Microsoft Surface Go 3 vs Apple iPad 9th Gen: Which is the best mainstream tablet?

Microsoft Surface Go 3 vs Apple iPad 9th Gen: Which is the best mainstream tablet?

A lot of companies have started offering cloud-based solutions for their services. As a result, the battle between “portable” and “capable” has never been so heated. Some people prefer having solid desktop setups in their (home) offices, while others, including me, would rather have a portable one. Microsoft and Apple offer devices for both usage cases, and the competition is getting intenser. This is the Surface Go 3 vs iPad 9th Gen, two portable yet mighty devices, head-to-head.

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Microsoft Surface Go 3 vs. Apple iPad 9th Gen: Specifications

Microsoft Surface Go 3Apple iPad 9th Gen
CPU
  • Intel Pentium Gold Processor 6500Y
  • Intel Core i3-10100Y
  • A13 Bionic chip with 64‑bit architecture
Graphics
  • Intel UHD Graphics 615
  • 4-core GPU
Body
  • 245x175x8.3 mm
  • 250.6×174.1×7.5 mm
Display
  • Screen: 10.5” PixelSense Display
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1280 (220 PPI) resolution
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Contrast ratio: 1500:1
  • Touch: 10 point multi-touch
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 10.2″ LED-backlit Multi-Touch Retina display with IPS technology
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1620 (264 PPI)
  • True Tone display
  • 500 nits brightness
  • Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
  • Supports Apple Pencil (1st generation)
Ports
  • USB-C
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • Surface Connect port
  • Surface Type Cover Port
  • MicroSDXC Card Reader
  • Compatible with Surface Dial
  • Lightning port
Storage
  • eMMC drive: 64GB
  • Solid-state drive (SSD): 128GB
  • 64GB
  • 256GB
RAM
  • 4GB
  • 8GB
  • 3GB
Battery
  • WiFi: Up to 10 hours of typical device usage
  • LTE Advanced: Up to 10 hours of typical device usage
  • Built‐in  rechargeable lithium‑polymer battery
  • Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi‐Fi or watching video
  • Up to 9 hours of surfing the web using cellular data network
Audio
  • Dual Studio Mics
  • 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual microphones for calls, video recording, and audio recording
Camera
  • Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)
  • 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p Skype HD video
  • 8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video
  • 8MP Wide rear-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps and 30 fps
  • 12MP Ultra Wide camera with 122° field of view, supports 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5
  • Nano SIM (Wi-Fi + Cellular models)
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Nano SIM and eSIM (Wi-Fi + Cellular models)
Color
  • Platinum
  • Silver
  • Space Gray
Price
  • Starting at $399
  • Starting at $329

Design: The Surface stands out!

Body

The iPad 9th Gen has the same design Apple has been going for in recent years. It features the thickest bezels, compared to the latest iPads Pro, Air, and Mini. At this point, it’s the last “home button” iPad. Apart from the outdated front design, it’s a slim, minimalistic slab. It’s about 1 mm thinner than the Surface Go 3, but it doesn’t offer a kickstand.

The kickstand makes it easy to use your Microsoft Surface without any cases, keyboards, or accessories attached. You just fix it in whatever position that works for you, and it’ll stay in place. To achieve a similar result on any iPad, you’d need a case or keyboard with a stand. Otherwise you’re going to have to hold your iPad at all times or place it horizontally on a plain surface.

Ports

Apple has become infamous for ditching ports on iDevices. This sacrifice comes in the name of minimalism. We agree, portless devices do look sleek, but they break functionality. Dongles don’t look good attached to any device, but average users are slowly shifting to alternative solutions. Depending on the cloud and going wireless is one way to do it, even though most power users would probably disagree.

The iPad 9th Gen surprisingly hasn’t ditched the fans’ favorite — the 3.5 mm headphone jack — and has a Lightning port. Apple has decided to avoid USB C on the affordable iPad for at least one more year.

The Surface offers a USB C port, in addition to a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a MicroSDXC Card Reader, accompanied by Surface accessory ports. So you won’t be needing as many dongles or cloud solutions if you go for the Surface.

Conclusion

In this round the Microsoft Surface Go 3 wins over Apple’s iPad 9th Gen in terms of functionality and ease of use (hardware-wise, not software). If you’re fine with having a Lightning port and no kickstand, then the clean iPad offers a slimmer, simpler design, despite its outdated-looking front.

Display: This one’s a tie!

