Surface Book vs MacBook Pro + iPad Pro – true convergence in personal computing

Ultra-thin, meticulously crafted and full of Microsoft’s hardware hallmark that we have come to love with generations of Surface Pros and Surface, the Surface Book is the latest addition to Microsoft’s tablet and now laptop portfolio. A first for Microsoft, the Surface Book is a convertible 2-in-1 laptop, with a detachable keyboard. How is this different from Surface Pro 4 and most importantly can this be the true replacement for the MacBook Pro and iPad Pro.

Even before the iPad Pro is available in the market, there have been many discussions for and against the big tablet, some regard it as nothing more than a glorified iPad Air with bigger screen. Samsung, HP and Lenovo have their own versions of a big tablet, either based on Windows or Android but never quite prepared for what Microsoft have up their sleeves. In the same launch event as the Surface Pro 4, Microsoft announced the Surface Book.

Surface Book detached

Even though the Surface Book is being marketed as a laptop, the ultimate laptop is how Microsoft chose to describe their latest offering, it’s more than a laptop. Microsoft is very careful in not to cross the line between Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, where both are equally powerful machines capable of handling professional grade desktop applications such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Citrix, AutoCAD or Visual Studio.

Surface-Pro-4


Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4

Here is how the two machines differ:

Surface Book

  • 13.5-inch PixelSense display 3000 x 2000 pixel resolution (267 PPI) Aspect ratio: 3:2, 10 point multi-touch – BIGGER SCREEN
  • 6th Gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7
  • 8GB or 16GB RAM memory with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSD Storage – MORE STORAGE OPTIONS
  • 5.0MP front HD Camera, 8.0MP rear autofocus camera with 1080p HD video recording
  • Up to 12 hours of video playback – BETTER BATTERY LIFE
  • Laptop: 9.14 x 12.30 x 0.51- 0.90 in ( 232.1 x 312.3 x 13 -22.8 mm) Clipboard: 8.67 x 12.30 x 0.30 in (220.2 x 312.3 x 7.7 mm), 3.48 pounds (1576 grams) – SLIMMER
  • Keyboard Dock to complete the laptop

Surface Pro 4

  • 12.3-inch Pixel Sense display 2,736 x 1,824 (267 PPI) Aspect Ratio: 3:2, 10 point multi-touch
  • 6th Generation Intel Core m3, Core i5, Core i7MORE CPU OPTIONS
  • 4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM memory with 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD Storage – MORE MEMORY OPTIONS
  • 5.0MP front HD Camera, 8.0MP rear autofocus camera with 1080p HD video recording
  • Up to 9 hours of video playback
  • 11.50 x 7.93 x .33 in (292.10 x 201.42 x 8.45 mm), m3: 1.69lbs (766g) or i5/i7: 1.73lbs (786g) – SMALLER AND LIGHTER
  • Optional Keyboard

Common Features:

802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible
Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
TPM chip for enterprise security


Surface Pro 4: Full-size USB 3.0, microSD Card reader, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Cover port, Surface Connect, Stereo microphones, Stereo speakers with Dolby audio, Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Surface Pen.

Surface Book: Full-size USB3.0, Full -size SD Card Reader, Surface Connect, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Dual Microphones (front and rear facing), Front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby audio, Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Surface Pen.

The Surface Book has three different modes, as a laptop, flip the screen 360 degrees back and it becomes a portfolio or detach the screen from its keyboard and it becomes a more portable clipboard (code for tablet so let’s play along). The keyboard is more than a docking base with ports, it comes with full hardware accelerated graphics onboard.

As ultimate laptop that it is, Microsoft pulled all the stops in making Surface Book desirable and on equal footing as the MacBook Pro with Retina display. The casing of Surface Book is made out of a magnesium alloy which is lighter and more durable than aluminum. It is powered by the 6th Generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and has a battery life of up to 12 hours.

There is one or two things that the MacBook does not do; touch and stylus. The Surface Book with its detachable screen they call the Clipboard is simply a tablet, much like the Surface Pro 4 and for that, they have included the Surface Pen stylus. The same Surface Pen also works on other Surface devices. With Palm Block technology and 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, Surface Pen offers a natural way to mark-up documents and take notes in your own handwriting.

