When comparing the Surface Pro 7, 8, or 9th gen models vs iPad Pro for drawing and digital art creation, there are a few differences to compare. The main differences between the two stem from the operating system as well as the type of device: laptop touchscreen vs tablet touchscreen.
When deciding between the Surface Pro 7, 8 or 9, vs the iPad Pro and which is best for Digital Art; it’s important to understand that each device has it’s clear pros and cons. For example, the iPad Pro is great for 2d Art, graphic design, drawing and digital paint. While the Surface Pro is best for those who need a laptop in addition to just a drawing tablet.
You’ll also want to know: How Long Does a Microsoft Surface Pro last? (the truth)
The iPad Pro and iPad Air is lighter, more portable and can run unique apps such as Procreate app, which is arguably one of the best apps for digital art. It also have a strong improvement in UI, navigation, shortcut gestures and many features when used with the Apple Pencil.
Before making a choice, see our research on: Apple Pencil 2 vs Surface Pen: Which is Better for Drawing & Note Taking?
The below comparison list will help you choose which is the better choice. Here’s the key differences between the Surface Pro models or the iPad Pro/Air:
- If you want more of a laptop feel, the surface pro wins because of the Windows OS & keyboard combo.
- You can run additional laptop based apps on the surface pro, the iPad Pro runs tablet apps only (iOS).
- If you prefer Windows operating system, go with the Surface, if you’re used to using an iPhone, the iPad is similar.
- If you need an iPad for Procreate (one of the best drawing apps), then iPad is your only option since it’s not available on surface
- As far as drawing goes, both have superb pressure sensitivity and can handle top tier level drawing and animation apps.
Below, you’ll see each of the models we tested and can recommend to Artists. We also included the latest models to help you choose between the iPad & surface Pro 9.
On the flip side, the Surface Pro has similar functionality as the iPad and is just as capable for creating top tier level artwork. It has the Surface Pen & the Surface slim Pen as stylus options vs the Apple pencil.
One thing the Surface Pro 7, 8, and 9 gen models has over the iPad Pro or Air is that it has full laptop functionality and is not just a tablet. Both devices have very similar drawing functionality and are capable of pro level art.
Since the Surface Pro 7, 8, and 9 are all Windows based, it is capable of running windows-only apps and has a broad software compatibility that is useful for those in college such as engineering or 3d Animation and Art.
In this post, I’m going to cover all aspects surrounding the pros and cons of the iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 7, 8, and 9th gen models for all types of digital art: Graphic design, animation, 2d art, drawing/sketching, digital painting, and even photography.
- Which is Better for Drawing: iPad Pro or Surface Pro for Artists?
- Surface Pro models vs iPad Pro for Drawing and Digital Art (Artists)
- Design & Features Comparison
- Precision & Stylus (Surface Pro vs iPad Pro Drawing)
- Weight & Size differences
- Compatibility: Drawing Software & Apps
- Multi-tasking: iPad Air vs Surface Pro for Professional Artists
- Why Procreate is the Best Drawing App? The iPad Advantage vs. Surface Pro
- Battery Life & Charging
- Connectivity: Surface Pro vs iPad Pro for Professional Creators
- Which is better for Animation & Graphic design: Surface Pro 7 or iPad Pro?
- Which is better for Photography: iPad Pro/Air or Surface Pro?
- What is the Best Surface Pro for Drawing?
- Is there a difference between which iPad I choose for drawing and digital art?
- Backing Up Digital Art on the Surface Pro and iPad
- Software differences between the Surface Pro and iPad
- Stylus differences
- Can you get Procreate on Surface Pro?
- Bottom Line
Which is Better for Drawing: iPad Pro or Surface Pro for Artists?
Between the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro models, the iPad Pro has the clear drawing advantage when it comes to pure sketching and drawing. This is not only because it can utilize the Procreate App, but because it’s companion device (Apple Pencil) has native ‘gestures’ and shortcuts that allow for a seamless and free flowing drawing experience.
