Surface Laptop vs MacBook Pro: What’s the difference?

Surface Laptop vs MacBook Pro: Has Microsoft outdone Apple with its new home-grown laptop? Here’s how it stacks up against the mighty MacBook Pro.

Microsoft has announced its master plan to take on the cheap laptop market, with the launch of the pared-down Windows 10 S. The new OS only runs apps from the Windows Store, and is primarily designed for students.

But alongside that new OS, Microsoft launched some new hardware to show off the software. The Surface Laptop is the result of the company’s efforts and looks incredibly sleek.

But, at around the £1000 mark, it’s certainly not a budget device, and won’t be replacing most people’s Chromebooks. In fact, it looks like Microsoft has positioned this as a MacBook Air/Pro alternative.

As such, we thought we’d see how it stacks up against Apple’s standout laptop offering: the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Here’s how the two machines compare.

Related: Surface Laptop vs Surface Book

Surface Laptop 13-inch MacBook Pro
Processors Dual-core 7th-gen Core i5 or i7 Dual-core 6th-gen Core i5 or i7
Graphics Intel HD 620 or 640 Up to Intel Iris 550
Memory 4-16GB 8-16GB
Storage 128-512GB SSD 256GB-1TB SSD
Weight 1.25kg 1.37kg
Thickness 14.5mm 15mm
Screen 13.5-inch 2256×1504-pixel touch screen 13.3-inch 2560×1600-pixel display
Ports USB 3.0, 3.5mm audio, mini DisplayPort 2-4x ThunderBolt 3/USB-C
Price £979-2149 £1449-2579

15-inch MacBook Pro
Processors Quad-core 6th-gen Core i5 or i7
Graphics Up to AMD Radeon Pro 460
Memory 16GB
Storage 256GB-2TB SSD
Weight 1.83kg
Thickness 15.5mm
Screen 15.4-inch 2880×1800-pixel display
Ports 4x ThunderBolt 3/USB-C
Price £2349-4049

Pre-order: Surface Laptop from £979

Surface Laptop vs MacBook Pro – Design

Micorsoft’s outdone itself with the Surface Laptop design. Built to hide all the less aesthetically-pleasing aspects such as screws, joins, and hinges, the new laptop comes with speakers integrated below the keyboard. That means no visible speaker grilles, and audio that’s projected vertically from behind the keys.

The Surface Laptop also comes with a tapered design that ranges from 9.9mm at the front to 14.47mm at the back. That makes it about the same size as the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro which measure 14.9mm and 15.5mm thick respectively.

Both laptops are designed to be lightweight, but the Surface has the MacBook Pro beat at 1.25kg, while the 13-inch model weighs 1.37kg and the 15-incher weighing in at 1.83kg.

Related: Surface Laptop vs Chromebook Pixel

MacBook Pro 13 2016

Microsoft’s machine comes in a variety of colours: Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold. Apple’s alternative is available in either Space Grey or Silver. You’ll find backlit keys on both devices, but Microsoft has also added some Alcantara fabric to the area surrounding the keys, to make for a softer typing experience.

No such luck on the MacBook Pro, but not everybody’s going to want a slightly fuzzy keyboard tray. We’ve not yet felt the keyboard mechanism on the Surface Laptop, but we do know the MacBook’s incredible Butterfly mechanism will take some beating.

Port-wise, you’ll find a USB port, a Surface power connector, and a mini DisplayPort on the Surface Laptop – but there’s no USB Type C connection. Apple’s decision to limit the ports on the latest MacBook Pros was a controversial one. You’ll find just two Thunderbolt 3 connections on the 13-inch device, while the larger model comes with four.

These ports are substantially faster and more adaptable than plain-old USB and are geared heavily towards professionals with high-end peripherals that need that sort of performance. Think hi-res monitors and speedy external storage. The Surface Laptop lacks this, and this limits its pro appeal.

Related: Windows 10 S laptops

surface laptop 15

Surface Laptop vs MacBook Pro – Hardware and Performance

You’ll get great performance from both machines, but here’s how the spec sheets compare. The Surface Laptop packs a 7th-generation Intel Core processor (i5 and i7 options available), along with either 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, which can be expanded if you pay more.