The iPad offers a 10.2″ LED-backlit display with a 2160 x 1620 resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi). On the other hand, the Surface has a 10.5″ PixelSense display with a 1920 x 1280 resolution at 220 ppi. Both the iPad and the Surface have relatively thick bezels. So if the display is a priority to you, you’re down to two factors — size and resolution.

If you’re looking for a larger display, the Surface is what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a better resolution and can sacrifice 0.3″ of screen real estate, the iPad it is.

Accessories: Another tie!

When it comes to accessories, Apple and Microsoft offer similar options. Both the iPad 9th Gen and the Go 3 support keyboard attachments and some form of smart stylus. The Apple Pencil 1st Gen costs $99, similar to the pricing of Microsoft’s Surface Pen. However, Apple’s supports charging through the iPad’s Lightning port or a separate cable. On the other hand, the Surface Pen is AAAA Battery powered. I tend to prefer rechargeable batteries over removable ones.

As for keyboard accessories, Apple has placed a whopping $179 price tag on the Smart Keyboard Folio, while Microsoft’s Type Cover only costs $99. While the the Folio has a stronger build, it’s still almost double the price of Microsoft’s version, and it doesn’t include a trackpad like that of the Surface.

It’s hard to state the winner of this round, simply because Apple has a better smart stylus and uses materials of higher quality. So it’s only fair to charge more for the Smart Keyboard Folio. Microsoft offers more affordable options that lack some extras, but it also includes a trackpad for a lower price. So in the end, it really depends on the user and their specific needs and budget.

Capability: The Surface is more Intel-ligent!

ipad 9c

Performance

The entry model of the Surface Go 3 offers 4GB of RAM, while the iPad 9th Gen offers only three. When it comes to the processors, the A13 Bionic chip is outperformed by the Intel chips. As a result, the Surface is faster and more capable.

Software

A limited operating system can paralyze one’s workflow, no matter how powerful the processor is. Here’s where the Surface dominates the iPad, yet again. iPadOS is just iOS in disguise — and I state this as a fan of Apple products in general. Yes, there are some iPadOS features and gimmicks that aren’t available on iOS, but at its core, it’s just a over-glorified mobile operating system.

I’ve used an iPad as a PC replacement before. A few months later, I found myself upgrading to a MacBook Air for this particular reason, even though I could theoretically do all of my work on iPadOS. The OS just isn’t very capable, not to mention being limited to installing iOS/iPadOS apps.

The Surface Go 3 runs Windows. This means you can install any (supported) Windows programs and use built-in features that you’d find on Windows PCs. It isn’t yet another tablet.

Conclusion

If your job or studies revolve around reading, writing, or any other functionality that can be done through a mobile or web app, then an iPad Air could be your “PC.” But if you’d rather have a more stable OS that supports desktop apps, then the Surface Go 3 is what you’re looking for. It really depends on your needs and usage case. The iPad is simpler to use, but iPadOS cripples it. Until Apple changes that (for the better), it’ll always be a disadvantage.

This round is clearly a win for Microsoft. The Surface Go 3 is both faster and has a better OS, compared to the iPad 9th Gen.

Finishes: Apple passes this one with flying colors!

This round is short, particularly because the Surface only comes in one color:

  • Platinum.

The iPad 9th Gen comes in two colors:

  • Silver
  • Space Gray

If the device finish is something you’re picky about — and Platinum happens to be a shade you dislike — then your only option here would be the iPad 9th Gen. It comes in two somewhat similar colors. So if you’re looking for something more fun and lively, you’d either have to put on a colorful case/skin or buy an iPad Air.

Bottom Line

The Surface Go 3 and iPad 9th Gen are two very different devices made for different kinds of people. Despite their relatively similar “tablet” design, they each offer different features and capabilities. Which one is right for you is up to you personally. We have only made it easier for you to weigh the pros and cons before you go ahead and buy your shiny new slab!

    Surface Go 3
    The Surface Go 3 refreshes its predecessor with new 10th-gen processors.

About author

Mahmoud Itani
Mahmoud Itani

Mahmoud is an Istanbul-based Beiruti who has always sought freedom through writing. His hobbies include keeping up with tech news, writing articles about Apple devices & services, crocheting, meditating, and composing poetry. You’ll likely find him jogging at a park, swimming in open water, brainstorming at a coffeehouse, or merely lost in nature. His personal pieces are available on his website, MahmoudItani.com, and he can be reached via [email protected] or the provided social links.