iPad Pro vs Surface Pro for Digital Art: A Comprehensive Comparison

Choosing the right tablet for digital art can be pivotal for any artist or designer. The battle often boils down to two tablets: the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro. 

They are a popular choice among artists for various reasons. On the one hand, the iPad Pro has Procreate, one of the best drawing apps available only on iPad. 

Meanwhile, the Surface Pro combines the advantages of a tablet and laptop, and many artists use the Surface Pro for drawing. 

In this article, we will compare the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 9 to determine which one is better for artists.

Key Takeaways

  • iPad Pro is limited by its iPadOS, which is not as good as MacOS and WindowsOS.
  • iPad Pro is the better choice if you use Procreate.
  • Surface Pro uses Windows OS, a desktop-level OS comparable to MacOS.
  • For 3D Artists, the Surface Pro is the better choice because of the availability of Blender and Maya.”

Design and Build Quality

The iPad Pro and Surface Pro 9 are benchmarks in design and build quality among digital art tools. Both devices reflect Apple and Microsoft’s expertise in creating not only high-functioning but also premium-feeling devices.

Material and Durability

The iPad Pro is encased in an aluminum chassis, exhibiting a lightweight yet durable frame, with the 11-inch model weighing 1.04 lbs and the 12.9-inch at 1.41 lbs.

Apple’s choice of materials provides both sturdiness and a sleek finish in either space gray or silver hues. In contrast, the Surface Pro 9 features a robust build with its signature platinum magnesium alloy, giving it a weight of 1.7 lbs, which adds a bit of heft but equally signifies resilience.

Aesthetics and Form Factor

Both models boast high-resolution displays framed by bezels, though the iPad Pro’s bezels are notably thinner, imparting a more modern, full-screen aesthetic. 

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9 doesn’t trail far behind with its sizeable screen-to-body ratio. It stands out with a unique kickstand integrated into the back, providing versatile viewing angles, which the iPad Pro relies on external covers to achieve.

Display Characteristics

Here are the table featuring the difference between iPad Pro 11 inch, 12.9 inch and Surface Pro 9 in term of display characteristics

FeatureiPad Pro 11-inchiPad Pro 12.9-inchSurface Pro 9
Screen Size11 inches12.9 inches13 inches
Resolution2388 x 1668 pixels2732 x 2048 pixels2880 x 1920 pixels
Pixel Density264 pixels per inch (PPI)264 pixels per inch (PPI)267 pixels per inch (PPI)
Display TechnologyLiquid Retina displayLiquid Retina XDR displayPixelSense Flow display
BrightnessUp to 600 nitsUp to 1600 nits (peak brightness)Up to 450 nits
Color GamutWide color (P3), 100% sRGB, ~99% DCI-P3Wide color (P3), 100% sRGB, ~99% DCI-P397.7% sRGB, 67.7% AdobeRGB, and 65.6% Display P3
Refresh RateProMotion technology up to 120HzProMotion technology up to 120HzUp to 120Hz
Screen FeaturesTrue Tone, HDRTrue Tone, HDRDolby Vision, Adaptive Color

Resolution and Color Accuracy

The iPad Pro boasts a crisp resolution that lends itself well to the fine details required in digital art. Specifically, its 12.9-inch model offers a resolution of 2732×2048 pixels. 

With an sRGB color gamut and support for wider P3 color space, the device satisfies the needs of professional artists looking for color accuracy in their digital canvases.

The Surface Pro 9 features a 13-inch display with a 2880×1920 pixel resolution. This detailed screen also supports the sRGB color gamut but has a narrower color gamut in AdobeRGB and P3 compared to the iPad Pro.

So, regarding color accuracy, the iPad Pro is better than the Surface Pro.

Screen Size and Aspect Ratio

Surface Pro Screen

The iPad Pro is available in two sizes, 11 inches and 12.9 inches, providing ample space for creative work. Notably, the device enjoys an aspect ratio of 4:3, which offers a comfortable balance for most artistic applications.

In contrast, the Surface Pro 9 comes with a single 13-inch screen, which brings it close to the size of a Macbook Air.

However, the aspect ratio of 3:2 is ideal for those who prefer a more squared work area, reminiscent of traditional paper sizes, requisitely benefiting certain design practices.