The 13.5-inch PixelSense has incredible resolution (3000 x 2000). It’s calibrated for true-to-life color, with high contrast and low glare. It seems too good to be true, a two-for-one device, a big tablet, slightly bigger than the iPad Pro and a super laptop. Why pay for each of these individually when you can have both. The Surface Book is enough to make Tim Cook, CEO of the opposite camp sit up and pay attention as well as pass some interesting comments;

Here is what he has to say about the Surface Book:

“It’s a product that tries too hard to do too much,”

“It’s trying to be a tablet and a notebook and it really succeeds at being neither. It’s sort of diluted.”

Still, the Surface Book is a pretty good stab as a hybrid 2-in-1 laptop.

Surface Book vs MacBook Pro 13

Let’s see how the Surface  Book compares with the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina. Why MacBook Pro 13 and not MacBook Air, the Air uses a cut down power efficient processor with lower resolution display. The MacBook Pro 13 is very much up the Surface Book’s street.

Surface Book

  • 13.5-inch PixelSense display 3000 x 2000 pixel resolution (267 PPI) Aspect ratio: 3:2, 10 point multi-touch – BIGGER SCREEN, HIGHER RESOLUTION
  • 6th Gen Intel Core i5: Intel Core i5-6300U 2.4GHz dual core processor or Core i7: Intel Core i7-6600U 2.6GHz dual core processor
  • 8GB or 16GB RAM memory with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSD Storage
  • 5.0MP front HD Camera, 8.0MP rear autofocus camera with 1080p HD video recording – FRONT & REAR CAMERA
  • Up to 12 hours of video playback
  • Laptop: 9.14 x 12.30 x 0.51- 0.90 in ( 232.1 x 312.3 x 13 -22.8 mm) Clipboard: 8.67 x 12.30 x 0.30 in (220.2 x 312.3 x 7.7 mm), 3.48 pounds (1576 grams) – LIGHTER
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, TPM chip for enterprise security
  • Two full-size USB3.0, Full -size SD Card Reader, Surface Connect, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Dual Microphones (front and rear facing), Front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby audio, Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Surface Pen.
  • Keyboard Dock to complete the laptop with multi touch track pad. Optional discrete GPU in the dock that uses a custom Nvidia GeForce GPU based on Maxwell architecture with 1GB of high speed memory to deliver accelerated graphics performance. – DEDICATED GPU IN BASE
  • Windows 10 Pro

MacBook Pro 13

  • 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2560 x 1600 resolution at 227 PPI
  • Intel Core i5 2.7GHz dual-core processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz) with 3MB shared L3 Cache, Intel Core i5 2.9GHz dual-core processor (Turbo Boost to 3.3GHz) with 3MB shared L3 cache. Configurable up to 3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.4Ghz) with 4MB shared L3 cache.
  • 8GB of 1866MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory configurable to 16GB with 128GB, 256GB and 512GB PCIe based flash storage. Configurable up to 1TB of flash storage.
  • Front facing 720p FaceTime HD camera only
  • Up to 10 hours wireless web, Up to 12 hours iTunes movie playback.
  • Height: 0.71 inch (1.8 cm), Width: 12.35 inches (31.4 cm), Depth: 8.62 inches (21.9 cm), Weight: 3.48 pounds (1.58 kg)
  • 802.11ac Wi‑Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
  • MagSafe 2 power port, Two Thunderbolt 2 ports (up to 20 Gbps), Two USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps), HDMI port, 3.5 mm headphone jack, Stereo Speakers, Dual Microphones, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Full size backlit keyboard with Force Touch trackpad for precise cursor control and pressure-sensing capabilities; enables Force clicks, accelerators, pressure-sensitive drawing, and Multi-Touch gestures.
  • Mac OS El Capitan

In many ways both Surface Book and the MacBook Pro 13 are the same as both are based on Intel’s 5th generation processor. Operating systems aside however, the Surface Book does have and advantage with the optional GPU in the keyboard base. This uses a custom version of the Nvidia GeForce GPU to boost the systems graphics performance making. The other advantages over the MacBook Pro are the cameras. The MacBook only spots a small 720p FaceTime web cam while the Surface Book has a 5MP front and 8MP rear facing cameras. There is also the other advantage of the laptop being convertible and comes complete with touch and stylus support making the device more versatile than just a laptop with neither touch nor stylus input. In terms of connectivity, both devices offer plenty with Apple serving up their own brand of MagSafe 2 and Thunderbolt ports, while use their proprietary Surface Connector similar to that found on Surface Pro 4.

