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    Digital OB/GYN: I know I need a tablet, but which one?


    To simplify my analysis, I focus here on the higher-tier, entry-level devices from Apple and Microsoft: the newly released iPad Pro and the newly released Surface Pro 4, respectively.

    The iPad Pro, like its predecessors, utilizes Apple’s iOS operating system, but now features a big, bold, and truly beautiful 12.9-in screen, quad speakers, and an optional (proprietary) pencil and keyboard. The Surface Pro 4, like its predecessors, utilizes Microsoft’s Windows operating system but the resolution of the 12.3-in screen is improved, the quality (and volume) of the built-in speakers is boosted, the included pen has been beefed up, and it has an optional keyboard.

    Build and design

    The iPad Pro’s slightly larger screen means that it is taller and wider. Because it lacks the connectivity ports of the Surface Pro 4, it is also thinner and lighter. When carrying the 2 devices (without the optional keyboard screen covers), I thought that the iPad Pro (with an aluminum case) felt larger and more solid than the Surface Pro 4 (with a magnesium case), which felt smaller but denser (since it weighs slightly more). Below are the specific dimensions of the devices:

    iPad Pro: 12.0 x 8.7 x 0.3 in (306 mm x 221 mm x 7 mm) and 1.6 lb (713 g)

    Surface Pro 4: 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 in (292 mm x 201 mm x 8 mm) and 1.7 lb (783 g)

    Of note, when the Apple Smart Keyboard is added to the iPad Pro, the weight goes up to 2.3 lb, and when the Microsoft Type Cover is added to the Surface Pro 4, it weighs 2.4 lb.


    While many of us appreciate small devices that are easy to carry, large-screen devices are easier to use because they are easier to see! Both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 have large bright screens and the iPad Pro’s is physically larger. However, the Surface’s has more pixels per inch than the iPad’s (267 dpi vs 264 dpi) and is measurably brighter than the iPad Pro (382 nits vs 372 nits). To the untrained eye in the sub-par lighting of America’s hospitals and clinics, it is nearly impossible to differentiate between these two. In fact, I found that both of them provided images/video that “popped” off the screen and that were both bright and enjoyable to watch for a prolonged period of time (Netflix works great on both devices).

    Both screens can handle “split screens” while still providing rich viewing. The only caveat was that the iPad Pro cannot show 2 screens of the same application (ie, spreadsheets in Excel, documents in Word, etc.), while Windows allows for splitting the screen in any way that the user desires. I wish I could take advantage of the iPad Pro’s canvas with whatever content I desired, but maybe that will be an update in future versions of iOS.

    Buttons, security and stuff

    Both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 have integrated biometric security. The iPad Pro has a blazing-fast fingerprint scanner integrated into its Home button and the Surface Pro 4 capitalizes on its forward-facing built-in camera to recognize the face of the authorized user. Given that security and authentication are of paramount importance in healthcare, it is great to see that both devices take security seriously. For Surface Pro 4 users who are fingerprint authentication junkies (or who run applications that require fingerprint authentication), there is an optional Microsoft Type Cover that has an integrated fingerprint reader next to the trackpad.

    With respect to ports, like the other members of the Apple iPhone/iPad family of devices, the iPad Pro only has the proprietary Lightning port that can be used to connect to external flash drives, card readers, or displays. The Surface Pro 4, like earlier models, not only has a standard USB 3.0 Type-A port, but it also has a microSD memory card slot, which can accommodate up to 200 GB of additional storage (quite handy when migrating from device to device or swapping photos).

    For healthcare, Microsoft is the clear winner with its ports, because USB drives and devices are ubiquitous and allow for significant expansion of memory and features (ie, simply plugging in a Nuance PowerMic for Dragon Dictation or PowerScribe 360).


    Brian A. Levine, MD, MS, FACOG
    Dr. Levine is Practice Director at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, New York, New York.


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