The Surface Pro is considered one of the best iPad Alternatives for drawing (see our top list)
When it comes to 3d animation & modeling or tasks that requires more cpu-intensive software, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, 8 or 9 is ideal, but not always necessary because most who do this use a stronger laptop with a drawing tablet attached.
For advanced 3d modeling and 3d animation, you may require a complete workstation with more RAM and graphics chip; in which neither the iPad Pro or surface Pro would suffice… and an alternative such as the Macbook Pro or Asus Zephyr with a Wacom drawing tablet connected to it may work even better.
In short, if you need something more portable, lightweight, and only for graphic design/sketches, then the iPad Pro is the best choice for those who prefer Apple & iOS over Microsoft & Windows devices.
If you’re more interested in having a fully functional laptop to both draw and perform daily tasks, internet browsing, and perform non-art related work tasks (such as google sheets), then the Surface Pro 7 is without a doubt the most effective choice.
Side Note: When it comes to writing and annotating digitally, some users prefer an electronic notebook.
Surface Pro models vs iPad Pro for Drawing and Digital Art (Artists)
The overall build, design, and feel of the two devices for drawing rather than simply the tech specs listed. This is because for artists, which device you choose is largely influenced by the overall interface, design, and flow of the creation experience.
Related: Which iPad is Best for Procreate?
Here are the differences for drawing in comparison of the iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 7:
|Compatible Stylus Pen
|Apple iPad Pro & iPad Air
|Apple Pencil 2, Apple Pencil 1
|Procreate, all iPad, some windows
|Microsoft Surface Pro 7
|2-in-1 Touchscreen Laptop
|surface Pen, Surface Slim Pen
Let’s take a deeper look at the different features compared between the iPad Pro/iPad Air and the Surface Pro 7, 8 and 9.
Design & Features Comparison
Although drawing capabilities are the most crucial feature for graphic designers and artists, a tablet should also be an ultimately portable device. Likewise, Apple and Microsoft have developed their tablet flagships by combining top-tier performance and flexibility.
When it comes to design, both tablets are beautiful and have a high-quality, professional look. Nevertheless, the latest Macbook Pro has a slightly more modern design, with tiny bezels around the 12.9″ screen, and it is also slimmer than Surface Pro.
Related: Best Surface Pro Alternatives
Display & Color Accuracy
iPad Pro has a slightly brighter Retina display with a 2732×2048 resolution and a perfect (up to 100%) color gamut. Thus, although both brands included top-tier displays, Apple managed to create the best one for artists and editing software (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.).
Another significant difference between the two devices is the operating system. Microsoft has included the full Windows 10 version, meaning the Surface Pro acts as a full desktop computer.
On the other hand, the iPad Pro uses the latest, tablet-exclusive iPadOS, which acts more like a tablet. Thus, it all comes up to what you need as a designer/artist.
For example, if you need a tablet that offers a fantastic portable drawing experience, the iPad is simply the best. However, if you want a hybrid, 2-in-1 device to use as a computer, then Surface is the best way to go.
If you’re not looking to use either and want an alternative, check out the best drawing Tablet with screen built-in. These can often work well for designers who want a workflow with two screens.
- During our review, we noticed that Surface Pro heats a lot, whereas the iPad Pro doesn’t. This might be alarming, but Microsoft’s device is still known to be reliable.
Finally, we should mention that the iPad Pro requires you to buy more extras if you want to feel like drawing on paper (e.g., a matte screen protector and an adjustable stand).
Now that we have analyzed our general thoughts on design and available features, let’s dive deeper into the drawing (and editing) experience.
Precision & Stylus (Surface Pro vs iPad Pro Drawing)
Drawing with an active pen directly on the screen is one reason why those two tablets are so popular between designers, photographers, and artists. Our review might be different if we compared the first-generation Apple Pencil with the Surface Pro pen or older models of the surface pro before the 7th 8th, 9th generations.
Although the Surface Pro pen’s drawing experience is also unique, Apple Pencil 2 has all the features a creator needs, the most natural feel (and traditional pencil look), and more. This realistic feel was further improved when Apple released the iPadOS. See our full post: Apple Pencil vs Surface Pen: which is better?
