Microsoft has finally updated the Surface Book - the Surface Book 3 has the latest that Intel and Nvidia have to offer in the same powerhouse package with detachable tablet display. It comes in two sizes.
- Definitely want a Mac? Check out our bigger MacBook guide
- Definitely want a Surface? Check out our guide to all the Surface devices
But which of them - Surface Book 3 or MacBook Pro - is best for you? Let's find out!
MacBook Pro vs Surface Book 3: Design and size
- Surface Book available in 13.5 and 15-inch models
- MacBook Pro available in 13 and 16-inch models
The two types of laptop here - Mac and Surface - have one distinct difference - the Surface has a detachable screen that acts as a self-contained tablet. The Mac's screen is very much attached and is non-touch.
The Surface Book 3 is available in two sizes, 13.5 and 15-inch. That means the two sizes are actually pretty close in terms of screen size, but as you'll hear the 15-inch is a much more capable models.
The 13.5-inch model weighs in around 1.5-1.6kg depending on configuration (719g for just the tablet) and measures up as 312 mm x 232 mm x 15 mm-23 mm.
The 15-incher measures up at 343 mm x 251 mm x 15 mm-23 mm and weighs 1.9kg (the tablet is 817g).
In terms of the MacBook Pro, the 13-inch models measure 304.1 x 212.4 x 15.6mm and weighs 1.4kg. That means it's slightly thicker and heavier than the older model which was 14.9mm thick/1.37kg.
The larger 16-inch models all measure 358 x 246 x 16.2mm and weighs 2kg. Despite the larger screen size, the new 16-incher is only marginally bigger than the 15-inch it replaced.
As you'd expect the 13.5-inch Surface Book is generally heavier than the equivalent because of the tablet part, but for the larger models it's the Mac which is more weighty (it has a bigger display).
MacBook Pro vs Surface Book 3: Display and touch
- Surface Book 3 displays are more pixel-dense and detachable
- The Surface devices are touchscreen, the Macs are not
- MacBooks offer True Tone display
The Surface Book 3 beats the MacBook Pro in terms of display resolution, with 3,000 x 2,000 (13.5-inch 267ppi) and 3,240 x 2,160, (15-inch, 260ppi) PixelSense displays.
As for the Mac, the 16-inch model has a resolution of 3,072 x 1,920 pixels (226ppi), with almost six million pixels on board. The 13-inch model has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels (227ppi), the same as older 13-inch MacBook Pros.
All MacBook Pro displays boast True Tone, 500 nits of brightness and a wide P3 colour gamut. True Tone is a tech that was first introduced on the iPad Pro, adjusting the screen to match the colour temperature of the lighting in the room.
As it's a tablet, the Surface displays are full touchscreens that can be used with the optional Surface Pen or Surface Dial. The Macs don't have touchscreens but every MacBook Pro now has a Touch Bar; a context-sensitive control panel at the top of the keyboard.
MacBook Pro vs Surface Book 3: Processor, graphics and storage
- 10th generation Intel Core processors on Surface Book 3 and some MacBook Pro 13-inch models - all quad-core
- 16-inch Mac has either 6 or 8 cores
- Surface Book has Nvidia graphics on most models
- Radeon Pro graphics for 16-inch Mac only
The Surface Book 3 keeps it relatively simple on the processor front, with two chips to choose from - both from Intel's latest 10th generation of Core processors. These are the quad-core Core i5-1035G7 (13.5-inch only) or quad-core Core i7-1065G7 (both sizes).
The 13-inch MacBook Pro boasts quad-core Core i5 processors as standard across the range. These are 8th generation on the bottom two models and 10th generation chips on the top two versions. You can also configure a 10th generation Core i7, too.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro has 8th generation Intel Core processors and adds some 9th generation options. Why older generation? More cores; everything on the bigger model has either 6 or 8 cores. It has the 'basic' option of a 2.6Ghz Intel Core i7 with six cores, but there are two Core i9 processors you can get in the range, too, clocked at 2.3Ghz or 2.4Ghz with Turbo Boost speeds of 4.5 or 5Ghz respectively.
In terms of graphics, the Core i5 versions of the 13.5-inch Surface Book 3 follow the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Iris Plus graphics. They're no slouch and are way better than the integrated graphics of yesteryear. There is no discrete graphics option on the 13-inch Mac, which is a bit unfortunate.
If you order a Core i7 version of the Surface Book you do get extra graphics power (in the keyboard base, so it's only used when docked). With the 13.5-inch that's Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 and on the 15-inch the default option is the GTX 1660 Ti or you can choose the workstation-level Quadro RTX 3000.
The MacBook Pro 16-inch uses AMD Radeon graphics with the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M or 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory and automatic graphics switching between that and the integrated Intel graphics.
On the Surface Book 3, you can spec 8GB (13.5-inch only), 16 or 32GB of latest-gen 3733Mhz LPDDR4x memory by default. On the Mac, the 16-inch model can be topped up to 64GB of memory, while the 13-inch can have up to 32GB. 8GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory is standard on the 13-inch and 16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 memory is standard on the 16-inch.
On the Mac, storage tops out at a whopping 8TB on the 16-inch and 4TB on the 13-inch but starting at 512GB and 256GB respectively. The Surface Book 3 starts at 256GB for both models but only goes up to 2TB (US only, apparently).
MacBook Pro vs Surface Book 3: Connectivity and other specs
- Only one USB-C on Surface Book 3, up to four on the Mac
- No Thunderbolt on Surface Book 3
- Microsoft remains dedicated to Surface Connect
- Surface Book has USB-A and SD card reader
All these models support USB-C but while the Mac has two or four ports depending on model, the Surface Book 3 has a meagre one, which also isn't enabled for the fast Thunderbolt 3 data transfer tech. Once again Microsoft is lagging behind here, even if some users will welcome the older style USB-A port on the Surface Book. The SD card reader also remains, which isn't present on the Mac.
Charging on the Surface is also via the Surface Connect port rather than USB-C. Surface Connect is also used for connections to the official Surface Dock and Surface Dock 2 docking stations although we'd rather use USB-C. All these PCs and Macs have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The keyboard has been completely redesigned on the MacBook Pro after mass criticism of Apple's previous Butterfly design (that was present on now end-of-life 15-inch models and pre-2020 13-inch MacBook Pros). That older keyboard design remains the subject of an ongoing recall program.
The Magic Keyboard is designed to be much more durable and with better travel for more comfortable typing. The physical Escape key has also returned. The Surface Book has the same keyboard it always has, but it's always been great to type on.
The Macs run Apple's latest version of its Mac operating system - macOS 10.15 Catalina while the Surface Book 32 has 64-bit Windows 10 Pro or Home depending on your preference.
MacBook Pro vs Surface Book 3: Price
As for the Mac, you'll pay from $1,299/£1,299 for the 13-inch. The 16-inch model starts at $2,399/£2,399.
The Surface Book 3 starts at $1,599/£1,599 for the 13.5-inch model which is significantly more than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The 15-incher starts at $2,299/£2,199.
Although the base-level 13-inch Mac configurations aren't the ones to go for, it's pretty clear that you do pay quite a bit for the 13.5-inch Surface Book 3's touchscreen and detachable tablet, higher resolution display and 10th generation Core processors.
But things are different for the larger models where we'd say the Surface Book 3 and MacBook Pro are more evenly matched. Although you get the tablet part and latest-gen Intel Core chips, you get more cores with the Mac and larger storage. Overall, we'd say the Mac is a little better value if you don't want a touchscreen.