Mobile // Mobile Devices
03:00 PM

New iPad Vs. Windows 8 Tablets: 8 Considerations

Buy a new iPad now, or wait for a Windows 8 tablet later this year? Here are some factors to consider.

Apple shipped its new iPad on March 16. Predictably, it was a smash hit, as the company said it sold more than 3 million of the devices during the first weekend. Microsoft, meanwhile, is planning its first serious entry into the media tablet market this fall when it will introduce Windows on Arm (WoA) tablets. The question for those who have yet to jump on the Apple bandwagon is whether to opt for the new iPad now, or to wait until Windows 8 tablets are available, most likely starting in October.

A feature-by-feature comparison of the two platforms is tricky, given that new iPad is a real, shipping product, while WoA systems have yet to arrive. (We've left the more conventional, Intel-based Windows 8 tablets out of the equation to keep things, er, apples to Apples.) The performance of Windows 8 tablets will depend greatly on how hardware makers like Nokia, Lenovo, Asus, and others, implement Microsoft's specifications.

Still, there's a lot we already know about Windows 8 and the hardware components on which it will run, so there is some basis for comparison, even if it's a bit speculative at this point. Here's a look at some key features on both new iPad and Windows 8 tablets, and how they compare with each other.


New iPad: Apple's latest tablet starts at $499 for a 16-GB, Wi-Fi only model, and ranges all the way up to $829 for a 64-GB model with Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity.

Windows 8 tablets: This is an unknown at this point, but if Microsoft's strategy around Windows Phone is any indication, expect the company and its partners, particularly Nokia, to be highly aggressive on price. Nokia introduced a solid Windows Phone, the Lumia 710, and it's now free with a contract on T-Mobile. Microsoft has shown it's willing to sacrifice margin for market share in areas where it's lagging. Tablets will be one of them.

Considerations: High prices doomed previous Windows tablets efforts, like HP's $699 Slate 2. But WoA tablets will most likely be sold under the mobile phone model, with manufacturers and carriers subsidizing hardware. So odds are there will be Windows 8 tablets that match or beat the new iPad when it comes to price.


New iPad: No surprises here. New iPad uses the familiar, icon-based iOS 5 home screen. It's also rich with utiltities, like Notification Center, that push content, such as alerts about email and social media messages, to the top of the screen. There's also plenty of one-touch links to services like Twitter, Newsstand, and iMessage.

[ Want to see the guts of the new iPad? Click on New iPad Teardown: Inside Apple's Tablet. ]

Windows 8 tablets: Windows 8 tablets won't look like any other tablet on the market. They'll all feature Microsoft's touch-friendly Metro interface, inherited from Windows Phone 7. The hallmark of Metro is Live Tiles, blocks that provide message notifications and single-click access to preselected apps and services.

Considerations: The choice between iOS's icons or Windows 8 Metro is purely subjective. But one thing is for certain--Metro is not another me-too mobile GUI and users seem to either love it or hate it. That makes the decision to go with a completely new type of interface a high-risk, high-reward move for Microsoft.

Microsoft's Metro Interface
(click image for larger view)
Microsoft's Metro Interface


New iPad: 9.7-inches is the standard size for all iPads, including new iPad. That's about the sweet spot for most tablets. Some, like the 10.1-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, check in a bit larger, while others, like Amazon's Kindle Fire or RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook, go for compactness with a 7-inch display.

Windows 8 tablets: Microsoft has geared Windows 8 to support numerous display sizes on tablets, as it expects its ecosystem of hardware partners to produce devices in a range of sizes. It's possible, however, that the initial WoA tablets will veer toward the larger end of the spectrum. A prototype publicly shown by Nvidia appears to be at least 10 inches, and in a blog post this week Microsoft noted that "Common sizes for Windows 8" start at 10.1 inches and range to 12 inches.

Considerations: By emphasizing size over portability, Microsoft appears to want to position WoA tablets as no-compromise devices for media consumption and productivity. But the difference between a 10.1-inch Windows 8 tablet and 9.7-inch iPad is pretty marginal.


New iPad: The most noticeable difference between iPad 2 and new iPad is that the latter has inherited the Retina Display technology from the iPhone. Through a combination of high resolution (2048 pixels by 1536 pixels, at 264 ppi), and technologies like oleophobic coating and in-plane switching, Apple has created a tablet display that is unrivaled.

