Microsoft has introduced a new Surface-branded device - and it runs a new version of Windows 10.
Called Surface Laptop, it's a premium device designed to rival the 12-inch MacBook. So, with that in mind, we pitted the Surface Laptop against the MacBook as well as the 13-inch MacBook Pro -- because why not? If you're considering the Surface Laptop, you're probably also eyeing both of Apple's compact laptops. But which one is best for you and your lifestyle? Well, we've figured it so you don't have to.
Surface Laptop vs MacBook vs MacBook Pro: Design
- Surface Laptop: Metal, plastic, and fabric body available in different colours
- MacBook: Aluminium construction available in four different colours
- MacBook Pro: Aluminium construction with OLED Touch Bar
Microsoft's Surface Laptop is available in four colours (burgundy, platinum, cobalt blue, and graphite gold). Its emphasis is on manufacturing skill, with metal, plastic, and the Alcantara fabric deck coming together to give you a premium product. It includes a Mini DisplayPort, full-size USB 3.0 port, and Surface Connect for extendibility. It weighs 2.76 pounds with the following dimensions: 12.13 x 8.79 x 0.57 inches.
Apple's 12-inch MacBook has a "highly recyclable aluminum enclosure" available in rose gold, space gray, gold, and silver colours. The MacBook only comes with a USB Type-C connection for power and external use. However, many third-party accessories and dongles are now available. It weighs 2.03 pounds and has a tapered thickness with the following dimensions: 11.04 x 7.74 x 0.14-0.52 inches.
Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro introduces a Touch Bar OLED panel, which replaces the function keys on the keyboard. They dynamically change depending on what you're doing. There's also Touch ID in the power button, allowing for Apple Pay and logging in. It comes with come with two USB Type-C connections and weighs 3.02 pounds with the following dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.59 inches.
In terms of size, the Surface Laptop is thicker and heavier than the 12-inch MacBook but not the 13-inch MacBook Pro. It also has as many colour options as the 12-inch MacBook, and although it doesn't have an aluminium unibody construction, it does have a premium blend of materials. All three laptops offer a 3.5mm headset jack and at least some way for you to hook up external peripherals.
Surface Laptop vs MacBook vs MacBook Pro: Display
- Surface Laptop: 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504 pixels, 201ppi, touchscreen
- MacBook: 12-inch, 2305 x 1440 pixels, 226ppi
- MacBook Pro: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixels, 227ppi
The Surface Laptop comes with a 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 resolution PixelSense display (3:2 aspect ratio). It's touch-enabled with 3.4 million pixels for a sharp picture, and Microsoft is claiming it is the thinnest LCD touchscreen you'll find on any device. As it comes with touch, you also get support for Surface Pen, meaning you can craft, sketch, annotate, edit, and do whatever else you want using a stylus.
The MacBook has 12-inch LED backlit display with IPS technology and a resolution of 2304 x 1440 (226ppi). Meanwhile, the MacBook Pro offers a conventional 13.3-inch Retina display with a 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution (227ppi). Neither Apple laptop offers a touchscreen, though the MacBook Pro does come with a Touch Bar OLED panel on the keyboard instead of a traditional function key row.
The Surface Laptop's display isn't as sharp as the 12-inch MacBook or 13-inch MacBook Pro, but it is touchscreen, which might not matter to most people, though we imagine students will love the ability to use a pen to sketch and annotate. As for which display looks better, it's difficult to judge without getting them side-by-side. We'll keep you posted when we have a chance to review the new Surface Laptop.
Surface Laptop vs MacBook vs MacBook Pro: Hardware
- Surface Laptop and MacBook Pro offer Intel Core i5 and i7 options
- MacBook offers low-end Intel Core m3 or Core m5 CPUs
- Surface Laptop offers Intel HD 620 or Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
- MacBook offers Intel HD Graphics 515
- MacBook Pro offers Intel Iris Graphics 540 or Graphics 550
The Surface Laptop is powered by the latest Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs. Graphics-wise, it has Intel HD 620 or Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640. Impressively, Microsoft says you'll get 14.5 hours of battery life. It's also claimed that when the lid is closed and the laptop is in standby, it will drain no battery. It will be available with 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB RAM, with an option of 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB SSD for storage.
The 12-inch MacBook featues low-end Intel Core m3 or Core m5 CPUs with entry-level Intel HD Graphics 515, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro offers mid-range Intel Core i5 or Core i7 with Intel Iris Graphics 540 or Intel Iris Graphics 550. Both laptops promise 10 hours of battery life with casual web use and offer various RAM from 8GB to 16GB. They also both offer 256GB or 512GB of storage.
So, because the Surface Laptop runs the latest Intel silicon (Kaby Lake versus Skylake), it should theoretically outpace both Apple laptops in terms of performance as well as for graphics, though we'd have to test the Surface Laptop first before we can make a final conclusion. It also beats both laptops when it comes to battery life, offering up nearly five hours more plus a no-draining when in standby feature.
Surface Laptop vs MacBook vs MacBook Pro: Software
- Both MacBooks run the latest MacOS software
- Surface Laptop comes with the Windows 10 S OS
Last summer, Apple pushed out MacOS Sierra with some useful new features. They can speed up how you work and find things, as well as help you save space on your precious hard drive. Perhaps the biggest new feature is Siri, which is just as useful as it is on iPhone. The new Messages app has also been revamped to make it more compatible with the all-new iOS 10 Messages app. Both MacBooks run Sierra.
Surface Laptop runs Windows 10 S, a fully functional version of Windows that is meant to run smoothly on all hardware. The big catch is that it's designed to only run verified apps from the Windows Store. You will not be able to download apps online and install them, so this version is sandboxed. But there aren't any hardware restrictions on Windows 10 S, so again, it can run across a full range of devices.
While Windows 10 S can only run verified apps from the Windows Store, you can download and run anything you want on either MacBook. That's a huge advantage. But keep in mind Microsoft is targeting students with the Surface Laptop, and it's giving them the ability to use Office apps. It's not trying to go after professionals who consistently need to use powerful apps.
Surface Laptop vs MacBook vs MacBook Pro: Price
- Surface Laptop: $999 (Core i5) or $2,199 (i7)
- MacBook: $1,299 (256GB)
- MacBook Pro: $1,799 (256GB)
Surface Laptop vs MacBook vs MacBook Pro: Conclusion
The Surface Laptop is a real challenger to the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro. It comes with a range of ports including a 3.5mm headphone socket, USB 3.0, SD card slot, and mini DisplayPort, rather than just a USB Type-C connection, and it's available in many colours with premium finishes. It also has full, crisp touchscreen and runs the latest Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs with entry-level graphics.
Plus, it's cheaper than both laptops. We'd probably say it sits somewhere between the MacBook and MacBook Pro when it comes to design, and for power, it really does give the MacBook Pro a run for its money, especially when you factor in battery life. Surface Laptop is also compatible with existing Surface accessories, like the Dial and Pen. Its "downside" is that it comes with Windows 10 S out of the box.
However, you can upgrade a Windows 10 S device to Windows 10 Pro (update is $49 for individuals). This may be an attractive option if you end up needing an app that's not verified by Microsoft. And if you're using Microsoft Intune for Education to manage devices, you will be able to update your Surface Laptop to Windows 10 Pro at no cost.
You have to decide what you want from your next laptop and how much you can pay. You can choose between Apple's two high-end, MacOS-powered laptops or Microsoft's high-end, Windows 10 S-powered laptop that happens to be cheaper (and is upgradeable to Windows 10 Pro). The differences aren't too wide to best honest.