Is the iPad Pro as Fast as a Laptop?

Highly touted as a laptop replacement by Apple themselves, the iPad Pro probably one of the most advanced tablet computers out there. There is definitely reason to believe this: it’s run by a powerful dual-core 2.26 GHz CPU, with Apple’s new A9X chipset. It also has four gigabytes of RAM, putting it on equal footing with most of today’s laptop computers.

Steve Jobs once predicted that the PC, laptops, and desktop computers will die slowly, only to be replaced with portable devices…like the iPad Pro. Partially, we agree with him: portable devices, like smartphones and laptops, are being developed to become either more powerful or have the same capabilities as their desktop counterparts.

However, can the iPad Pro’s speed and performance hold a candle to today’s laptops and notably, its main competitor which is the Microsoft’s Surface 4? Let’s try to find out:

iPad Pro vs Windows laptops

If you base it on the specs and hardware alone, the iPad Pro is relatively more powerful against most low-end PCs and laptops. Nowadays, there are still newly-manufactured laptops that have no-so powerful specs and at a relatively lower price, but today’s workflows, Internet speeds, and the ever-upgrading state of websites and multimedia content require more powerful machines.

Consider this: if you head over to an electronics and computer store, you will be met with laptops manufactured by Intel, Asus, Toshiba, and all other brands. Each might have different chipsets and hardware manufactured by different companies. Although they have the same operating systems (Microsoft), they’re not exactly funneling their resources to create super-powered laptops…unlike Apple.

Although Windows-run computers are more mainstream and is cheaper, the devices running are relatively inferior – in one way or another – against the ones made by Apple, especially if you look at the iPad Pro. Apple armed the tablet computer with its own locally-made chip – the A9x – with a dual-core 2.26 GHz CPU. Although there are CPUs that clock in at a faster rate, the fact that the iPad Pro is designed to run with the A9X CPU suggests both are tailor-made for each other.

iPad Pro vs MacBook

Take note that the MacBook is technically a laptop. Earlier this year, Apple released a 12-inch variety of the MacBook, which makes little sense considering that Apple already has the MacBook Air. This development could spell the end of the MacBook Air line, considering that the designers at Cupertino are working double time to make MacBooks – including the Pro and the normal ones – as sleek as possible.

Anyway, the new MacBook and the iPad Pro are pretty similar in certain aspects. The latter’s screen is larger by almost an inch – this could mean that you’re better off getting the iPad Pro instead, if you’re a sucker for screen sizes.

Natural language search in Spotlight. Photo by Apple.
Natural language search in Spotlight. Photo by Apple.

Performance-wise, the iPad Pro and MacBook are in the same league – and it all boils down to your preferences, particularly the price range, accessories, what you’re going to do with the device, and your needs. The iPad Pro features the Apple Pencil, and its drawing capabilities are comparable to that of the Wacom-made tablets. Meanwhile the MacBook’s multitasking features are better, considering that it runs OS X El Capitan. Also note that the iPad Pro is essentially a mobile device – you won’t be able to use a mouse and it is run by iOS 9, not OS X.

In a nutshell, the iPad Pro is more powerful compared to most MacBooks, particularly old ones, but are not as fast and better-equipped than the newer versions of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. This is no surprise – after all, the iPad Pro is essentially a laptop replacement, NOT a laptop, so it has to be relatively inferior than the MacBooks. It wouldn’t make sense for Apple to promote the iPad Pro as a better alternative than the MacBook!

Tests: Conflicting Reports

Rather than follow a set benchmark by a single group, we’ve decided to take different tests into consideration and see how the iPad Pro fared. Bear in mind that reports are conflicting: it’s up to you to decide whether the iPad Pro is for you or not!

Tabletmark V3

TabletMark V3’s benchmark graph. Photo by PCWorld

According to the Tabletmark V3 benchmark, the iPad Pro’s A9X chip considerably lags behind older CPUs, particularly those used by the Surface Pro 3, which was released a couple of years ago. It even pales in comparison to the speed of fellow tablets like the lesser-known Dell Venue 11 Pro and most notably, its main competitor, the Surface Pro 4. However, it is notably faster than its fellow iPads, the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4 – both of which use the predecessors of the current A9X chip.

