Up until recently, if you wanted to get a device running Windows to that you can also hold in your hands as a tablet, the answer would have been almost unanimous: get a Surface Pro 3. But then, Microsoft said here's the new Surface Pro 4, which is the updated version of the best productivity tablet. Not only that but the company also unveiled the Surface Book, which is a gorgeous laptop packing some serious horsepower with a sleek and compact design.
The new devices are amazing, but making the decision on which one to buy could be a difficult task. Today we're going to go back and forth between the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book to settle once for all, which one you should get.
After three generations, Microsoft has learned quite a bit about the tablet business. The Surface Pro 3 has been a big success for the company, and now the Surface Pro 4 is the better and improved version of the tablet.
On the other hand, we have the Surface Book, which is the first laptop built by Microsoft. The company is using everything it has learned from building Surface tablets and adding things such as a custom graphics processor, "dynamic fulcrum hinge" design, "muscle wire lock" to release the display from the dock, specially crafted keyboard, and more to create the "ultimate laptop".
Although, Microsoft is targeting these devices to different audiences, the decision can come down to design, battery life, graphics, and pricing.
When you first look at the Surface Book, it's not hard to realize that the new laptop has a design inspired by the Surface Pro line, which hasn't changed significantly since Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 4 is 8.4mm thick while the Surface Book is 22.8mm on its thickest point -- when you detach the display, you will end up with a 7.7mm thin clipboard (or tablet, depending on who you ask).
Also, the Surface Book can be as heavy as 3.48 pounds when you get it with the discrete graphics processor, and the Surface Pro 4 is much lighter at 1.73 pounds without the Type Cover.
Put it this way: If you pick a Surface Pro 4, you probably won't notice it in your backpack, but the Surface Book will make its presence noticed.
The Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3-inch 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI) PixelSense display while the Surface Book has a 13.5-inch 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI). Obviously, you get a larger real estate view and more pixels -- 1,009,536 more pixels to be exact -- with the laptop, but interesting enough, both devices offer the same 267 pixels-per-inch density, 3:2 aspect ratio, 100 percent sRGB color, and support for the Surface Pen.
Also, both devices feature a silver color magnesium body, with the difference that the Surface Pro 4 features the full-friction multi-position kickstand, and the Surface Book doesn't. But you get a keyboard base with the new "dynamic fulcrum hinge" design that should help with stability and "lapability". However, because you can technically use it as a tablet too, Microsoft created the new hinge for the Surface Book. That hinge is not steady as those found on regular laptops, as such it's hard to ignore that the display wobbles when using touch or you're using the Surface Book on your lap.
It's worth saying that most convertible laptops suffer from the same problem. This is what happens when you cram a full PC into the display instead of the base. You will probably find that Microsoft has built the better solution, but there is room for improvement.
The hardware on these devices is also very similar. For example, both devices sport an 8-megapixel rear- and 5-megapixel front-facing camera and both offer the same hardware support for Windows Hello. These two devices come with a wide variety of hardware configurations, such as sixth-generation Intel Skylake processors, up to 16GB of memory, and up to 1TB of SSD storage. The difference can be found in the configurations, the Surface Book only offers the choice of a Core i5 and Core i7 with 8GB or 16GB of memory, while the Surface Pro 4 offers the choice of Core m3, Core i5, and Core i7 with 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of memory.
Naturally being a laptop, the Surface Book comes with a full-size keyboard, which Microsoft claims is the "best in class." However, the silver color the company has chosen for the keys makes a little hard to see the lettering in daylight when the backlight is on. The trackpad also works great on the Surface Book, it's very accurate, and it's made of the same glass material found in the new Type Cover.
Side note: It can be a little uncomfortable grabbing the display as a tablet (landscape), but when you use it as a clipboard (portrait) is a more enjoyable experience.
The Surface Pro 4 doesn't come with a keyboard because naturally it's a tablet-first device, but you can purchase the new Type Cover, which has been highly improved with better spacing between keys and a 40 percent larger trackpad.
You also want to keep in mind that the Surface Book features the majority of its ports in the keyboard base while the Surface Pro 4 has all the ports on the device itself.
Battery life is also a big deal if you don't have a device that can deliver productivity without having to plug the cord every two hours. It's not a device worth buying in my honest opinion.
If you're looking for a device that can last all day with a single charge, you're probably looking for a Surface Book. Even with the larger and higher resolution display, you can get up to 12 hours of battery life of local video playback, compare to the up to 9 hours in the Surface Pro 4 with the lower resolution display.
Of course, battery life for both devices are based on internal Microsoft tests, in real life there are many factors that can affect battery life, as such users will experience difference results, but they should be more or less of what the company claims.
Also, remember that you can detach the display and use it as a clipboard (tablet), but you will only get roughly 3 hours of battery life. You will need to stay connected to the keyboard base to achieve the claimed 12 hours, which is understandable because it's a laptop running a 6 million pixel display and Core processors. If you're thinking of using it more as a tablet, you would be better getting a Surface Pro 4 instead, which could triple the battery life.
I think, we can agree that the Surface Book wins hands down on graphics, as this laptop doesn't feature one, but two graphics processors -- Intel HD Graphics 520, which lives in the clipboard, and the optional custom NVIDIA GeFroce processor with 1GB of dedicated GDDR5 high-speed memory located in the keyboard base.