Due to the new OS, the pen’s delay was reduced to 9ms, making the overall drawing experience on the iPad Pro unique.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Microsoft’s pen isn’t suitable for professional, top-tier drawing. By utilizing all the essential features an artist needs (like tilt shading), Surface Pen is a great stylus that comes in two different versions (regular and slim). Many professional creators prefer this active pen over Apple’s.
Still, when it comes to the overall drawing experience, Apple Pencil 2 is the best active stylus on the market. Even though the surface pen used to have the lead, now that Apple integrated a smaller, easier-to-control pen along with high compatibility, it is Microsoft’s time to bounce back.
Weight & Size differences
While the iPad Pro 12.9 inch is less bulky and more portable at a weight of 1.5 pounds, the iPad Pro 11 inch is lighter at 1.03 pounds. The Surface Pro on the other hand is slightly less ‘sleek’ at 1.7lbs for the 12.3 inch model.
However, while the Surface Pro is heavier… it does have the power of a full, complete laptop workstation so the differences in weight and size go a long way; especially if you also plan on using your drawing device as a workstation for emails, google docs & sheets, and work documents.
Related: Turn your iPad into a Laptop
The different dimensions of the two devices aren’t significant for those drawing or creating Art. However, I will say that the iPad Pro felt more sleek, less heavy, and more portable than the surface Pro when it was in my hands for testing
Compatibility: Drawing Software & Apps
As mentioned above, iPad Pro and Surface Pro run different Operating Systems. Likewise, we had to examine iPadOS and Windows compatibility separately. Although Windows always had better compatibility with an enormous number of apps and software, Apple has done a great job expanding its store’s creative apps.
Apart from this Apple Store expansion, the latest iPad can also seamlessly connect to Macbook. This means that if you need to access the full version of software like Adobe Illustrator, you can now do it in no time.
Moreover, Apple has developed improved tablet versions of Photoshop and Illustrator to the point where you can easily distinguish the full versions. In fact, the newest Apple creator apps can’t easily compete with standalone drawing tablets like the Wacom studio pro, which is a fully portable drawing tablet device.
Finally, the brand-new version of Procreate is simply the best drawing app on the market, and it is Apple-exclusive. To be more precise, it becomes evident that iPad Pro has everything a designer needs.
Even though it is developed as a tablet and not a computer, there are apps for any creative project, from photo editing and graphic design (Adobe Suite) to advanced drawing tasks (Procreate).
But before we analyze the main advantages of Apple’s Procreate app over software for Surface Pro, let’s look at a crucial parameter for any creator; Multi-tasking.
Multi-tasking: iPad Air vs Surface Pro for Professional Artists
Given the fact that most artists and designers use more than just one software at the same time, multitasking is crucial. Fortunately, iPad Pro and Surface Pro might be the best tablets on the market, but not the only suitable ones for drawing apps and multitasking.
To be more precise, the latest iPad Air is also very powerful and has a more affordable price tag than the Pro version. Although the Surface Pro is one of the fastest tablets for multitasking, iPad Air is also powerful enough to simultaneously handle your main drawing app and internet tabs at the same time.
Of course, the Surface Pro is a better solution if you want to open different apps while browsing and listening to music simultaneously. As with Surface Pro, you won’t face any problem while multitasking on the iPad Pro. However, this doesn’t mean the Air version isn’t sufficient for an artist.
You can even use a surface pro or iPad for graphic design, for example there are tablets that work well with apps like cricut and other design apps.
Apart from that, iPad Air is a fantastic choice for professional artists. Its 10.9″ screen is impressive, and even though it is smaller than Surface’s, it has a sufficient size for drawing or Photoshop editing.
With a slight compromise in design and screen size, iPad Air can easily cope with pretty much everything an artist asks. Thus, if you want a fast and reliable tablet for drawing or photo-editing, the latest Air is a great, more affordable alternative.
