Apple is trying to elbow itself into the 2-in-1 PC space with the iPad Pro 12.9-inch. They have been trying to replace the PC since they released the iPad and now with the iPad Pro 12.9, they have their eyes on the hybrid PCs.
The iPad was once taunted as the PC killer, now with the iPad Pro, Apple is using the same line again. This time however, they are targeting the corporate segment. They are after business and corporate users who want a bigger tablet and be able to carry out a spot of typing or drawing among other things.
UPDATED: Apr 2023
The original iPad and subsequent generations were revolutionary and is a disrupter to the PC market, causing Microsoft to lose market share. Fast forward to today, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch is seen more like a reactive step to the successful Surface Pro 7, a slate with stylus and keyboard cover that has turned many back to Windows.
With other PC manufacturer following up with their take on the hybrid PC, we now have more options to choose from when it comes to a tablet and keyboard hybrid machine.
An iPad Pro 12.9-inch alternative would not be complete without a stylus or keyboard or at least as an option if not included. We have marked out line-up below where a stylus and/or keyboard are included or available as an optional purchases, much like the Apple Pencil and Apple Smart Keyboard.
For reference, here is what other manufacturers are up against:
iPad Pro 12.9-inch Specifications
- 12.9-inch (diagonal) Liquid Retina XDR display 2732 x 2048 resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi)
- LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
- 2D backlighting system with 2596 full-array local dimming zones
- ProMotion technology, Wide colour display P3, True Tone display, Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating, fully laminate, anti-reflective coating.
- SDR brightness 600 nits max, XDR brightness 1000 nits max (full screen), 1600 nits peak (HDR content), a million to 1 contrast ratio.
- Apple M2 chip 8-core CPU with 4 performance and 4 efficiency core SoC with
- 10-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine
- 8GB RAM memory with 128GB/256/512GB storage. 16GB RAM memory with 1TB and 2TB storage.
- 802.11ax Wi‑Fi 6E; simultaneous dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz); with 2×2 MIMO
- Bluetooth 5.3 technology, 5G (sub-6 GHz) with 4×4 MIMO, Gigabit LTE with 4×4 MIMO and LAA cellular option, USB-C port (Thunderbolt 3/USB 4)
- Main camera – Wide: 12 MP, f/1.8, 1/3″, 1.22µm, dual pixel PDAF, Ultra Wide: 10 MP, f/2.4, 11mm, TOF 3D LiDAR scanner (depth) 125-degree field of view. 2 x optical zoom out, 5x digital zoom in.
- Front TrueDepth camera: 12MP Ultra Wide 122-degree field of view, f/2.4 portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control.
- 10 hours of web on WiFi, 9 hours of web on mobile data network (WiFi + cellular model) charge via USB-C
- Four speaker audio, dual microphones for calls, video recording and audio recording
- 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4 mm (11.05 x 8.46 x 0.23 in), 682 g (Wi-Fi), 684 g (5G)
Top 5 Best iPad Pro 12.9-inch Alternatives
So here of five of the best and amazing 2-in-1 alternatives to the iPad Pro 12.9-inch and yes, Surface Pro is among them. The two main criteria to qualify for our list are that they must be able to support pro-level tasks and workflow on the system and must have at least a 12-inch to 13-inch display. Here is an overview of our very best alternatives;
- Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (13-inch)
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus (12.4-inch)
- Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ (12.3-inch)
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (12.4-inch)
- Microsoft Surface Pro X (13-inch)
UPDATE: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (13-inch)
Another year, another new tablet. The latest from Microsoft is the Surface Pro 9 uses the 12th generation Intel Core i7-1255U or Intel Core i5-1235U processors. This is available in four exciting shades; Sapphire, Forest, Platinum and Graphite. A 5G mobile version, in Platinum colour is also available but it is powered by Microsoft SQ 3 mobile platform, a Qualcomm rebadge. This is more of a Surface Pro X replacement, also on our list below. Both tablets support the optional Surface Slim Pen 2.
Weighing only 879 grams, it is a lightweight tablet. Surprisingly, both Intel and Qualcomm based Surface Pro 9 shares the same chassis and even weighs the same. Both tablets uses the same 13-inch PixelSense Flow display with 2880 x 1920 pixel resolution, 120Hz Dynamic refresh rate, 3:2 aspect ratio and covered by Gorilla Glass 5. Note that the Intel version supports Dolby Vision IQ.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the battery life. The Intel based Surface Pro 9 model pushes up to 15.5 hours of use on a full charge while the Surface Pro with 5G goes further, up to 19 hours on typical use. On top of that, the 5G model supports Automatic Framing with Windows Studio, powered by the Neural Processing Unit. It also supports effects like Eye Contact and Portrait Background Blur. Besides that, the front facing camera on both models support Windows Hello face sign-in. The rear 10MP autofocus camera supports 1080p HD and 4K video capture.
1. Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (13-inch)
The tablet has grown from 12.3-inch to 13-inch but dimension wise, not much bigger thanks to those smaller side bezels. Microsoft stuck to their guns and kept the top and chin bezels big. The former is for the web camera and sensors while the latter is magnetised to mount the detachable keyboard accessory at an angle suitable for typing. It still retains the kickstand and hence its limitation requiring a rather large flat surface to seat the tablet and keyboard. Also, with this new generation comes a new keyboard complete with space to store the optional Slim Pen stylus. The bigger 13-inch touchscreen display does make it easier to work on and the availability of Thunderbolt 4 brings this device bang up to date.
