Surface Book 2 vs MacBook Pro: Face-off!

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With the Surface Book 2, Microsoft is going right after creative professionals, a group that traditionally buys MacBook Pros. Available in 13- and 15-inches, Microsoft's 2-in-1 has the high-res display, long battery life and high-end graphics performance that video editors, photographers and animators crave.

surface pro vs macbook pro mf
Unlike the MacBook Pros, the Surface Book 2s also give you a detachable touch screen that you can draw on. And Microsoft has some higher-end components, including 8th Gen Core processors and Nvidia GTX 1050 or 1060 graphics.

To help you decide between a MacBook Pro and a Surface Book 2, we put the two devices through a seven-round face-off.

  Surface Book 2
(15-inch)
MacBook Pro
(15.6-inch w/ Touch Bar)
Starting price $2,499 $2,399
Price as Reviewed
$3,299 $2,799
CPU

8th-Gen Intel Core i5, i7

7th-Gen Intel Core i7
GPU GeForce GTX 1060 AMD Radeon Pro 555, 560
Display 15-inch, 3240 x 2160 15.4-inch, 2880 x 1800
Ports USB, USB Type- C, SD card slot,
headphone jack, Surface Connect
Thunderbolt 3, headphone jack
Battery Life 12 hours, 9 minutes 10 hours, 59 minutes
Size 13.5 x 9.9 x 0.9 inches 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches
Weight 4.2 pounds 4.0 pounds

 

  Surface Book 2
(13.5-inch)
MacBook Pro
(13-inch)
Starting price $1,499 $1,299
Price as Reviewed
$1,999 $1,999
CPU

7th-Gen Intel Core i5,
8th-Gen Intel Core i5, i7

7th-Gen Intel Core i5, i7
GPU Integrated GPU, GeForce GTX 1050 Intel Iris Plus 640, 650
Display 13-inch, 3000 x 2000 13-inch, 2560 x 1600
Ports USB, USB Type- C, SD card slot,
headphone jack, Surface Connect
Thunderbolt 3, headphone jack
Battery Life 13 hours, 7 minutes 8 hours, 40 minutes
Size 12.3 x 9.1 x 0.9 inches 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight 3.6 pounds 3.0 pounds

 

Design

The Surface Book 2 looks nearly identical to its predecessor. Though Microsoft claims it redesigned the machine's hinge for strength and durability, the laptop still shows an awkward gap when docked and closed. This year's MacBook Pro is sporting a look Apple launched last year that we still appreciate but didn't shake things up from its predecessor.

macbook_pro_design
While the Surface Book 2 may endear itself to those who want to transform their laptop into a detachable tablet, that functionality seems to come at the price of portability. Not only is the Surface Book 2 noticeably thicker than the MacBook Pro (0.9 inches versus 0.6 inches), it's also the heavier of the two, with an additional 0.2 pounds.

Winner: MacBook Pro. The Surface Book 2’s design is the more versatile of the two, but the MacBook Pro is the more professional, sleek machine.

Ports

"One step forward, and one step back" is the story here, as Microsoft's finally added a USB Type-C port to the Surface Book. But it's not a Thunderbolt 3 port, the superior flavor of this connector that allows for higher-speed connections.

surface_faceoff_ports
The Surface Book 2 still beats the MacBook Pro, though, as it also offers two USB Type-A ports and an SD memory reader, while the MacBook (which includes four Thunderbolt 3 ports) does not. Both offer 3.5mm headphone jacks.

Winner: Surface Book 2
. It has a wider variety of ports to get more done.

Display

The Surface Book 2 notebooks feature extremely high-res screens in both the 13.5-inch (3000 x 2000) and 15-inch (3240 x 2160) models.

surface2_faceoff_display
The MacBook Pro, in comparison, runs at 2800 x 1800 on the 15-inch model, and 2560 x 1600 on the 13-inch model. The 15-inch MacBook is brighter (460 nits versus the Surface Book’s 417 nits), but the 15-inch Surface Book is slightly more vivid (131 percent of the SRGB color gamut versus 126 percent).

