Microsoft Surface Book vs. MacBook Pro 13: Spec Showdown

Microsoft is finally joining the laptop Thunderdome with the Surface Book, a high-performance machine with a detachable touchscreen. It faces its toughest competition in the form of the incredibly popular 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple’s smallest high-performance option packs speed and storage into a thin, unibody chassis that’s well known around the computing community. Can the Surface Book overcome, or is it destined to be forgotten like so many Microsoft projects?

Microsoft Surface Book


Apple MacBook Pro 13

13-inch Apple MacBook Pro with Retina

Size 12.3 x 9.14 x .51-.90 inches 12.35 x 8.62 x .71 inches
Weight 3.34 pounds 3.48 pounds
Display 13.5-inch PixelSense touch display 13.3-inch Retina display
Resolution 3,000 x 2,000 (267 ppi) 2,560 x 1,600 (227 ppi)
Operating System Windows 10 Mac OS X
Storage 128, 256, 512GB 128. 256. 512GB or 1TB
CPU Intel Core i5 or i7 Intel Core i5
RAM 8GB or 16GB 8GB or 16GB
Camera Front 5MP, Rear 8MP Front 720p
Connectivity  Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 3.0, HDMI, Thunderbolt 2
Sensors Ambient light, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer Ambient light, Force touch
Battery Up to 12 hours of video playback Up to 12 hours of video playback
Price $1,499 base $1,299 base
Availability October 26th Available now
DT review Hands-on 4.5 out of 5

Amazon MacMall



When it comes to performance, the two systems are almost tied, especially at the base level. Intel’s Core i5 processors have become the standard for those looking for a mid-range chip, and are featured in both the MacBook and Surface Book. The MacBook’s base CPU is a dual-core chip with a 2.7GHz base clock, We don’t know the model in the Surface Book, but it’s likely to fall short of the higher TDP chips in the MacBook. Both systems can be upgraded to an Intel Core i7.

However, above the base level is where the difference becomes a bit clearer. The higher-end options on the Surface Book include a discrete Nvidia GPU, a huge boon for those into gaming, media creation, or video editing, whereas the MacBook Pro has Intel Iris graphics.

Both machines are built with solid state drives, as is the norm in laptops these days, and both base models are built with 128GB of storage. The MacBook Pro is available with a 1TB drive, while the Surface Book tops out at 512GB, which is exorbitantly expensive. It’s hard to say which system has a quicker drive without testing the Surface Book, but the MacBook Pro will be hard to beat in that area.

Winner: Tie


In flagship laptops like these, a 1080p display just doesn’t cut it anymore. Both of these systems feature sharp, high-resolution displays, both of which are almost the same size, but there are a few key differences.

The Surface Book has an exceptionally high-res display, with a 3,000 x 2,000 pixel screen for a solid 267 ppi. The MacBook Pro’s Retina display is no slouch either, at a more traditional 2,560 x 1,600 pixel resolution, with a ppi of 227. At laptop distance, that’s not going to make a huge difference, but when you detach the screen on the Surface – another benefit of the Surface Book – it’s going to help the clarity a lot.

Speaking of tablet mode, the screen on the Surface Book is a touch display, which is built with a brand new PixelSense processor. The close integration of signal processing, thinner glass, and improved stylus make writing and taking notes feel more natural than ever.

Winner: Surface Book


Both devices have the same quoted battery life, and it’s likely after release we’ll confirm very similar actual run times on a single charge. That being said, it’s likely the dedicated GPU isn’t being used in the Surface Book’s quoted use time, and discrete graphics tends to be a huge drain on battery life.

Both devices are almost identical in size and weight, to the point that the inch or less difference in size isn’t going to matter in the real world. One could argue that’s a win for the Surface Pro, because it packs more functionality and a more diverse form factor into the same space, but it’s basically the same.

Winner: Tie


When it comes to connectivity on the two devices, it’s not so much about which one’s better as it is which one’s better for you. USB 3.0, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 are both standard on these machines, as they are almost every other laptop on the market.

The key difference is that while the Surface Book relies on Mini-DisplayPort for video out, the MacBook makes use of a full-sized HDMI port. The MacBook Pro also has ThunderBolt 2 ports, which can be used to send video out to DisplayPort monitors.

