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Surface Laptop vs MacBook Pro: Tech spec smackdown

Best Microsoft Surface Laptop Accessories
Best Microsoft Surface Laptop Accessories (Image credit: Windows Central)

Surface Laptop

On the face of it, it'd be easy to assume the Surface Laptop is a MacBook- or MacBook Air-class device. That's certainly true in terms of design. But when it comes down to it, the Microsoft team squeezed some serious hardware into the Surface Laptop.

That makes it worth comparing to the top of Apple's notebook tree: The MacBook Pro.

So let's see how two devices stack up. We're looking at the smaller, 13-inch MacBook Pro here, not the 15-inch model which is larger and a bit pricier. The 13-inch version is the best, closest comparison to the Surface Laptop.

Surface Laptop vs. MacBook Pro technical specifications

MacBook Pro

CategoryMicrosoft Surface LaptopApple MacBook Pro
Display13.5-inch Pixel Sense display
10 point multi-touch
13.3-inch Retina display
Optional Touch Bar
Display resolution2256 x 1504
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
2560 x 1600
SoftwareWindows 10 SmacOS Sierra
ProcessorSeventh-gen Intel Core i5 or i7Seventh-gen Intel Core i5 or i7
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB Solid State Drive (SSD)128GB, 256GB, 512GB PCIe SSD
Memory4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM8GB or 16GB RAM
Graphicsi5: Intel HD graphics 620
i7: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 or 650
PortsOne full-size USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, headset jack, Surface ConnectUp to four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, headset jack
Battery14.5 hours of use10 hours of use
PenSurface PenNo
Weight2.76 lbs3.02 lbs
Dimensions12.13 inches x 8.78 inches x 0.57 inches11.97 inches x 8.36 inches x 0.59 inches
PriceFrom $999From $1,299

This is a tough one to call. In some areas, the Surface nudges ahead, in others the MacBook Pro.

Trying to make a little sense of it, there are some key points that stand out:

  • The Surface Laptop has a lower-spec, lower priced entry point that's $300 less with the main differences being half the RAM and lesser graphics. But it has a touch-screen.
  • The high-end models actually favor Apple slightly, with better graphics and a $200 saving over the highest end Surface Laptop, at the sacrifice of 8GB of RAM compared to 16GB (without adding additional configurations).
  • Neither of these laptops is great for port selection. Surface Laptop has the advantage of a regular USB 3.0, while MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 3 and a dongle to use for every occasion.
  • The Surface Laptop's claimed battery life is significantly better than Apple's reported life for the MacBook Pro.
  • They're both about the same size and weight.

What you don't get on the MacBook Pro, of course, is an Alcantara keyboard and a choice of color that isn't gray or silver.

Surface Laptop vs. MacBook Pro: Which one wins?

So which one comes out on top? It's basically a draw. The Surface Laptop and MacBook Pro are evenly matched across the board. One jumps ahead in one area, only to have the other claw back in another. The difference really comes down to the OS, which is a whole different kind of comparison. Also, remember if you do go for a MacBook Pro, it's pretty handy with Windows 10 installed on it.

More: Surface Laptop review

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.

20 Comments
  • Surface laptop is far better than mac book. 1- Battery 2 Touch LED - 3 Pen = these are game changer .... then Windows 10 is more productive than OSX... 3dsmax - autoCAD - SAP SAFE Etabs Ansys are far better in Windows platform  
  • You say that touch and pen is a game changer, and while I agree having touch for people who do want to use it is a definite win, you're assuming everyone wants it. I don't really care about touch or pen on a laptop. Surface Pro, sure, but it's not necessarily the defining feature. Lots of people use and love laptops without touch.
  • I agree with you. things that have not been shown here the lower ssd read write speeds on the low end models of the surface pro and the lack of future proof ports and TB3 for external gpus
  • Of course you are right, and I am surprised at the large % of people who really don't seem to care about touch on their laptops. I hate using non-touch laptops now. I keep touching the screens, and then get frustrated that they don't work. For me, it's the same as if someone removed the up/down/home/end keys from the keyboard -- sure it would still be usable, but my productivity would plummet (in fact, that's a pet peeve of mine on laptops that also don't have all the cursor control keys, including both home/end and pgup/pgdn). Even when using it as a laptop, I find scrolling and zooming to be much faster and easier to do precisely via touch than mouse. Other actions, like selecting small items or text, are definitely better with a mouse or touchpad. Together, it's the best of all worlds.
  • I really don't want a touch screen laptop. Keep your dirty, greasy fingers off my screen! I'm very comfortable with using a mouse and a keyboard, thanks. I don't even like using touch on an iPad. Touch belongs on my phone. Call me weird. Thats just my humble opinion.  
  • Of course there is a clear winner. One forces you to use macOS and be an Apple zealot, the other does not. Winner = Surface.  
  • I guess you missed the part about using a MacBook Pro to run Windows 10?
  • The stupidity in this comment is baffling. The Surface forces you to run (a cutdown) Windows OS with upgrade possibility to Windows (that makes you a MS zealot??). The Macbook comes with macOS on which you can also install Windows.   On topic: Also strange; the author mentions a better battery life while in their own review they state that battery life is far from 14,5 hours... SSD speeds on the Macbook Pro are also much much higher. Higher resolution screen with much better scaling than Windows.
  • I totally agree with your final conclusion Rich.
  • no contest! the winner has touschcreen and pen input in 2017. the looser still uses a laptop from the early 2000s with a modern cpu. LOL!
  • surface laptop removes the expandable storage sd slot from Surface.  Sad
  • Am I the only one that still wants a SurfaceBook?
  • Nope i just got mine to replace my SP3 love this thing so far!
  • You look at these side by side, and Apple still comes out on top with design and just overall feel. I just went to Best Buy to look, and the laptop looks amazing. I love that burgundy and alcantara, but when I wondered over to the Apple area, those MacBooks just exude premium feel for some reason. I don't have a MacBook myself, and yet I find myself drooling over those things.
  • So basically Apple devices are always lighter smaller and with better screens and stunning software/hardware optimization. How is this not a clear winner? And also being laughed at for a long time, turns out they have the superior I/O. Hard choice indeed
  • Yet the Mac here is thicker, heavier, and not sure there's a stunner-winner-award it's walking out with.  The author pointed out they are essentially a draw with rather insignificant deltas where there are diffs.  The port wars are fought out in the dongle space.  You can get the Mac and dongle up for Type-A, or buy the Surface device and dongle up with type-c adapter.  the https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/05/usb-type-c-could-be-coming-to-su... As Richard says, these are very comparable products.  
  • I think that if you're going to have one port, it'd better be the most advanced port available, so I'd have to give the Mac the win on this particular point. Let's face it: you're going to be using dongles either way. Personally, neither one of these would be the machine for me. 
  • By your argument, if you are going to only have one port, it better be the most advanced... coupled with your statement that you're going to be using dongles anyway, it points to the surface connect port with a dongle as the better choice.  It's type-c, powers monitors and more while also charging the machine AND it's magnetic so no dropsies?  Seems like you should be championing the SCP, not the Mac if "most advanced" was the only criteria.  If you meant most advanced common architecture, I get your point to a degree.  Since I am not that fixated about this issue, I think it's more just a talking point for folks to continue to wage a techoly war.
  • No touch screen on the Mac, ewh! Went for touch screen when I last updated my laptop and would never go back.
  • Touch screen on a LAPTOP makes no sense. If they included a 360hinge then sure. But with this design the touch screen and pen is pointless.