  Brightness (Nits)
Color Gamut (%)
Surface Book 2 (15-inch)
417 131%
MacBook Pro (15.6-inch)

460

126%
Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)
379 130%
MacBook Pro (13-inch) 458 123%

 

On the 13-inch side, the MacBook Pro measures 458 nits of brightness and covers 123 percent of the sRGB color gamut, while the smaller Surface Book 2 was dimmer at 379 nits but reproduced a higher 130 percent of the sRGB color gamut.

Oh, and the Surface Book 2’s display detaches to be its own tablet. That's pretty rad.

Winner: Surface Book 2. Both its 13.5- and 15-inch screens offer higher resolution, touch-screen displays that are more vivid than the MacBook Pro, and only slightly less bright.

Keyboard

The Surface Book 2 has just 1.2 millimeters of travel, but the keys are snappy and provide great tactile feedback. Simply put, it feels really good to type on.

macbook_pro_faceoff_keyboard
The MacBook Pro keys, on the other hand, have a lower 0.7 to 0.8 millimeters of travel, but still manage to offer enough clickiness to make for tons of typing.

Winner: Surface Book 2. It has far more travel which makes for more comfortable typing.

Performance

You can get strong performance on both machines, but the Surface Book 2 is more powerful graphically.

macbook_pro_performance
The 15-inch MacBook Pro and its Kaby Lake Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD earned a score of 15,293 on Geekbench 4, and transferred files at an incredible 654 megabits per second (MBps). The 15-inch Surface Book 2's Core i7-8650U CPU with 16B of RAM and a 1TB PCIe SSD was slower, notching a score of 12,505 on Geekbench 4, transferring files at just 318.1MBps.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro, when tested with a 7th Gen Intel Core i5-7267U with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD, got a Geekbench 4 score of 9,213 and transfer speeds of 727MBps. The 13.4-inch Surface Book 2 with 8th Gen Core i7-8650U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD earned a higher score of 12,221 on Geekbench 4 but had slower transfer speeds — just 203.6Mbps.

MORE: Which Laptop CPU is Right for You?

In graphics-intensive applications, though, the 15-inch Surface Book 2 is stronger, thanks to its GeForce GTX 1060 GPU (the 13-inch version uses a GTX 1050). The MacBook Pro's Radeon 560 GPU might run light games, like Dirt 3, at a smooth 76 frames per second (fps), but the Surface Book 2 played far more intensive titles, like Rise of the Tomb Raider (33 fps) and Grand Theft Auto V (45 fps), at playable levels.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro uses Intel's Iris Plus Graphics, which are no pushover (and better than regular integrated graphics). With the exception of the entry-level model, the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 uses a GTX 1050, which can play games, just not on the highest settings.

Winner: Draw. The MacBook Pro is often faster regarding everyday power and, in both sizes, has far faster transfer speeds. But the Surface Book 2 can handle more intensive tasks like movie and video editing with ease, thanks to its stronger GPU.

Battery Life

All of these notebooks are long-lasting, but the Surface outpaced Apple. The 15-inch Surface Book 2 lasted 12 hours and 9 minutes on a charge, and the 13.5-inch version ran for 13 hours and 7 minutes. Apple's MacBook Pros on the other hand, lasted between 10:59 minutes (15-inch) and 8:40 (13-inch).

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

Winner: Surface Book 2. Thanks to the extra batteries in its base, both versions of the Surface Book 2 outlast the MacBook Pro.

Value

Both the Surface Book 2 and the MacBook Pro can be configured in many different ways. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD starts at $1,299, and goes up to $1,999 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a Touch Bar.

MORE: Which MacBook Should You Buy? MacBook vs. Air vs. Pro

The 15-inch model with Core i7 starts at $1,999 with 256GB of storage, and goes up to $2,799 for a 512GB SSD, a Touch Bar and a Radeon Pro 560.

macbook_pro_value
The new 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 starts at $1,499 with 7th Gen Core i5, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but with an integrated graphics card, so it's hard to recommend. It costs $1,999 for a 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a GTX 1050 GPU. The maxed-out version is $3,000 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. The 15-inch version starts at $2,499 for a Core i7 with 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a GTX 1060. The $3,299 model has 1TB of RAM.

Winner: MacBook Pro. While the Surface Book 2 starts at lower prices, you need to pay a lot more for each storage upgrade.

