Those in the market for a very portable computer should consider a 2-in-1 tablet/laptop like the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S or 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro. One runs Windows 10 and the other iOS, but they have similar designs and price points, and they target the same customers. Our comparison is intended to help businesspeople and prosumers choose which is the best option for them.
Those who definitely want a Windows 2-in-1 should read our Samsung Galaxy TabPro S or Microsoft Surface Pro 4 comparison.
Build and Design
Apple went big with its first professional tablet, putting in a 12.9-inch screen. This makes the overall device 12 x 8.7 x 0.27 inches and 1.6 pounds. The TabPro S has a 12-inch display, so it’s not as large: 11.4 x 7.8 x 0.25 inches and 1.5 pounds. The Samsung offering feels a little less bulky, but these are both sizable tablets. It’s only when compared to typical laptops that they start to seem small.
Each of these computers is well designed and solidly built, looking and feeling like high-end products.
The TabPro S comes in black or white casings, while Apple offers silver, dark grey, and gold versions. On the Samsung device, the bezel around the screen is the same color as the back of the device. The silver and gold iPad Pros have a white bezel around their displays, and the grey version has a black one. We recommend a black bezel, no matter the model, as it’s less noticeable in daily use.
Because its offering is slightly smaller, Samsung has a narrow victory in this area.
Samsung’s display has 67 square inches, while Apple’s is 80 sqare inches. The difference is definitely noticeable, and more screen space is always welcome.
Even more noticeable is that the iPad’s panel has a 4:3 aspect ratio, while the Windows device has a 3:2 ratio, which makes Apple’s offering squarer and Samsung’s more oblong. Some people prefer one, some the other.
The iPad Pro has a 2732-by-1248 resolution screen, while the Galaxy TabPro S has a 2160-by-1440 resolution panel. This makes Apple’s display a bit sharper, with a density of 264 pixels per inch to its rival’s 216 pixels per inch.
Samsung used a Super AMOLED panel, so that each pixel glows on its own, rather than depending on a system of backlights like the traditional LCD Apple put in the iPad Pro. We expected the TabPro S display to have stronger, more vivid colors, but with them side-by-side in an office environment they both look outstanding.
Samsung’s display is easier to see outdoors thanks to its higher contrast, though.
The 12.9-Inch iPad Pro’s screen comes out a bit ahead in this category. It’s larger and sharper, while offering colors about as vivid as its rival’s.
Ports, Buttons, and Speakers
The Galaxy TabPro S includes a single USB Type-C port, which it uses for charging, data transfers, and accessories. Apple’s device uses a similar setup, except that it employs a single Lightning port for all these tasks. Although USB is a widely-used industry standard and Lightning is proprietary, the popularity of the iPhone means that there’s a broad selection of accessories for Apple’s devices, even if they tend to be more expensive than their USB equivalents.
Neither the iPad Pro nor the Tab Pro S has a built-in microSD memory card slot, although there are plug-in options for both.
Both models include the usual power and volume buttons. Samsung put a physical Windows button on the right side of its offering. Apple included a Home Button on the front of its tablet, which also serves as a fingerprint scanner for the iOS security system. The Tab Pro S has no equivalent biometric scanner built in (Samsung Flow software enables it via a Samsung Galaxy Smartphone).
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro sports four speakers, so it’s capable of putting out quite a bit of sound. Samsung’s tablet has only two, but it can still provide all the sound needed to comfortably watch a movie while sitting a reasonable distance away.
Neither of these two devices comes out clearly ahead in this category.
Keyboard and Active Pen
Unlike its rival, Samsung bundles the Galaxy TabPro S with a clip-on keyboard that turns this tablet into a laptop equivalent. The keys on this are 0.7 x 0.7 inches, with no spaces between them, and they fit into a 10.6 x 3.7 inch area. Below this is a 3.5 x 1.7 inch trackpad.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro isn’t sold with a keyboard, but there are several to choose from, most notably the Smart Keyboard ($169) from Apple itself. This includes keys that are 0.6 x 0.6 inches with spaces in between, and fit into a 10.6 x 3.5 inch area. There’s no trackpad because iOS doesn’t support this type of input device.
The TabPro S doesn’t come bundled with an active pen, and neither does the 12.9-Inch iPad Pro. There are stylus/pens available on the market for each of these, such as the Apple Pencil.
