Tablet buyers guide: Surface vs Android vs Apple iPad

Everything you should consider before buying your next tablet



Credit: Microsoft/Apple

Where early tablets were largely considered to be primarily intended for content consumption, modern devices are much more capable. There are more and more users for whom a tablet could conceivably replace their laptop or desktop and become the primary computer in their life.

Update - The Surface Pro 7 and Surface Laptop 3 are currently discounted by 15% as part of this year's Australian end of financial year sales. Click here for more details.

In 2019, not everyone can get away with using a tablet instead of a laptop - but some people can. If that’s you, here are some things to consider:

Screen Size

Depending on what you want to use your device for, screen size is definitely something you’ll want to consider before buying your next tablet. 

If you want to prioritize the portability of your new tablet, it might be worth looking at something smaller in size. For example, around 8-inches. Alternatively, if you’re looking to do more multitasking, a larger sized tablet like the 12-inch iPad Pro or Surface Book 2 might be the best way to go.

iPad sizes: 7.9-inches, 10.2-inches, 10.5-inches, 11-inches, 12.9-inches

Surface sizes: 10-inches, 12.3-inches, 13-inches, 

Samsung Galaxy Tab sizes: 8.1-inch, 10-inch, 10.5-inches


Another thing you’ll want to look at when choosing your next tablet is the ecosystem of accessories involved and whether or not you’re willing to pay extra for them. 

samsung-galaxy-tab-a-8.0-100792667-orig.jpgCredit: Samsung

The Apple Pencil might make for add-on to the experience of an iPad but it also adds an extra $145 onto the price-tag. In contrast, the S-Pen that comes with Samsung’s Tab S6 is free. Don’t forget to calculate the cost of these accessories - as well as things like wireless keyboards or display-out docks - when it comes to calculating which tablet is going to offer your the most value.

Storage Limits

As with buying a smartphone, storage size is one of the more important considerations when it comes to buying your next tablet. 

If you’re planning to put your tablet at the center of your content consumption experience, you have to make sure that the tablet you buy has an appropriate amount of storage space for your must-have apps plus any media content you plan to consume on it. 

Credit: Microsoft

More specifically, it’s also going to be worth assessing whether you want or need a tablet that allows you to break free of your device’s storage limits via a MicroSD slot. If you do, Apple’s iPad range is going to be out of the question. 

Regardless and even in a time where cloud and streaming based services become more and more dominant, storage size remains an important consideration.

iPad storage: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

Surface storage: 64GB (Surface Go only), 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB

Samsung Galaxy Tab storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 

App Support

Credit: Apple

If you’re keen to get the most out of your tablet, poor app support is one of the harder hurdles to overcome. At the end of the day, the absolute limits of what you can and can’t do with a tablet are as much set by the software as they are the hardware involved. 

Some software is only available on certain platforms. If you need an app that’s exclusive to iOS or Windows, you’re going to want a tablet that runs on that operating system. What’s more, just because a certain app is on the platform you need it to be on doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to offer feature parity with other versions of itself.

There are no shortcuts here. Do your research. 

Cellular Connectivity

If you’re planning to get the most out of the mobility that tablets offer, you’re going to want to make sure you consider getting a tablet with cellular connectivity. 

Making use of that connectivity does come with a cost to battery life but it can also allow for a compelling experience that blends together the on-the-go capabilities of a smartphone with the more advanced applications and workhorse grunt found in a laptop or tablet. 

The iPhone is important, but it’s not the only reason why Apple would want to buy Intel’s smartphone modem chip businessCredit: Daniel Masaoka
The iPhone is important, but it’s not the only reason why Apple would want to buy Intel’s smartphone modem chip business

A fun wrinkle to this can be found in the fact that select cellular-enabled tablets have support for phone calls and features like call forwarding. If you’re planning on using your tablet for work, this can allow you to create some distance between business and non-business hours.

iPad Pro vs Samsung Tab S6 vs Surface Pro 7

Reasons to buy an iPad Pro?

2019-7th-generation-ipad-100810862-orig.jpgCredit: Apple
  • You can get your work done using iPad apps (or via a web browser)

  • You want a tablet that integrates well with an iPhone

  • You want to watch Apple TV+ content and other Apple services

  • You can live without a headphone jack 

  • You don’t need expandable storage

  • You want a tablet with the best processor 

Reasons to buy a Samsung Tab S6?

galaxy-tab-s6-keyboard-100806876-orig.jpgCredit: Samsung
  • You can get your work done using Android apps (or via a web browser)

  • You want to save money 

  • You want to take phone calls or call forward using your tablet

  • You don’t want to spend extra on a stylus

  • You want a tablet that’s integrated with Google Assistant

  • You want expandable storage

Reasons to buy a Surface Pro 7?

From a design standpoint, the Surface Pro line-up has remained relatively staticCredit: Adam Patrick Murray / IDG
From a design standpoint, the Surface Pro line-up has remained relatively static
  • You can get your work done using Windows apps or (via a web browser)

  • You want a tablet with a built-in kickstand

  • You want a tablet with real ports on it

  • You want a tablet that’s not too different from a laptop

  • You want to be able to customise the specs of your tablet

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Tags tabletsmicrosoft surfaceGalaxy Tab SiPad ProSamsung Galaxy Tab S6

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Fergus Halliday
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