Performance: Power on all fronts
So far, so close - but how do the pair fare when it comes to power? Well, as the name suggests, Apple’s iPad Pro 9.7 is a properly powerful slice of tablet tech.
Yes, the specs might sound middling (A9X chip, 2GB RAM), but the real-world performance is astounding. The iPad Pro storms through practically every task, delivering a slick, snappy experience that you’ll probably never find the limit of.
Multi-tasking poses no problem, even if that multi-tasking means editing several 4K movies at once or mixing the day away in GarageBand. It’s speedy in a truly seamless way.
As for the Galaxy Tab S3, it carries a quad-core Snapdragon 820 CPU inside, partnered with 4GB RAM, which is more than enough to tackle any app on the Play Store.
Snappy and responsive, the Tab S3 ran both GPU-heavy games and intensive apps without a problem, whizzing through everything we threw at it.
In short, both are truly powerful - to the point of rivalling some laptops.
Keyboards and styli: Mixed clickers
Speaking of laptops, both of these pro-end tablets also promise to do double duty as both tablets and keyboard-equipped mini-PCs.
Stick the iPad Pro 9.7 to its Smart Keyboard and, while it’s smaller than full-size and it lacks a trackpad, you’ll get a lovely typing experience - albeit one that takes some adjustment. For some, the Smart Keyboard will never replace the clackiness of a traditional set of keys, particularly with the limited real estate, but for on-the-go writers it’s an excellent experience.
The Tab S3, meanwhile, gets an optional keyboard cover which does offer the audible click that many will want - but it’s also much too small for the average human. Typing for a while could well give you cramp, unless you’ve tiny hands.
As for the much vaunted stylus options, Apple’s Pencil is a perfectly weighted prodder, interacting with the Pro’s screen in a way that feels almost magic. Palm rejection tech means you’ll soon forget that you’re not doodling on paper, too.
Samsung’s Tab S3 gets the S Pen, which is more pen-like than before and sits more naturally in the hand as a result. Thanks to amazing pressure sensitivity, it’s perfect for sketching, with the rubber nib delivering a similar like-paper feel. It's bundled in the box rather than an optional add-on, too.
Each to their own, but Apple slightly creeps ahead thanks to a keyboard cover that's easier to adjust to, and better support for drawing apps on iOS vs Android.
Winner: Apple iPad Pro 9.7