Microsoft redefined the 2-in-1 with its Surface Pro, a machine that through four generations has achieved the perfect balance between power and portability.
Samsung then one-upped Microsoft in key areas with the Galaxy TabPro S. It’s a thinner 2-in-1 with a superior display technology and longer battery life. We called it “the premium Windows 10 device for travelers.”
Comparing apples to apples, the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S and least expensive Microsoft Surface Pro 4 both cost $899. Both sport a sixth-generation Intel Core m3 processor, have 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The Surface Pro 4 ships with a Surface Pen, while the Galaxy TabPro S ships with a keyboard folio.
Which 2-in-1 is the best?
Build & Design
We’ve praised every Surface Pro as having the best hardware on the market, and called the Surface Pro 4 a “remarkably well-built machine.” The kickstand is arguably the best design innovation in the last five years, and the magnesium build holds up extremely well from the rigors of daily use. The Pro 4 gets bonus points for finally including a magnetic strip along the left landscape edge to hold the Surface Pen.
The Galaxy TabPro S is .08 inches thinner than the Pro 4, and weighs .16 pounds less, comparing tablet to tablet without the keyboards. It’s also well-built and solid, with a high-quality plastic back panel and magnesium alloy ring. It’s a plain tablet, with no kickstand or place for its optional TabPro Pen. It ships with a leather-like magnetic keyboard folio that folds out at two stops, functioning as both a smart cover and kickstand.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has the best hardware and design on the market. Its extra fractions of an inch and pound are small prices to pay for the utility of the kickstand alone. The TabPro S is no slouch either, and it can’t be beat in terms of portability. But it takes second place compared against the best.
The Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3-inch LED display with a 2736 x 1824 resolution, which results in a 3:2 aspect ratio and 267 pixels per inch. Microsoft brands it a “PixelSense” display, and it resists glare well, accurately displays colors, and is one of the best on the market.
The Galaxy TabPro S has a 12-inch Super AMOLED display with 2166 x 1440 resolution, which results in a 3:2 aspect ratio and 217 pixels per inch. It’s very bright, with deep blacks and vibrant colors. We’ve long heralded AMOLED as the superior display tech for smartphones and smaller tablets, and now we know it looks great on larger tablets too.
In the Surface Pro 4 review, we stated that AMOLED “would just be too much on a device this size” because of its saturated colors. We’d like to amend that to state, “would just be too much on a device this size for some users.” Digital artists and others that rely on accurate color representation will probably prefer the Surface Pro 4’s more balanced appearance.
Just about everyone else will love the TabPro S display. Yes, it’s smaller and less pixel dense, but it’s bright enough to light up a room and its contrast is superb. Compared the Pro 4 and TabPro S side by side and the TabPro S display simply looks more appealing.
Ports & Inputs
The Surface Pro 4 has a full-sized USB 3.0 input, Mini DisplayPort, microSD card reader, headset jack, bottom connector for the Surface Type Cover, and a magnetic and proprietary charging input.
The Galaxy TabPro S has a USB Type-C input for both data and charging, bottom connector for the keyboard, and a headphone jack.
It’s well past time for USB Type-C to become the standard for device expansion. It’s fast, powerful, and reversible. So we give Samsung some credit for its future-proof choice. But during the transition to the new USB, the old USB retains its utility. Combine that with a microSD card slot, dedicating charging input, and Mini DisplayPort, and the Surface Pro 4 wins this round handily.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S comes in one configuration:
- Intel Core m3, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD
There are rumblings of a 256GB unit, and a 4G option, but those are not readily available to US consumers as of this writing.
Microsoft sells the Surface Pro 4 comes in the following configurations:
- Intel Core m3, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD
- Intel Core i5, 4GB of RAM 128GB SSD
- Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM 256GB SSD
- Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM 512GB SSD
- Intel Core i5, 16GB of RAM 256GB SSD
- Intel Core i5, 16GB of RAM 512GB SSD
- Intel Core i7, 8GB of RAM 256GB SSD
- Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM 256GB SSD
- Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM 512GB SSD
- Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM 1TB SSD
Each step up adds $100 to $500 to the cost, with the next step up from the base Surface Pro 4 costing $999.
Obviously the more expensive and more powerful Pro 4s will perform better than the Galaxy TabPro S, particularly when stressed. Generally speaking, the jump from a lower-end Core processor (Core m or Core i3) to Core i5 produces the most salient performance boost.