In a number of ways, this is rather alarming – according to the test, if the iPad Pro’s processors can’t even defeat its competitors, it has a long way to go against newly-released and soon to be released laptops.

Geek Bench 3

Photo: PC World

In Geek Bench’s benchmark test showed that iPad Pro fared better in its single-core performance and is as fast as its contemporaries. It’s still slower albeit in a minute amount compared to the Surface Pro 4, but it’s noticeably better than the Nexus 9 (Android), the Surface Pro 3, and the Dell Venue 11. Take note however, that this test was only done using a single CPU core – note that the iPad Pro is dual core while the other devices’ CPUs might be quad (four) or even octa (eight) cores. With that said, this in turn led to less desirable results in the multicore performance benchmark:

Multicore benchmark test. Photo by PC World.

In this test, the iPad Pro lagged behind the Surface Pro Clipboard which runs a dual core i7-6600u CPU, the Surface Pro 3, and the Surface Pro 4. It still scored higher compared to Dell Venue 11.

By using the benchmarks as the meter stick to judge the devices, the Microsoft-made surface tablets would be runaway winners, but that always doesn’t tell the whole story. Take note that Apple and Microsoft-made tablets are pretty different.

Comparing the iPad Pro with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4

In terms of internal specifications, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 proves to be advantageous – it has more storage options at 128 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB, while its RAM can either be 4 GB, 8 GB, or 16 GB, depending on the model you’ll purchase. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro has limited storage options. Either you’ll have to make do with the 32 GB model or the 128 GB one. Its RAM is also limited to 4GB, with no options to increase it.

That aside, the Surface Pro 4 has an astounding array of external ports, including a USB 3.0 one. The iPad Pro is limited to an audio jack and its signature Lightning port that serves multiple purposes, including charging and for inserting devices like its stylus accessory, the Apple Pencil.

In yet another conflicting test, Apple Insider noted that the entry-level Surface Pro 4, which is priced at $899 (the entry level iPad Pro – 32 GB – is at $799), has lesser CPU power compared to Apple’s current flagship tablet.

Take note that the entry-level Surface Pro 3 runs a low-powered Intel Core m3 processor which is a league below Apple’s A9x in both single core and multi-core tests. Note that even the iPad Air 2 trumps the Surface Pro 4 in multicore tests.

However, Surface Pro 4 tablets running more powerful CPUs, like the Intel Core i5 processor, is way more faster on paper compared to the iPad Pro. There’s a catch though: it costs as much as a MacBook Pro at $1299, not including its accessories, like its keyboard and the Surface Pen. Note that both the 32 GB and 128 GB iPad Pro uses the A9x chip, and its accessories are also sold separately.

With all factors put into consideration, the iPad Pro is relatively cheaper compared to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Sure, the higher end models would trump the iPad Pro, but take note of the demographics: Microsoft products are touted as cheaper compared to those manufactured by Apple. However, this doesn’t include the Surface Pro 4, which in turn may not be a hit among its target users. Meanwhile, Apple’s target audiences are used to paying for what we dub as the “Apple tax”, so they would not mind shelling out cash for newer and better Apple products. After all, Apple has always demanded a premium price for its devices.

One glaring advantage of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 though, is it being run by the Windows 10 operating system, allowing it to give users a legitimate desktop/laptop experience. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro runs the iOS 9, technically making it a mobile device. Chances of a merger has been downplayed by none other than Apple CEO Tim Cook, though we could see future iterations come with the OS X.

Final thoughts

The iPad Pro is essentially a laptop replacement, not a laptop. It’s still a mobile device, but it’s faster than lower-end laptops and personal computers. Newer MacBooks and higher-end Windows devices still run faster than it, but it all boils down to how it performs on your end. Regardless, the iPad Pro has gained raving reviews from most pundits, so it’s safe to say that it can perform up-to-par with your standards.

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