard stylii or keyboards, which–most especially if you intend to use yours as a work or creativity device instead of just to consume media–can be a little bit of an issue for many buyers. Microsoft offers a range of Go Type Covers and a Surface Pen, while for its part Apple offers its Smart Keyboard for iPad and the first-generation Apple Pencil (note that the iPad 8 isn’t compatible with the newer Apple Pencil). Note also that the Surface Pen attaches to the side of the Surface Go 2 with magnets, while you’d need to hunt for a solution (i.e. a case with a slot for an Apple Pencil, etc.) to do the same with Apple’s own Pencil.