Windows 8 tablets: Microsoft has said Windows 8 will support multiple display resolutions on tablets, up to and even slightly beyond that of Retina Display. For instance, the company has confirmed that Windows 8 will support a display of at least 2560 pixels by 1440 pixels, at 291 ppi, on a 10.1-inch tablet.

Considerations: Windows 8 may be able to match the new iPad in terms of sheer numbers, but the beauty of Apple products has never been about the stats, it's about how it all comes together. New iPad is no different, and Microsoft and its partners face a tough challenge to produce displays that match the crispness and vibrancy of Retina Display.


New iPad: New iPad is powered by Apple's ARM-based A5X chip, which is basically a souped-up version of iPad 2's A5. The A5X is dual core and runs at 1 GHz.

Windows 8 tablets: Microsoft has tapped three chipmakers to produce WoA processors--Nvidia, Texas Instruments, and Qualcomm. All of them will produce chips based on the ARM reference design for Windows 8 tablets.

Considerations: Apple's A5 architecture is getting a bit long in the tooth. The A5X is significantly larger than the A5, and has been blamed for the heat problems afflicting new iPad. Windows 8 tablets will benefit from having chips available from three ARM specialists that have proven themselves in the Android market. WoA on Nvidia's new Kal-El quad-core architecture, in particular, could be one to watch.


New iPad: Apple is taking heat for its decision to include a camera on new iPad that checks in at just 5 megapixels and has fairly limited optics, when the company already has an 8-megapixel camera in iPhone 4S. For HD video recording, however, Apple has increased output from 720p to 1080p.

Windows 8 tablets: Microsoft's wide ecosystem of hardware partners use a variety of camera technologies. Of note is the fact that Nokia, with its use of Carl Zeiss optics in Lumia smartphones, has chosen to make cameras a point of differentiation. It's likely that Nokia will pursue the same strategy with Windows 8 tablets.

Considerations: Tablets aren't what most people use for taking pictures, but the bottom line is that when Windows 8 tablets hit stores later this year, you'll likely be able to find one that has a better camera than new iPad.


New iPad: Apple hasn't released an official boot time for new iPad, but this somewhat unscientific video on YouTube seems to show that it boots in about 21 seconds. Fritz Nelson, VP and editorial director of the InformationWeek Business Technology Network, says it takes 30 seconds for his new iPad to boot up, compared to 25 second for his iPad 2.

Windows 8 tablets: Another factor that has doomed previous Windows tablets, those based on the Intel x86 architecture, is that they suffered from the same, drawn out boot times that afflict Windows PCs. Windows 8 systems, by contrast, will fully boot in as little as eight seconds. Microsoft said it has achieved this in part by not completely closing the kernel session when the system is switched off. Instead, the kernel session is hibernated so that memory contents and system state is saved.

Considerations: 10 or 12 seconds difference in boot time doesn't make much difference in the real world, but many users view boot time as a proxy for overall system performance. Super snappy boot times on Windows 8 tablets could go a long way toward helping Microsoft shake its reputation for delivering bloated, bulky software.

New iPad
(click image for larger view)
New iPad


New iPad: Apple and third-party developers have to date produced more than 200,000 iPad-specific apps, and that doesn't include iPhone apps that have been blown up (usually not very attractively) to fit the iPad. If you want or need to do something on new iPad, there's probably an app for that.

Windows 8 tablets: Microsoft has adopted Apple's closed-loop approach for WoA apps. They'll only be available preinstalled, or as downloads from the new Windows Store. Microsoft has taken this approach to ensure that its tablets have the same ecosystem stability and security as iPad. The killer app for Windows 8 tablets could be the new, touch-enabled version of Office, Office 15, which will come pre-installed on every WoA tablet. It's likely that Skype will be offered as a preinstalled app on many Windows tablets. And for tablets aimed at business users, Office 365 may be an option.

Considerations: The success or failure of Windows 8 tablets could largely be determined by app selection. Some major publications, like USA Today, have already committed to Windows 8. And Microsoft has added tools to Visual Studio 11, now available in beta, to make it easier for developers to create Metro apps. Still, it's going to be difficult for Microsoft to match the vast ecosystem of apps that has grown up around the iPad.