Surface Book vs iPad Pro

Next we look at how the Surface Book compare to the iPad Pro tablet. This may be an unfair comparison but we are after all trying to establish of the Surface Book can really replace the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro 13 with retina display, so here goes:

Surface Book

  • 13.5-inch PixelSense display 3000 x 2000 pixel resolution (267 PPI) Aspect ratio: 3:2, 10 point multi-touch – BIGGER SCREEN, HIGHER RESOLUTION
  • 6th Gen Intel Core i5: Intel Core i5-6300U 2.4GHz dual core processor or Core i7: Intel Core i7-6600U 2.6GHz dual core processor
  • 8GB or 16GB RAM memory with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSD Storage
  • 5.0MP front HD Camera, 8.0MP rear autofocus camera with 1080p HD video recording – HIGHER RES. FRONT CAMERA
  • Up to 12 hours of video playback
  • Laptop: 9.14 x 12.30 x 0.51- 0.90 in ( 232.1 x 312.3 x 13 -22.8 mm) Clipboard: 8.67 x 12.30 x 0.30 in (220.2 x 312.3 x 7.7 mm), 3.48 pounds (1576 grams)
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, TPM chip for enterprise security
  • Two full-size USB3.0, Full -size SD Card Reader, Surface Connect, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Dual Microphones (front and rear facing), Front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby audio, Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Surface Pen.
  • Keyboard Dock to complete the laptop with multi touch track pad. Optional discrete GPU in the dock that uses a custom Nvidia GeForce GPU based on Maxwell architecture with 1GB of high speed memory to deliver accelerated graphics performance. – DEDICATED GPU IN BASE
  • Windows 10 Pro

iPad Pro 

  • 12.9-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen Multi-Touch display 2732-by-2048 resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi), Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating, Fully laminated display, Antireflective coating
  • A9X Dual-core 2.26 GHz (Twister) chip with 64‑bit architecture with M9 motion coprocessor
  • 4GB RAM with 32GB or 128GB Storage
  • 8MP iSight camera, Autofocus, ƒ/2.4 aperture, Five-element lens, Hybrid IR filter, Backside illumination, Improved face detection, Exposure control, Panorama (up to 43MP), Burst mode, Tap to focus, Photo geotagging, Timer mode, Video Recording: 1080p HD video recording (30 fps), Slo-mo (120 fps), Time-lapse video with stabilization, Video image stabilization, Improved face detection, 3x video zoom, Video geotagging. Front Facing: 1.2MP photos, ƒ/2.2 aperture, 720p HD video recording, Backside illumination, Auto HDR photos and videos, Improved face detection, Burst mode, Exposure control, Timer mode. – BETTER REAR CAMERA
  • Up to 1o hours of surfing the web over WiFi, watching video or listening to music, on WiFi + Cellular model, up to 9 hours of surfing using cellular data network.
  • Dimensions and Weigh: 305.7mm x 220.6mm x 6.9mm, 713 grams (WiFi Model), 723 grams (WiFi + Cellular Model) – SLIMMER & LIGHTER
  • Wi‑Fi (802.11a/​b/​g/​n/​ac); dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz); HT80 with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 technology
  • Connectors, Sensors: Touch ID, Three-axis gyro, Accelerometer, Barometer, Ambient light sensor
  • Optional Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Case
  • iOS 9

AppleiPadPro

One have to admit that Apple is in the tablet game far longer than Microsoft and as such has the upper hand when it comes Tablet features such as Cameras, Biometric scanner and tablet operating system and tablet apps. On the other hand Microsoft Surface Book does have the processing power, memory and storage to do more while having the flexibility and portability of a tablet when it needs to be. The Surface Pen and Keyboard Base is standard and there is a keyboard option with dedicated GPU built-in for added graphics acceleration.

smartkeyboard

This is an unfair comparison as the Surface Book is more of a laptop than a tablet. There are many positives and advantages knowing what the iPad and iOS is capable of and is good at. The simplicity, speed and ease of use trump the Surface Book as a tablet any time especially when you throw in the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard.