Microsoft Surface Pro 9 vs Apple iPad Pro: which is better?

Apple iPad Pro M1 and Microsoft Surface Pro 9 side-by-side on a yellow and blue background.
(Image credit: Apple, Microsoft)

In the wake of Microsoft's 2022 Surface hardware reveal event, we now know what the next tablet in the tech titan's Surface product line will be: the Surface Pro 9.

We got to enjoy some hands-on time with the new tablet and liked what we saw. The Surface Pro 9 will no doubt be securing a spot in our best Windows tablets rankings, and could even break into the overall best tablets list - something Microsoft has struggled to do in the past.

However, there's some seriously stiff competition in the form of the iPad Pro, Apple's flagship tablet for professionals. It's sitting at the top of our best tablets guide, and it's going to take some serious work from Microsoft to unseat it.

Could the new Surface Pro 9 be the better tablet, though? Microsoft certainly seems confident, but with Black Friday swiftly approaching we could see some serious deals on the iPad Pro. The Surface Pro 9 launches on October 25 (or November 8 if you're in the UK), meaning that it's unlikely to see any significant price cut for this year's sales events.

As we like to say, new tech is always exciting, but it's not always better. Is the Surface Pro 9 truly superior to the current iPad Pro, a device that is now more than a year old? Let's take a look.

Surface Pro 9 vs iPad Pro: Price

Surface Pro 9 on a desk with the screen turned on and showing Windows 11

(Image credit: Future)
  • Surface Pro 9 starts at $1,000 / £1,099 / AU$1,649
  • iPad Pro starts at $799 / £749 / AU$1,199
  • Keyboard and stylus for both sold separately

Let us start by saying that neither of these are going to make it onto our best cheap tablets list. While on paper the starting price of the Apple iPad Pro makes it a clear winner in this category, it's worth noting that you're literally getting a whole lot less device for that $799 / £749 / AU$1,199 starting price.

Unlike the Surface Pro 9, the iPad Pro is available in two sizes; the full-size 12.9-inch model and the cheaper 11-inch model. The larger version starts at $1,099 / £999 / AU$1,649, which actually makes it more expensive than the Surface Pro 9 in some markets.

Naturally, the pricing fluctuates a lot once you start customizing the components, but the upper-tier models of these two tablets also sit close together in price at $2,399 / £2,149 / AU$3,549 for the top-spec iPad Pro and $2,599 / £2,599 / AU$4,149 for the most powerful Surface Pro 9.

The Surface Pro 9 has a wider variety of models available; while every iPad Pro can be purchased with 5G support thanks to the Apple M1 chip that powers them, you'll need to buy a non-Intel version of the Surface Pro 9 that uses the new Microsoft SQ3 CPU if you want your Windows tablet to have 5G connectivity.

The iPad Pro has a greater variety of SSD sizes (ranging from 128GB to 2TB), while the Surface Pro 9 can be purchased with more RAM (up to 32GB against the iPad Pro's 16GB maximum).

Lastly, both the Surface Pro 9 and iPad Pro are best used with their accompanying keyboard cover and stylus; that's the Type Cover and Surface Slim Pen 2 from Microsoft, and the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil from - you guessed it - Apple. 

We'd just like to take a moment to say that this sucks tremendously, especially since both manufacturers are keen to tout the laptop-aping capabilities of their respective tablets. There are no winners here, but there is a loser: the consumer.

  • Winner: Draw

Surface Pro 9 vs iPad Pro: Performance

An Apple iPad Pro 11 (2021) on a table, with a keyboard

(Image credit: Future)
  • Surface Pro 9 has powerful 12th-gen Intel chips
  • Pro 9 5G will feature the new Microsoft SQ3 processor
  • iPad Pro rocks the excellent M1 chip, but less RAM in higher-spec models

This is a somewhat difficult category to judge, since the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 9 use totally different operating systems. This means that we don't really have accurate performance figures for comparison purposes, but we'll work with what we do have.

For starters, Windows 11 is almost indisputably a more versatile and powerful platform than iPadOS. That's not to rag on Apple's tablet OS, but it's just a fact: Windows allows for greater flexibility and a massively wider range of installable software.

In terms of raw performance, the waters are a bit murkier. Most Surface Pro 9 models have been Evo-approved by Intel, meaning that they have a super-fast wake time and generally great performance in productivity workloads. There will be a lot more variation in performance between models, though - with three different potential chips (i5, i7, and SQ3) as well as a variety of RAM options, two Surface Pro 9s could give you very different results.

The iPad Pro, on the other hand, has been using Apple's M1 chip since 2021, and it's a good 'un. The M1 means that both sizes of the iPad Pro should perform near-identically, with only a small amount of variation based on whether you opt for an 8GB or 16GB memory configuration.

The closest we could get to realistic comparative numbers was some Geekbench 5 results, but even those are shaky. The M1 iPad Pro scores 1704 in the single-core test and 7207 in the multi-core test. Meanwhile, there aren't proper figures available from Geekbench on the chips found in the Surface Pro 9 on the Geekbench website, but the Core i7-12700K scored massively higher than the M1.

However, the i7-1255U chip found in the Surface Pro 9 is a mobile CPU that obviously won't perform on this level, and we have absolutely no clue how well the new Qualcomm-developed Microsoft SQ3 chip will perform either. We're still going to give the win here to the Surface, but only because it rocks a better OS - and the battery life is superior, too.

  • Winner: Surface Pro 9

Surface Pro 9 vs iPad Pro: Design

Several Surface Pro 9s on a desk

(Image credit: Microsoft)
  • Surface Pro 9 only comes in one size; iPad Pro is available in two
  • iPad Pro display is arguably superior
  • Chassis design comes down to personal preference

Ultimately, which of these two products is 'better designed' is a subjective question; some will prefer the lightweight, compact design of the 11-inch iPad Pro, while others will favor the narrow screen bezels and variety of color schemes offered by the Surface Pro 9.

In the interest of fairness, we'll primarily compare the 12.9-inch version of the iPad Pro to the exclusively 13-inch Surface tablet. Even with matching screen sizes, the iPad Pro is significantly thinner and lighter than its Microsoft rival; likely since the Surface still requires more internal cooling.

We prefer the productivity-focused 3:2 aspect ratio of the Surface Pro 9 to the iPad Pro's 4:3; it makes the screen feel bigger, cramming in more text in a Google Doc or more pictures on a webpage. We recognize that this won't be the same for all users, though.

The display panel itself is superior on the iPad Pro, however, with a massively higher contrast ratio and better maximum brightness. A lot of users won't notice or care, but digital artists and photo editors are better served by Apple's tablet screen. The iPad Pro also boasts better cameras, with a 12MP main lens compared to the Surface's 10MP - though both are capable of recording 4K video.

In terms of physical ports, it's much the same; since the death of the Lightning connector, the iPad Pro uses the same USB-C port as the Surface Pro 9, though the latter does also have Thunderbolt 4 support and the Surface Connect slot if you want to charge the device while using the USB-C port.

Lastly, we do have to discuss the accessories. Microsoft's Type Cover keyboard for the Surface tablet line is generally pretty great, with its soft Alcantara fabric and magnetic charge slot for the Surface Slim Pen 2. However, that stylus just doesn't compare to the fantastic Apple Pencil - and with that deciding factor, this round goes to the iPad Pro.

  •  Winner: iPad Pro

Surface Pro 9 vs iPad Pro: Which should you choose?

It's a tie! But it's also not. Fundamentally, the Surface Pro 9 and the iPad Pro are very different devices; the former is best suited to a conventional office environment, while the latter is more at home in the hands of a professional creative.

When deciding between these two tablets aspiring to be laptops, it's important to consider what your personal needs are. If you want a super-lightweight device that you can easily throw in a small bag and take everywhere with you, the 11-inch iPad Pro is the better choice. If you like the idea of a tablet that can double up as a laptop for work, the Surface Pro 9 is the one for you.

It also comes down to familiarity. We fear what we don't understand, after all; if you own an iPhone, you shouldn't have any difficulty navigating the iPad Pro's software. If you're used to working on a Windows desktop PC, leaping into iPadOS could feel unbearably chaotic - the clean, familiar feel of Windows 11 on the Surface Pro 9 might be more your speed.

We love both of these devices, and it feels almost unfair to compare them when they both excel in completely different areas. We're certain you'll love them too - just be sure to choose the one that fits what you want from a tablet.

  • Overall winner: Draw
Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.