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Surface Laptop 2 vs. MacBook Pro: Which should you buy?

Surface Laptop 2
Surface Laptop 2 (Image credit: Windows Central)

The Surface Laptop 2 and MacBook Pro are really for very different target audiences. The Surface Laptop 2 is one of the best Windows laptops you can buy, but it's not equipped for the professional or serious power user. The MacBook Pro has the hardware for that type of buyer, with the added bonus of being able to boot into Windows 10 as well.

Surface Laptop 2 vs MacBook Pro basic tech specs

Surface Laptop 2

Surface Laptop 2 (Image credit: Windows Central)

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is the closest to the Surface Laptop 2 in terms of outright specs, but Apple still has more options on the table for its professional buyers. There are two sizes, and in the larger 15-inch model you can build a quite ridiculously powerful laptop.

The Surface Laptop 2 has quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with Intel UHD 620 graphics, a 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 resolution touch display, up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

By contrast, Apple has options on the MacBook Pro that include quad-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors on the 13-inch model, and six-core processors up to a Core i9 on the 15-inch model. The 13-inch can support up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of RAM, while the 15-inch goes up to 32GB of RAM and an insane 4TB of SSD storage.

All models of the MacBook Pro 13-inch use Intel Iris Plus graphics, while on the 15-inch you have options for Radeon Pro 560X, Vega 16 or Vega 20 dedicated GPUs from AMD.

Surface Laptop 2 is a nice upgrade on its predecessor

The Surface Laptop 2 itself is only a mild upgrade to the original model, but it has some important improvements. In our review, we determined you can expect at least an extra hour from its battery, despite the processor having been bumped to a quad-core over the dual-core from the first one.

It isn't perfect — there's no USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 for example, and the Alcantara keyboard can certainly get quite dirty — but it's still an excellent laptop. You're getting cutting edge hardware, with a gorgeous high-resolution, pen-enabled screen thrown in for good measure.

It's also cheaper at the entry level, while offering a better spec and performance compared to the cheapest MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro has (mostly) superior specs

MacBook Pro

Even though there are no longer any legacy ports on the MacBook Pro, it still has a fairly big advantage over the Surface Laptop 2. Not only does it have the new USB-C, it has Thunderbolt 3 as well. And Thunderbolt 3 opens up a world of possibilities. You can attach high resolution displays to it, connect fast external storage, and perhaps most interesting of all, hook up an eGPU, putting a full desktop graphics card into your MacBook Pro. Even the integrated graphics on the 13-inch MacBook Pro are better than those on the Surface Laptop 2.

The Surface Laptop 2 has no USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 and to get the most from it, you'll need to buy the first-party Surface Dock (opens in new tab).

Besides this, the MacBook Pro has the latest generation six-core processors from Intel right up to the Core i9, options for dedicated graphics that go up to AMD's Radeon Vega Pro, up to 32GB of RAM and up to 4TB of storage.

The outlier is the base model 13-inch MacBook Pro with a dual-core processor and 128GB of storage. It costs quite a bit more than the Surface Laptop 2 for no gain, and you're going to be hitting the $1,799 price point for the Touch Bar model before you see any real advantages.

Different laptops for different people

MacBook Pro

The Surface Laptop 2 is a closer match to Apple's MacBook Air, in the sense that they're both highly portable yet capable Ultrabooks, and they appeal to the same type of laptop buyers.

The MacBook Pro is simply in a different class. It's a pro-grade laptop with a ton of powerful options, much better graphics capabilities and if your wallet will go far enough, even a ridiculous Core i9 processor. It also comes in two sizes, 13 inches and 15 inches, while the Surface Laptop 2 is limited to the single 13.5-inch model. The base model might be a bit of a dud, but the higher specs start to move away.

If you're already looking at the Surface Laptop 2 as something you think you'd like to buy, get it. The MacBook Pro isn't really a direct competitor, and you're going to end up spending a lot more money on the Mac. If you're thinking of the very bottom spec MacBook Pro, the Surface Laptop 2 will offer better value

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. 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 covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.