Royal rumble: The MacBook Pro vs the Surface Book i7

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This week saw the two old computer rivals- Microsoft and Apple giving their best with the Surface Book i7 and the new MacBook Pros. Both Microsoft and Apple once again have killer rigs in the form of a notebook, updated to the latest and best in hardware and a whole new set of features. And us plebians are now left spoilt for choice. So let’s see how the Surface Book i7 squares up against the mighty MacBook Pro:

1. The Display

MacBook’s retina display has been nothing short of exquisite and with the new MacBook Pro, Apple has somehow managed to cram even more pixels into the 13-inch and 15-inch displays. The new retina display is now 67 per cent brighter and has 67 per cent higher contrast ratio and 25 per cent wider color gamut.

Yet, the pixels in the MacBook Pro falls short of the resolution in the Surface Book i7. Microsoft kept the PixelSense Display unchanged with 6 million pixels in a 3000×2000 resolution with a pixel density of 267ppi. Yes, that is more than what the MacBook Pro has.

Verdict: But unless you are scrutinizing the screen with a monocle in your left eye, it won’t really make any difference. Both displays are just fabulous.

2. The Design

The 4th generation MacBook Pro is the thinnest and the lightest MacBook Pros ever made. It’s thinner than even the MacBook Air (RIP Macbook Air). At 14.9mm thin, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is 17 per cent thinner and 23 per cent lesser in volume than the previous generation. The 15-inch variant is 15.5mm thin making it 14 per cent lighter and 20 per cent lesser volume than before. Both the variants weigh half a pound less than the previous generation MacBook Pro.

They also feature an entirely new enclosure design with an all-metal unibody form factor. The display too has lesser bezel as compared to the previous generations.

As for the Surface Book i7, it continues to be a 2-in-1 hybrid. This wasn’t a generation jump in the Surface Book lineup. Merely a performance upgrade. So not much change in design here. You do get an all new hinge design though which gives a nice-looking wedge shape when closed. The touchscreen can be removed, reversed, reattached and flipped shut. The MacBook Pro can’t do ant of these.

Verdict: Even with the MacBook Pro’s incremental improvement in the size and weight, Microsoft takes this one away for sheer innovation.

3. The Hardware

Both devices sport the 6th generation Intel core i5 and i7 Sky Lake processors. As Intel still isn’t ready to ship it’s new 14nm Kaby Lake processors, this is the best there is in the market. MacBooks are designed for performance and the 4th gen MacBook pro does deliver on that front. The 15-inch variant has a custom built AMD Radeon Pro graphics with 4GB VRAM which can handle 3D like a piece of cake. The 13-inch sports an Intel Iris graphics chip which is commendable, to say the least. There is a superfast SSD in the new MacBook Pros and powering it up will take no time what with TouchID now integrated into the power button. There is also a new heat dissipation hardware with two fans sucking in the heat and quietly throwing it out of the metal encasing.

Microsoft paid attention to the demands of gamers and upgraded the performance of the Surface Book Pro. While there’s still no Nvida 1080 graphics chip, it comes with the Nvidia 965M graphics which delivers twice the perfomance over the previous Surface Book. Microsoft too unveiled all new thermal architecture with dual fans which are now quieter and more efficient that ever.

Verdict: The winner here is clearly the MacBook Pro.

4. Special Features

These are what makes the new offerings from Apple and Microsoft drool-worthy. The Surface Book Pro remains to be the all-in-one hybrid. It’s a tablet. A notebook. A performance beast. All at the same time. But nothing new there. Maybe Microsoft is reserving major new features for a spring 2017 release. Also, with the Creators Update, which is due next year, the Surface Book will be all about 3D creations. Microsoft demoed how easily real-world objects can be brought over to the virtual side in all its three-dimensional glory and with the HoloLens enabled mixed-reality headsets, can be brought back to the real-world.

The MacBook Pro on the other hand reinvents the notebook. Below the display and above the keyboard where the function key row used to be, is a mini retina display which is touch-sensitive, called the Touch Bar. As I mentioned in the MacBook Pro launch story on dia, the Touch Bar is a chameleon. It changes according to what app is open. Photoshop shortcuts when Photoshop is open. Word and emoji suggestions when you are typing out a message. The Touch Bar is the innovation notebooks needed to last another few years in the face of Smartphones becoming more and more efficient in terms of usability.

The track pad on the MacBook Pro is also new. It now comes with the same ForceTouch technology which the iPhone 6s pioneered. It has also become larger in size.

Beside the Touch Bar is the new second generation TouchID made out of sapphire crystal embedded over the power button. It supports Apple Pay and fast user switiching and quick unlock. It is powered by Apple’s new T1 chip which renders a Secure Enclave for secure transactions over the web.

The new MacBook Pros run on the new macOS Sierra which brings Siri over to the MacBooks, among other new features.

Verdict: Here too, the MacBook is a clear winner till the 3D functionalities arrive to the Surface Book.

5. Connectivity

Apple screwed up a little here. The MacBook Pros come with four Thunderbolt 3 ports which also doubles up as USB-Type C ports. Any of the four ports can be used to charge the MacBook Pro. What’s more, the Thunderbolt 3 can support up to 2 5K displays at the same time, along with the usual USB devices. But what it doesn’t support out of the box are the iPhones, iPods and iPads because the lightning connector will require yet another adapter to connect. Also, for the same reason, the new Lightning Earpods are now incompatible without a Lightning-to-Thunderbolt adapter.

Microsoft has it easy on this front. It offers two 2 USB 3.0 Type-A ports that supports all the generic computer peripherals there is in the market.

Verdict: The winner here is hands down the Surface Book, even with the MacBook Pro offering more versatality.

6. Battery life

This one is easy. The MacBook with all that firepower inside and out can only clock a mere 10 hours of battery life. It’s still commendable if you consider the MacBook Pro as yet another ultrabook.

But get this. The Surface Book with almost identical hardware configuration and a more powerful display offers 12 to 16 hours of battery life. How Microsoft managed to do it, beats me. But you gotta give credit where credit’s due.

Verdict: The Surface Book stands a winner in terms of battery life.

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Royal rumble: The MacBook Pro vs the Surface Book i7