The university where I am working at is partnering with Microsoft to offer its Surface RT tablet for a dirt cheap price of RM766 for 32GB internal storage and touch keyboard. Yeap! It's that CHEAP! I remembered staring at the price list in my email while looking at my iPad which I used to check my mail. I was like "what the?!#%". Why the heck does Windows decide to do that? It isn't that bad, isn't it? With a Quad Core Tegra processor and and 10.81 inches HD Gorilla Glass 2 display, built with a sturdy magnesium unibody case, this device is a gem! That's when I decided to do thorough comparison between Surface RT and my iPad 2 (I don't have a new iPad).
Well, first, let's look at the physical appearance of both devices. Surface RT looks and feels sturdy in its magnesium body, while iPad looks elegant and premium, in its aluminum case. However, it seems that iPad's design is more prone to dents and cracks as aluminum is not quite a solid metal. Microsoft boasts about its tough Gorilla Glass screen in the spec sheet, and even do demos to prove it. This convinces a lot of Surface RT users to use it without screen protector. As for iPad, hmmm...that's the part which I hate about Apple, it's always about secrecy, nobody has any idea of what glass it's actually using. Is it the Gorilla Glass? or is it glass made by other company? No confirmed answer. So should I apply a screen protector? The guy from the Apple reseller, Machines, told me that "something is better than nothing, better put la!" Haha, there goes my cash! In terms of standing degree, Surface RT wins with a slim and convenient built in stand. But one thing I dislike about its stand is that I can't adjust the viewing degree, which iPad is more capable of, with its variety choices of covers. Regarding the display, Surface RT has a gorgeous 10.81 inches HD display (much better than iPad's 9.7 inches display) which is just nice for movie viewing and work, though it's quite bulky to bring it with me to meetings, especially when I really can't find a good third party case to protect it from drops (the fancy keyboard cover that comes with Surface doesn't really protect the device from bangs and drops).
Let's proceed with the performance and responsiveness. Surface RT delivers outstanding performance with its Windows 8 RT Operating System, making apps running smoothly. Same goes to iPad 2, although has no Quad Core processor, still performance smoothly with all the tasks we can possibly throw at it. The only thing that differentiate their rankings is Windows 8 capability to multitask, where I can view two apps side by side and also view files in folders, in desktop mode.
One aspect that makes Surface RT strong is its capability to fully support USB 2.0 and SD card, which can't be found in iPad (unless you are adventurous people like me who jailbreak iPad). As for HDMI or VGA connection, you need to get an adapter which is available for sale separately for both Surface and iPad.
In terms of maneuver and control, iPad (iOS 6) comes with a highly sensitive and responsive touch screen, with large on screen keyboard which is very easy to control. The touch sensors on the screen sense every single tap, pan and zoom effectively, making it pleasant to use. On the other hand, Surface RT (Windows 8 RT) comes with similar touch sensitivity and responsiveness, though it can be quite difficult for me to close certain apps due to its tiny buttons design, such as those on Microsoft Office apps (Power Point, Words, & Excel). I also face difficulty in turn off apps that run in the background, especially when I am using the touch screen. It is just too hard to figure out how to shut things off on Windows 8 without a mouse, unlike iOS, which requires merely a long tap on the icon to delete the running app. As for keyboard, Surface RT comes with a beautiful touch keyboard / type keyboard (depends on the price that you're willing to pay), but to be frank, the virtual touch keypad actually works better than the type keyboard cover, as it has trouble detecting the letters that I type, making it a very frustrating typing experience.
Apps wise, Surface RT offers a great deal to its users, with original Microsoft Office 2013 (Words, Power Point and Excel) included in the device for free. This is very generous, compare to iPad which offers only basic bundled apps like Facetime (video chat), iMessage (messaging), Notes (basic note taking), Photo Booth (capturing wacky photos), Camera, video (which supports only MP4 and mov. format), Calender, Reminders, and Maps (can only work with complete address). If you desire better productivity, you have to purchase apps like Pages, Keynotes, Numbers, etc. Still, with all the money spent, you can't get full compatibility with Office documents ( margin out of order most of the time, after transferring the word document back to the PC). This round, Surface RT wins!
Next, still talking about apps, iOS has its very own App Store, iTunes store, iBook Store and Newstand, which offer variety of apps, musics, movies, dramas, books and magazines beyond imagination. The amount of quality apps, the availability of good music albums and single tracks, vast collection of movies and series, books and magazines with attractive prices make iPad a competitor which is hard to beat. Well, this compare to Windows 8 RT's tiny Windows Store, which offers limited choices of apps, and the inability to install legacy software from last generation Windows, makes Surface RT look like a malnutrition child. Even Amazon's Kindle Fire HD can do better!
To sum up, I personally reckon that both devices have merits of their own, and it depends on whether you desire a combination of productivity, entertainment and creativity (iWork apps, iLife apps, iTunes Store, and App Store) or the convenience of solid productivity (Microsoft Office 2013). Though Surface RT is cheap, I will still stick to my iPad as I can design amazing artwork, posters, documents, photos, make good videos and musics and enjoy a wide variety of games. As for Words and Excel documents, I will just do it on my laptop! ;)