Other features that we like include the super long, up to 16 hours battery life, ultra portable 891 grams design and the ability to connect multiple external 4K monitors via the Thunderbolt 4 port. You can even push the device further with external GPU. For that pro level performance, pick the Intel Core i7 model with 16GB memory and 256GB storage. Of course, you can go crazy with 32GB/1TB model but that would cost almost double. Also, don’t forget to throw in the Surface Slim Pen 2 and Surface Pro Keyboard as a minimum. Ultimately, whichever model you pick, you will get the best of both laptop and tablet. And, given that it is powered by Windows OS, you get a productivity focused device too.
2. Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus (12.4-inch)
This new generation of Galaxy Tab S super tablet comes in three sizes. There is now a big 14.6-inch version on top of the 12.4-inch and 11-inch versions. Naturally, our choice is the 12.4-inch middle child given its closeness to the iPad Pro 12.9. The brilliant 12.4-inch Super AMOLED full display with high 120Hz refresh rate is wrapped is super narrow bezels. Underneath the display is an on-screen fingerprint scanner. And, a single 12MP ultra wide camera with auto framing capability akin to Center Stage on the iPad grace one of those bezels. Around the back you get a pair of 13MP and 6MP cameras capable of 4K Ultra HD recording.
Powered by flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 14nm chip with 8GB or 12GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB UFS storage, this is a true power house of a tablet. Battery life from the 10,090mAh high capacity block is great and it supports 45W fast charging with the right adapter. Modern connectivity like WiFi 6E comes as standard and 5G cellular option are also available. There is also a new ultra-low latency S Pen included. Unfortunately, the pen still charges by attaching to the back not the edge which require means you can’t put the tablet flat on its back.
You want to think about getting the Book Cover Keyboard accessory to turn it into a convertible 2-in-1 laptop. The cover also has a kickstand built-in and cut out to attach the S Pen magnetically. With the Book Cover Keyboard and Multi Window support makes this Pro-tablet even more versatile.
3. Surface Pro 7+ (12.3-inch)
Microsoft reintroduced the Surface Pro 7 as the Surface Pro 7+ bringing it up to date with 11th generation Intel Core I-series processors. Core i5 and Core i7 models come with Intel Iris Xe embedded graphics, one of the few integrated graphics that can go up against some or the entry level discrete GPUs. It still has the same tablet design and the iconic kickstand which also means those out of date thick bezels and smaller 12.3-inch touchscreen.
However, this proven design will continue to cater to the health, education, government and private sector allowing professionals to access apps and data in an ultra portable profile that weighs under 800g. Connectivity comes in the shape of USB-C and full size USB-A, WiFi6, Bluetooth5 and option for 4G LTE connectivity and still manages the ultra long 15 hours battery life. The thing that lets it down is the poor cameras. 5MP front facing and 8MP rear facing cameras that are only capable of Full HD 1080p video capture may be enough for video calls, but not sufficient for content creation.
4. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE (12.4-inch)
Just like Microsoft, Samsung too has reintroduced the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus as a more affordable Galaxy Tab S7 FE. It shares some of the best features from Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus above. That 12.4-inch vibrant touchscreen albeit a TFT panel, high capacity 10,090mAh battery for up to 13 hours battery life and S Pen support. The front facing camera uses a 5MP sensor while the rear, 8MP sensor. Sounds familiar? It is a similar configuration to the Surface Pro 7+ with this difference. The front camera in landscape mode supports auto framing, keeping you in the centre of the screen and together with three microphones for clearer voice. Pick the 6GB RAM + 128GB model and together with the Snapdragon 750G chipset, you have yourself a pretty powerful combination for smooth and fast gaming, multi tasking with up to three apps at the same time and graphics design.
5. Microsoft Surface Pro X (13-inch)
The Surface Pro X delivers on solid, mobile-efficient performance metrics, while still attempting to replicate the full functionality of its more complete OS version. Here is another of Microsoft’s foray into Arm based tablet. Previous attempt was with Surface RT. This time with closer collaboration with Qualcomm to produce Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2 chips, the company is taking this more seriously. It has a bigger 13-inch display compared to 12.3 on the Surface Pro 7 but footprint wise not any bigger. This is thanks to ultra slim bezels something that the Surface Pro 7 can take note and slender chassis, this has more design appeal. Sadly, its excellent stylus configuration and use are overshadowed by the fact that you need to invest in it and its keyboard separately (which, due to how good it is, is basically a necessity). And with the lack of native apps, you are limited to what is available mainly from Microsoft.
Take a look at some previous generation tablets with stylus support that might still be knocking around on the next page:
- Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (12.3-inch)
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ (WiFi and 5G) 12.4-inch
- Microsoft Surface Book 3 13 (13.5-inch)
- HP Elite x2 G4 13 2-in-1 Detachable PC
- ASUS Transformer 3 Pro 2-in-1 Detachable PC
- Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 12-inch 2-in-1 Detachable PC
- Huawei Matebook Signature Edition 2-in-1 Detachable PC
- HP Spectre X2 2-in-1 Detachable PC
- ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi 2-in-1 Detachable PC