Winner: MacBook Pro


The base model of the Surface Book runs $1,499, while the base model of the MacBook Pro is just $1,299, and the two systems are fairly similarly equipped. If you opt for the Surface Book, the stylus is included with the device, but that’s hardly a $200 value, until you consider the screen upgrade to a higher resolution with touch in that price.

At the higher end, the MacBook Pro’s value is drastically worse. The most tricked out systems on both sides will run you $2,700 each. They’re fairly similar, both boasting Intel Core i7 processors and 16GB of RAM, but the MacBook Pro has a full 1TB drive. The Surface Book has only 512GB, but has dedicated graphics by Nvidia. We think the inclusion of discrete graphics far outweighs the bigger hard drive.

Winner: Surface Book

Score one for Surface

These systems are very competitive on paper. While the MacBook Pro has already earned its stripes as a capable and well-built device, the Surface Book is a journey into uncharted territory for Microsoft. At the base model, the MacBook Pro is likely to outperform the Surface Book due to a faster processor and twice the hard drive space, but it lacks the touchscreen and form factor versatility.

That being said, as you slide up the cost scale to higher configuration models, the Surface Book starts to look more appealing. Dedicated GPUs are a much more relevant upgrade in this day and age, and one that most users are more likely to notice than extra hard drive space.

Along with everything else the Surface Book brings in terms of new functionality, it’s worth waiting until it’s in hands and has reviews before you pull the trigger on a new MacBook Pro 13.

Product Review

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 launched last year, but already feels old

Released in fall of 2018, the Surface Laptop 2 was competitive at the time but now must deal with new competitors that were announced at CES 2019. How does the popular Surface Laptop 2 hold up six months later?

The Dell XPS 13 headlines the best laptop deals for May 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we have you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.

Best Buy flash sale drops the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 down to its lowest price

Amazon recently slashed prices on the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop, but Best Buy is offering an even bigger bang for your buck. Today only, score your Microsoft Surface Pro 6 to the lowest price we've seen.

Amazon deal: Save hundreds on a Microsoft Surface Pro 6 or Surface Laptop

Microsoft might be known for Windows, but it makes some solid hardware, too: The excellent Microsoft Surface Pro 6 and innovative Surface Laptop are both on sale right now on Amazon at discounts of up to 44%.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100M busted in international effort

A major cybercrime gang that used powerful malware to steal an estimated $100 million from bank accounts has been dismantled following an international effort that spanned six countries.

G-Sync is a game-changer. These are the best monitors with Nvidia's display tech

Looking for a monitor that plays well with Nvidia GPUs? You need G-Sync and we have picked the best G-Sync monitors available. Take a look and find out which monitor works best for your PC upgrade.
Product Review

Looking for discrete graphics on the cheap? The Acer Swift 3 will do the trick

The Acer Swift 3 is a tweener laptop that’s not quite budget and not quite premium – and it feels and performs accordingly. It manages to hold its own, though, thanks to its discrete GPU.

Microsoft is discounting this Surface Laptop 2 by a sweet $300

Microsoft is offering a nearly 14-inch Surface Laptop 2 with 256GB of storage at a $300 discount until May 18, 2019. The laptop comes with a PixelSense display, and Intel Core i5 processor and a 720p HD camera.

The Razer Core X Chroma is the best external GPU you can buy

The third entry in Razer's lineup of external graphics card enclosures, the Core X Chroma, brings together the best of its previous options in a single package. With RGB lighting and extra USB ports, is this the best you can buy?

Google recalls Titan Security Key due to hijack risk

Google is offering a free replacement for the Bluetooth Low Energy version of the Titan Security Key. A misconfiguration was discovered in the device, though hackers looking to exploit the vulnerability will find it difficult to do so.

Whether you want to edit, sign, or append, PDFs, these are the best PDF editors

While there are plenty of PDF editor options online, finding a solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here are the best PDF editors for your editing needs, no matter your budget or operating system.

Give your PC a new lease on life by upgrading its core components

Older PCs can still be great tools for work and play, they just need a little upgrade now and then. Here are the best upgrades you can make to your PC to make it feel fresh and fast once again.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Insect drones and kinetic sculpture robots

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!

The best software for filing your taxes — because you can never be too early

The best tax software offers a variety of services for saving money, completing your taxes at top speed, or getting advice for more complex tax scenarios that you haven't had to deal with before.