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Pixel Slate vs iPad Pro vs Surface Pro 6: Premium tablets battle

Three of the priciest tablets on the market are vying for your money, which comes out on top?

If you’re looking to spend close to £1,000 on a tablet, chances are you have three models in mind. Apple, Microsoft and Google all have premium entries, but is an iPad Pro really the safe option, or are you better off with a rival?

We run through the key differences between the Microsoft Surface Pro, iPad Pro and Google Pixel Slate to find out which is worthy of your cash.

You’d expect all of these models to be safe and secure in our list of Best Buy tablets.

The benefits of premium tablets

If you want one product to rule them all, a laptop/tablet hybrid can be a great choice. They’re especially useful if you want a powerful computer that’s thin and light enough to slide into any bag and use in the compact confines of a plane or train, as well as having a good enough screen to do justice to your favourite movies and TV shows when you’re off the clock.

The Microsoft Surface Pro was the first to market back in 2012, with the iPad Pro following in 2015. Both brands have released various iterations; we’re now on the sixth Surface Pro (tested model £870) and the third generation of iPad Pros (from £769).

In late 2018, Google joined the fray with the Pixel Slate (above, £969). This device takes the same design cues as the Surface Pro and has comparable specifications, with the most noticeable difference in everyday use being its ChromeOS operating system, which looks a lot like Windows but behaves very differently. We’ve tested the mid-range model that comes with an Intel Core i5 processor.

We’ve now tested all three models in our labs and have full test results for each. Head directly to our reviews for the bottom line, or read on for key differences between the three.

Should you really spend £1,000 on a tablet?

It’s easy to understand why people balk at the pricing of professional tablets like the ones featured here. After all, you can buy a 10-inch Amazon Fire tablet for around £150, so why spend six times more on a similar product? The answer is that the internal specs of these premium machines are equivalent to some top-tier laptops, with screens that are high resolution with vibrant colours and processors that can work their way through photo and video projects. A cheaper device is really only good for consuming text and media, and not so great for creating it. Not quickly, at least.

Below we’ve compared the key specs of each model to see what you get for your money.

iOS vs Windows vs ChromeOS

Specs aside, a good portion of your buying decision will be based on software.

Chrome OS

If you’re after something that can handle general office tasks such as documents and spreadsheets, ChromeOS on the Pixel Slate can be very effective, thanks to the prevalence of web-based tools including Google Drive and Microsoft Office online, as well as the ubiquity of webmail services. The Pixel Slate also supports Android apps from the Google Play Store, so if there’s a particular app you really like on your phone, chances are you’ll be able to use it on your ChromeOS tablet.

But when you’re paying the best part of a grand (or beyond if you want accessories) and you’re expecting a top-tier video- and photo-editing experience, you might be disappointed. There are Android apps and web-based tools for conducting such tasks (including software from the likes of Adobe), but there’s a much wider variety of choices and more advanced software available on Windows and iOS devices.

Windows

Of the three systems, Windows has the widest choice and allows for the most advanced creative software, such as full-fledged  versions of Adobe Photoshop for images and Premier for video, but there are slightly more basic versions available for iOS, too. A favourite on iOS for many is LumaFusion, which is an advanced video-editing tool akin to some PC-based software packages.

iOS

And if it’s drawing software you’re after, the iPad Pro has numerous software packages that support the Apple Pencil’s advanced features, so that might swing your decision in that direction. Windows 10 devices also have a decent selection of apps that take advantage of a stylus, but nowhere near as many.

The cost of tablet accessories – keyboard and stylus

Another point worth considering is the price of accessories. Below we’ve tallied up how much it will cost you if you want to get the full tablet and laptop experience from each of these devices if you buy from the official Google, Microsoft and Apple websites at the time of writing.

The Celeron-powered Pixel Slate comes out cheapest, but its low-power processor means your device will have the performance of a laptop costing closer to £250. While you get all the benefits of the high-resolution screen, you’ll still likely be held back by its processor.

Price-wise, the middle of the road is occupied by the Surface Pro 6 and 11-inch iPad Pro, which cost around the same, but offer very different experiences when it comes to software.

Options for cheaper tablets

If you’ve decided these high-end devices are a little too pricey, there are plenty of other powerful options for less. While you might miss out on the top-end features, you’ll certainly notice the saving. Here are three models worth checking out before making that all-important decision.

Alternatively, our guide to the best cheap tablets has plenty of great-value alternatives that’ll leave you firmly in-pocket.

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