As always, there are different options available, so here’s a table of how the various configurations compare:

Here are the configuration options:

Microsoft Surface Laptop: Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4
Processor Intel Core i5 Intel Core i5 Intel Core i7 Intel Core i7
Storage 128GB SSD 256GB SSD 256GB SSD 512GB SSD
RAM 4GB 8GB 8GB 16GB
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620 Intel HD Graphics 620 Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
Colour Platinum Burgundy, Platinum, Cobalt Blue, Graphite Gold Platinum Platinum
Price £979 / $999 £1,249 / $1,299 £1,549 / $1,599 £2,149 / $2,199

As you can see, there are various different options that come with improved graphics and more RAM the more you pay.

Over on the MacBook side, you’ll also find different options available. On the 13-inch model, processor wise, you’re looking at a dual-core 2-3.1GHz Intel Core i5-6360U processor (upgradable to 3.4GHz Core i7), along with 8GB RAM (upgradable to 16GB) and a 256GB PCIe SSD (512GB and 1TB options are also available).

On the 15-inch model, you’ll find a 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, (upgradable to 3.8GHz), 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCIe SSD (configurable to 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB).

Related: 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016) review

Surface Laptop

The 13-inch model’s processors will be similar in performance to those found on the Surface Laptop, although slightly less powerful given they’re one generation older (6th-gen) than the Surface’s 7th-gen Intel Core processors.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro will run away in the performance stakes, though: those quad-core processors and mighty fast and well beyond the reach of both the 13-inch MacBook Pro and Surface Laptop. Plus the 15-incher gets dedicated graphics hardware for 3D work and a light bit of gaming.

Of course, one feature the Surface Laptop boasts which the MacBook doesn’t is the ability to use Microsoft’s stylus, the Surface Pen, to doodle on your display. However, if you opt for the Touch Bar version of the MacBook Pro, you’ll be gaining a feature that Microsoft’s machine, conversely, doesn’t have – namely, an OLED panel at the top of the keyboard that changes to display different controls based on the programme you’re currently using.

In terms of the display, Microsoft has provided a 13.5-inch, 3.4 million-pixel LCD touchscreen. It features a 3:2 aspect ratio and 2256 x 1504 resolution. That’s in comparison to the 13.3-inch LCD display on the MacBook Pro, with a 2560 x 1600 resolution. The 15-inch model comes with a 15.4-inch screen and a 2880 x 1800 resolution.

But resolution doesn’t matter here, and both MacBook Pros have the Surface Laptop beat here as well thanks to its massive colour coverage, unmatched by the vast majority of laptops on the market. We’re talking 100% sRGB and movie industry standard DCI P3 gamut coverage here, which is huge. We don’t have figures on the Surface Laptop’s screen, though we can be sure it won’t manage quite that level of colour coverage.

Related: Best laptops

MacBook Pro 13 2016

And finally, Microsoft has made a big deal of its new machine running the equally new Windows 10 S. What is it? Well, we’ve got a whole guide here, but essentially, it’s Microsoft’s attempt to provide a stripped-down version of the WIndows 10 OS.

It comes as standard on the new Surface Laptop, and features a simplified, redesigned home screen. It’ll only let students install applications from the central Windows Store, and is generally more locked down than the standard Windows 10 Pro.

Of course, Apple’s using its own macOS on the MacBook Pros. The latest version of the operating system, macOS Sierra, provides a smooth experience, especially as it’s designed to work with Apple’s own hardware.

Despite Microsoft’s efforts, macOS is still much more in tune with its hardware than Windows is with other laptops.

Related: WWDC 2017

Surface Laptop vs MacBook Pro – Price and release date

The Surface Laptop is available to pre-order right now, and will ship and appear in stores on June 15. The basic model of the machine is priced at £979 in the UK and $999 in the US, with the more expensive models costing up to £2149 in the UK and $2199 in the states.

Pre-order: Surface Laptop from £979

You may think that’s pretty pricey, but Apple’s offering is even more expensive. The 13-inch MacBook starts at £1449, and the version with the Touch Bar starts at £1749. Opting for the 15-inch model, all versions of which come with the Touch Bar, means prices start at £2349.

Surface Laptop or MacBook Pro, which is best? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.