Apple iPad 4 With 128 GB Release Date Hits Tuesday: Why It Beats The Microsoft Surface Pro (Hint: Better Features, Better Price)

  @redletterdave on February 04 2013 1:40 PM

Apple is ready to release its all-new fourth-generation iPad with Retina display -- better known as iPad 4 -- with a whopping 128 GB of storage tomorrow, but before Apple opens its doors on Tuesday at 8 a.m. local time, most consumers will want to know whether or not this particular tablet is worth its hefty price tag.

All that storage ain’t cheap. For 128 GB, roughly the same space as you’d expect in any decent laptop, this “jumbo” iPad 4 costs $100 more than the previous highest-end iPad, starting at $799 for Wi-Fi only and $929 for high-speed LTE connectivity.

The LTE iPad 4 with 128 GB costs only $70 cheaper than Apple’s own MacBook Air, but people are more likely to compare the iPad 4 with another tablet-laptop hybrid coming this week: the new Surface with Windows 8 Pro from Microsoft, better known as Surface Pro.

The release date for Surface Pro is arriving later this week -- Microsoft will hold a launch party on Friday night and start selling the computer on Saturday -- so many consumers will be likely be able to compare these two adaptable, high-tech devices. Not only are they similarly priced, but the iPad 4 and Surface Pro both boast 128 GB of storage space as well, bridging the gap between tablet and laptop in more than a few ways. So which of these two devices is right for you?

iPad 4 Vs. Microsoft Surface Pro

Everything about Apple’s announcement of the 128 GB iPad last week was strategic: Not only does the release date undercut Microsoft’s planned arrival for Surface Pro, but the price and storage space of the high-end iPad 4 most certainly favors Apple over Microsoft. Not only does the 128 GB iPad 4 cost $70 less than the Surface Pro, but the Surface Pro, despite boasting 128 GB of storage, only offers 83 GB of that space for users: Microsoft admitted last Monday that the Windows 8 operating system and native software occupy 45 GB of space.

The iPad beats the Surface Pro from a price and storage perspective, but there’s more. The Surface Pro, which is an untested commodity in the hardware realm, is further powered by an unpopular commodity in the software realm, better known as Windows 8. While Microsoft’s latest and bravest operating system features a lot of glitz and glamour, sales have been extremely sluggish, as Windows 8 only claims about 2.26 percent market share for desktop operating systems -- a very unimpressive showing, considering how Windows 7 claims 44.5 percent market share and Windows XP claims 39.5 percent market share.

Compared to Windows 8, iOS is a much more stable and useful operating system for both recreational and productive purposes; businesses seem to favor iOS and iPad, in particular. Apple said in its press release last week that “virtually all of the Fortune 500 and more than 85 percent of the Global 500 currently deploy or test iPad”; by releasing a 128GB model that can essentially store as much as a laptop can, Apple only secures its own standing.

“Companies regularly utilizing large amounts of data such as 3-D CAD files, X-rays, film edits, music tracks, project blueprints, training videos and service manuals all benefit from having a greater choice of storage options for iPad,” Apple said. “The over 10 million iWork users, and customers who rely on other incredible apps like Global Apptitude for analyzing team film and creating digital playbooks, Auria for an incredible 48 track recording system or AutoCAD for drafting architectural and engineering drawings, also benefit greatly from having the choice of an iPad with more storage capacity.”

But here’s where the Surface Pro really loses against the iPad: Not only is the device more expensive to begin with, but the Surface Pro is sold without its all-important keyboard; customers will have to buy that separately -- in red, magenta or cyan -- for $129. Comparatively, adding the exceedingly useful Ultrathin Keyboard Cover from Logitech to the iPad 4, which makes it a fully functional laptop that’s lighter and thinner than the MacBook Air, costs only $100. Considering the vast utility of that particular Logitech keyboard, paired with all the advantages of owning an iPad 4 (i.e., it’s fast, it’s portable, it’s cool, etc.), consumers in the market for a new computer can pay less for more with the 128 GB iPad 4.

