The gauntlet has been thrown down. Microsoft has updated its top-spec Surface Book, while Apple has updated its MacBook Pro, putting in a new Touch Bar feature.

These two laptops square up, both pushing innovative features, trying to pull you to Windows and macOS respectively and claim the cash in your pocket. 

But how do they compare head-to-head? This is the Surface Book vs MacBook Pro breakdown, comparing those 13-inch models.

  • Surface Book has a detachable display
  • MacBook Pro offers OLED Touch Bar

Microsoft introduced the Surface Book design in 2015 and although the model updated in 2016, it still looks the same, offering that proper keyboard, that innovative hinge that will let the screen sit at any angle, as well as offering a detachable 13.5-inch display.

The Surface Book measures 312.3 x 232.1 x 22.8mm and weighs 1.516kg or 1.647kg for the top i7 Performance Base model.

The MacBook Pro has an all-new design that slims down the aluminium unibody, expands the Force Touch trackpad and gives a really slim display, which remains attached. 

MacBook Pro measures 304.1 x 212.4 x 14.9mm, so it's smaller in all directions than the Surface Book. It weighs 1.37kg, so it's a good deal lighter too.

The MacBook Pro introduces a Touch Bar OLED panel, replacing the function keys at the top of the keyboard, dynamically changing depending on what you're doing. There's also a Touch ID sensor in the power button, allowing for Apple Pay payments online, and easy sign-in. 

Touch Bar gives you dedicated controls that simply don't exist on other devices, with a solution that's adaptable and doesn't require any touching on the display itself. 

These laptops are different: MacBook Pro might be more compact and portable, but Surface Book offers a full touch tablet, so it's potentially more flexible, if a little bulkier.

  • Surface Book: 13.5-inch, 3000 x 2000 pixels, 267ppi, touchscreen
  • MacBook Pro: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixels, 227ppi

There's a big difference in what you can use these displays for. Surface Book has an advantage, offering a detachable display that offers full touch, as well as supporting Surface Pen. That means that Surface Book will do things you'd need an iPad Pro for - here there's a Windows tablet in the same package.

The Surface Book has a 13.5-inch PixelSense display with a 3000 x 2000 pixel resolution, 267ppi, with 3:2 aspect. 

The MacBook Pro offers a conventional 13.3-inch Retina display with 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution, 227ppi, with 8:5 aspect.

The Surface Book is sharper and can potentially offer more detail on its display, although the MacBook Pro has always been a very good quality display and in this latest model, it boosts the brightness and contrast. 

Which looks better is difficult to judge without getting them side-by-side. 

  • Both offer Intel Core i5 and i7 options
  • Surface Book offers discrete Nvidia GPUs

Both the Surface Book and the MacBook Pro offer sixth-gen Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs. Both offer various RAM from 8GB to 16GB depending on your configuration.

The Surface Book starts with 128GB SSD, with options up to 1TB. The MacBook Pro starts at 256GB SSD, with options up to 1TB. Storage depends on the model configuration you choose in both cases.

When it comes to GPU, the MacBook Pro 13-inch offers Intel Iris Graphics 540 or 550, depending on the model you choose. There's only the option for an AMD Radeon GPU on 15-inch MacBook Pro models, so the 13-inch model is a little weaker in the GPU department. 

The Surface Book offers much wider options for graphics, with Intel HD graphics at the entry level, but also offering discrete GPUs, up to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M on the top i7 model. 

At the entry level these two laptops might be close, but in the 13-inch size, Microsoft is offering more powerful graphical options than Apple does.

  • Surface Book: Two USB 3.0, SD card, Mini DisplayPort
  • MacBook Pro: Four Thunderbolt 3 ports

If you've been paying attention, you'll know that the MacBook Pro has axed a lot of ports, moving to Thunderbolt 3 for everything - charging and all connections you want to make. In the short term, than probably means that not much will connect to it without an adapter. 

That makes the Surface Book instantly more compatible with existing devices. Surface Book supports your old USB devices, you can put your memory card in it and connect to your existing monitor for example.

It's not as simple as saying the Surface Book is better as a result, however. MacBook Pro still has connections and they are all versatile, supporting HDMI, DisplayPort, USB and so on, but all though the USB Type-C design. In some ways, that makes for better connectivity, it's just that you probably don't have any of those connectors or adapters yet.

For those interested in photography, the loss of an SD card slot is probably the biggest bugbear with the MacBook Pro. For things like other connections, changing cables won't be a long-term hardship.

  • Surface Book: $1,699 (256GB)
  • MacBook Pro: $1,799 (256GB) 

The starting price of these laptops doesn't tell the whole story. The older Surface Book at $1,349 comes with half the storage of the MacBook Pro's starting point, so we've picked the 256GB model instead, where the pricing is close, with the Surface Book a little cheaper. 

However, because of those powerful GPU options, the top Surface Book, with Core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD and an Nvidia GPU will cost you $3,299. The top MacBook Pro, with Core i7, 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD will cost you $2,899. 

Although these devices occupy different spaces - Apple is more conventional but offers that unique Touch Bar, Microsoft is more versatile with touch and tablet mode - they're both gunning to be the best 13-inch laptops around. 

Whichever you choose, be prepared to be a pretty penny for them. 

The Surface Book is available to order from the Microsoft Store. The MacBook Pro is available to pre-order from the Apple Store.