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Surface Book 2 vs MacBook Pro: Face-off!

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.

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
CPU8th-Gen Intel Core i5, i77th-Gen Intel Core i7
GPUGeForce GTX 1060AMD Radeon Pro 555, 560
Display15-inch, 3240 x 216015.4-inch, 2880 x 1800
PortsUSB, USB Type- C, SD card slot,headphone jack, Surface ConnectThunderbolt 3, headphone jack
Battery Life12 hours, 9 minutes10 hours, 59 minutes
Size13.5 x 9.9 x 0.9 inches13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches
Weight4.2 pounds4.0 pounds

Surface Book 2(13.5-inch)MacBook Pro(13-inch)
Starting price$1,499$1,299
Price as Reviewed$1,999$1,999
CPU7th-Gen Intel Core i5,8th-Gen Intel Core i5, i77th-Gen Intel Core i5, i7
GPUIntegrated GPU, GeForce GTX 1050Intel Iris Plus 640, 650
Display13-inch, 3000 x 200013-inch, 2560 x 1600
PortsUSB, USB Type- C, SD card slot,headphone jack, Surface ConnectThunderbolt 3, headphone jack
Battery Life13 hours, 7 minutes8 hours, 40 minutes
Size12.3 x 9.1 x 0.9 inches12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight3.6 pounds3.0 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.

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.

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.

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)417131%
MacBook Pro (15.6-inch)460126%
Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)379130%
MacBook Pro (13-inch)458123%

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 2MacBook Pro
Design
Ports
Display
Keyboard
Performance
Battery Life
Value
Overall Score53

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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.