By bundling a keyboard with its tablet, and using an operating system that supports trackpads and mice, Samsung comes out ahead in this area.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro runs on a 2.26 GHz dual-core Apple A9X 64-bit processor. We tested it with the Geekbench 3, and it scored about 5400 on the multi-core portion.
The Galaxy TabPro S uses a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m3-6Y30 sixth-generation 64-bit processor. It scored a 4540 on the same benchmarking test.
Both devices have 4GB of RAM, which is a decent amount for a Windows computer but a very generous one for an iOS model because its applications tend to use less RAM.
Apple sells its tablet with 32GB, 128GB, or 256GB of integrated storage capacity. Samsung currently offers only a 128GB version in the U.S., though there has been talk of a 256GB model.
The Apple device has the advantage in this area: it scores better on benchmarks and offers more built-in storage options.
Operating System and Software
While there are hardware differences between these two, the most significant divergence is in the operating systems they run. That said, it might not be as different as some think.
There’s no doubt that Windows 10 is more powerful and flexible than iOS, but keep in mind that the Core m3 processor in the Galaxy TabPro S puts this device toward the low end of the performance scale. For comparison, the Surface Pro 4 with a sixth-generation Core i7 processor scores about 7000 on the Geekbench 3 test referenced earlier. Samsung’s 2-in-1 is well suited for basic productivity and entertainment, everything from Microsoft Office to Facebook and Netflix, but this isn’t a computer for cutting-edge applications.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is also well suited for basic productivity and entertainment, and there is a version of Microsoft Office for it as well, including Exchange, OneDrive, and more. Companies like IBM are bringing even more enterprise applications to iOS, but Windows still has a significant lead in this area. The advantage of Apple’s operating system is simplicity; it was written to be easier to use and especially maintain than its rival.
Neither model comes with an active pen, but there are ones available, as well as note-taking software such as Microsoft OneNote.
For these two computers, the choice between Windows and iOS generally comes down to personal preference for most potential buyers. Of course, many businesspersons need a Windows device to run applications their companies have developed internally.
Heat and Noise
Neither of the processors powering these tablets requires an internal fan to keep cool, so both run quietly. Warm spots don’t develop on their casings even when performing processor-intensive tasks.
Apple offers its device with built-in 4G LTE for nearly ubiquitous wireless Internet access in two configurations: 128GB or 256GB of internal storage. At this point, the TabPro S isn’t available in the US with LTE.
Both tablets have Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz), with MIMO. Samsung’s includes Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, and GPS, while Apple’s has Bluetooth 4.2 but no NFC. Only the cellular-wireless versions of the iPad include GPS.
Support for built-in 4G LTE gives the 12.9-Inch iPad Pro the advantage in this area.
The TabPro S has a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing shooter. Apple went with an 8MP main camera and a 1.2MP one for video conferencing.
Thanks to Skype and FaceTime, it’s the front-facing cameras that generally get the most use with tablets and 2-in-1s, so Samsung has the advantage in this case.
The 12.9-Inch iPad Pro has a 10,307mAh battery, while the Galaxy TabPro S has a 5,200mAh one, so it’s not surprising that Apple’s device can go longer between charges.
In real world tests of the battery lives of these two, which included a mix of video and web surfing, we found that the iPad lasted for over 11 hours without needing a recharge, while Samsung’s tablet lasted about 6 hours.
The iPad Pro has a definite advantage in this category.
In this one-on-one competition, each device has areas where it is stronger. The Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a better screen, faster performance, more wireless options, more built-in storage options, and longer battery life. The Samsung Galaxy TapPro S is more portable and has a better front-facing camera, plus it’s bundled with a clip-on keyboard, making it a true 2-in-1.
Either one of these is a very good option for those looking for a large-screen tablet/laptop for light office- or schoolwork, but then the Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro comes out ahead… but only when cost isn’t taken into account.
The only version of the TabPro S available now in the U.S. comes with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of built-in storage, and a price of $899. The iPad Pro with the same amount of RAM and storage is $949. On top of that, buyers of the iOS device will need to add their own clip-on keyboard, such as the $169 Apple Smart Keyboard. Or there’s a 4GB/32GB version of the iPad for $799, but there’s no equivalent configuration of the Windows model.
While we judge the iPad to be the superior device, it is up to buyers to decide if they think it is worth the extra money.