You won’t notice the difference when comparing the Core m3 Surface Pro 4 and Galaxy TabPro S side by side. As we stated in the TabPro S review, both are “fluid, swift, and stable in day-to-day use.” Going further, we claimed:
We were able to run Chrome, maxing out at about a dozen tabs, Slack, the Windows 10 email client, and Office programs without issues. Going beyond that reveals the Core m limitations. The Galaxy TabPro S is capable of handling demanding photo and video editing programs, but not smoothly. And any AAA games released in the last few years will be unplayable, mainly because the TabPro S has integrated Intel HD Graphics 515. The TabPro S will run older titles like Portal just fine, but even a title like 2012’s Hitman: Absolution will run at a janky framerate.
This applies to the Pro 4 as well. And that’s backed up by the benchmark comparisons. The Pro 4 slightly outperformed the TabPro S on most benchmarks, while the TabPro S edged out the Surface Pro 4 on the storage performance test.
PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark 11 is a benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
wPrime processor comparisons (lower scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskmark storage drive performance test:
Both the Core m3-powered Surface Pro 4 and Galaxy TabPro S perform about the same. It’s a tie.
The Surface Pro 4 has a 5087mAh battery, and claims it offers “up to 9 hours of video playback.” We complained that it performed worse in testing than the Surface Pro 3.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a large 5200mAh battery, and we praised the tablet for its longevity.
The Galaxy TabPro S blows the Surface Pro 4 away. Streaming Netflix over Wi-Fi on Chrome with the display brightness maxed out, the TabPro S lasted 2 hours and 16 minutes more than the Surface Pro 4.
Number of minutes that devices stream Netflix over Wi-Fi in Chrome with display brightness set to maximum before battery drains completely. (higher number means better performance):
It’s likely the AMOLED display plays a role here, as it does not require a backlight and consumes less juice. As a bonus, the TabPro S has a quick-charge feature, and can go from dead to 33% charge in about 30 minutes.
The Surface Pro 4 ships with Windows 10 Pro, while the Galaxy TabPro S ships with Windows 10 Home, but is available with Windows 10 Pro through business sales channels. The TabPro S features Samsung Flow, which pairs the TabPro S with newer Samsung Galaxy smartphones (S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Note5, S7, and S7 edge) for biometric security and alerts as of this writing, as well as a few other presentation and screen-sharing programs.
Most can’t tell the differences between Windows 10 Home and Pro, as the variances mostly have to do with security and device management – the kind of things IT departments care about but to which most users are oblivious. And Samsung Flow has potential, but it’s limited to Samsung Galaxy smartphones.
It’s a wash. Don’t let software sway your decision unless IT is making it for you.
In the Box
In addition to a charger, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ships with a Surface Pen, which we love. The N-trig stick is comfortable to hold and use for long stretches, and its buttons serve multiple purposes, quick launching various apps and Cortana.
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S ships with a quick charger and a keyboard folio. The folio looks very professional and snaps securely into place with magnets. It doesn’t provide much in terms of drop protection, but it serves double duty as a two-stop kickstand and smart cover, waking a sleeping TabPro S when opened.
It also has a keyboard, which leaves a bit to be desired. We complained about its shallow key travel (less than 1mm) and lack of backlighting. It can also be cramped toward the edges. Typing on it for long stretches proves uncomfortable.
An uncomfortable keyboard is better than no keyboard, or a high-quality active stylus. A keyboard makes the Galaxy TabPro S a complete 2-in-1 out of the box, and the folio provides a little peace of mind in terms of protection. At the very least, it keeps that excellent display covered and secure from scratches.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S vs Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Which is best, the Core m Surface Pro 4 or the Galaxy TabPro S?
The better question: Which is best for you?
If you’re looking for a daily driver – a primary computing device to make the occasional trip to work and back, or take on vacation – go with the Surface Pro 4. Its port selection makes it easy to expand on the cheap. You can snag a USB hub with Ethernet port for $15, and then plug in any old USB mouse, keyboard, or game controller, in addition to fast wired internet. A mini-DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter costs as little as $10 – no need for an expensive wireless external monitor or complex Miracast solution. Similar USB Type-C adapters are much more expensive at the time of this writing.
If $900 is a hard limit and that’s all you’re going to spend (and not a penny more) then go with the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S. It’s a complete 2-in-1 out of the box thanks to its bundled keyboard.
If you’re a road warrior looking for a primary PC for business trips, the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S also gets the edge. Its slimmer build doesn’t make enough of a difference to sway this decision, but its bright display and outstanding battery life make it more travel friendly than the Surface Pro 4.
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is a premium Windows 10 two-in-one. Compared against the competition from Microsoft and others, its compromises make it better suited as a mobile or travel device.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
While other tablets and notebooks offer more value, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is still worth its premium price as a better version of 2014’s best Windows device