Rivals Apple and Microsoft revealed the latest iterations of their laptops within days of each other in late October — a new MacBook Pro and the Surface Book i7. Each brand described its latest device as faster, brighter and more powerful, yet the two have distinctly different and appealing features.
We compared the specs, design, features and price of both laptops to see how they stack up.
The laptops: at a glance
|2016 MacBook Pro||Surface Book i7|
|Price||Starts at $1,799 at Apple||Starts at $2,099 at Microsoft|
|Color||Silver, space gray||Silver|
|Weight||3.02 pounds||3.34 pounds|
|Battery life||10 hours||16 hours|
|Storage||256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD|
|Operating system||MacOS Sierra||Windows 10 Pro|
|Screen and display||13.3 inches (diagonally), |
2,560 x 1,600 ppi resolution
|13.5 inches (diagonally),
3,000 x 2,000 ppi resolution
The laptops: up close and personal
MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
The new 2016 MacBook Pro is Apple’s slimmest laptop. Its height is 0.59 inch when closed, making the Pro thinner than the latest MacBook Air (0.68 inch). The laptop, which has the same aluminum casing as previous Pro models, comes in silver and space gray.
Apple compressed the keyboard to make room for a larger, pressure-sensitive Force Touch trackpad. This gives users a wider range of command gestures and more space to rest their wrists.
- Touch Bar. The new Touch Bar is a multitouch glass panel that replaces the keyboard’s function buttons. Users can unlock the laptop and make secure online purchases with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The toolbar grants users quick access to in-app control menus in programs such as Safari, Mail and Photos, among others. The Touch Bar moves control menus from the laptop display onto the keyboard. By reducing the amount of on-screen editing panels, the toolkit frees up screen space for viewing more content and program windows.
- Ports. There are four Thunderbolt 3 ports, which are compatible with most external connectors such as hard drives and display monitors — but it doesn’t have the popular SD memory card slot.
- MacOS Sierra. Apple’s latest operating system, Sierra, brings Siri to the MacBook Pro. Users can ask the digital voice assistant to complete a wide variety of tasks, from locating files to searching for information on the web. You can also sync the MacBook, iPad and iPhone to get a continuous experience across all Apple devices.
- Retina display. The monitor supports a wider color spectrum for brighter and more vibrant visuals, especially with green and red hues. It makes image details more vivid and realistic, which is helpful for graphic design and editing.
The 2016 MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar starts at $1,799 for the 13-inch model. The base model comes with a 256-gigabyte hard drive, but buyers can double the storage for an additional $200. Apple’s website also offers a 13-inch Pro without the Touch Bar for $1,499. The 15-inch Pro starts at $2,399 for 256GB of space.
Surface Book i7
The Microsoft Surface Book is a 12.3-inch personal computer that weighs close to 3.5 pounds. While it isn’t as thin as the 2016 MacBook Pro, the Book is slim and light enough to carry around. Its touch-screen display is detachable — unlike that of the Pro — so people can choose between using the device as a tablet or a laptop.
- Touch-screen display and Surface pen. Users can draw, paint and write on the Surface Book as they would on paper. The device’s detachable screen gives the computer three modes: Laptop, Clipboard and Draw. Use the Surface Book as you traditionally would in Laptop mode, or unfasten the monitor to work as a tablet in Clipboard mode. Designers can flip the laptop screen around to use the Draw mode, which allows them to illustrate and edit with the Surface Pen.
- Ports. Two full-size USB 3.0 ports to connect to external devices, and an SD card slot.
- Face-recognition technology. Surface users can unlock their device just by looking at the camera on the monitor. The laptop can recognize multiple faces so each person in your family can create and access individual profiles.
- Graphics. Creative professionals, gamers and others will like the top-level graphics capabilities of the high-resolution multitouch screen. Colors are bright and details are sharp and vivid.
- Windows 10 Pro. Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 Pro operating system helps Book users get tasks done efficiently, stay organized and work across all synced devices, and it keeps files and data secure. The digital voice service Cortana offers hands-free assistance on a variety of tasks and makes suggestions (such as for books or movies) based on users’ interests.
The Microsoft Surface Book i7 starts at $2,099 at Microsoft.com, but you might be able to find it discounted during the holiday season. The base model comes with 256GB of internal storage, while the 512GB version costs an additional $600. For even more storage, a 1TB hard drive is also available, but shoppers will have to shell out more than $3,000 for that version.
NerdWallet takes you shopping
Buying a new laptop can be a big investment, so do your research. The 2016 MacBook Pro and Microsoft Surface Book are advanced, top-shelf devices.
Improved processors and design make the MacBook Pro the fastest and lightest laptop in Apple’s lineup. The Pro’s hardware updates work hand-in-hand with the new Sierra iOS. The innovative Touch Bar brings an iPhone experience to the laptop: Quick access to menus, controls and panels are a swipe away.
The Microsoft Surface Book is costlier, but shoppers get a two-for-one deal. By seamlessly switching from laptop to tablet (and back), this device offers considerable versatility. Users can complete tasks quickly and easily with the Surface Book’s tactile experience, while the Surface Pen is a great tool for anyone working with visuals and graphics.
Nina Tabios is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected].