Microsoft announced a couple of new devices to its mobile computing portfolio in 2015 with the launch of the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book. One year on and a new device has joined the party in the form of the Surface Book with Performance Base, on sale from the middle of November.
The Surface Pro 4 is a tablet with the potential for a keyboard attachment while the Surface Books are laptops with detachable keyboards. Despite sounding like similar devices taking different angles, they aren't, and they will appeal to different people.
To help you work out which one might be the right one for you, here is how the new Microsoft Surface Book with Performance Base, or Surface Book i7, compares to last year's Surface Book and the Surface Pro 4.
Microsoft Surface Book (2016) vs Surface Book (2015) vs Surface Pro 4: Design
- Surface Pro 4 is significantly lighter than Surface Books
- Surface Books offer fully-fledged keyboard
- Surface Pro 4 about portability, Surface Books about power
The Surface Pro 4 features a magnesium case, measures 292.1 x 201.4 x 8.5mm and weighs either 766g or 786g, depending on the configuration. Microsoft claims it is the perfect balance of size and power for working on the go.
The Surface Books also feature a magnesium case, but rather than being primarily displays with the option of attaching a keyboard, they are laptops that offer the convenience of detaching the displays should you wish to. Microsoft describes them as the laptop to handle any task.
The 2015 model of the Surface Book as a laptop measures 312.3 x 232.1mm with a thickness of 13mm to 22.8mm and it weighs either 1516g or 1576g, depending on the configuration, making it over double the weight of the Surface Pro 4. The 2016 model offers exactly the same measurements as the 2015 model, but the Performance Base element means it is heavier, starting at 1647g.
Both the Surface Books feature something called a Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge, which keeps them balanced at any angle, while the Surface Pro 4 is more about portability. The Surface Pro 4 features a built-in stand so it can prop itself up and a Type Cover can be bought separately providing users with an ultra-thin keyboard with back-lit keys and a large 5-point sensitivity trackpad, but it isn't laptop standard.
Both Surface Books on the other hand, feature fully-fledged keyboards that Microsoft describes as "quiet, stable and comfortable". It says this offers best-in-class keystroke. They also feature a trackpad with 10-points of sensitivity.
Microsoft Surface Book (2016) vs Surface Book (2015) vs Surface Pro 4: Display
- Surface Pro 4 has a slightly smaller screen than Surface Books
- Same display technology and pixel density across all models
- Surface Pen included with all models
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has a PixelSense display that the company claims was made to be viewed, touched and written on. It measures 12.3-inches and it features a 2736 x 1824 resolution, which equates to 5 million pixels and a pixel density of 267ppi.
The Surface Books have larger displays than the Surface Pro 4 with 13.5-inch screens featuring 3000 x 2000 pixel resolutions for the same pixel density of 267ppi. The Surface Books are in a 3:2 aspect ratio and use Microsoft's PixelSense display technology too so again, they have been made for viewing, touching and writing on.
Ultimately, the display experience of the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Books will be the same, aside from a little extra space on the Surface Books.
The Surface Pen that comes with the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Books has 1024 levels of pressure senstivity, along with an eraser on the other end, allowing users to write and erase on the screens as they would with a traditional pencil. It is attached to the devices magnetically and it offers a full year of use with its battery.
Microsoft Surface Book (2016) vs Surface Book (2015) vs Surface Pro 4: Hardware and power
- Surface Pro 4 has five configuration options as standard, with Intel m3, i5 and i7 models
- Surface Book (2015) has seven configuration options with option to upgrade GPU
- Surface Book Performance Base has three configuration options, all of which use i7
- Surface Book Performance Base has almost double battery life of Surface Pro 4
The base model of the Surface Pro 4 features the Intel Core m3 processor with Intel HD graphics 515, 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM. The top end model has the Intel Core i7 chip, Intel Iris graphics, 256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM. There are five configurations available as standard but it's also possible to customise to suit you.
The base model of the 2015 Surface Book has the Intel Core i5 processor, Intel HD graphics, 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM, while the top model has the Intel Core i7, Nvidia GeForce graphics, 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM. There are seven configurations available as standard due to the option of upgrading the GPU.
The base model of the 2016 Surface Book Performance Base features the Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 memory, 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. There are only three configurations available for this device, with the top model offering the same processor and graphics, but offering double the RAM at 16GB and 1TB SSD.
The Surface Books are aimed at all out power users, with the ability to run professional-grade software such as Adobe Creative Cloud and AutoCAD. The Surface Pro 4 on the other hand, will run professional grade apps, but 3D modelling with AutoCAD is restricted to the i7 model, for example.
In terms of battery life, the Surface Pro 4 is claimed to offer 9 hours. The 2015 Surface Book bumps this up to 12 hours and the Surface Book with Performance Base offers 16 hours.
Microsoft Surface Book (2016) vs Surface Book (2015) vs Surface Pro 4: Connections and ports
- All models have USB 3.0
- Surface Pro 4 has microSD slot, while Surface Books have full-size SD card slot
- All models run Windows 10 Pro
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Books all feature USB 3.0, but the Surface Books have two ports while the Surface Pro 4 only has the one. The Surface Books also offer a full-size SD card reader, while the Surface Pro 4 only features a microSD card reader.
All three have a Mini DisplayPort, headphone jack and a power connector though. They also all run on Windows 10 Pro and offer a 30-day Office 365 30-day trial.
Microsoft Surface Book (2016) vs Surface Book (2015) vs Surface Pro 4: Price
- Surface Pro 4 cheapest starting price
- Surface Book Performance Base most expensive, as you'd expect
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 starts at £749 for the base model we mentioned previously, increasing to £2199 for the top-specced model.
The Microsoft Surface Book 2015 model starts at £1045 for the base model, increasing to £2649 for the top-specced model.
The Microsoft Surface Book Performance Base will start at $2399 for the base model and it will be available mid-November.