Surface Book vs. MacBook Pro: Why Microsoft Wins

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Creatives have a tough choice to make. Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro is now more powerful than ever with its 7th-generation processor, but Microsoft's gunning for it. The Surface Book invites artists and designers in with its amazing stylus, beautiful touch screen and the ability to remove the display to use it as a tablet.

surfacebook_macbook_lead_v1So which one should you get? Let's break it down.

Editor's Note: This page was updated on June 23 to include the new 2017 MacBook Pro. Check back for further updates if Microsoft announces changes to the Surface Book.

  Surface Book MacBook Pro (13.3-inch with Touch Bar)
Starting Price $1,499 $1,799 ($1,299 without Touch Bar)
Price as Tested $3,299 $1,999
CPU 6th-Gen Intel Core i5, Core i7 7th-Gen Intel Core i5, i7
GPU Intel HD Graphics, Nvidia GeForce GPU (optional) Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650
Display 13.5 inches, 3000 x 2000 13.3 inch, 2560 x 1600
Ports USB 3.0, SD card reader, Surface Connect, headphone jack, mini DisplayPort Thunderbolt 3
Battery Life 9:10 8:40
Size 9.1 x 12.3 x 0.9 inches 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight 3.3 pounds 3 pounds

 

Design

The MacBook Pro isn't reinventing the wheel, but it's still a beauty in both silver and space gray. It's just 0.6 inches thick and, at 3 pounds, extremely light. Apple has also refined its logo over the past few years, and it no longer glows.

surface_book_detached2 The Surface Book's design is part of its innovation. It's also a sleek silver, but what's unique is its fulcrum hinge, which lets you remove the tablet from the keyboard.

macbook-pro-13-006However, it creates a strange-looking gap where we're not used to seeing one.

The Surface Book is not too heavy, at 3.3 pounds, but it's noticeably thicker, at 0.9 inches.

Winner: MacBook Pro. The Surface Book's design is more versatile, but the MacBook Pro is sleeker and more professional.

 

Ports

USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 are the future, but if you're on a MacBook Pro, they're also your present. That means you need dongles for any of your existing gear. The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has four ports, though the base model offers just two ports.

microsoft-surface-book-nw-g02The Surface Book avoids USB Type-C altogether. It's an unfortunate decision we hope to see reversed soon, but Microsoft does offer a full suite of other ports, including two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a mini DisplayPort, a headphone jack, and its proprietary Surface Connect port for charging and using the Surface Dock, which offers even more ports.

Winner: Surface Book. Although Microsoft's machine doesn't have Thunderbolt 3 or USB Type-C, the MacBook Pro limits you to those ports, while the Surface Book has a full set of ports.

Display

If you're going for pure size and resolution, the Surface Book wins on both counts. The MacBook Air has a 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 display, while the Surface Book (below) has a 13.5-inch, 3000 x 2000 touch-screen display. However, the Surface Book has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which means a taller screen.

microsoft-surface-book-nw-g09But the MacBook Pro is brighter and more vivid, measuring 458 nits and covering 128 percent of the sRGB color gamut. The Surface Book's 376 nits and 112.6 percent are nothing to scoff at (in fact, they're really impressive), but they don't match what Apple offers. 

macbook-pro-13-005Winner: Draw. The Surface Book's touch-screen display has a higher resolution, while the MacBook Pro is brighter and more vivid.

Keyboard

The MacBook Pro's keyboard uses a low-travel butterfly mechanism that takes a little time to get used to. It has just 0.7 millimeters of travel and requires 74 grams of force to actuate. It also has a digital Function row, thanks to the Touch Bar, that presents different options based on the apps you're using.

surface_book_keyboardThe Surface Book's keyboard has 1.5 millimeters of travel, but it felt just a tad mushy in our testing.

Winner: Surface Book. The higher-travel keys are more comfortable to use and don't require a learning curve.

Special Features

Apple replaced the MacBook Pro's Function row with the Touch Bar and an OLED touch screen with different features depending on the app you're using. While Apple's apps and several others — like Spotify, Evernote and Dashlane — are compatible with the Touch Bar, most applications are not, and several features aren't intuitive because you have to look at a second screen.