Refresh Rate and Responsiveness

The responsiveness of a display is critical for an artist’s interaction with the device. 

The iPad Pro’s screen not only has a high refresh rate of up to 120Hz due to ProMotion technology but also boasts impressive touch response, which is essential for real-time drawing and painting.

Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 9 also comes with a similar refresh rate, up to 120 Hz, with Pixel Sense technology (similar to ProMotion). Keep in mind that the older Surface Pro 7 has a refresh rate of 60 Hz.

Stylus and Input Methods

Choosing the right stylus and input methods is critical for digital artists, as these tools affect the artwork’s precision and comfort.

Apple Pencil vs. Surface Pen

Apple Pencil 2

The second-generation Apple Pencil attaches magnetically to the iPad Pro and charges wirelessly. Both models feature a tilt function, enhancing shading techniques like traditional pencils.

FeatureApple Pencil 2nd GenSurface Slim Pen/Surface Slim Pen 2
ChargingMagnetic attachment & WirelessMagnetic attachment
Pressure SensitivityYes, precise4096 levels
PairingMagnetic attachmentMagnetic attachment with top-end eraser
Tilt FunctionalityYesYes

Surface Pro 9 comes with the Surface Slim Pen and the Surface Slim Pen 2, which features a thinner design and a rechargeable battery.

Which device offers a better stylus experience, iPad Pro with Apple Pencil or Surface Pro with Surface Pen?

Compared to the Surface Pen, the Apple Pencil is thinner, shorter, and lighter, which many find more comfortable for extended use. 

The Apple Pencil also has negligible latency and boasts pressure sensitivity and tilt functionality that closely mimics the feel of drawing with a traditional pencil.

Additional Input Accessories

For the iPad Pro, the Magic Keyboard adds utility with its built-in trackpad and floating design, transforming the tablet into a pseudo-laptop, while maintaining the focus on touch and stylus input. 

The Surface Pro 9 can be paired with the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard, which provides a full keyboard and a place to store and charge the Surface Slim Pen, ensuring that the stylus is always ready for use.

Operating Systems and Software

iPadOS vs Windows

iPad with Procreate, ibisPaint X, Medibang and Adobe Fresco installed

Apple’s iPad Pro runs iPadOS, a mobile operating system designed specifically for the iPad. It’s known for its touch-friendly interface and seamless integration with Apple’s ecosystem.

Even though Apple keeps advertising that iPad OS is desktop-level OS, even releasing ads that say “What’s a computer?” to be honest, iPad OS is not good enough for professional use.

iPad OS is still behind compared to MacOS and Windows.

Microsoft Surface Pro, on the other hand, offers a full desktop experience with Windows 11 operating systems. 

This allows users to run full versions of desktop software that professionals often use, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, without the mobile-optimized limitations sometimes present in their tablet counterparts. 

Professional 3D Software like Blender and Maya are only available on Windows, making Surface Pro a better choice than iPad Pro.

Windows OS also boasts extensive file management capabilities, a classic Windows interface, and robust peripheral support, providing a more laptop-like experience for professional artists.

App Ecosystem and Exclusives

The iPad App Store and Windows software library differ significantly, influencing the selection of drawing apps and creative software available to artists.

Drawing Apps/SoftwareAvailable on iPadOSAvailable on Windows
Adobe FrescoYesYes
Adobe PhotoshopYes (Limited Feature)Yes
Adobe IllustratorNoYes
Autodesk SketchbookYesYes

iPad OS has Procreate, which is literally one of the best drawing applications for digital artists. Unlike Photoshop or CSP, which are too clunky, Procreate has a simple design that is easy to learn and use for drawing.

Windows users can access Adobe Creative Cloud applications (including Photoshop and Illustrator) and professional 3D applications like Blender or Maya.

Can Surface Pro run Procreate or an equivalent digital art application?

The Surface Pro cannot run Procreate, which is exclusive to iOS. However, it can run equivalent programs like Autodesk SketchBook, Clip Studio Paint, and even Adobe Fresco, which offer similar features tailored for Windows.

