Microsoft Surface vs. Apple iPad (4th gen) vs. Asus Transformer Infinity

How do the full-size flagship tablets from the three major tablet platforms compare?

No, that's not the newest iPad. It's the new iPad. You know, the older one. James Martin/CNET

Seems like there's been a new tablet released almost every other day. While I'm excited that the tablet market is showing no signs of slowing down, speaking strictly from a personal standpoint, I could use a break.

I won't be getting one, though! Starting this week, we'll see new Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets from Microsoft and its partners . Then, over the next few weeks, expect major tablet releases from Apple, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and possibly Google .

Are manufacturers flooding the market with too many options? Hey, as long as the quality remains high (and in some cases gets higher), I think we'll be fine.

With the release of the Surface, I thought it would be interesting to compare the current full-size flagship tablets running Windows, iOS, and Android.

To see my complete thoughts on the Surface RT and the Transformer Infinity, check out my full review of each. Also, our iPad (fourth generation) First Take is up and awaiting your attention. Meanwhile, let's take a look at the specs of each tablet, and I'll meet you below.

Microsoft Surface Apple iPad (fourth gen) Asus Transformer Infinity
Operating system Windows RT iOS 6 Android 4.1
Price $499 (32GB), $599 (32GB with Touch Cover), $699 (64GB with Touch Cover) Wi-Fi: $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB)
Cellular: $629 (16GB), $729 (32GB), $829 (64GB)
$499 (32GB), $599 (64GB)
Release date October 26, 2012 November 2, 2012 June 2012
Display 10.6-inch IPS, 1,366x768 pixels (148 ppi) 9.7-inch IPS, 2,048x1,536 pixels (264 ppi) 10.1-inch IPS, 1,920x1200 pixels (224 ppi)
Size 10.8 x 6.8 x 0.37 inches 9.5 x 7.3 x 0.37 inches 10.3 x 7.1 x 0.33 inches
Weight 1.5 pounds 1.44 pounds (1.46 for cellular) 1.31 pounds
Processor 1.3GHz Tegra 3 A6X 1.7GHz Tegra 3
Storage 32GB or 64GB 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB 32GB or 64GB
Camera 720p HD rear-facing, 720p HD front-facing camera 5-megapixel rear-facing, 1080p HD video; 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, 720 HD video 8-megapixel rear-facing with LED flash, 1080p HD video; 2-megapixel front-facing camera, 720 HD video
Battery "31.5-watt-hour"; 10 hours battery life (rated) "42.5-watt-hour"; 10 hours battery life (rated) "25-watt-hour"; 8.5 hours video battery life (tested)
Full USB Yes No No
Extras Built-in kickstand and Office 2013 4G LTE versions available Tegra 3 games
Other ports Micro-HDMI, microSD Lightning connector Micro-HDMI, microSD
Color Black Black, white Purple, silver

Ah, you're still here. Cool.

So which is best?
Well, I can't give a definitive verdict just yet. The fourth-generation iPad has yet to be released, so I wouldn't be able to compare them fairly anyway. My goal will simply be to give some quick pros and cons of each tablet, relative to each other. Expect a deeper dive once they're all here in my grubby mitts.

If you're looking for a tablet you can actually work on, the Surface RT should be your choice. Paired with either its Touch or, preferably, its Type Cover keyboard and with the inclusion of Office 2013, the Surface is the best productivity tablet yet. Its keyboard is much more comfortable than the Infinity's or any iPad keyboard accessory I've ever tried. The Surface also includes a full USB port that supports game controllers and flash and optical drives.

It's not a PC replacement, but the Surface comes closer than any other tablet before it to that title.

Not into work? The iPad is still the best overall entertainment tablet, and the fourth generation should continue to thrive thanks to its robust media ecosystem, fast performance, and incredible app support. The Transformer doesn't receive the same kind of app support, nor is its performance as impressive, but in terms of ecosystem, Android is beginning to nip at iOS' heels.

The Surface can't compete on the app front, and aside from movies, TV shows, and music, its media ecosystem leaves a lot to be desired. There's no real support for books or magazines (the current Windows Kindle app is slow and clunky), and very few quality games or useful utility apps are available.

To quickly sum up: If you're looking for a productivity tablet, the Surface is it. The iPad will likely remain the best entertainment tablet in the world, and for those who want a powerful Android tablet, the Transformer Infinity is still tops.

 

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