Why Procreate is the Best Drawing App? The iPad Advantage vs. Surface Pro
Most artists that draw on iPads use the Apple-exclusive app called Procreate. We believe that this software is one of the main reasons why the latest iPad Pro outshines the Surface Pro.
Although Sketchable, Microsoft’s alternative to Procreate, is excellent for drawing, too, Procreate is by far the best drawing app on the market. Both apps are perfect for quick brush customization, exporting in different formats, and drawing on many layers. However, the latest Procreate version combined with the brand-new Apple Pencil 2 offers the ultimate drawing experience. You can organize your existing projects quickly and efficiently, transform your portfolio inside the app.
If you’re torn between apps, see our post on Autodesk Sketchbook vs Procreate to determine Which is Better for Drawing
However, the feature that iPad’s Procreate is by far better than Sketchable is working in a complex drawing environment and making the process easier by applying finger gestures. Thus, although Sketchable is excellent for drawing professionally, the Procreate app is the best way to speed up your art experience.
Now that we have analyzed iPad Pro’s superiority around leading drawing apps let’s compare the two flagships’ batteries.
Battery Life & Charging
For those of you who are Apple fans, you will be happy to hear that iPad Pro wins in this category. Even though both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro have a fantastic battery life compared to other tablets, the iPad’s battery is simply better.
During our review, the iPad’s battery lasted around 10 hours of continuous browsing and 8 hours of drawing on Procreate with the 2nd gen Apple pencil. If we consider that Procreate and the use of Apple Pencil raise the consumption rate, this is an astonishing performance.
On the other hand, Surface’s battery offered 8 hours of web surfing and 6 hours of drawing on Sketchable with the Surface pen. The main reason behind the iPad’s better battery life is its less power-hungry A12Z chipset. Although Surface’s i7 CPU offers similar, top-tier performance, it is less efficient in battery consumption.
Accordingly, if battery-life is a high priority for you as an artist, and you use your tablet for drawing on-the-go, iPad Pro is the best way to go.
Connectivity: Surface Pro vs iPad Pro for Professional Creators
Connectivity used to be a high priority for designers and artists. Although the appearance of online storage platforms like Google Drive and iCloud proved to be helpful, most creators still store their art projects in external hard-drives.
Although the latest iPad Pro has a USB-C port, Wifi 5, Bluetooth 5.0, and can be seamlessly connected to other Apple devices, that’s pretty much what you get.
On the other hand, Microsoft has included all the connectivity extras a digital artist might ask for. Apart from the similar USB-C port and Bluetooth 5.0, the Surface Pro also supports the brand-new Wifi 6, a standard Surface Connect port, a MicroSD slot, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
Likewise, even though iPad Pro has the essential USB-C port for external devices, Surface Pro 7, 8th, and 9th generation models outshines it on both connectivity technology and port variety. It’s crucial to note that both are wireless… as many graphics and pen tablets are not.
Which is better for Animation & Graphic design: Surface Pro 7 or iPad Pro?
For animation, the surface pro proves to have few slight advantages because it’s more built like a full desktop computer workstation than the iPad that runs on tablet operating system (iOS).
Even though the iPad is great for pro-level digital art of most types, the Surface Pro can run very specific windows-only tools/software that animators may require depending on the style of digital art. The majority of animators and 3d animation creators that use software such as Toon Boom or Adobe illustrator in a studio prefer windows as they claim it’s what themselves and their team is used to navigating.
If you’re running 3d Art the Surface Pro is the ideal between the two, however a powerful laptop or desktop workstation with a Wacom attached to it is likely your best bet for animation scenarios.
As far as graphic design performance between the Surface Pro and the iPad Pro go, the iPad holds a similar level of functionality, performance, and has the advantage of being more portable and also being compatible with the Procreate app; which is iOS only.
Which is better for Photography: iPad Pro/Air or Surface Pro?
For Photographers, the best choice between the two may favor the Surface Pro because it doubles as a full laptop with a keyboard built in to email clients, utilize the creative cloud for photos, and perform other basic tasks.
