Surface RT vs iPad 4 vs Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Transformer Prime

26th Oct 2012 | 12:00

Surface RT vs iPad 4 vs Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Transformer Prime

Who wants to be the tablet king? Prices, specifications and more

Whenever a new bit of kit is released there's nothing we like more than pitting it up against its rivals - so the release of Microsoft's Surface RT gives us a great opportunity for one of our famous spec sheet smackdowns as we compare it to the Apple iPad 4, Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Asus Transformer Prime.

Which big-name tablet has the punchiest processor, the most dazzling display and the most awesome OS? Let's find out.

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: release date

Microsoft's Surface is on sale today, which is also when Apple starts accepting orders for its iPad 4. iPad deliveries start on the 2nd of November. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is already on sale, as is the Asus Transformer Prime.

Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: price

The Surface RT tablet starts at £399 for the 32GB model, or £479 if you want a black Touch Cover too. The 64GB is £559 and a Touch cover is included. If you go for the tablet-only 32GB option and decide to add a Touch or Type cover at a later date, you'll pay £99.99 or £109.99 respectively.

The iPad 4 starts at £399 for a 16GB model, rising to £559 for the 64GB; Wi-Fi + Cellular iPads start at £499, rising to £659 for the 64GB model.

The 16GB Galaxy Note 10.1 has an RRP of £399, rising to £499 for the 3G model. At the time of writing the 32GB and 64GB models aren't available from Samsung or its approved online retailers.

The Transformer Prime is officially £399 without a dock and £499 with one, but heavy discounting means you should be able to pick up a Prime with a dock for around £410. The 64GB model is a rarer beast, and it's currently going for around £550 in tablet-only form.

Tablet sweet spot

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: processor

The Surface tablet has an Nvidia T30 quad-core processor clocked at 1.4GHz, while the iPad has Apple's own A6X processor, which is a dual-core processor with quad-core graphics. Apple doesn't talk clock speeds but educated guesses say it's running at 1.5GHz. The Galaxy Note has an Exynos quad-core processor clocked at 1.4GHz, while the Transformer Prime has a quad-core Tegra 3 clocked at 1.4GHz.

Tegra 3

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: memory

The Surface RT has 2GB of on-board RAM. Once again Apple doesn't publish detailed specs, but the iPad 4 is likely to have the same 1GB of RAM as the iPad 3, aka the new iPad. Which is now an old iPad. Er... the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has 2GB of RAM, and the Transformer Prime 1GB.

S-Pen

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: operating system

The Surface RT tablet runs Windows RT, the legacy-free version of Windows 8, so you get a bundled copy of Office RT but you can't run your old Windows programs. Apple's iPad 4 is running iOS 6, the Galaxy Note has Android 4.0 and the Transformer Prime has Android 3.2, which can be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Surface runs Windows RT

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: display

The screen on the Surface is a 10.6-inch ClearType HD display running at 1366 x 768, while the the iPad 4's Retina Display is a 9.7-inch IPS panel running at 2048 x 1536. The Samsung and Asus tablets both have 10.1-inch displays running at 1280 x 800.

Apple's Retina Display

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: storage

The Surface RT tablet is available in two models: one with 32GB of storage, and one with 64GB. The iPad 4 has the familiar choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB - as does the Samsung Galaxy Note, although you can expand its storage with microSD cards. The Transformer Prime comes with 32GB or 64GB, and again that's expandable with flash media.

Galaxy Note

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: cameras and speakers

There are two cameras in the Surface, both 720p HD, and it has a pair of stereo speakers plus twin microphones for improved audio in video calls. The iPad 4 has a 720p, 1.2MP camera for video calling and a 5MP, 1080p camera for photography and video recording, but just a single speaker. The Galaxy has a 1.9MP front-facing camera and a 5-megapixel rear with LED flash, while the Asus has a 1.2MP camera on the front and an 8MP one on the back, again with LED flash; both devices have stereo speakers.

People app

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: network

There's no 3G or 4G in the Surface, but it does have 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 - as does the iPad, which is also available in a 3G/4G LTE Wi-Fi + Cellular model. The iPad also supports dual-band 802.11n, which can deliver download speeds of up to 150Mbps, as does the Galaxy Note, which adds Wi-Fi Direct support into the mix and which is also available in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G versions. There's no 3G for the Transformer Prime: it supports the same a/b/g/n Wi-Fi standards but only on the 2.4GHz band, and its Bluetooth radio is Bluetooth 2.1+EDR compared to the others' Bluetooth 4.0.

Surface Kickstand

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: battery life

Microsoft claims up to 8 hours from a single charge, with Apple promising ten on Wi-Fi or nine on the mobile data network. Samsung doesn't claim anything, saying just that the battery is a 7,000mAh Lithium Ion one, and in our labs we found that worked out as around six to seven hours of everyday use. Asus says you'll get 12 hours from the Prime, rising to 18 hours when docked.

Dock

Microsoft Surface RT vs Apple iPad 4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Asus Transformer Prime: dimensions and weight

The Surface is 274.7 x 172 x 9.3mm and weighs 676g. The iPad 4 is 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4mm and 652g (662g for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model). The Galaxy Note 10.1 is 262 x 180 x 8.9mm and 597g (600g for the 3G version), and the Transformer Prime is 263 x 180.8 x 10.4mm and 586g. That's without the dock, of course: adding that takes its widest point to 19.4mm and its weight to 1,123g.

Note 10.1

Surface Windows RT iPad Galaxy Note Microsoft Apple Samsung Asus Transformer Prime tabletsrecommended-en-gb tabletsrecommended-en-us tabletsrecommended-en-au
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