Overall Winner

The Surface Book 2 isn't as pretty as the MacBook Pro, but it lasts longer, has an innovative detachable display and offers more ports and stronger graphics. If you're a creative, it's hard to argue against that powerful GTX 1050 or 1060 GPU.

surface_pro_design
The MacBook Pro is still a great PC, and was a better performer on processor and SSD-based tasks. It's still one of the most beautiful laptops around, and is far more portable. The screen is still pretty solid, and regarding price, it's actually more affordable.

MORE: The Best Laptops for Every Need

But the Surface Book 2's better overall functionality boosts it into first place as the more innovative machine that lasts longer. The MacBook Pro is still definitely worth a look for people who need portable machines and love macOS.

  Surface Book 2
MacBook Pro
Design
 
Ports

 
Display  
Keyboard  
Performance
Battery Life  
Value  
Overall Score
5 3

 

Laptop Guide

Author Bio
Andrew E. Freedman
Andrew E. Freedman,
Andrew joined Laptopmag.com in 2015, reviewing computers and keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Twitter @FreedmanAE.
Andrew E. Freedman, on
Add a comment
16 comments
  • Puia! Says:

    The Macbook Pro is a great device. But in my opinion, it only gets one point: The draw in performance. The Design of SB might be not as thin as the MB, but it is three devices in one. A Notebook, a PC and a Tablet. Or at least a great notebook + a tablet.

    This makes the value point for Microsoft as well, since it is like comparing the Surface Book with the Macbook PLUS the iPad, which would surely be more expensive.

    I can't tell which has better performance, since I rarely have used a Macbook, but on paper it seems pretty great. Still, winner is the Surface Book. I am definetly going to buy one this summer.

  • Brandon Says:

    Regarding performance, yes the SB2 has a 15W processor. Yes, the Mac Book i7 will have more sustained processing power, but it comes at a cost, heat and power consumption. The touchbar MacBook pros have had noted problems with overheating, and that's the trade off. The SB2's 15W i7 can actually run at up to 30W, but as the chip heats, it will throttle performance. Still I've seen benchmarking where the SB2 even at 10W was running at 2.1-2.2 Ghz which is very impressive. But many of you are missing the big point. This is an 8th gen i7, which Intel has been able to offer a quad core processor that can outperform a 6th gen 45W mobile processor, that's impressive no matter how you cut it. For most folks the advantage of the superior GPU (I have no idea why Apple uses Radeon as they are no where near as robust as NVidia), and having 6GB of video RAM vs 4GB on the mac book , you can see why the SB2 shines. There is no magic answer, and their are tradeoffs to either. One thing I will disagree with is that while the SB doesn't close tightly, it does have a professional look, and actually it's look is very unique. There's a mag lock that holds the screen in place, and the hinge is smooth, you can open it one handed like a MacBook pro. I own the surface book 2, and I've owned an older gen MacBook. SB2 on Windows 10 is an experience that is unique and I would not switch back. I am running audio production apps such as Cubase, and it runs like a dream on the SB2, and the integration of the touch screen and the suface pen allows me to interact with the PC in a way I could not do on my mac book or I'd have to spend another $1000 on a iPad pro with Apple pencil. The surface book 2 is truly an all in one experience that you just can't find from other convertible laptops nor the MacBook.

  • Amir me Says:

    As a pro photographer i must warn all the peoples that want the surfacebook.
    I bought a surface book with perfomance base 1 year ago and it’s ruined my life, realy its a trash.
    Prepare to live with bugs every single use.
    I hate this pc in a way that i can say this ni words.
    Every shooting day i need to restart it 4 times.
    Its not machine gor pros. Billion of bugs and freezes. Photoshop, capture one - dissaster on this shity pc.
    Yesterday i came home after shooting day, the pc wont charge. I immediately back up all my stuff and ask from god that the battery will not dead until the backup is finished.
    Buying this pc for my everyday work was the ugliest decision in my life.
    Now after only one year the pc is unusable.
    I throw to the trash 3300$.
    Tomorrow im going to buy a macbook pro 15 and an ipad pro.

  • Karl A. Says:

    It says "The $3,299 model has 1TB of RAM.". That is clearly a typo, I assume you mean "1 TB of storage"

  • user3 Says:

    Screen on macbook have anti-reflective coating so it fills much better in a lot of scenarious

  • Peter Hamlin Says:

    I'm planning to buy a Surface Book 2 for myself. My own take on the different categories:

    Design: SB2. The whole point is the versatility. 0.2 pounds and .6 inches isn't worth not having multi-touch or pen support, let alone the physical versatility of the detachable screen.

