Surface Book vs. Retina MacBook Pro: Premium Laptops Compared – PC Magazine

Microsoft surprised us yesterday with the Surface Book, a hybrid ultraportable laptop that will directly compete with the 13-inch Retina Apple MacBook Pro.

Featuring powerful hardware and a detachable keyboard with an innovative hinge that allows for three different display modes, the Surface Book looks like a formidable (and stylish) alternative to Apple’s popular laptop line. How do they stack up? Let’s take a look.

There’s no doubt Microsoft took some design cues from Apple for the look of its system: the Surface Book is a sleek, silver laptop with a magnesium casing. It measures 0.51 by 12.30 by 9.14 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.34 pounds, slimmer than the MacBook Pro 13-inch’s 0.71 by 12.35 by 8.62 inches and 3.48 pounds.

The two ultraportables fall within the same price range, but the Surface Book is a bit more expensive with a $1,499 starting price, while the Retina MacBook Pro 13-inch starts at $1,299.

Name Microsoft Surface Book
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, Retina Display (2015)

Lowest Price


Editor Rating


Operating System Windows 10
Apple OS X El Capitan
Weight 3.34 lb
3.48 lb
Processor Name Intel Core i5
Intel Core i5-5257U
Processor Speed  
2.7 GHz
8 GB
Graphics Manufacturer Intel
Screen Size 13.5 inches
13.3 inches
Native Resolution 3000 x 2000
2560 x 1600
Storage Type SSD
Flash storage
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 128 GB
128 GB
Battery Rundown – Standard Battery 12
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The Surface Book sports the superior display, featuring a 13.5-inch 3,000-by-2,000-resolution touch screen compared to the 13.3-inch, 2,560-by-1,600 resolution on the (non-touch) Retina MacBook Pro 13-inch.

The Surface Book runs a brand-new, sixth-generation Intel Skylake processor, with the base configuration offering a Core i5 and 8GB of memory. It can be configured, however, with a Core i7, discrete Nvidia GPU, up to 1TB of storage, and 16GB of memory. The base MacBook Pro 13-inch also features a Core i5 and 8GB of memory with Core i7 and 16GB of memory options. Both systems start with 128GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage and integrated Intel graphics.

Microsoft Surface Book

There are plenty of similarities between the systems as far as other features are concerned: both offer two USB 3.0 ports, SD card slots, 802.11ac wireless, and Bluetooth 4.0. Apple’s machine opts for two Thunderbolt ports, while the Surface Book includes a Mini DisplayPort and a SurfaceConnect port for use with Microsoft’s new Surface Dock.

In terms of battery life, Microsoft claims 12 hours of video playback for the Surface Book, while the MacBook Pro 13-inch lasted 11 hours and 10 minutes on our battery test.

What clearly separates the two systems is Microsoft’s new hinge. This allows you to detach the Surface Book from its keyboard and use it as a tablet, or rotate the screen and lean it back against the keyboard for a flat drawing surface. The Surface Book comes with a Surface Pen, which can magnetically attach to its exterior, allowing you to use the device like a portable clipboard or a creative canvas. In the more expensive models, the discrete GPU is located within the keyboard, meaning that the system will switch to the integrated graphics when you detach the display.

All things considered, the Surface Book seems well-equipped to take on the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, a comparison Microsoft itself readily made. While slightly more expensive, the Surface Book is lighter, slimmer, convertible, and offers a better display than Apple’s system. The differences between Windows and OS X may be the deciding factor for many, but the Surface Book is off to a good start. We’ll just have to see how the machine feels and performs when we’re able to test the hardware ourselves.


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