iPad vs Surface 3

There is no one locale to ask about both of these.
Does anyone have experience of using Surface 3 as a controller versus the iPad?
If I stay with Roon I would need a wireless controller and my old iPads will not cut it. I am curious to see if the Surface makes for a better controller than the iPad - benefit of the full application and full OS versus the potential for more glitches due to the same.

You know questions like this almost always start an ideological level debate. But, I’ll answer owning neither of the above, as I prefer my tablets to be Android.

I would go with the Surface 3. Roon is built on .NET so Windows has an edge.

But, as always, get some hands on reviews for it. Not sure you will get that with the post tucked in the iPad section. Maybe another post under Audio Hardware or Roon Software sections might get you some feedback from Surface owners.

1 Like

I asked the same question posted on two other fora: Ps Audio (I also have a DSD DAC) and Computer Audiophile. My situation is a little bit more complicated since I also have a Mac Mini which will work as the Roon Server. It looks that you can control the macmini from the Windows device without problems, the latter being the controller. My only problem is that I still need to wait for the total compatibility between Roon and the DAC, because I want to use its Ethernet connection, not the USB one.

Do you have the Perfect Wave DAC? If so, how is it?

I Have the Direct Stream DAC, with Bridge II. And it’s really good. One of its strongest points is its upgradeable software/firmware.

I’ve got both: iPad mini 2 and and a Surface Pro 3. I’ve been using the iPad for Roon since the Surface is totally committed as a business device. As such, I’d never install Roon on the Surface unless the Roon was merely a remote for another Roon - or RoonServer - that was doing the heavy lifting.

That said, the OP asked about the differences in the two platforms as “controllers”. Sounds like a query about the value of the two platforms as remotes to me. So unless I’m misunderstanding the OP, I’ll load Roon up on my Surface and report back soon. :wink:

1 Like

iPad Mini 2 vs Surface Pro 3

I’ve got both these devices, so I thought I’d help out by sharing my observations about using each as a Roon remote. I’m not going to even try to compare the devices value/merit for other purposes. That’s beyond the scope of my observations here.

Folks - this is a long post, so if you don’t want to hear the details, please scroll down to the “Conclusion” paragraph at the bottom. Otherwise…

Testing Environment

In my evaluation I used a RoonServer on an Intel Core i5-4250U NUC with 8 GB 1600 MHz RAM and a 128GB SATA 3 (6 Gbit/s) Solid State Drive (SSD). The RoonServer manages a small, 1,500 album library, with 256 MB RAM selected in the Roon Setting/Setup tab for “Memory for Photos/Artwork”. All music was pulled pulled off a QNAP TS-451 NAS with all music cached on an internal SSD and to the NUC over a wired 100 Mbps Ethernet. Music pretty much screams off the NAS to the NUC, which seems to not even break a sweat with my tiny library. Both clients (iPad and Surface) were configured to use a 5 GHz wifi network to get to the wired RoonServer NUC. The iPad Mini 2 had the only processing hardware available; Dual-core 1.3 GHz Cyclone ARM CPU with 1 GB RAM. The Surface Pro 3 had an Intel Core i5-43000U 2.5 GHz CPU, 8 GB RAM.

In this setup ALL the work of playing music - except showing you what you can pick, and providing an interface to do so - is handled by the RoonServer. So music sound quality will be beyond the scope of this evaluation - has nothing to do with the clients, to my understanding.


First I’d like to deal with a very simple question - screen size. With a diagonal measure of 7.9" with a 1536 x 2048 pixel resolution vs. 12" diagonal and a resolution of 2140 x 1440 for the Surface Pro 3. Clearly the pro is much larger. And is larger better? In my opinion - with my old eyes - the answer is usually “yes”. However that larger screen carries a lot of extra baggage; almost exactly 50% more weight (1.19 vs. 1.79 lbs), and several hundred dollars extra cost (at least). If I could get the extra screen size for no additional heft, and no additional cost, I’d normally pick the larger screen. But that’s me, and it’s worth noting that for roughly similar pricing you can get a iPad Pro for similar pricing to a good Surface. And the weight differences are small enough - IMO - to not quibble about.

Which leads me to another judgement call. Yes, my old eyes do prefer a larger screen. But the much smaller iPad Mini 2 is good enough. Roon Labs laid out the interface in a way that is still very usable. No tiny icons or writing that you’ve got to squint to read. It’s really fine on the smaller device. And that’s because…

It could be a function of how I’ve got my Surface - or iPod - setup, but the difference in the size of type between the two clients is not as large as the screen size difference. From a prior life designing digital typesetting software, I’ve got a typesetter’s loop, that I pulled out to examine the type, and various icons. And between the two platforms, there seems to be no more than 2 points difference in typeface size, and in some cases less. However, the kerning - space between the letters - is tighter on the iPad. IMO that makes the iPad a tad more readable. And while the typeface on both is a nice San-serif, I also find it slightly more readable on the iPad. But maybe that’s just me.

One thing that stands out is that the Surface is laid out as if it has more vertical space. Maybe that’s an aspect ratio thing, maybe it’s leading (space between the lines) or maybe just how Roon laid things out. But the Surface interface can get more information on a screen without scrolling being required. For example, when I click the little three lined icon in the top left corner, I see all the left hand menu items available to me on the Surface. But on the left-hand side of the iPad, I have to scroll down to see the “Support” and “Community” menu items. Likewise, if I click the microphone icon to see lyrics, on the Surface I can see roughly 20% more lines of lyrics vs. the iPad, without scrolling.