More details about Windows 8 tablets are expected to emerge in the coming weeks, and most market watchers expect actual products to hit the stores in October. By then, many gadget fans will have opted for new iPad, but Microsoft and its partners are counting on the fact that a good number will wait until they can do hands on comparisons in stores. At the very least, buyers should have a lot more options this holiday season.

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User Rank: Apprentice
6/1/2012 | 12:54:00 PM
re: New iPad Vs. Windows 8 Tablets: 8 Considerations
ahhhh, how can you compare an iPAD (3) with something that does not exist? When one does, please revisit for a comparison.
User Rank: Ninja
3/27/2012 | 7:51:54 PM
re: New iPad Vs. Windows 8 Tablets: 8 Considerations
I have to object to some of the things said here. It's obvious the author isn't a tablet user, or he wouldn't have said some of these things. The other's are just a lack of research on his part.

1. Talking about price. The iPad 2 was conveniently left out of the article. But at $399 for the WiFi model, and $529 for the GPS/3G model, it's a major price advantage, as in a recent survey, people said that a competing tablet would have to be $100 less than an iPad2 for them to buy it. That was right before the new iPad was announced.

2. No article that I've seen, and I'd like to see one, has blamed the A5X chip as the reason for the bigger battery. The reasons are LTE, a known battery hog, and the reason why most people with LTE phones have said they were unhappy with them, and the new screen. The technique used to increase the saturation and give a much bigger color gamut is responsible for increased battery usage, and hence, the much larger battery. This chip may consume a little bit more power, but not much.

3. The new 5mp rear camera is being praised almost universally for its much improved quality, pretty much the same chip as on the iPhone 4, which was considered to have the best picture quality of all smartphones. The lens is new, from the iPhone 4S, and the video quality has been praised too.

Perhaps the author is thinking about the front, FaceTime camera, which is still the same .3mp model from all of their mobile products.

4. Start-up times on tablets isn't really an issue, because few people actually turn them off. What tablet users do is to turn the screen off, but leave the tablet on in standby mode so they can receive notices as they come in. Comparing actual start-up times is therefor deceptive, and not very useful.

5. Screen size. This is something that people argue over. But we can't compare screen sizes without also taking into consideration the ratio of the vertical dimension to the horizontal dimension.

So, a 9.7" 4:3 ratio screen, as used in the iPad line has an actual size of 7.76":5.82". A 10.1 16:9 ratio screen has an actual size of 8.8":4.95".

Which is larger? Both, depending on how the tablet is being used. For video, the 10.1, 16:9 screen is a bit larger. Not by much, as moving the tablets back and forth by a few inches has them looking the same.

But for productivity apps, the 9.7, 4:3 screen is better.

What about area, which determines the total screen size? The 10.1" screen is 43.56 square inches.

The 9.7" screen is 45.16 square inches.

So the 9.7" screen is actually a smidgen larger. Not enough to really notice, but enough to show that a larger diagonal, when close in size, doesn't mean that the screen is actually larger.

All of these things mean something when making comparisons, and if an article gets them wrong, as this one does, then the comparison falls down by that amount, and its validity is lessened. I just don't understand why authors can't seem to get all of their facts right.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2012 | 9:44:32 PM
re: New iPad Vs. Windows 8 Tablets: 8 Considerations
"The success or failure of Windows 8 tablets could largely be determined by app selection....Still, it's going to be difficult for Microsoft to match the vast ecosystem of apps that has grown up around the iPad."

To the extent that software suppliers port their software to the tablet friendly Metro interface, then there could be a vast app selection available for W8 tablets. The main difference to me is the price of apps, where the average price of Windows compatible software seems to be way higher than the average price of a iPad apps.

User Rank: Apprentice
3/25/2012 | 1:11:48 PM
re: New iPad Vs. Windows 8 Tablets: 8 Considerations
What Windows Tablet?
User Rank: Strategist
3/24/2012 | 4:02:46 PM
re: New iPad Vs. Windows 8 Tablets: 8 Considerations
Other than Ballmer, who would be stupid enough to wait for a Microsoft tablet? There just aren't that many trailer parks.
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