About The Surface Pro

Unlike the Surface RT tablet released in December, the Surface Pro is a fully realized tablet-laptop notebook hybrid that can run the new Windows 8 operating system from Microsoft. The components are packed into a dark titanium VaporMg case, measuring 275mm x 173mm x 13.5mm, and comes with a Surface pen for writing and a built-in kickstand for hands-free use. 

Still, the key differentiator between the Surface Pro and the Surface RT is the processor: Simply put, Intel's presence in the Surface Pro allows Microsoft's laptop to take full advantage of the new Windows 8 platform. The Surface Pro is not inhibited by any incompatibilities between Windows 8 and the ARM processor in the Surface RT, which means it can run the full Windows 8 OS, as well as any standard Windows desktop applications, including support for any legacy apps or Windows 7 programs, as well as all the new Windows Store apps.

Microsoft's Surface RT was powered by an ARM processor, which simply can't achieve the computational speed of most modern laptops today. Microsoft believes it will have better luck with the Pro, which is powered by a beefier Ivy Bridge i5 Core processor with Intel's newest HD 4000 graphics and 4 GB of RAM.

The Surface Pro has the same 10.6-inch touchscreen as the RT model, but the Surface Pro's ClearType HD Full 1920 x 1080 pixel display resolution is significantly sharper than the RT's 1366 x 768 ClearType HD display. Better yet, the Surface Pro features 10 different points of multitouch support, compared to just five points of multitouch support on the Surface RT.

The Surface Pro features two 720p HD Lifecams centered on the tablet's front and rear sides, as well as a USB 3.0 port, a micro SDXC card reader, a mini DisplayPort, stereo speakers, a headphone jack and a cover port. The laptop itself is packed with an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and support for wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n bands, as well as Bluetooth 4.0. However, since the Surface Pro is a laptop, the Pro can only achieve roughly four to five hours of battery life, compared to the Surface RT's 8 to 9 hours of life.

Microsoft is selling the Surface Pro with 64 GB of storage for $899 and 128 GB of storage for $999.

About The iPad 4

While similar to the third-generation iPad with Retina Display released last March, the iPad 4 is faster than its predecessor in every single way and is the fastest tablet Apple has built to date.

With the all-new custom-built A6X chip, the iPad 4 has double the chip speed and graphics performance of the iPad 3's A5X chip, which was pretty impressive in its own right with a quad-core graphics processor. The A6X chip packs a lot of punch, which helps the iPad power its enhanced features in a quick and seamless way, including picture stabilization and face detection for both photo and video recording. The A6X, with all its power, is efficient enough to give owners 10 hours of solid "all-day" battery life.

If double the chip speed or graphics performance wasn't enough, the iPad 4 makes significantly faster and stronger connections to Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Phil Schiller, Apple's senior VP of marketing, said iPad 4 owners will experience "ultrafast" Wi-Fi that doubles the connection speed of the older model, the iPad 3 -- and furthermore, for LTE customers, Apple has expanded the number of LTE frequencies supported by the iPad to include more carriers in Europe, Australia and even here in the U.S., such as Sprint-Nextel.

iPad fans will only notice a few noticeable differences in the outer appearance of the iPad 4 versus previous iPads, including the smaller 8-pin Lightning connector on the bottom of the tablet. Besides that, the iPad 4 comes preloaded with iOS 6 -- more specifically, iOS 6.1 (released Monday) -- and has access to more than 800,000 apps on Apple’s App Store, including 300,000 apps specifically designed for iPad.

Apple starts selling the new iPad 4 at $499 for Wi-Fi only and $629 for LTE-capable models, with those prices now ranging up to $799 for Wi-Fi only and $929 for LTE. Check out this article if you want to see what critics had to say about the iPad 4. (Spoiler: It's mostly positive.)

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