    Ports: MacBook. The only negative for the SB2 for me is the lack of thunderbolt. Not a dealbreaker in my case, but still... I'd rather have the 4 thunderbolt ports.

    Display: I've read that the MacBook's color is more accurate. I worry about that for photo/video editing and digital painting. (Not that I'd be able to do digital painting at all on the MacBook.)

    Keyboard: tie. They're both great -- couldn't imagine the keyboard being a deciding factor.

    Performance: Doesn't the MacBook Pro beat the SB2 in raw cpu performance? More so, presumably, next upgrade. And the SB2 wins for graphics. In my use (music production) the MacBook would perform better, but also in my use I never come close enough to the threshold for that relatively small difference to matter.

    Battery life: I'm really happy the Surfaces are getting better battery life.

    Value: If I bought a MacBook, I'd also need to spend at least $800 for a Wacom drawing display.

    It sure is a nice time to be computer-shopping!

  • Abdullah Siddiqui Says:

    What a remarkable feat of engineering. The Surface Book 2 has 1 TB of RAM!!!

    (Sarcasm)

  • Elias Dargham Says:

    The only 3 reasons I'd chose to upgrade the Donglebook Pro over Surface Pro 2:

    1. macOS has Unix Built into its Kernel, giving you a good development environment you need without the need for a linux distro or a third party shell.

    2. Bootcamp: Donglebook Pro can run both ecosystems natively, and makes it easy to switch between macOS and Windows 10, If you have enough storage you could even add a Linux Distro to the equation.

    3. Offers Better Continuity with Other Apple Devices:
    A point solely for people who have other apple devices. Universal Clipboard and handoff are two features I really enjoy of having both a 2015 MacBook Pro 13" and an iPhone 7.

  • Genaro Flores Says:

    What would've be if. I ask
    Ava discount I'm a Vietnam veteran discount

  • TBaggens Says:

    Oh laptop mag! Why did you not even mention the software! The software and the Apple ecosystem is why MacBook users choose it. I have found Windows 10 to be terribly unreliable and privacy stealing. You can play the spec game all day, but it won't get you anywhere with people in the Apple ecosystem.

  • WillyBoy Says:

    "The Surface Book's also neck-and-neck with the Apple notebooks in every other category"
    wow... what about the touch screen? pen support? 2in1?
    sorry but the SB and SB2 beats the Apple product in a lot of categories!!!
    So comparing SB2 to a macbook pro is comparing oranges and apple ;)

  • WillyBoy Says:

    @Jay: well.. you forgot the GPU. so yes, the SB2 has a better performance. on the CPU side the performance per watt is also far better. on geekbench we can see that the macbook pro and the surface book2 cpus provides near the same performance, but like you said, 15watts vs 45watts.

  • Hal Bates Says:

    If it overheats the way my SB One I7 does then it is a heap of junk.

  • Jay Carlson Says:

    I'm a proud Surface Book owner, but this "review" is ridiculous. The 15-inch MacBook Pro uses a 45-watt processor, while the 15" Surface Book 2 uses a 15-watt one. There's no way the Surface Book 2 has better performance — and if you would have taken the time to run a benchmark, you would have seen this.

  • JuanSoto Says:

    The specs on this thing, the flexibility... truly impressive. From a hardware standpoint, *this* is the all-in-one laptop to beat. Probably the *laptop* to beat too with it's 3:2, document-friendly screen.

    I understand that it also has front-firing speakers. Would love sound loudness to be tested on this. Not a big fan of headphones and I've been very lucky over the years re: laptop/tablet sound.

    I understand the comparison to Macbooks but consider the Huawei MateBook X & Dell XPS too, if possible, when doing comparisons. Maybe Google's Pixelbook... Apple has really taken a dive in recent years.

    Linux on this thing (if the machine performs as advertised) would make this perfect!

  • ViewRoyal Says:

    "Microsoft is claiming that the Surface Book 2 will last up to 17 hours on a single charge, which — if true — is amazing."

    Has Microsoft's claims for its products' battery life EVER been close to reality? Nope.

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