Mainstream technology media and Apple critics appear to be united against Apple’s new MacBook Pro models and united for Microsoft’s new Surface Book notebook.
How do they compare? A true Apple to apples comparison isn’t easy because the notebooks themselves are different iterations of the same theme– thinner, lighter, faster– but with one major difference between the two.
Detachable touchscreen vs. Touch Bar.
Both models have Intel Core i5 and i7 options but even the screen size isn’t comparable. The Surface Book has a single screen size, 13.5-inches; while the MacBook Pro line has two, 13-inches and 15-inches. Surface uses NVIDIA GeForce GPUs while the larger MacBook Pros use faster Radeon Pro GPUs.
Microsoft’s website has a good section which compares the Surface Book to a Mac and those point-by-point comparisons don’t look good for Apple, but the comparison is bogus. So, allow me to trick out a Microsoft Surface Book as high as it will go, then do something similar with a somewhat comparable MacBook Pro.
Surface Book – I started with new high end Intel Core i7 CPU with 1TB SSD storage, 16GB RAM, and the NVIDIA 2GB GPU. Note that the Surface Book features a touchscreen and pen.
MacBook Pro – I started with the 15-inch model (to compensate for the Microsoft touchscreen, and I see more professional level Mac users with that size screen) equipped with 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, 2GB Radeon Pro 455 GPU, and Intel Core i7 CPU.
The MacBook Pro is quad-core, the Surface is dual-core. Personally, I think the 13-inch screen is the perfect form factor, but Apple sells plenty of 15-inch MacBook Pro models, and that’s what I see more of among the professional users. A 15-inch touchscreen would be more expensive. The Surface Book’s screen resolution is slightly better at 267 PPI vs. the Mac at 227 PPI. The Mac’s iSight camera is only 720p while the SurfaceBook is 1080p. Microsoft’s notebook has a number of standard ports, while the MacBook Pro uses only the new USB-C connectors but which double up as Thunderbolt 3.
The Mac can run Windows, Linux, Unix, and macOS Sierra– all at the same time. The Surface Book is just under half a pound lighter. The Mac, despite the much larger screen, is only 1.5-inches longer but similar in width and thickness. Microsoft’s notebook has a number of nifty sensors including Accelerometer, Gyroscope, and Magnetometer, and two hours more battery life (possibly due to the lower power dual-core CPUs). Both have a password free login system; Windows Hello face recognition vs. Touch ID.
The Surface Book starts at $1,399 and the larger MacBook Pro at $2,399 (the 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,499).
In summary, the Surface Book and MacBook Pro are similarly priced with similar performance (they’re screaming fast), but have very different approaches to their basic customer; the touchscreen being the most glaring difference. With similar specifications– at least, as close as you can get– they are priced nearly the same for nearly comparable hardware.
So, why is it that Microsoft gets nearly uniform kudos for the Surface Book while Apple has been castigated recently for the new MacBook Pro line?