However, the iPad air or Pro on the other hand could also have the magic keyboard attached and utilize the functionality as you would with the Surface Pro. This would be an extra cost that the Surface Pro already has built in. See our post: Best Tablets for Lightroom and Photo Editing.
As far as performance the two are functionally similar with one slight difference for photography; the iPad Pro and iPad Air uses the iOS version of lightroom and photoshop; which have been significantly improved over the previous versions on iOs. It’s still fully functional, but does not have the same exact navigation and UI as the desktop version.
If you’re performing photography and art for remote learning, then check out the best Document camera stands for iPad.
What is the Best Surface Pro for Drawing?
There’s a few different models of the Surface Pro, but which is best for drawing? The Surface Pro is the tablet of choice for drawing by many artists because of how closely it rivals other laptops. The difference is it has a touchscreen that works similar to that of an iPad, but is windows based.
Can you use a Surface Pro as a drawing tablet?
All models of the Surface Pro are good for drawing as it uses the Surface Pen or Surface Slim Pen to create Pro level Art. As far as performance the Surface Pro 7, 8, and 9 gen are extremely similar to that of the iPad Pro regarding functionality with the few app compatibility differences.
The advantage of the Surface Pro for drawing is that it’s a complete touchscreen laptop with windows operating system and not a tablet operating system like the iPad Air or Pro. It’s for this reason as well as having an intel processor with laptop-class functionality that it’s ideal for work professionals or those who need a laptop and a tablet combination.
The objective truth is that the microsoft surface Pro is great for drawing and will suit your needs. Some claim that it can be jittery or lag, but these were for the older models. Since then, the Surface Pro has evolved, especially with the introduction of their battery rechargeable Surface Slim pen, which rivals the Apple Pencil. See more on this here: Apple Pencil 2 vs Surface Pen: Which is Better for Drawing & Note Taking?
Compared to the Surface Pro, which is controversial by many for drawing, the surface Pro 7 is the best Surface Pro for drawing as it’s designed with artists and performance in mind. With an intel Core-i5 or higher and a 10.5 hour battery life, the Surface Pro laptop/tablet hybrid models allows for 4096 pressure sensitivity levels when paired with its surface pen or surface slim pen.
Related: See the Best Laptops for Sketchup if you are considering using the surface pro for apps like this.
It also has ram up to 16GB; which is very strong for a touchscreen laptop; enough to run most apps needed for 2d drawing, sketching, some animation apps as well as nearly all graphic design apps I’ve used..
Is there a difference between which iPad I choose for drawing and digital art?
Yes, the iPad Pro is the strongest and top performing iPad amongst the models. The iPad Air is more affordable and can run most of the same apps just as well as the Pro; but with less multi-tasking capability since it has slightly less RAM and less powerful processor chip than the iPad Pro. they both can use the Apple Pencil or Apple Pencil 2 depending on which model you have.
While it’s possible to use the standard iPad for drawing, the more pricey models provide more speed, ram and other crucial specs for artists. See our post: 7 Best iPad Air stylus for drawing and note taking.
Backing Up Digital Art on the Surface Pro and iPad
I’ve tested both the iPAd and Sruface, pro 7, 8, and 9 for years and not once have I ever lost all my work on either tablet.
I also have never felt frustrated from some thing like an app crashing or my drawings being deleted on either device.
Let’s compare both the surface pro models and iPad models in regards to the ability to backing up data.
- If you’re on iPad -you can back up from iCloud for backing up your art or notes.
- If you’re on Surface Pro, you can use microsfot one drive as well as several choices you have for data recovery, including dropbox.
- The iPad Pro on the other hand does not have a USB port like the Surface pro does… but you can use an adapter to connect or add a micro SD to your iPad Pro (and iPhone) via an adapter for additional storage and backup.
- The Surface Pro offers a full-sized USB port, allowing you to connect external storage devices or peripherals – iPad does not offer this and this is an advantage for the surface pro 7, 8, and 9 models.
If you’re working on something very important, Windows has optional software that will let you back up your art, notes, and more.
IPad on the other hand has a cloud storage called iCloud, which allows you to back up all of your work, including those on drawing apps, such as procreate. This means you may not need that fast micro sd card after all.
