iPad vs. Surface for notetaking?

I'd like the group's advice on choosing 2nd hand tablet for note-taking, and get your advice choosing between an iPad and Surface. My wife is preparing for exams, and taking notes on LOTS of thick books.

  • ipad Pencil has low battery life. 2 hours of use between charge is not sufficient for this use
  • recharging Pencil 1 on ipad requires plugging the tip into the tablet, which seems like a design flaw, with a broken-pencil disaster in the making
  • Apple always makes the best hardware, which lasts the longest
  • Too many flavors and choices of Surface out there in order to make a clear comparison. There's the Go, Pro, Surface 3,4.... I'm lost, especially since this is just for note-taking
  • battery life on ipads seems better
  • for side-loading docs and files or using a mouse, seems Surface is better because of the ports

What else can you guys advise?

Comments (13)

Most Helpful
Whatever1984, what's your opinion? Comment below:

One thing to remember is that every surface released in the last few years is a full-fledged windows laptop.  You can plug in a full-sized keyboard and run mid-sized excel spreadsheets almost as well as your laptop.  The iPad is a tablet that's....starting to get there... as a laptop.  The surface is a tablet form-factor laptop that's working on becoming a better tablet.  Because of this, I think that the primary decider should be which is more important: laptop or tablet.

I will comment that a big part of it is if she's primarily marking up PDFs with the pen, or typing in a word doc.  I've never used the apple pencil or surface pen, but anecdotally I've heard that the apple pencil was noticeably better than the surface pens before the current gen in the Pro 8.

Regarding flavors, I'd say that they're about equal.  On the Surface side of things you just need to know that there are two relevant models: The Surface PRO and the Surface GO.  Anything else isn't a tablet or is too old to be worth discussing.  The number is the generation.  Newer means better technology, but also higher price, similar to how you can buy old iPads/iPhones for cheap.

The Pro is the bigger one.  it used to be 12" with chunkier bezels that were great for tablet use, but they recently expanded the screen to 13" with the -8 and shrunk the bezels to basically keep the same footprint. (great for laptop use, kinda a mixed bag for tablet use)  This is an ultra-portable laptop.  You can spec it all the way up into a $2000+ productivity machine with a 4 core/8 thread i7 that can crank to 4.8gHz, 32gb of RAM and a 1TB SSD.  The top spec is competitive with my work laptop where I'll regularly be running BBG, M*, FactSet, Multiple Excel &PPT instances, Teams and a corporate security suite across three 1080p+ monitors.  The Go is more of a 'netbook' designed to actually work. It's got a 10" screen in a smaller footprint (but chunky bezels) but can actually be spec'd decently with higher end models.  With it go for 128gb of storage minimum (not for the space but there's a massive speed difference) 8gb of RAM, and the fastest processor you can afford.  Typing is a bit cramped on the cover, just because of size, but fine, and all of the surfaces (and most iPads) take well to 3rd party keyboards.  A nice feature of all generations of Surface Go, and all -Pros before the 8 is the microSD slot.  Don't pay extra for a storage upgrade.  You can drop up to a 1TB card in there and store all your media on it.

As always, with both the keyboard and pen are extra.  I generally hate digital pens, so I lean towards a Surface Go, or older Pro.  One note is that the older ones solely charge via the proprietary 'magsafe-like' connector, which is a more obscure equivalent to the apple connector.  Pro7s and above and most Gos can also charge via their USB-C ports (6 and below only have USB-A)

Disclaimer:  I have a base Surface Pro 6 (i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD) with a 1TB SD card in it as my personal laptop along with the personal desktop that's plugged into my WFH workstation with toggles to switch between it and my work laptop.

The only difference between Asset Management and Investment Research is assets. I generally see somebody I know on TV on Bloomberg/CNBC etc. once or twice a week. This sounds cool, until I remind myself that I see somebody I know on ESPN five days a week.
  • 7
Isaiah_53_5 💎🙌💎🙌💎, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Wow bro you know a lot about this stuff.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 1
Whatever1984, what's your opinion? Comment below:
Isaiah_53_5 💎🙌💎🙌💎

Wow bro you know a lot about this stuff.

Yeah, I kinda need to know a decent bit about it for work.  I support a lot of funds, but the big one is VERY tech-heavy.  It owns about 1% each of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel and AMD.  I don't have the power to change the holdings, so I need to know a lot about them and be able to talk intelligently regardless of my personal opinions. (I'm a Windows/Android person personally) 

OP: I have never used a pen on either.  The Surface pros normally have pretty good battery life, and the iPad? Well, it's apple.  I'd say any surface pro newer than say a 4 or so should be fine for your use-case.   Stay away from the old 'non-pro' surfaces, as they run an ARM processor and will give you compatibility headaches.  I don't know enough about iPads to tell you how old you can go, but to be honest, as much as it pains me to say it, an iPad seems appropriate for your use-case.

The only difference between Asset Management and Investment Research is assets. I generally see somebody I know on TV on Bloomberg/CNBC etc. once or twice a week. This sounds cool, until I remind myself that I see somebody I know on ESPN five days a week.
  • 4
earthwalker7, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Question - in this case we are *not* looking for a laptop replacement, just a tablet for note taking. So what matters most is pen capability, charging, and the note taking experience - such as ability to write small and have thin writing/ink. Given this, what would you recommend?  Given that there is no need for full laptop experience, could one of the older models still work?
I've also considered the Remarkable tablet.

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fatergo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Check out a tablet that's supposed to simulate a handwritten writing experience called 'remarkable'. Have not used it myself, and it's a bit pricey for essentially digital notes without any additional functionality, but it looks slick.

cafebgm, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Gonna go in the opposite direction and recommend the iPad Pro for exams/note-taking. Surface is great as a second workstation, but if your wife is solely looking to take notes and replace paperback books with something electronic, I'd highly recommend an iPad. There are way more note-taking apps on the Apple ecosystem and these apps are far more optimized for highlighting/writing/reading than what's available on the Surface.

earthwalker7, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just got done testing the Surface, Samsung Tab and IPad side by side. I had gone in thinking I would like the Surface best but it's pen writing experience is terrible. The iPad and Samsung were far superior writing experiences. The Samsung S-pen doesn't need recharging which is a plus. But the iPad ecosystem is much more comprehensive than the Android ecosystem and I tend to like Apple hardware best. So leaning towards iPad over Samsung but both were excellent. Disappointed in surface

Pizzaman Sachs, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Can't really comment on note-taking, but I had the original Apple Pencil & iPad Pro when they first came out, and the Pencil lasted far longer than 2 hours, I could use it for 4 hrs without needing a charge (never used it longer than that) 

A full charge would take around 10-20 minutes and plugging it in for 30 seconds gave me another half hour or so when it was empty.

As for the charging method of the pencils, the new apple pencil charges magnetically on the side of the iPad so no worries about that breaking.

It sounds like your wife is still in school, if so apple gives educational discounts on the iPads (only $50 off but still). Right now they have an offer to get a $100 gift card if you buy it under the educational discount. If it really is only for note taking, I'd get the new iPad Air 64GB ($550 after discount) and buy the new Pencil with the gift card, which leaves the pencil at $20.

paulsmile, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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