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Shootout: Apple iPad Air vs. Microsoft Surface 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1

By Sidney Wong - 29 Jun 2014

Usage Scenarios: Battery Performance and Reading

Battery Performance

Battery life is still one of the most important factors for most consumers. There's really not much you can do with the device if it cannot last long. Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter 

The Surface 2 lasted nine hours and 10 minutes, which is 35% longer than the iPad Air, and 22% longer than the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1. The Surface 2's better battery mileage can be attributed to its slightly lower resolution display and power efficient Tegra 4 chipset. This is evident in the Power Consumption chart where both the iPad Air and Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 registered higher power consumption figures than the Surface 2.


Type of Charging Port

The iPad Air uses Apple's proprietary Lightning port, which was first introduced with the iPhone 5 two years ago. If you have friends or colleagues who are using recent Apple's devices, chances are you can depend on them to lend a Lightning cable if you ever forget to bring one.

Like the iPad Air, the Surface 2 also uses a proprietary magnetic charging port. The magnetic charging connector now fits more securely and is less prone to being knocked out. The strip of light around the connector is also more obvious than the lighted dot on top of the old connector, making it easier to know that the connector is plugged in and charging correctly.

The Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 relies on a micro-USB 2.0 port for charging purposes. You can basically use any micro-USB cable to charge the Samsung slate although various factors such as quality of the cable, the type of USB port (of a PC or laptop) and the negotiated current flow affects how fast the device is charged. We've done an article on USB Charging for Mobile Devices, so do head over there for more information. However, the main point is that using a standard USB cable means that the Samsung tablet has no shortage of options for charging the device as the connectivity standard is omnipresent.


Reading on your Tablet

Besides productivity tasks and movies, many would undoubtedly use their tablets for reading at length and this means not having to purchase a dedicated e-reader device. In this section, we will look at the readability and availability of reading content on the three tablets.

Left to right: iPad Air, Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 and Surface 2. <br> Click for an enlarged version.

The iPad Air displays less content compared to the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 and Surface 2, but its details are larger and easier to read. The Surface 2 shows the most content of the compared devices, but its 16:9 display aspect ratio ratio feels awkward to use in portrait mode. It is also not recommended to hold the Surface 2 in portrait mode as the heft of the device will weigh your hand down after a few minutes. This is however, not an issue for the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 as it is the thinnest and lightest among the three tablets. Despite Samsung's leading physical dimensions and weight, the iPad Air can almost match those aspects and offer a more comfortable reading experience - both in terms of device weight distribution and handling, as well as the 4:3 screen aspect ratio that offers you more details without having to pinch zoom.


Reading Content

The availability of reading content determines whether a tablet can truly replace dedicated e-book readers. Let's see what each platform has to offer:

Apple iPad Air

According to Apple, there are over 2 million books available on the iBooks Store. Due to its integration with iCloud, purchased/downloaded books will be synced across your iOS/Mac devices. Bookmarks, highlights, notes and the page where you last left off will be kept up to date on all your devices.

The storage capacity of iBooks seems to be limited to the available storage space on the Air. However, iCloud integration means that you can only sync up to 5GB of reading content. iBooks Store is currently available in 51 countries. In the context of Singapore, only free books are available for download. The App Store has a huge range of compelling third party apps such as Magzter and Zinio for downloading books and magazines.


Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1

Samsung doesn't have its own ecosystem, but relies on Google just like all other Android tablets. Google claims that its Books Store has over 4 million books and is available in over 40 countries. As the Books app is synced to the Google account, the library of books will be the same across all your Android and iOS devices. Up to 1,000 files can be stored in your Google account and each file cannot exceed 100MB in size.


Microsoft Surface 2

There is no official book store (at least in the context of Singapore) for Windows 8.1 RT on the Surface 2; you have to download third party apps if you want books or comics. There are quite a number of such apps in the Windows Store although popular ones like Zinio are missing.


Winner for Battery Performance: Microsoft Surface 2

Winner for Reading Performance: Apple iPad Air