Head-to-head: Apple iPad vs. Microsoft Surface Go for Business

Business travelers needn’t opt for pricy “Pro” 2-in-1 tablets from Apple or Microsoft; their smaller siblings are more affordable and ready for business. Here’s how they stack up.

ipad 9.7in surface go for business
Apple, Microsoft

Tablets have gotten more powerful over the years, but even top-tier 2-in-1s like Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Apple’s iPad Pro are still a step away from replacing laptops for many business users. They do provide a very attractive alternative to lugging around a notebook on business trips, but these flagship tablets start at anywhere from $650 to $900 and can easily climb to $1,500 or more after you configure them and add in the cost of a keyboard case and stylus. That kind of expense is hard to justify for a device that’s secondary to the laptop a business worker needs for everyday use.

That’s where smaller second-tier tablets can come in. Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad and Microsoft’s new Surface Go for Business carry significantly lower price tags than the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro, yet they’re still powerful, well-built and ready for business. Can they replace a laptop entirely? Not for most people, but neither can their more expensive siblings. And for short trips, they do provide a lighter alternative that lets workers get the job done without overly burdening them with gear.

After checking them out on short day trips, I took the sixth-generation iPad and the Surface Go for Business on a business trip to Europe. To see how they compare, I used them for everything from writing documents and running spreadsheets to emailing and showing presentations.

To make these tablets road-ready, I equipped each one with a stylus and a keyboard case to make typing easier than using the on-screen keypad. With the Surface Go, I used Microsoft’s $100 Pen stylus and the $130 snap-on Surface Go Signature Type Cover. With the iPad, I used Apple’s original Pencil stylus ($99), but for this iPad model, the company doesn’t make a cover that’s equipped with a keyboard. So, I used Logitech’s $100 Slim Folio iPad Keyboard Case, which you can get through Apple’s online store and at other outlets.

While the Surface Go for Business starts at $449, my test machine came in at around $830 with its accessories. The iPad starts at $329, but the model I tested added up to around $760 with accessories. That’s still hundreds of dollars cheaper than the top-flight tablets from Apple and Microsoft with their accessories.

Both tablets weigh about a pound on their own and roughly 2 pounds with the case, stylus and AC adapter included — about half what most corporate laptops weigh in at. I found that they both hit the Goldilocks sweet spot for business travel: Not too heavy, not too underpowered, and not too expensive.

Read on to see which one came out on top in my tests.

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