The Surface Book's killer feature is that the touch-screen display can not only detach from the keyboard to be used as a tablet, but also attach securely enough to be used as a regular laptop. Additionally, it works with the Surface Pen (included) and the Surface Dial ($99.99).

Winner: Surface Book. Its design enables more use cases and it works with accessories that allow you to be your most creative.

Performance

The MacBook Pro's Intel Core i5-7267U CPU, 512GB PCIe SSD and 8GB of RAM enable powerful performance. The laptop earned a score of 9,213 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test and copied 4.97GB of data at 727 MBps.

The maxed-out Surface Book with Performance Base's Core i7-6600 CPU, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of PCIe SSD storage notched a score of 7,559 on the Geekbench 4 test, and it transferred data at 363.6 MBps. At least part of this has to do with the 6th-gen CPU in the Surface Book. Apple's MacBook has a newer, 7th-gen processor.

But the Surface Book has a leg up on graphics performance. Select models, like our test unit, have a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M GPU with 2GB of VRAM. The MacBook uses Intel's Iris Plus Graphics 650. On the Dirt 3 test, the Surface Book ran the game at 117 frames per second, whereas the MacBook reached just 41 fps, even at a lower resolution.

Winner: Draw. The MacBook Pro is faster at overall computing, but people who need discrete graphics will get more power if they get an upgraded version of the Surface Book.

Battery Life

The MacBook Pro endured for 8 hours and 40 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which continuously browses the web over Wi-Fi, while the Surface Book lasted 9 hours and 10 minutes. If you're willing to live with integrated graphics, the Surface Book can last up to 12.5 hours.

Winner: Surface Book. It lasts a bit longer on a charge.

Value

Both the Surface Book and the MacBook Pro come in several configurations. For the starting price of $1,499, the Surface Book comes with a 6th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The MacBook Pro delivers a newer 7th-gen Core i5 chip and the same RAM and storage for $1,299.

To get our recommended Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, you'd have to pay $1,499 for the MacBook Pro (with just two ports and no Touch Bar) or $1,699 for the Surface Book. Microsoft's 2-in-1 comes with more functionality and its Surface Pen in the box.

If you need discrete graphics, you'll have to pay more for the Surface Book ($2,399).

Winner: MacBook Pro. A lower starting price makes the MacBook Pro more accessible, though the Surface Book offers more configuration options, including a discrete GPU.

Overall Winner

 

  Surface Book MacBook Pro
Design  
Ports  
Display
Keyboard  
Special Features  
Performance
Battery Life  
Value  
SCORE 6 4

The Surface Book beat the MacBook Pro 6 to 4 (including two ties), with big wins because of its selection of ports, a variety of configurations and longer battery life. More importantly, this system doubles as a tablet, which you can use with the included Surface Pen. It really needs an upgrade to the latest generation of Intel CPUs, but it's hard to argue with a computer for creatives with a more powerful discrete GPU.

The MacBook wins on design and portability, and it offers more processing power because of its newer CPU. Its display, while amazing, doesn't have the touch functionality that the Surface Book offers. If you're set on macOS, know that you're making a fine choice but one with less flexibility.

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
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45 comments
  • DaveJ Says:

    Just picked up the Surface Book (with Performance Base), Core i7 with 16 GB/512 GB SSD. I absolutely love this thing. I also have a 2014 MBA and I just sold an older MBP. The overall utility of the Surface Book puts it into an entirely different class than the Apple products. Don't get me wrong; I love Apple products but the Surface Book blows them away. It might be a little on the heavy side and use older hardware, but it is still a much better overall platform than the MBP, IMHO. And to the guy below who likes to brag about daddy's money while talking about taking a long time to shut off??? Just push the power button. Windows Hello also works super fast and logs me in much faster than I can enter the PIN on my Win 10 desktop.

  • Muhammad Aashir Says:

    I use surface book and a MacBook Air, well in my opinion I think a using a MacBook is better, here I will tell you why;

    1.Handling=It is very easy to carry a MacBook on the other hand the Surface book take a lot of time to switch off.

    2.Price= My father has no price issue so he can buy me any gadgets,

    3=Battery= I think a MacBook has a faster battery charging than a Surface Book, may be I take only 4-5 minutes to go to hundred percent(when not using) and 6-8 minutes (when using) but I agree Surface Book drains battery slower than the MacBook.

