The Microsoft Surface 3 vs the iPad Air 2

The Apple vs Microsoft Debate Is Alive and Kicking

Is the Surface 3 an "iPad Killer?. Microsoft, Inc

It's clear Microsoft is feeling the heat from tablets and the Chromebook. With a similar price and running a full-blown version of Windows 8.1, Microsoft's Surface 3 is aimed directly at the iPad Air 2. But does Microsoft's newest tablet really stack up to an iPad? And should it even be setting its sights on Apple's tablet?

Windows RT is dead...

It's almost hard to believe that Microsoft once had a fairly good grasp on the smartphone market. Windows Mobile may have played second fiddle to Blackberry, but in the days before the iPhone, Microsoft looked primed to play a major role in mobile. But after several failed attempts at a mobile operating system, Microsoft seems ready to give in the towel on their latest gambit: Windows RT.

Let's face it, Windows RT was never a really good idea. A Windows platform that didn't run Windows applications, RT was dead from the start. Luckily for Microsoft, mobile technology is at a point where a smartphone or tablet can run the full version of Windows.

And that's the Surface 3's best trick: running Windows software.

Powerful enough for Windows, but is it powerful enough for the iPad Air 2?

The Intel Atom X7 processor inside the Surface 3 may be powerful enough for Microsoft to put Windows 8.1 on the device, but in terms of raw power, the processor may not stack up against the iPad Air 2. The A8X system-on-a-chip that powers the iPad Air 2 is one of the most powerful mobile processors out there, and it tends to beat out the Intel Atom X7 in benchmarks.

Windows 8.1 will only compound this issue. A chunkier operating system with a big footprint, Windows will eat through a bigger chunk of that processing power, leaving fewer CPU cycles for applications.

But a bigger issue for the entry-level Surface 3 is the 2 GB of RAM. While this matches the amount of memory on the iPad Air 2, it's not enough for a smooth Windows experience. Windows 8.1 may work on 2 GB of RAM, but it is hard to say it runs on it. Let's say it "walks" on it. For those interested in the Surface 3, upgrading to 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage space for $100 more on the price tag will be well worth it. The entry-level machine is going to run out of steam doing anything more than web browsing and light word processing.

Not for graphics, not for games

The 10.8-inch screen on the Surface 3 makes it slightly bigger than an iPad Air 2, but the 1920x1080 graphics don't compare to the iPad's 2048x1536 "Retina" display. A larger display with a lower resolution means the Surface 3 won't look nearly as sharp as the iPad Air 2.  Add in the slower processor and games intended for much faster hardware, and the Surface 3 is far from a game machine. Sure, it'll be able to play Candy Crush with the best of them, but while gaming is one of the big perks of the iPad Air 2, it'll be one of the disappointments of the Surface 3.

A realistic price tag higher than the iPad's

Of course, Microsoft's big bet on the Surface 3 is the $499 price tag, which seemingly matches the entry-level iPad Air 2. But that price doesn't include the Microsoft's $130 Type Cover, which adds a keyboard and trackpad to the tablet. The Type Cover is a necessity if you want to get everything out of the Surface tablet, so realistically, the Surface 3 costs around $630. And that's for the low-end model. If you don't want to poke along at a snail's pace, you'll need to spend $730 for the 4 GB Surface 3 and the Type Cover.

The Surface 3 is a dud...

It is hard to define a really good market for the Surface 3.

The tablet (with the Type Cover) is more expensive than an iPad, not as responsive and loses in the graphics department. The sole thing it has going for it is the ability to run Windows software, and even then, it will be limited by the slower processor and 2 GB of RAM.

For those that really need Windows software, the Surface Pro 3 is a better choice. While it starts out at $799, which translates to $930 with the Type Cover, the tablet will ultimately last you longer. Right out of the gate, the Surface 3 is going to be a little sluggish, which will only be compounded over the next few years.

For those that aren't burdened by a restriction of using the Windows operating system, the iPad Air 2 is the clear winner. Students will still gain access to Microsoft Office as well as Apple's iWork suite of productivity apps, and as one of the fastest tablets on the market, there's no need to worry about it becoming obsolete in a couple of years.

The only real market for the Surface 3 ​is those who absolutely must run Windows and can't spend the money on the more expensive (and better) Surface Pro 3. And in terms of raw power, a Windows-based laptop at the same price tag will run circles around the Surface 3,

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