Surface Laptop 3 vs MacBook Pro: Which should you buy?
Best for most
The Surface Laptop 3 now comes in two sizes and uses both Intel and AMD hardware inside. Everything that made the first two great remains, except it now has USB-C as well!
- Stunning touch display
- Digital inking support
- Great battery life
- Two sizes
- Intel and AMD processors
- No Thunderbolt 3
- Not all colors available in all configurations
The MacBook Pro is packed with hardware to excite the professional market, but all that comes at a high price, though you do also have the option for dedicated graphics.
- Optional eight-core processors
- Stunning Retina Display
- Can run Windows 10
- Thunderbolt 3
- Dedicated graphics options and eGPU support
- No legacy ports
The Surface Laptop 3 and MacBook Pro are for very different target audiences. The Surface Laptop 3 is not targeted at the serious power user. The MacBook Pro has the hardware for that type of buyer, with the bonus of being able to boot into Windows 10 as well.
While the Surface Laptop 3 is in contention to be the best Windows laptop right now, Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro will always be a contender in this market. The 13-inch laptop space has some of the finest notebook computers you can buy, so competition is fierce.
Now is an excellent time to be buying, though, as we enter the holiday shopping season. The next big event is Black Friday, and it's worth keeping an eye out for deals, especially if you're still leaning towards a MacBook Pro. Apple is notorious for avoiding discounts on its hardware, but that doesn't stop authorized resellers like Amazon offering cuts. If you see a discount on the MacBook Pro spec you want on Black Friday, snap it up.
Surface Laptop 3 vs MacBook Pro basic tech specs
|Category||Surface Laptop 3 (13-inch)||Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)||MacBook Pro (13-inch)||MacBook Pro (16-inch)|
|Operating System||Windows 10||Windows 10||macOS||macOS|
|Display||13.5-inch Pixelsense, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2256x1504 (201 PPI)||15-inch Pixelsense, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2496x1664 (201 PPI)||13.3-inch Retina 2560 x 1600 (227 PPI)||16-inch Retina 3072 x 1920|
|Processor||Intel 10th Gen||AMD Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 custom CPU||8th Gen Intel Core i5|
10th Gen Intel Core i5
10th Gen Intel Core i7
|Intel Core i7 6-core|
Intel Core i9 8-core
|GPU||Intel Iris||AMD Vega 9|
AMD Vega 11
|Intel Iris Plus 645|
New Intel Iris Plus
|Intel UHD 630|
AMD Radeon Pro 5300M 4GB
AMD Radeon Pro 5500M 4GB
AMD Radeon Pro 5500M 8GB
|Memory||8GB or 16GB LPDDR4x||8GB, 16GB, or 32GB LPDDR4x||8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3|
16/32GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD (replaceable)||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD (replaceable)||Up to 4TB SSD||Up to 8TB SSD|
|Ports||1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack||1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack||Up to 4x Thunderbolt 3 , 3.5mm headphone jack||4 x USB-C Thunderbolt-3, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Battery||Up to 11.5 hours||Up to 11.5 hours||Up to 10 hours||Up to 11 hours|
|Weight||Up to 2.79 lbs||Up to 3.4 lbs||3.1 lbs||4.3 lbs|
Surface Laptop 3 is a significant upgrade
The Surface Laptop is one of our absolute favorites, and the latest incarnation doesn't change any of that. For the first time, we have a little choice when buying, with both a 13- and 15-inch model now. The experience of using each is mostly the same, with the most significant change coming underneath. The 15-inch version is exclusively available to consumers with a customized AMD Ryzen Surface Edition APU.
That packs four cores and eight threads on the Ryzen CPU portion, and either a Vega 9 or Vega 11 integrated GPU. Both of these have an additional GPU core over the Vega that AMD would put in other Windows laptops, giving it a little added grunt.
Even on the smaller version, the performance takes a serious bump from the Surface Laptop 2, with Intel's 10th Gen processors and all-new Iris Plus graphics on the table. The Surface Laptop 3 isn't targeted at professional applications or creators, but the added horsepower certainly means you can get some good mileage in such areas.
Oh, and it has USB-C now, as well. So you don't need to buy a dongle. Hallelujah!
MacBook Pro has some superior specs
Even though there are no longer any legacy ports on the MacBook Pro, it has one fairly significant advantage over the Surface Laptop 3. It has Thunderbolt 3 support on top of USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3 opens up a world of possibilities. You can attach high-resolution displays to it, connect fast external storage, and perhaps most exciting of all, hook up an eGPU, putting a full desktop graphics card into your MacBook Pro.
Besides this, the MacBook Pro has six-core processors from Intel right up to a Core i9, options for dedicated graphics that go up to AMD's Radeon Pro graphics, up to 64GB of RAM, and up to 8TB of storage. In all cases, the AMD graphics options for the MacBook Pro are stronger than the Vega 9 or Vega 11 you're able to get on the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3.
Different laptops for different people
The Surface Laptop 3 is generally 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 targets a different class of buyer. It's a pro-grade laptop with many powerful options, much better graphics capabilities, and if your wallet will go far enough, a ridiculous Core i9 processor. There's also the little matter of Apple's software and services. If you're already using or want to start using apps like Final Cut and Logic Pro, there's no fully like-for-like substitute experience on Windows.
The Surface Laptop 3 does come in two sizes for the first time, though, and they're both touch-enabled, something you don't get on any MacBook, with pen support for digital inking. The 15-inch model with AMD Ryzen and Vega inside is the better choice there, but the MacBook Pro can still offer more outright power.
If you're already looking at the Surface Laptop 3 as something you think you'd like to buy, get it. The MacBook Pro isn't a direct competitor, and you're going to end up spending a lot of money on the Mac to get anything significantly better than the Surface Laptop.
Best for most
For most, the Surface Laptop 3 is a better buy
While lacking the ultimate power available in the MacBook Pro, of the two, the Surface Laptop 3 is the better value for most people.
Stacked with professional power
The professional buyer looking for massive horsepower and dedicated graphics can get everything they need in the MacBook Pro. Including Windows 10.
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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