    4.Weight
    The Surface Book is much, much heavier than the MacBook,and portable.

  • Brad cam Says:

    I just came back from returning my excruciatingly expensive surface pro. I absolutely hated it. Windows still as buggy today as it was years ago. In terms of raw power it's impressive. In actual use, I don't have time to sit and try to elucidate the cause of some bug or glitch. I have now purchased the new iPad Pro 12" and I'm so happy I switched back. Especially when iOS 11 is released. Microsoft made a solid effort and no doubt the hardware is amazing. But the execution of the system as a whole was disappointing. Finally the new update of the Apple Pencil takes the cake in that category too. Proving that Apple is still king (for now?).

  • Karlos Clinton Says:

    well well... I'm finally at a loss for words...

  • Steve Hansen Says:

    Lol, and you had to ask the girl to smile for the MacBook camera and look serious on the surface book. It is also obvious that the conditions setup for both pics are different. SB has too much light seeping from background(that open door).

  • Visitor Says:

    I will say the next: for me Macbook Pro is nothing to do here just because the detachable Clipboard feature of the Surface Book is MUST HAVE and ESSENTIAL for me. That's why it is a no-brainer. Simple. Even no need for me to read this article.

  • Evan M Says:

    What a joke review which completely ignored the fact that the Surface Book has a GPU and annihilates the MacBook at anything that is graphics intensive. Yet somehow they are "equal" in performance, while the MacBook somehow wins based on some vague, subjective opinions.

  • Charles Says:

    I am an attorney at Law, not a creative person. I bought a Surface Pro three days ago and I am blown away. It is the ultimate computer. This Saturday I reviewed and annotated and highlighted a 75 pages contract in tablet mode, it was as easy as paper. Then I opened a Kindle book and took handwriting notes on onenote (which I need to learn, I am an Evernote user) switching easily from one to the other. I took a screengrab of my website and sent it to the developer with annotations. The stylus rocks. The screen beats my ipad because of the size: you actually get to see the fullpage. Then I typed some emails and found the keyboard excellent. I need to get used to Windows 10 but it seems good. The things I didn't like: can't set Chrome as default browser, the option is greyed out. Also can't find a good case, there's only some glue it yourself wooden stuff and an ugly military type case. Apart from that I know one thing: this is superior to my macbook pro, which I will be giving to my 16 yo son who is now smiling much. I feel this review misses the whole point of the surface book, another lawyer recommended it to me and he was right. This device is amazing for business.

  • destardi Says:

    Surface Book > Macbook

    This is a truly premium device with much greater features than the outdated Macbook.

    There is no comparison.

  • CrankDango Says:

    This is by far the absolute worst, most biased technology comparison I've ever read. On the dole from Apple poor guy? Let's now consider that the shit that is Macbook Pro has not had any advances in God knows how long. Let's look at Surface Pro 4 i7 with 16GB of RAM and compare it to a Macbook or iPad of any flavor. Apple fails. There's a reason the stock is going down despite all this paid publicity and BS comparisons. People are becoming aware of Apples tech inferiority. They are opting for higher performing solutions that work. Your devotion is meaningless and your comparison flawed Michael Andronico. BTW - People are by far choosing Android phones over iPhones now and with the debut of the iPhone7 it's just going to get worse for Apple. They're "Cooked".

  • Please just barely Says:

    You neatly leave out the data mining, the peer to peer use of your cpu, hardware, network to push their OS and updates, not to mention when things go wrong, like getting a temporary user profile on login, you now get to dive into a mess of an OS with convoluted, mind bending commands with Microsoft.

  • Drow Drew Says:

    LOL this article is a complete joke. Ive seen many apple biased comparisons, and this has to be the dumbest one of all.

  • Rakesh Says:

    I'm surprised that this comparison is all about hardware. The real pain point of microsoft is its operating system and iOS would be rated several points over windows if you ask users who use both.

