As Windows phones continue to tank and the iPhone continues to soar, Microsoft is taking the battle to another playing field. How does the latest Windows tablet match up to the 3rd generation Apple iPad? Is the the Surface RT a legitimate challenger, or will it fade into obscurity like the Zune did while challenging the iPod? Let’s compare the two and see.

First, let’s compare orientation. The iPad has always been designed to be held and used in portrait, although the screen rotates. The Surface, on the other hand, is clearly designed to be held in landscape format. The surface is also a little longer and narrower because it was designed to be closer to a 16 by 9 format whereas the iPad is more of a 4 by 3 format. It manages to be stylish without completely ripping off the iPad design as so many other companies have done.

The iPad wins the battle of weight, but only by a barely noticeable .06 pounds. The Surface more than makes up for it with a .9 inch larger screen. However, the Surface is using a 1366 x 768 resolution (boo – go back to 2011!). This is where the iPad destroys its competition with a 2048 x 1536 resolution screen. There are nearly twice as many pixels per inch on the iPad display.

Processing power swings the pendulum back in favor of the Surface. A quad core 1.4 GHz processor should run all your apps and videos smoothly. The iPad has a 1 GHz dual core processor, but has quad core video processing, so it doesn’t lose quality on video. The Surface also has a 2 to 1 advantage in the RAM category for extra speed.

The Surface also ups the ante on internal memory, sporting double the iPad’s memory on the base model. Both are available with up to 64GB of internal memory, but it will cost you more on the iPad.

On paper the battery for the iPad blows the Surface battery away. Keep in mind though that it is running a much more energy consuming display. You pay for the beautiful screen with battery life. In the end, the two batteries may be comparable in charge life.

As far as options go, the Surface is wifi only while the iPad lets consumers choose 3G or LTE as options at an extra cost. With hotspots springing up everywhere, and many carrying around their own, this may not mean much to the average tablet consumer. Also, the iPad rear camera is 5MP and the front is .3. There’s no way to compare this to the Surface as of yet. All Microsoft is saying is that you can shoot 720p video with both cameras.

So what extras do you get with the Surface? The Touch cover has pressure sensitive keys built in. This along with the built-in kickstand and some standard software make this tablet geared more toward productivity. On the other hand, the iPad has a major advantage with available apps.

Microsoft is going all in with Windows 8 on the Surface. Will their gambit be enough, or will people just get a keyboard and a stand for their iPad? Can a tablet that is starting out way behind in the applications market make it? Really, it is up to you, the consumer, since you will be the one making the purchase.