I personally have never had an issue with procreate as well… Both tablets, the surface pro an iPad Pro are very rare to actually have you lose Your data without causing physical harm to your device.
Software differences between the Surface Pro and iPad
In comparison to the Surface Pro, the iPad Pro offers different software options. The iPad is the only device that supports Procreate. iPaD runs on iOS, which is an operating system from Apple, while Surface Pro runs on a desktop operating system.
There are quite a few windows only based drawing apps, but theres also many that work on both devices – leaving you to choose your device based on whether you’d like to further invest & embed your workstation into microsoft or apple.
For example, Adobe Creative Cloud is available on both devices, but the iPad Pro offers a more intuitive user experience with Apple Pencil with Procreate.
Some drawing apps include, but are not limited to: Krita, SketchBook, Medibang paint, and toonboom.
When it comes to drawing softwares, the iPad Pro and Surface Pro offer different options. On the other hand, the Surface Pro runs on a desktop operating system and offers a variety of Windows-only drawing apps.
When it comes to digital art, drawing, and sketching, the Apple Pencil and Microsoft Surface Pen are two of the most popular tools. Both pens offer pressure sensitivity and tilt control for creating detailed artwork. However, there are some key differences between them that make them better suited for different tasks.
The Apple Pencil is specifically designed for use with the iPad Pro and offers a few unique features that make it ideal for digital art. It has pressure sensitivity that is known to compete with Wacom (over 4096 pressure levels), which allows you to create very precise lines and shades.
Additionally, it has tilt recognition so you can easily create subtle shading effects without having to adjust your grip on the pencil. The Apple Pencil also has gesture functions such as tapping the pencil to change your color palette or swap to the eraser tool.
The Microsoft Surface Pen is designed for use with Surface tablets and touchscreen laptops. It offers 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity which makes it perfect for both beginners and professionals alike.
It has tilt control and palm rejection just like the apple pencil. The only downside to both digital pens is their relatively high price compared to other alternative pens.
Also check out our post on iPad vs Drawing Tablet: Which is better for an Artist?
Can you get Procreate on Surface Pro?
There is not an official app for Procreate on the Surface Pro because Surface pro runs on windows.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use workaround methods such as launching an emulator and making it work. It’s an important warning that getting Procreate on Windows via your Surface pro is not easy or straightforward and the results are not as smooth – meaning the app does not run as easily as it does on iPad if you can manage to get it on.
The Procreate app for Windows works just like the iPad app, but it may have some small flaws since it is not natively supported on Windows or laptops in general. Also the Surface Pen is not designed to work with Procreate the way the apple pencil is.
What makes Procreate so good? It is an extremely intuitive, easy to use drawing app on iPad with some of the most complex features that allow artists the potential to create pro-level digital art and graphic design faster than most apps.
Procreate also has a small learning curve, making it great for both beginner and professional artists.
An iPad paired with the Apple Pencil 2 grants the user a very unique drawing experience that feels very natural on Procreate.
The iPad Pro vs the Surface Pro For drawing, digital art, and artists depends primarily on which type of art you are creating and what utility you expect to achieve out of using the device.
If you are strictly just drawing, sketching and want to use the Procreate app with full portability, then the Apple iPad Pro or Air is ideal. If you need a laptop as well as a drawing device, then the Surface Pro works best.
The Surface Pro is also useful over the iPad Pro or Air in the scenario that you are in school and using very niche softwares required for 3d animation, architecture, or engineering that may be available on only windows.
Also see alternatives to the iPad if you’re looking for a somewhat similar device, but not made by Apple.
Between the two you’ll need to decide whether you need a digital art tablet, or a digital art 2-in-1 touchscreen device. You’ll also need to know which operating system you prefer, which is based on your previous experience, UI/interface and the app compatibility you prefer.
For drawing, the iPad Pro or iPad Air is better in most scenarios. The Surface Pro wis just as functional and has the added benefit of having 2-in-1 touchscreen laptop functionality for artists.