  • Shane Smith Says:

    That thread claiming the surface book is 3x as fast, thats regarding gpu only. if you actually read the thread you would see that the macbook pro is better in every way except gaming, according to that threat, i have 1 macbook pro 2015 13inch, a surface pro 2, lenovo thinkpad t510 i7, lenovo thinkpad t430 i5 much newer then the i7, old macbook with core 2 duo that runs smoother then many new windows pcs, now dont get my wrong, my thinkpads are workhorses but my macbook is just so smooth, in real world use it blows everything out of the water, even without touch

  • Hmmmmmm Says:

    Except that apple has better service than Microsoft....

  • Nipomo Says:

    I'm an apple user since 2011, two MacBook Pros, 15 and 17 inch. IPone 6s and 6, iPad version 2 and 3. I have not touched a Surface Book, but I might bite the bullet and go with the S.Book for the touch screen. My wife used the 15 inch and I the 17 inch- too big. I have an old PC and have installed Win 10 on it and via Parrelles on the MBP. If Win 10 is doable I will shell out for the S.Book. Sorry Apple.

  • Cipasdasdf Says:

    This is so biased.
    Mac wins in value ?! Come ON !

  • Ramses Says:

    Lol design and port, camera and audio O_o winer apple ... u're crazy

  • thebeardenpack Says:

    The camera comparison is bogus. The light coming from in behind the subject is affecting the light you see on the subject. That is a negligent factor. Even myself an avid user of macbookpros for over 10 years like the surface book better.

  • Brian Says:

    Wow! Microsoft got fanboys too... let the flounce off begin...

  • FrankyJ Says:

    My macbook pro 2015 13 retina only runs windows 10 and its a clear winner in all aspects. that's the way a mbp is ment to be run.

  • anirudh Says:

    I thought surface comes with a touch screen and pen and still it lost when compared to Apple. Microsoft should stop making products for good and start sucking the reviewers balls. Such a shame on you laptop mag.

  • apsodmapsodm Says:

    ... 4 - 5
    Design and ports.. @o@
    Guy's u're crazy

  • bobby Says:

    No offense, but you are comparing a HYBRID vs a stand alone laptop. Apples to Oranges, most of standalone laptops right now beat hybrids of the same price.

  • Toniton Says:

    On paper the surface sounds good. In reality the touchpad is ridiculous. You have to touch most things 3-4 times until it will eventualy do something. Some application only accept pen input, some only finger, some none of them at all. Unbelievable, this is not the first surface generation. It does have a lot of power, and allows to do more then an ipad(and costs more then a macbook pro) in functionality in theory. In reality you will just hate this thing. I'm selling mine. Microsoft has it in hands this time, they deliver hardware and software, and they delivered a crap product. If I would deliver my customers products that don't work, they would not pay me.

  • Warner Says:

    The surface book is the ultimate student tool for students that have extended class hours and need a bit more power.

    Use just tablet when you want it lighter add the base and reverse it a bit heavier but you can go through a lot of classes with the base attached at least you have the option.

    Surface book track pad and keyboard are superior to Mack Book Pro look at most reviews of the product and you will see this is true.

    Some one said a 15" Mac Book pro is superior well that's a 15" i'm sure if surface book had a 15" model it would match or surpass watch out apple 15" surface book may be just around the corner.!5" Pad might be a bit for some as a pad I for one would love to have a slim 15" Pad.

    I would like to add that I have been a long time Apple user. I currently have a Mac Book Pro i7 15" mid 2010, Ipad retina and Iphone 4s. My apple days are over these will be last apple products. For many reasons I won't get into here.

    For portability and future purchase on laptop type devices for travel and such I'm looking at Surface Pro or Surface Book.

    For home use I'll always pick a tower over a laptop.

    For a feasible on the road Laptop ATM of all the choices right now If In was going to buy one it would be a Surface Pro 4 or a Surface Book and I am leaning more towards the surface book ATM. Better WIFI connectivity for one reason. Wifi is what most people will use on a laptop and let's just say apple leaves a lot to be desired in all it's products when it comes to WIFI.

    So coming for what once was an Apple lover till the last few years IMHO Surface book is far superior to a Mac Book Pro 13" which is the same class. Apple has gone downhill and I refuse to feed them money anymore.

    I am a unbiased person when it comes to devices I could care less who makes the device it comes down to functionality.

    Surface Book > Mac Book Pro 13" hands down no contest. It baffles me you would even say other wise, TBH.