Performance and Specifications

Processor and RAM

The latest iPad Pro is equipped with an impressive M2 chip, Apple’s silicon that brought the desktop-class performance to their tablets. 

This same chip is featured in some models of the MacBook Pro, ensuring that the iPad Pro delivers robust performance for digital art applications. 

It typically comes with 8GB of RAM on lower storage models, but this increases to 16GB of RAM on higher configurations.

In contrast, the Surface Pro 9 offers a range of processors, including the 12th Gen Intel Core i5. The higher-end models come with up to 16GB of RAM, aligning the Surface Pro more closely with traditional computer specifications.

Storage Options

Storage is critical for digital artists, who often work with large file sizes. 

The iPad Pro boasts a variety of storage options, ranging from 256 GB to a sizeable 2TB, providing ample space for artists to store their projects. 

Conversely, the Surface Pro also presents multiple storage choices, starting from 128GB and up to 1TB of SSD storage.

Connectivity and Ports

When considering the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro for digital art, connectivity options play a crucial role in integrating these devices into an artist’s workflow. 

Both devices offer a range of ports and wireless capabilities tailored to provide flexibility for artists on the go.

USB-C and Thunderbolt

Apple’s iPad Pro has a USB-C port supporting high-speed data transfer and charging. 

Notably, the latest models also include Thunderbolt capabilities. Artists can connect to various peripherals, such as external displays and storage devices, with significantly faster data throughput.

On the other hand, Microsoft’s Surface Pro sports a USB-C port, but it differs by offering additional port options. 

Wireless Connectivity Features

Both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro feature robust wireless connectivity options. Bluetooth is standard on both devices, allowing artists to connect to various accessories, such as keyboards and styluses, without the mess of cords.

 Furthermore, both tablets support Wi-Fi 6, ensuring fast and reliable internet connections for cloud backup and online collaboration.

Can You Connect It With Drawing Tablet?

The iPad Pro cannot be connected to a pen tablet or pen display, whereas the Surface Pro can be connected to a drawing tablet if preferred or needed.

Pricing and Value for Money

Cost Comparison

The base model of the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 starts at $1,299, with the pricing climbing based on configurations and added features. 

The Apple iPad Pro, on the other hand, begins at a slightly lower price point, but this cost can increase significantly due to specifications and storage options.

DeviceBase Price
Surface Pro 9From $1,299
iPad ProFrom $799

Accessories and Overall Investment

The essential Apple Pencil 2nd Generation is a separate purchase for the iPad Pro, while the Surface Pro includes the Surface Pen in its price. 

  • Apple Pencil: From $129
  • Surface Pen: Included with Surface Pro

Portability and Convenience

Tablet Weight and Ease of Transport

iPad Pro is a lightweight tablet. The typical weight for an iPad Pro ranges from 1.03 pounds (466 grams) for the 11-inch model to 1.5 pounds (682 grams) for the 12.9-inch model. 

The streamlined form factor of iPads contributes to their portability, allowing artists to carry the tablet effortlessly wherever they go.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 9 is slightly heavier, starting around 1.7 pounds (775 grams), which can impact their portability. 

Cloud Services Integration

Cloud services integration is important for artists. Artists usually use cloud services to save artwork as a backup. 

The iPad Pro offers a streamlined experience with iCloud, which stores artwork and syncs seamlessly across all Apple devices. 

Artists can begin their work on an iPad and continue on a Mac or iPhone. Collaboration is further enhanced with functionalities within Procreate to export and share projects directly through iCloud.

On the other hand, the Surface Pro integrates with OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud service, providing similar features such as easy sharing and access across devices.

Both platforms support third-party applications like Adobe Creative Cloud or DropBox, allowing artists to maintain a cloud-based workflow irrespective of the device. 

Wrapping Up 

Between the iPad Pro and Surface Pro, each have its advantages and disadvantages for artists. 

If you need a device capable of 3D art and professional work beyond drawing and painting, the Surface Pro is the better choice. 

However, if you prefer a more portable tablet and favor Procreate over Photoshop or other drawing app alternatives, the iPad Pro is more suitable for you.

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Kenny HD
Hi, I’m Kenny. I’m a digital artist who began learning art at the age of 21. I enjoy drawing cartoons and fan art.

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