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10/23/2013
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iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations

Microsoft's Surface 2 and Apple's iPad Air are poised for a head-to-head showdown. Here are nine ways to decide which is better for you.

7. Windows RT 8.1 is easier to use than Windows 8 -- but probably not as easy as iOS 7.

Windows RT 8.1 still can't run traditional desktop apps, but the OS nonetheless offers a smoother, more intuitive user experience than its predecessor. Those unfamiliar with Windows 8.1's Modern UI will still face a learning curve, but between UI refinements and a newly integrated tutorial app, Microsoft's lightweight OS doesn't pose the challenge it once did.

Nonetheless, iOS has traditionally been seen as easier to use than its competitors, and most users will probably find that this remains the case with iOS 7.

8. The Surface 2 has better apps than the Surface -- but the iPad still has more.

With only a few exceptions, the original Surface 2's core apps were discouragingly anemic. Its Mail app, for example, barely let users do more than send and receive basic messages. Windows RT 8.1 delivers improved versions of these old apps, such as a Mail client that supports rich formatting. It also includes several sorely needed new ones, such as Alarms and Tutorials apps.

Moreover, Surface 2 owners get several app-related perks, such as 200 GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage for two years and a year of free Skype Wi-Fi at more than 2 million hotspots. From Office to Skype to Internet Explorer 11, the Surface 2 provides all the tools many workers need to work on projects, collaborate with friends and colleagues, and stay connected to the Web.

That said, the iPad Air still has the edge in apps. Apple's iOS platform offers by far the largest number of titles optimize for full-size tablet screens. The Surface 2 boasts some novel titles and has become more competitive -- but if you like app smorgasbords, the iPad Air might be a better match for your needs.

9. Neither device is cheap.

Smaller, cheaper tablets are all the rage, but neither Microsoft nor Apple seemed intimidated by their competitors' plunging prices. The iPad Air starts at $499 for the base 16-GB edition and $629 for the 16-GB LTE version. The Surface 2 starts at $449 for the base 32-GB model and pricing has not yet been announced for the LTE version, which will arrive early next year.

Those who need keyboards will have to shell out a little more. Third-party iPad keyboards generally range between $50 and $150. Microsoft's original -- and flimsy -- Touch Cover keyboard is only $79.99, but many users might prefer the Touch Cover 2. The newer model is $50 more, but boasts at least three advantages over the older one: more sensors to make typing more accurate; backlit keys for easier typing in dim settings; and a more rigid design that's better suited to lap use. Microsoft also sells the $129.99 Type Cover 2, which is even more rigid than the new Touch Cover 2, and the $199.99 Power Cover, which includes an onboard power source to increase the Surface's battery life and will start shipping next year.

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Why...why...
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Why...why...,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/28/2013 | 1:08:36 AM
re: iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations
Someone was obviously paid by microsoft....
mildmanneredjanitor
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mildmanneredjanitor,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/26/2013 | 6:36:12 PM
re: iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations
Good answer friend.
Makes me feel I'm drinking flat white there in the coffee shop with you! Here in the uk, I think there is both less free income and peer pressure to subscribe into the Mac status symbols. I didn't see a single Macbook Air or pro on thr train. The legion of iPad folk though were typically all male, senior-professional types, and looked pretty bored/frustrated to be honest.
I
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/26/2013 | 1:55:10 PM
re: iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations
Yeah, I've heard some gripes about the new iWork too. Haven't had a chance to check it out yet, since I've been spending time with a Surface 2 and Windows 8.1. But it sounds like not everyone is happy, even if it's free. Apple makes great hardware and operating systems, but some of their individual software applications can be hit and miss.

The train comment is interesting. I agree with some of the broad strokes you've observed-- if someone is using an iPad, they are probably reading/gaming/watching, and if someone is working on a spreadsheet, you can bet it's on a Windows machine. But at least in San Francisco, I see relatively few Windows machines being used for more than work--e.g. for games. I carry my Surface around because it's often easier than carrying a full laptop, and I certainly think Win 8.1 touch devices are fine for reading/gaming/watching-- but inside the city, I've only seen one other person with a Surface. I actually see a ton of people working (writing, coding, spreadsheets, graphics, etc) on MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros; if you're going by SF-area cafe patrons, the Apple laptops command about half the market. And based on my observations at conferences and events, tech journalists and analysts seem to carry around Apple devices about 4:1 versus Windows devices.

