Surface Book Vs MacBook Pro 15, MacBook Twice As Fast – Fstoppers

On Monday I got an email from Microsoft telling me that a $2700 Surface Book was waiting for me at my local FedEx. I hurried over to pick it up and then I immediately went to the Apple Store in town to buy (what I thought was) as comparable MacBook Pro.

Before entering the Apple store I opened up the Surface Book and checked the specs; 512GB SSD Intel i7 2.6GHz, 16GB of RAM. I then looked up the actual value of this laptop on Microsoft’s website; $2700, wow….

I went in the Apple store and started looking at 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pros. Every 13 inch MacBook Pro had an i5 processor and was significantly cheaper than my $2700 Surface Book. Luckily I found a 15 inch MBP that appeared to have almost identical specs; 512 SSD, 2.5GHz i7, and 16GB RAM. The price was $2500, $200 cheaper than the Surface Book but it was close. Before I swiped my credit card I showed the Apple employee the exact specs of the Surface Book and asked if the processors were comparable, he said they were, but we both ended up being wrong.

I got back to the studio and started filming speed tests in Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere. The tests did not go well for the Surface Book. In Photoshop and Lightroom, the MacBook Pro was able to burn through jpeg and raw files at twice the speed of the Surface Book. In Premiere, the MBP was able to render 4k footage with up to 4 effects on the fly while the Surface Book couldn’t even play 4k footage smoothly at 1/8 resolution. As one of the last photographers I know using Windows, I left defeated that night.

Later that night one of our writers pointed out that although both processors are Intel i7 chips, the Apple chip is a quad core while the Microsoft chip is only a dual core. This explained why the Apple was twice as fast, it has a processor that is literally twice as fast.

Once I figured this out I felt better because I knew that Apple didn’t have some magic software that could make its hardware twice as fast but I also felt worse because the MacBook Pro was actually $200 cheaper and it was still twice as fast as the Surface Book.

If you’re deciding which laptop is better based on power alone, the MBP is the clear winner. If, however, you are looking at all aspects including design quality, included accessories, touch capabilities, and of course the fact that the Surface Book is a laptop and tablet in one, the decision isn’t so clear.

As someone who appreciates design and craftsmanship, I’ve always admired Apple products. Every aspect of an Apple laptop feels completely thought-out while my plastic Windows laptops feel cheap and disposable. In the video below I compare the design and craftsmanship of each laptop.

At the end of the day the Surface Book is an amazing achievement. I don’t understand how they made that magnetic hinge, it works so well that it’s a pleasure every time I detach the screen from the keyboard but the poor battery life of the tablet portion of the Surface Book makes it pretty useless to use without the base. It’s also not the power house that I thought it would be. 4k video footage is quickly becoming the new standard and the laptop was unable to edit it without rendering first, that alone would keep me from spending $2700 on it but I realize that the average Surface Book user, and even the average Fstoppers reader, does not edit 4k video footage. For you, the Surface Book may be powerful “enough” but that’s up to you to decide.

Because the Surface Book is so expensive, and the tablet portion has such limited battery life, I personally lean toward the Surface Pro 4 myself. You can read my full write up on the Surface Pro 4 here and you can watch my comparison video between the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book below.


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