Surface RT Tablet vs. IPad 4

Microsoft has now entered the tablet arena with its newest tablet, the Surface tablet running Windows RT (a watered-down version of Windows 8). With the Surface RT Tablet on the market and an entrance into the tablet wars for the first time, Microsoft, like all anti-Apple competitors, wants its product to come head-to-head with Cupertino’s finest tablet to date. With this in mind, both tablets will be discussed and compared to see which tablet you should put your money on this coming Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) or this coming Christmas season.

Before the spec war begins, let me say that if you are a consumer who wants to purchase an iPad 3 (and save some money on a 9.7-inch iPad), this review works for you as well – since the iPad 3 and iPad 4 differ in their connector cables and CPUs (processor chips). The iPad 4 has a Lightning adapter while the iPad 3 has the traditional 30-pin adapter. The iPad 4 has an A6X chip while the iPad 3 has an A5X chip.

Screen Sizes

First, let’s start with the screen sizes. Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet has a screen size of 10.6 inches, nearly an entire inch above Apple’s iPad 4 (9.7 inches). If you prefer larger screens because you think they make great tablets for movies, television shows, music videos, and video games, then the Surface RT may be the tablet for you. In the area of screen size, many gamers, in particular, prefer larger screens.  With Microsoft’s Surface RT, you will get a larger-than-iPad device that costs the same as Apple’s Retina iPad 4.

Weight may be a deciding factor as to whether or not you choose to purchase a new tablet. If so, do not dwell on weight too long: the Surface RT tablet is slightly heavier than the iPad 4 (1.5lbs vs. 1.44 or 1.46lbs., respectively).

Screen Resolution

Next, there is the factor of screen resolution. Screen resolution is vital to tablet selection because it determines to a large extent the type of graphics and screen appearance you will experience when watching movies and playing games. The Surface RT has a screen resolution that packs fewer pixels and has a smaller pixel density that of the iPad 4 (1366 x 768 vs. 2048 x 1536, respectively). The iPad 4’s retina display may impress you because it packs more pixels per inch than the Surface RT (148ppi vs. 264 ppi), but the Surface RT Tablet has an “ace in the hole” with its ClearType technology that gives the appearance that a screen has three times the resolution of its competitors. The issue of screen resolution has been intense between Apple and Microsoft customers since before the Surface RT’s arrival in electronics stores approximately one week ago. Microsoft claims that it has customers who find the Surface RT’s screen to be far more improved in its graphics display than the iPad 4. There are Apple bloggers who do admit that the Surface RT will have a better screen resolution in appearance only (see my article on screen resolution).


When it comes to processor chips and a tablet’s processor ability, the kind of chip used and its power are everything. The Surface RT  Tablet is powered by the quad-core, Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, while the iPad 4 is powered by Apple’s own dual-core, 1.3 gigahertz A6X chip. These two chips need to be explained to many consumers. Often, it has been my experience that these processors are mentioned as part of the features of any tablet or smartphone without any explanation as to what these processors actually contribute to the overall experience. Nvidia provides the following explanation as to the power of its Tegra 3 chip:

“Extreme multitasking. The best web experience, with up to two times faster browsing than other devices. Console-quality gaming with an integrated ultra-low power (ULP) NVIDIA graphics. Even HD video capabilities for brilliant graphics on the go.”

The underlined phrases are my emphases in the NVIDIA quote above. With Nvidia, your web browsing speed increases two-fold. This becomes clear when you consider that Apple’s iPad 4 runs a “dual-core” processor. The quad-core processor performs basic functions twice as fast as the iPad 4’s dual-core processor (“dual” means “two” while “quad” means “four”). The Nvidia Tegra 3-chip, then, allows the Surface RT to run twice as fast as the iPad 4 – nothing to laugh about when it comes to game graphics and speed. With this said, the Surface RT runs faster and provides better graphics than the iPad 4. This will be a major disappointment to iPad 3 lovers or iPad 4 customers.

Storage & Memory

Storage, another factor, provides a win for the Surface RT. Apple’s lowest tablet memory storage amount, 16GB, costs $399, while the Surface RT offers a minimum storage of 32GB. If you have a device such as the Surface RT that contains a Nvidia chip that provides better graphics and twice the speed of the iPad 4, would you want to have a 16GB device? Probably not. The reason is simple: there are some games that consume 1GB of memory storage for just one game.

Next, you must consider the memory storage that the operating system will consume. The operating system of any tablet does not provide free, additional storage; rather, manufacturers take storage space out of the storage space you paid for up-front when they decide to place the operating system on your device. On my iPad 3, for example, my photos and camera occupy a whopping 3.3GB of memory storage; add just two soccer games, FIFA 12 and FIFA 13 to that – you end up with 6.4GB of storage already occupied. On a 16GB device, you would only have 9.6GB of storage remaining. If you download games that consume 1GB of memory storage apiece and only have 9GB of space remaining, you can only download 9 games before running out of storage space on your tablet. The best counsel in the world that I can offer you is this: order a 32GB-minimum device, if not a 64GB device. When comparing two tablets, consider the space that the tablet’s operating system will occupy before you settle on a memory storage you must live with. In terms of memory storage, however, the Surface RT holds its own against the iPad 4.

Battery, Camera and  Networking

There are three other factors that you must consider when choosing between the two tablets: (1) battery life, (2) camera, and (3) networking. The Surface RT provides up to 8 hours of battery life while the 10 hours you can spend on the iPad 4 wins the day in terms of its battery. The Surface RT provides two 720-pixel high-definition cameras, while the iPad 4 provides a five-megapixel rear camera and a VGA front camera. The Surface’s high-definition photo experience blows Apple’s camera features out of the water. When it comes to networking and Internet connection, the Surface RT runs on WiFi while Apple’s LTE experience leaves you with an even greater debt than it costs to purchase the tablet. LTE works wonders if it involves geographic locations that carry LTE towers. If you are like me and live in a rural area, 4G will not work. WiFi and Bluetooth (now 4.0) seem to be the typical networking capabilities, which means that the Surface RT tablet is in the same category as other, modern mobile devices.