Just goes to show that the device market is hard to read, and that anecdotal experience is tricky to apply. I think the explosion of device types, workflows and use cases is why some people under-appreciate how productive iPads can be, and why others underestimate both how dominant a product like Office really is, and how important Windows will continue to be for years to come.
mildmanneredjanitor
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mildmanneredjanitor,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/26/2013 | 5:22:13 AM
re: iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations
Apparently users are up in arms because the new iWorks has regressed/removed so much functionality.

Cant believe Apple have the cheek to try and spin the fact that they therefore had to make it free into a proposed selling point!

I took two long train journeys this week. Interesting that the iPad users were playing games, watching tv shows and reading.

The Windows users (almost exclusively laptops as cost/quality touch devices clearly are only just now coming through) were typically working in excel, word and outlook, coding, watching movies, and playing games.

This for me sums up a very scary change in the mobile competitive environment that Apple is facing in to.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/25/2013 | 8:48:38 PM
re: iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations
It's true-- the device variety is staggering. This article focused on the Surface 2 and the iPad Air because they're similarly-priced, full-size tablets with luxury build quality. They differ in different ways, but with one going on sale the same day the other was announced, a direct comparison was interesting.

But we ran another article today that looks at the tablet market a bit more fully, including the Surface Pro 2, the newly discounted Surface Pro, and other new contenders, such as Dell's Venue 11 Pro.

Last year, one could blame slow Windows 8 device sales on lousy hardware, to an extent. But this year, the devices are much better, and Windows 8.1 makes everything much more cohesive. Some of these devices are going to be compelling packages-- but I'm not sure how many $500-ish non-Apple tablets the market will support, especially with some of them offering relatively minor differentiation.

Ultimately, it's a good problem for buyers-- lots of choices.
blowfish88
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blowfish88,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/25/2013 | 7:14:18 PM
re: iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations
Cofmparing just these 2 devices doesn't do the tablet market justice. Of the 2 I prefer the Surface Pro 2, not the Surface or RT model. Before buying anything I will look at Samsung, Lenovo, and Dell devices recently announced.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
10/24/2013 | 7:44:07 PM
re: iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations
Hybrid laptops are already here. If you add some accessories to tablets, they will reach easily a hybrid price. For me is a no brainier. I'll choose a laptop hybrid every time.
I would really love to see some pics or videos in an article like this.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
10/24/2013 | 7:24:13 PM
re: iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations
In response to:
"We are still not there yet to completely ditch our computers/laptops in favor of tablets. But we are on our way and I believe in next 2-3 years we will have another hybrid device which will fill the gap."
Reports show tablets are mostly used to augment laptops/desktops in the workplace, not replace them. I have all three and they each have their uses, but the tablet will never, ever replace my tablet for 3D CAD work or for software development. The reports of the "post-PC" era are highly exaggerated.

I think if anything, they are used to supplement/replace desktops in the home, where many users do little more than surf the web, use email, or Facebook. Anyone who does more than that has little use for a tablet (except apps, of course). The games on there are fun, but not very deep. Compare the spec for Battlefield 4 on a PC and there's no way that could ever be done on a tablet.

Overall, it's a pretty good article with some great comparison points. I am no Apple fan but prefer my iPad2 to the Surface for my apps and Facebook. I really wanted the Surface to take off, but they just didn't get it right. Sounds like they are moving in the right direction (for once).
Aden11
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Aden11,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2013 | 9:13:15 PM
re: iPad Air vs. Surface 2: 9 Considerations
Michael: Again good article. Microsoft is closing the gap in terms of quality of hardware and improvements in user experience. Keyboard cover is brilliant and it comes with huge advantages, On the other hand, Apple is more focusing on over all user experience and they are extremely successful in this.

In the end it is your personal choice. But I think there is no huge difference. The only area where Microsoft lags is App collection both in numbers and quality. Currently, Apple is offering far superior apps. I recently start my school and I am solely depending on my iPad. I am using it for my notes, e-books, writing papers, presentations, browsing etc. so far I am not missing my laptop.

We are still not there yet to completely ditch our computers/laptops in favor of tablets. But we are on our way and I believe in next 2-3 years we will have another hybrid device which will fill the gap.
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