As far as artwork is concerned, things played out a bit more like I would have expected. Rather than the Surface showing the same quantity of artwork or album covers in the same space (but larger), it showed more. So on the surface rather than showing - IMO - stupidly larger artwork on a “page”, they show the same artwork a bit larger, but they show more. Rather than a screen being 5 albums wide, it’s 6. That’s in the “Overview” function. But that’s not consistent, for in the “Albums” function/view… rather than being 4 wide by 2 rows deep as found in the iPad, the Surface is 7 albums wide by 3 rows deep. And unlike other screens where the artwork was a bit larger on the Surface, in the “albums” view the Surface albums are actually smaller. So it’s not consistent. But it makes for a big difference - on the iPad I see 8 albums in a screen. On the Surface I get 21. IMO that’s a lot. However, that does not account for usability difference. How many albums can I actually grasp at a glance? So before I slide to the next screen, I found I spent a more time looking at the 21 albums, vs. the 8 where I feel like I can pretty much grasp that screen’s contents in an instant. Pick your poison.


I’ve been using Roon remotes - whether on my iPad or on a Windows 7 laptop - and for all I can see, the interface on the Surface functions exactly like the iPad’s IOS app interface. Now I do not want to say that they are identical that would take a hard core, detailed inspection. But to the casual user, they are the same. The differences - where any - are subtle. Hat’s off to Roon on pulling that off. :slight_smile:

For all I could see, there was very, very - very - little difference in functionality. The one difference I can find is in additional functionality to the Surface (and I assume any PC/Mac vs. IOS app), and that’s a “Transfer to this PC” option while playing music. Honestly, I don’t even know what that is. But it does point out that what’s running on a Surface is a full blown Roon install, running as a remote. Where on an iPod, it’s just a remote - no more, no less.


Performance was substantially similar, though I can find some minor differences.

When using the slider in the “Albums” view, I found that the responsiveness of the Surface was a hair faster. And when scrolling backwards, I sometimes had very long delays in the albums cover art going from the initial gray box to the full cover art. But that really looked like a bug to me - something that will be fixed. For some other times that problem did not present itself at all.

Selecting an album, and getting the results appeared to be somewhat snappier on the Surface. The difference there is subtle IMO. It’s the difference between very responsive, and almost instant. Though Surface definitely wins by a hair on this point. But only just a hair…


IMO a decision to buy an iPad Mini 2 (or ANY iPad for that matter) vs. a Surface Pro 3 should be determined by what ELSE you plan to do with the device. The differences between using it as a Roon Remote are small enough to be silly. Sure, the Surface fits more albums into a page. But it take longer to comprehend the contents of that page. And I find the iPad a shade more readable. And the Surface is a little heavier, though not as dense (more easily handled). And more expensive. So, I’m sorry that I cannot - in good faith - tell you what I think you should buy. It depends on your priorities.

If it were me, I’d say it’s a real toss up. But only barely - if the costs were equal. But since since cost IS an object for me, the minor cosmetic advantages of a Surface do not justify the price. But that’s me. Your priorities may differ. But DON’T make the decision based on a difference in performance or function, for there may as well be none. Make your decision on what ELSE you plan to do with the device.

With either one you cannot lose, IMO. Good luck with your decision.

1 Like

Well, you can plug headphones into the surface and listen to music since it can act as an end point. iPad cannot do that.

Good point Daniel!

Please keep in mind that the OP appeared to be asking about evaluating them as a remote. So - within that limitation - I saw that as out-of-scope.

However IMO, that’s a huge plus in the Surface camp IF you are not just making the decision about using them as remotes to control output to something else (like a hifi). Great point.

Thanks. :slight_smile:

I am impressed that both iPad and Surface are so comparable. I was expecting to hear that Surface has all the benefits of a full computer environment and that the iOS environment shows compromises: performance, scaling, design. So, yes, I can see it really is down to device preference. That is good to know, thank you Steve.

No experience with the Surface, but use an iPad Mini 3 as a Remote. If you were intending to do much metadata grooming on this remote, then the different typing interfaces might be relevant. Also the Surface will let you run a third party tag editor and move/copy files more easily than the iPad.

I use a desktop Remote to do editing and find the Mini a great controller. It’s fun watching people’s faces when you hand them Roon to play with on such a seemingly small device.

Thanks Peter. I’ve got to say I was surprised myself. I’ve been using my iPad heavily the last few weeks, and when I loaded Roon on my Surface, I was expecting to see all kinds of differences. But I was wrong. I’ve tried to highlight what those differences were, and I’m sure I missed some. I only messed with them an hour or two. But that in itself indicates that differences were not easily found - beyond those I documented above. And I was using them side-by-side, FWIW… do something on one, then try it on the other. VERY similar.

But please don’t get me wrong. The Surface IS a shade snappier. Where things happen in the blink of an eye on an iPad, on the Surface it’s only 1/2 a blink.

The benefit is so tiny IMO, I’d say if cost is no object - truly no object - get a Surface. But if it matters at all, you’ll get almost the same performance (and easier to read fonts IMO) on the iPad. Again, that’s when considering both as Roon Remotes.

Can’t lose either way.

Great point @andybob. Thanks.

I tried on-screen editing on both. You need to enable it in Roon settings for the Surface. After that it’s substantially similar. Though I must say I find the Surface a bit more responsive to typing. Plus - the standard keyboard/cover Microsoft sells as an add-on is very nice, and surprisingly easy to use IMO. But either device allows the addition of external keyboards, so that’s kind of a moot point.

But to your point… if I were planning on doing a lot of metadata editing, I’d get a device larger than a mini - it’s just easier. And while I can’t comment on other iPads, the Surface Pro 3 is a bit more responsive to typing than my iPad Mini 2.