If you want the power and functionality of Apple’s top-end slate, but without the premium price or the toxic hellstew software that comes with it, you do have options.
Apple offers three different iPad lines: the iPad Mini 4, iPad 9.7, and iPad Pro (which you can get in either 12.9-inch or 10.5-inch sizes). In our review of the iPad Pro 10.5-inch model earlier this year, we said it totally replaced our MacBook. CNET called it a multitasking, file-sorting king and even named it the best tablet of 2018. As for the 12.9-inch model, it’s a dream for graphic designers, but it’s too large to be easily portable and costs as much as a laptop.
While the smaller iPad Pro starts at around $570, the larger one begins at $880. And if you get it with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, you’re looking at close to $300 more in accessories. Clearly, the iPad Pro isn’t a whim purchase, and if Apple or iOS aren’t your thing, it’s definitely off the table for you. Luckily, as we said, there are alternatives you can buy right now. We’ve also included a couple that are coming soon.
Here are your best options running Android, Chrome OS, or Windows 10. Not all of them are cheaper, but they do provide a computer-like experience in a tablet or hybrid form factor.
Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives you can buy right now
Microsoft Surface Pro 6
Microsoft offers five different Surface device lines, one of which is Surface Pro. And its latest model — the 12.3-inch Surface Pro 6 — launched Oct. 16. It still has a detachable keyboard, but now comes in a new matte black color and updated eighth-generation Intel Core CPUs.
It offers LTE and up to 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. And while it still has USB-A ports, its display is improved to 267ppi. There’s also an autofocusing 8MP camera for video-chatting and Windows Hello login. You can get the Surface Pro 6 with Microsoft’s Surface Pro Signature Type Cover ($159) and Surface Pen ($99), too. So, if you want an Apple Pencil-like experience, look no further. The Core i5 model with 128GB of RAM starts at $899.
The $999 Pixelbook is another hybrid, meaning it can be used as a laptop or a tablet. This particular form factor doesn’t have a detachable keyboard, but the sturdy hinges easily rotate, so the screen sits flat on the Pixelbook’s body. But what’s most notable about 12.3-inch Pixelbook is the top-of-the-line model is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor. That’s a high-end Kaby Lake CPU designed for fanless, super-thin laptops.
ZDNet tested the device earlier this year and was able to have 257 tabs open at once and still have memory to spare. So, who should buy this? Anyone who needs a no-holds-barred, great 2-in-1. You also get, for buying it, a terabyte of Google Cloud storage for a year. And it works with an Apple Pencil-like Pixelbook Pen ($99). However, Pixelbook has no LTE and runs Chrome OS, so it won’t have every desktop-class app you may need. But, remember, it does run Android apps.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
The iPad may be the most popular tablet, and it is great for many people, but there are some key business features missing from the iPad, including limited keyboard and no mouse support. The $650 Galaxy Tab S4 is a better option that functions much more like a computer in a lighter, portable form factor. It’s an Android tablet, with the Book Cover keyboard designed for business use. You can use it for typing, storing the S Pen, and tablet protection.
What we like most about the 10.5-inch Tab S4 is it includes LTE, Samsung DeX integration, mouse support, S Pen functionality with Air Command utilities, and a multi-window capability. You can also use the tablet as a touch pad, digitizer, or touch keyboard when connected to an external monitor. The Wi-Fi model with 64GB internal storage starts at $650.
Lenovo Yoga 920
The 13.9-inch Lenovo Yoga 920 is a top-end Windows 10 convertible. It improves on the company’s premium two-in-one ultraportable by adding active pen support and Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, and by throwing in an eighth-generation Intel Core i-series processor for better performance and a long battery life. CNET said the super-slim bezels around its display, all-metal chassis, and unique watchband 360-degree hinge make it seem like a premium laptop.
In our review, we said it’s a good convertible laptop with minor niggles, like the lack of LTE and an SD card reader, and its price. The Core i7 model with 8GB of RAM starts at $1,399.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (third-generation)
In our review of the latest generation, we said it’s designed to compete with Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro, as it brings tablet computing into the office without compromising on traditional laptop features. It should be the only laptop a mobile professional needs. The 13-inch tablet is very solid, and its durable kickstand hinge supports a wide range of angles. The keyboard is detachable, too, so you can get the full Windows 10 tablet experience.
Plus, there’s an LTE variant.
The only drawback is it isn’t cheap. The Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM starts at $1,290.
Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives that are coming soon
Samsung Galaxy Book 2
We had to include this one — even though you can’t buy it until Nov. 2. Arriving as a successor to last year’s 12-inch Galaxy Book, the $1,000 Galaxy Book 2 runs Windows 10 S and comes with 128GB storage, 4GB RAM, an 8MP rear and 5MP front camera, two USB-C ports, and a microSD slot. An S Pen and keyboard come bundled together with purchase.
It’s also one of the first devices to use the Snapdragon 850 platform, which promises Gigabit LTE connectivity and a 20-hours battery life. While not a traditional tablet, the Galaxy Book 2 can be used as one, and CNET thinks it’ll be great for those of you who want to work anywhere, anytime.
Google Pixel Slate
When CNET checked out the just-announced 12-inch Pixel Slate, it described the device as a convertible tablet-meets-Chromebook with detachable keyboard that’s basically the iPad keyboard we’ve all wanted for years: one with a touchpad, one that feels like a laptop, and one that adds front and back protection to the tablet when traveling. The Slate is clearly designed to go up against the Microsoft Surface and its workplace-meets-tablet design, but it also seems to come within striking distance of the iPad Pro, especially in terms of price.
The model with Core i5 and 16GB of RAM starts at $599 and will be available from November. It can be paired with the Pixel Slate Keyboard ($199) and Pixelbook Pen ($99). It’s honestly a perfect model for where Apple should take its iPad next. Our only problem with it is the lack of LTE and good desktop-class apps, which can make it a problematic purchase.
For more great deals on devices, gadgetry, and technology for your enterprise, business, or home office, see ZDNet’s Business Bargain Hunter blog. Affiliate disclosure: ZDNet earns commission from the products and services featured on this page.
Previous and related coverage:
The company is expected to announce new iPad models and possibly update its MacBook lineup.
Apple’s third-generation iPad Pro is likely to have important but incremental improvements over its predecessor and include technologies introduced in the iPhone X.
I’ve not owned an iPad in years, but if Apple updated the iPad Pro and added the following features, I’d be the first in line to buy a new one.
It’s hard to review the new iPad Pro without peering into the future and thinking of its true potential once iOS 11 is released.
Apple keeps insisting an iPad Pro is a computer. So could I switch to it from a MacBook Air?
Will the new iPad Pro show up at Apple’s upcoming event?
The iPad Pro 2018 models: 8 things the pros need TechRepublic
The iPad Pro is Apple’s effort to build a tablet for the enterprise, but it would be a better business tool with these features.