Surface Go 3 vs. iPad vs. iPad Air vs. iPad mini - MrLiambi's blog


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Thursday, 23 September 2021

Surface Go 3 vs. iPad vs. iPad Air vs. iPad mini

Over the past month, both Apple and Microsoft have updated their more budget-friendly tablet lineups. 

First up was Apple, which at the company's 14th September California Streaming event, brought improvements over to the base iPad with a starting price of $329 / £319 by adding an updated A13 processor, a new ultra-wide camera, and a TrueTone display. 

To follow that announcement, Apple then revealed a long-awaited major redesign to the iPad mini lineup, bringing the iPad Air and even a bit of the iPad Pro design and power upgrades to the miniaturised tablet. 

And lastly, we have Microsoft's mildly upgraded Surface Go 3, which despite looking identical to the previous Go 2 model, includes a more powerful and efficient Intel 10th-generation CPU. 


Despite the minor upgrade, the Surface Go 3 still offers the ability to run a mostly full-fledged Windows 11 experience in an ultra-portal tablet on the go with a base price of only $399 / £369. 

Now, let's go through a full rundown of each of these product's specs, bonus features, and other tidbits of note so you can make the best decision when buying your next tablet for the road. 

Surface Go 3 vs. iPad: Display

Both the Surface Go 3 and the iPad have display sizes around 10-inches - 10.2-inches on the iPad and 10.5-inches on the Go 3 to be exact. However, the iPad features a slightly higher resolution 264 PPI Retina display, whereas the Surface Go 3 clocks in with a standard 1080P screen, bringing the device's PPI to only 220. Basically, this means text and images should look just a little bit sharper on the iPad as compared to the Surface. 

If you jump up to the slightly more premium-priced iPad Air ($549 / £579), however, you'll net yourself a larger 10.9-inch display at the same 264 PPI - which brings it just a smudge away from the super-high-end 11-inch iPad Pro ($799 / £749) in terms of display area. 

Of course, the smallest of the bunch (but not the most modestly priced option), is the iPad mini ($499 / £479), which arrives with a new 8.3-inch screen but at a resoundingly more crisp 326 PPI. 


If having the absolutely highest quality display resolution is what you're after, then you can't go wrong with the iPad mini, although note that its 8.3-inch size makes it feel closer to a giant phone rather than a standalone work tablet. And, the lack of a Smart Connector makes hooking it up to a keyboard all the more cumbersome. 

Surface Go 3 vs. iPad: Design and weight

If you're looking for the lightest, most portable tablet on the market, then we can tell you right off the bat that nothing is going to beat the iPad mini. Weighing in at only 293 grams (0.65 lbs), its 8.3-inch screen seems more similar to a sized-up iPhone 13 Pro Max rather than a shrunken-down iPad, and again, the lack of a Smart Connector contributes to that feeling too. 

The iPad mini is great for carrying around in your bag all day or even fitting it into a large pants pocket, but its inability to fit a regular-sized keyboard without resorting to an external Bluetooth one means your ability to get any sort of real work done off of it is probably a long-shot at best. 

On the Surface Go 3, however, Microsoft sells a full-sized keyboard and trackpad combo, allowing you to use the tablet like a real Windows 11 device as opposed to just a quick media consumption gizmo. 

The weight of the Surface Go 3 clocks in at a far heftier 522 grams (1.15 lbs), and that's before the addition of the optional keyboard and trackpad attachment which adds another 245 grams (0.54 lbs) of bulk, bringing the total to 767 grams (1.69 lbs). 

Throwing in the standard iPad and iPad Air into the mix, which weighs 487 grams (1.07 lbs) and 458 grams (1.0 lbs), respectively, we can see that the Surface Go 3 is the heaviest of the four. However, when we add on Apple's Magic Keyboard which weighs a whopping 601 grams (1.3 lbs), the iPad Air now weighs far more than even the combined weight of the Surface Go 3. 


If having the lightest full-sized keyboard and trackpad available to you is key, you won't find yourself doing much better than the Surface Go 3. 

Surface Go 3 vs. iPad: Specs and pricing

First, let's take a look at the base price of these devices, then check out their most expensive configuration, before we go over the price of their accompanying accessories. 

  • Surface Go 3 - 10.5-inch display, 4GB of memory, 64GB eMMC storage, dual-core Platinum Intel Pentium 6500Y CPU, $399 / £369
  • iPad - 10.2-inch display, 3GB memory, 64GB storage, six-core Apple A13 Bionic CPU, $329 / £319
  • iPad Air - 10.9-inch display, 4GB memory, 64GB storage, six-core Apple A14 Bionic CPU, $549 / £579
  • iPad mini - 8.3-inch display, 4GB memory, 64GB storage, six-core Apple A15 Bionic CPU, $499 / £479

As for their most expensive configurations, those are priced as follows, with changes highlighted in bold:

  • Surface Go 3 - 10.5-inch display, 8GB memory, 128GB SSD storage, dual-core Intel i3 CPU, $629 / £569
  • iPad - 10.2-inch display, 3GB memory, 256GB storage, six-core Apple A13 Bionic CPU, WiFi + Cellular, $609 / £579
  • iPad Air - 10.9-inch display, 4GB memory, 256GB storage, six-core Apple A14 Bionic CPU, WiFi + Cellular, $879 / £859
  • iPad mini - 8.3-inch display, 4GB memory, 256GB storage, six-core Apple A15 Bionic CPU, WiFi + Cellular, $799 / £759

Finally, let's talk about the price of their first-party accessories. 

The Surface Go 3 is offered alongside the Surface Go Type Cover and the Surface Pen, which both typically retail for around $99 / £99 each. However, Microsoft is pretty good with discounts and promotions on accessories, so you'll probably pay a bit less than that if you buy direct.

On the other hand, Apple charges an eye-watering $299 / £279 for its Magic Keyboard, which in the context of this comparison is only compatible with the iPad Air. That comes before adding on the Apple Pencil 2, which goes for an additional $129 / £119. 

Apple's latest Magic Keyboard.


If you plan on buying the standard iPad, the lack of a Smart Connector prevents you from hooking it up to the latest and greatest Magic Keyboard, leaving you limited to the trackpad-less Smart Folio keyboard case instead. That model will set you back $159 / £159. 

Surface Go 3 vs. iPad: Colours

Lastly, and probably least, are the available colours on these products. 

The Surface Go 3 doesn't come in any extraordinary colour options - only a standard silver. On the iPad, iPad Air, and iPad mini, you get a few more options to pick from. 

The standard iPad comes in either Silver or Space Grey, while the iPad Air is offered in those same two shades plus Green, Sky Blue, and Rose Gold. As per the iPad mini, you can nab one of those in either Starlight, Space Grey, Purple, or Pink. 

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