PC or Mac? Microsoft Surface Book versus 13-inch MacBook Pro

It doesn't matter how you look at it, Microsoft's new Surface Book will be compared to Apple's MacBook Pro. They're both high-end notebooks, both targeted at people who want performance, productivity and portability.

We've only had a short time so far with the Surface Book, but on paper at least here's how it breaks down.

For the sake of comparisons we've gone with the base model of each.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategorySurface BookMacBook Pro
Display13.5-inch Pixel Sense display13.3-inch LED backlit IPS
Display Resolution3000 x 2000 at 267ppi2560 x 1600 at 227 ppi
SoftwareWindows 10 ProOS X El Capitan
Processor6th Gen Intel Core i55th Gen Intel Core i5
GraphicsIntel HD graphicsIntel Iris Graphics 6100
Rear Camera8MP with autofocus, 1080P recordingNone
Front Camera5MPFull HD (1920 x 1080)Facetime HD (720p)
SpeakersFront-facing stereo speakers with Dolby audioStereo speakers
PortsTwo full-size USB 3.0, Full-size SD card reader, Surface Connect, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPortTwo full-size USB 3.0, Full-size SD card reader, Two Thunderbolt 2, Full sized HDMI, Headset jack
Battery LifeUp to 12 hoursUp to 12 hours
PenSurface Pen1,024 levels of pressure sensitivityMagnetic storageNo pen
DimensionsLaptop: 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)12.35 in x 8.62 in x 0.71 in (314 x 219 x 18 mm)

It's kind of unusual to come across a product that's priced higher than a competing one from Apple. But then with the Surface Book you're not just getting a laptop. Microsoft calls it the "ultimate laptop," because it's actually a two-in-one with a detachable tablet portion complete with support for the Surface Pen. You also get a rear camera, something familiar on tablets that you don't get on a MacBook.

Make no mistake, both of these are premium notebooks. Both metal, both packing glorious, high-res displays. But one area the MacBook Pro is falling behind Surface Book is on the internals. Many of the base specs are the same across the two, but as yet the MacBook Pro hasn't been updated to Intel's new 6th Gen, Skylake CPUs. It also, believe it or not, has a lower resolution display with a lower ppi (pixels per inch) value.

Both are packed with the ports you're going to want access to, but the Surface Book has an ace up its sleeve in being compatible with the new Surface Pro 4 dock. This adds yet more connectivity.

When it comes to software of course, it's Apple's and oranges. If you want OS X you go MacBook. If you want Windows, you go Surface Book. But, what if it doesn't matter? What if you just don't care? There's a strong case to be put forward for both, but the Surface Book might just have the edge right now. Maybe things will level out a little when the MacBook Pro gets its next refresh. But right now, this is what we've got and the Surface Book looks like its pulling out in front.

And if you're prepared to spend more and ramp up the specs, the Surface Book can have an NVIDIA GeForce GPU, too. You won't find dedicated graphics on any of the 13-inch MacBook Pro line, regardless of what you spec up.

For the rest of our NYC #Windows10Devices coverage head here:

  • Lumia 950
  • Lumia 950 XL
  • Surface Pro 4
  • Surface Book
  • Microsoft Band 2
Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine