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Galaxy Tab S 10.5 vs Surface Pro 3 comparison: thin and light Samsung great for media, but the Surface Pro 3 will help you get things done

We put together and compare the Surface Pro 3 and the Galaxy Tab S 10.5. The Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft is an amazing feat of engineering: part laptop, part tablet. It puts full power Windows 8 in a tiny case that will fit into the smallest bag. But the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is Samsung's latest thin-and-light, powerful Android tablet designed for media consumption and communication. 

Neither of these devices is a cheap option. But value is difficult to judge and will depend on your usage.

The Surface Pro 3 starts at £639 inc VAT, and that's for the Core i3 version with 64GB of storage and 4GB or RAM. There's a total of five different configurations available for the Surface Pro 3, with the top-of-the range model (Core i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage) costing £1,649 inc VAT.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 starts at £399, which is for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version, matching the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet and Apple iPad Air. Samsung has told us that adding 4G LTE support will add £100 to the price. So you might say that the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is the better deal, but it is a little more nuanced than that.

The Surface Pro 3 is a laptop replacement, so you could buy it instead of the Galaxy Tab S *and* a laptop. Of course, to fully replace your main PC with the Surface Pro 3 you'll probably want to get yourself one of Microsoft keyboard covers, which will add at least £100 to your Surface Pro.

Go for the Galaxy Tab S if you want a consumption device: a tablet for watching, reading, playing and listening. Surface Pro 3 is really only for those who need a powerful full-spec PC that is truly portable and fulfil the role of laptop and tablet.

They are both tablets, but the build quality and design of these devices is quite different. They are both well constructed and built to last, but their different target markets make for big disparities in size and weight.

One thing the Surface Pro does extremely well is portability, and the current generation is the thinnest Core PC ever made. Although Microsoft has increased its screen size to 12in, it's reduced the weight to 800g (from just under 1kg), and width from 10.6- to 9.1mm. The Surface Pro 3's design is squareish, and it has a metallic finish, complete with a handy built-in kickstand on the back. It's not the thinnest or the lightest tablet, but it absolutely is the thinnest and lightest, most portable full-spec PC.

It's nowhere near as thin and light as the Galaxy Tab S, though. Samsung has done a great job with this, and managed to make the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 just 6.6 mm. On the weighing scales, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is a lot lighter at 465 g.

Choosing on looks and ease of carry you would opt for the Samsung. But for practical portability we'd opt for the Surface Pro. Shall we call it a draw?

Microsoft has bumped up the Surface Pro's screen from 10.6- to 12in, giving you more space to get work done. It's a ClearType full-HD panel with a resolution of 2160x1440. That means a healthy pixel density of 216ppi. The screen is bright and lively.

Samsung's tablet impresses when it comes to display technology. The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has, as you can imagine, a 10.5in screen size. This may not be as big as is the Surface Pro 3, but the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 (WQVGA), creating a pixel density of 287ppi means that everything looks nice and crisp. Samsung's SuperAMOLED technology ensures punchy and bright colours, too, although things can get a little over the top at times. It also has an adaptive display mode which aims to adjust the display's gamma, saturation and sharpness depending on the content you're viewing.

Both the Galaxy Tab S and the Surface Pro 3 have great displays. The Surface Pro's is bigger, but we think the Galaxy Tab S has marginally the better display. 

This is where things get really interesting. Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 is a hybrid device, merging the portability and touch features of a tablet with the power and capabilities of a (powerful) laptop. It features Intel Haswell (fourth-gen) processors, either Core i3, i5 or i7, with up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB of flash storage. This makes the high-end models of the Surface Pro 3 just as powerful as any laptop on the market, and more portful than most desktop PCs.

Plus, as it runs a full version of Windows 8.1 Pro, the Surface Pro 3 will mean you can run familiar desktop applications include Adobe software and the full versions of Office.

Our colleague Agam Shah spent some time with a Surface Pro 3 with a 2.5GHx Intel Core i5-4300 processor, a 256GB SSD and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. "The tablet booted in seconds and loaded applications faster than my current laptop with an Intel Ivy Bridge processor," Shah noted.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 uses Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa-core processor, or a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 depending on where you live (Samsung says the octa-core model will arrive in the UK). There's a generous 3GB of RAM and the typical choice of 16 or 32GB internal storage. With an up-to-date chipset, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 offers excellent Android performance. You can add additional storage by way of a microSD card, too. The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 can accept a 128GB card.

Again it is a question of your needs. If you need to run full Windows software on a fast and powerful PC, the Surface Pro 3 is the tablet to choose. But for high-class Android on a top-quality consumption device, check out the Galaxy Tab S 10.5. (See also: Best Android tablets 2014: here's where we bring to you the 22 best Android tablets in the UK right now.)

Because of all that power, the Surface Pro 3 has a slightly shorter battery life than most high-end tablets, at around nine hours of web browsing. Expect to get a little more from the Galaxy Tab S.  

The Surface Pro 3 has impressive cameras on the front and back, though we wouldn't recommend using it as your camera of choice as it is both heavy and big. For Skype calls, however, the Surface Pro 3 setup is ideal. It boasts a 5MP front-facing camera and a 5MP rear-facing camera too.

The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 has an 8Mp rear facing camera with an LED flash. At the front is a 2.1Mp camera. Each will record video in up to Full HD 1080p resolution.

Microsoft's tablet has a stylus offering called the Surface Pen, which is used in conjunction with the Surface Pro 3's OneNote feature. It's rather large and clunky, though, and requires an AAAA battery.

Other features that the two tablets have in common are 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, and a USB 3.0 port. (See also: Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet comparison review.)

The Surface Pro 3 and the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 are both impressive tablets that offer stunning, big, bright and colourful displays. They're both ideal for multi-tasking – running more than one app simultaneously, side by side – but you won't be able to run powerful desktop apps like Photoshop on the Android tablet like you can on the Surface. If you're simply looking for a thin-and-light tablet with a big display, you'll probably find you're better off with the Galaxy Tab S, but for a device that could potentially replace your laptop completely, it's the mid- to high-range Surface Pro 3 models you're after.


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