If you're looking for a laptop to perfectly crafted to use Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, AutoCAD, or other applications with high graphics processing demands, then you will appreciate all the work Microsoft has done with the Surface Book.
It's not all about work. With outstanding graphics, you can also use the laptop for gaming. Of course, you don't have to expect flawless 60fps on graphical intensive video games, but overall games will look good on the Surface Book.
While the Surface Pro 4 wasn't built for graphics performance, the new tablet still includes the latest integrated Intel graphics processors, and you will get a good casual gaming experience. Another thing to consider is that the Surface Pro 4 with the Core i7-6650U processor includes the latest Intel Iris Graphics 540, which is better than the Surface Book with the Core i7-6600U processor featuring the Intel HD Graphics 520.
The Core i5 models of the tablet include the Intel HD Graphics 520, which is the same GPU offered in the new laptop. The Surface Pro 4 with the Core m3 ships with the HD Graphics 515, which offer a lower graphics performance, but it will get the work done for most people, who just use the device to view content and everyday tasks.
Pricing is another factor that could affect the decision on which Surface you're going to get. You have different choices and different price points with both devices, but the Surface Pro 4 is the only one that offers more choices and better value.
A Surface Pro 4 with an Intel Core m3 and 4GB of memory starts at $899 without the Type Cover (+$129), compared to the $1,499 for the entry level of the Surface Book with a Core i5 and 8GB of memory.
If you need the processing power more than you need the graphics and battery life, you can max out the Surface Pro 4 with a Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory, and 1TB of storage for $2,699, while the same configuration will cost $3,199 for a Surface Book. It's pricey, but you're getting a premium device, as such you will pay a premium price too.
Surface Book vs. Surface Pro 4 tech specs
Below you'll find a table with the Surace Book and Surface Pro 4 tech specs that can help you to compare both devices.
|Category||Surface Book||Surface Pro 4|
|Software||Windows 10 Pro||Windows 10 Pro|
|Display||13.5-inch Pixel Sense display
Contrast Ratio: 1800:1
|12.3-inch PixelSense Display
Contrast ratio: 1300:1
|Display Resolution||3000 x 2000 at 267ppi
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
|2736 x 1824 267ppi
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
|Processor||6th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7||6th Generation Intel Core m3, i5, or i7 (Skylake)|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB Solid State Drive (SSD)||128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB Solid State Drive (SSD)|
|Memory||8GB or 16GB RAM||4GB, 8GB or 16GB|
|Graphics||i5: Intel HD graphics (non-GPU), i5/i7: NVIDIA GeForce graphics (GPU)||m3 Intel HD graphics 51, i5 Intel HD graphics 520, i7 Intel Iris graphics|
|Rear Camera||8MP with autofocus, 1080P recording||8MP with autofocus, 1080P recording|
Full HD (1920 x 1080)
Windows Hello face-authentication
Full HD (1920 x 1080)
|Speakers||Front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby audio||Front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby audio|
|Ports||Two full-size USB 3.0, Full-size SD card reader, Surface Connect, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort||Full-size USB 3.0, microSD card reader, 3.5mm headset jack, Mini DisplayPort, Type Cover port, Surface Connect|
|Sensors||Sensors, Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer||Sensors, Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer|
|Security||TPM chip for enterprise security||TPM chip for enterprise security|
|WiFi||802.11ac 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible||802.11ac 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible|
|Battery Life||Up to 12 hours||Up to 9 hours|
1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity
1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity
|Power Supply||36W power supply with USB chargin port
65W power supply with USB charging power (discrete GPU SKU)
|24W power supply (Intel Core m3)
36W Power supply with USB charging port (Intel Core i5 and Core i7)
|Weight||Clipboard: 1.6lbs, Non-GPU: 3.34 lbs, GPU: 3.48 lbs||i5/i7: 1.73lbs (786g), m3: 1.69lbs (766g)|
|Dimensions||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)
|11.50 x 7.93 x .33 in (292.10 x 201.42 x 8.45 mm)|
Which one you should buy?
Now, it's time to settle the question of which one you should get, but before you make a decision, let's be clear and say that both devices are in different categories, and it's only fair to compare them up to a certain point. Both devices share a lot of similarities, but they were both built for different audiences.
The device you need will mainly depend on the software you use. If you use editing software that requires heavy graphics processing, or you like to play games, you will get the benefits of the optional NVIDIA GeForce graphics processor. Also, if you're looking for a device that you will exclusively use as a laptop that does everything and has a longer battery life, then the Surface Book could be your choice.
However, if you're a regular user that uses a computing device to do everyday tasks, such as web browsing, editing Office documents, watching videos, and casual gaming, and you like a very lightweight device with decent battery life, your choice would probably be the Surface Pro 4.
As I previously mentioned, the price is another big factor. If you're looking for value, a Surface Pro 4 is likely to be your best option. Now, if you work for a company, which will pay for the device, or you have the cash to spend then the Surface Book could be a possibility.
There will be a difference in price and on overall performance if you buy a Surface Book or Surface Pro 4, but the bottom line is that both devices are amazing, and it will be difficult not to like either one of them.
Finally, there is the other option: neither. Dell's XPS 13 and XPS 15 are certainly raising interest as viable (and cheaper) alternatives to the Surface Book. We'll be taking a look at that possibility later on.
What have you decide? Are you getting a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book? Let us know in the comments below.