  • Michael Says:

    The Surface Book was designed to compete with tablets, especially the iPad pro. The fact that it is being compared to Apple's flagship MacBook Pro is very telling. The Surface Book definitely achieved its goal of dominating the iPad Pro in every way. And the fact that it is practically equal to the MacBook Pro is a definite success. It's about time Apple had some pressure! Good job Microsoft! Let the competition begin! We consumers are ready to enjoy the benefits!

  • Kevin Says:

    The trackpad on the surfacebook is far inferior to macbook one. It doesnt scroll smoothly and is not nearly as responsive (in a good way) as the my 2011 macbook pro.

  • Venugv Says:

    This article is a joke. And the comments seem to be sponsored by Microsoft. Had anyone tried using a Windows PC for work recently? So buggy and continuous wait for programs to load. The fan nose is terrible and machines go bad in two years. And can you run Windows without Antivirus? How about when you plug in a device to the USB port? Windows seems to have been built by amateurs. In fact, most companies seem to moving towards macs. Also check Windows vs Mac sales figures in the last couple of years. For me, the software alone makes the MBP a huge winner.

  • SomaKonijeti Says:

    This review is a big joke. I don't understand how can these guys can rate Surface Book lower, if performance and battery life is more than the competitor and with special features.

  • kubica Says:

    what kind of comparision, a laptop/tablet with stylus vs a laptop, and you compare front camera quality?... is a joke?

  • Reader Says:

    It's funny how your comparison makes them look even and this PC World article says MS is three times as fast as MBP: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2995599/laptop-computers/surface-book-vs-macbook-pro-it-isnt-twice-as-fast-its-three-times-as-fast.html

  • Hshsu Says:

    Although the apple mbp 13 inch is a bit slower than the discrete model of the sb, the mbp 15 inch with AMD Radeon graphics kill the 2700 sb

  • tririver Says:

    I can then write an electric calculator v.s. MBP, why electric calculator wins. The MBP only win in a small section called 'special features'.

  • fmorenop Says:

    I guess when you talk about 'special features' mean little things like a touch screen, deteachable screen, stylus fully professional ... yes, it certainly is a small section that barely worth comment,

  • Jon Londrezos Says:

    The conclusion of this comparison does not agree with the point-by-point analysis.

  • samir Says:

    WTF? "A devout gamer and tech enthusiast" trying hard to defend your beloved Apple produc huh?
    did you really try surfacebook trackpad and keyboard? this article is sponsored by apple

  • Ventolin63 Says:

    Only for a 'devout gamer and tech enthusiast' a score of 7279 vs 7113 would be a 'DRAW' This is exactly why in order to not look like a bunch of fools, you guys should get people that actually KNOW something about software/hardware engineering to write those articles...or at least somebody that passed 4th grade math. I can perfectly understand that from people with diminished capacity, a closed system like Macintosh represents the epitome of happiness, but let's get real...you're comparing a very expensive toy that has a stupid apple on it's back, to a computer that we can actually use for work! It's getting embarrassing :) And keep in mind that I have no problem with this guy being 'on the take' from Apple. Just please, make it less obvious, I know 10 year old computer literates that would laugh their brains out reading this article...

  • Jonathan Says:

    Obvious Apple bias review. Please state clearly how much you were paid for this.

  • Matt S Says:

    Yeah, no. The trackpad and keyboard on the Surface Book are infinitely better than the Macbook. The keys are much softer, have more travel, and are much better for long periods of working.

  • Joonatan Partanen Says:

    If you have 1300 dollars to spare, it is unlikely that the extra 200 make a big difference, especially with the features and performance the Surface Book offers.

  • HolyG Says:

    The MacBook Pro’s SSD/Flash Storage tops out at 1 TB (built-to-order) and not at 512 GB, as mentioned incorrectly in both the text and the comparison sheet. Moreover, a Core i7 CPU option is available built-to-order. See http://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/macbook-pro?product=MF841LL/A&step=config#.

  • Tim Thompson Says:

    According to a text chat with a Microsoft store rep, the CPU in the i7/16gb/512gb model of the Surface Book is the i7-6650U, which is a dual-core CPU.

  • DennyOR Says:

    I don't understand why none of these new desktop operating system tablet mode capables come with an internal GPS sensor. Can someone explain that to me.

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