MacBook Pro vs Surface Book 2
In October 2017 Microsoft announced the Surface Book 2, the follow-up to the high-end laptop it launched in 2016. The Surface Book line is the company's answer to Apple's professional-focused MacBook Pro range of laptops, so in this article we compare the SB2 with the newest MBP models.
Design & build quality
The Surface Book 2 is a hybrid design: it can be used as a laptop or as a tablet, by detaching the screen. Obviously you don't get that level of flexibility with the MacBook Pro, which is a traditional laptop design.
We rather like the look of the Surface Book 2, which is neat and robust-looking. (And not totally dissimilar to the way the MacBook Pro looks, to be honest.) The only thing that's strange about the design is the big semi-circular hinge, which looks to us like the childproof design you'd get on My First Laptop, but these things are very subjective and you may like it.
The MacBook Pro largely follows the classic lines Apple has been offering for some years not. The main point of difference in the more recent models is their Touch Bar feature, a narrow touchscreen that sits above the keyboard and takes the place of the Function keys. The controls displayed on this bar change dynamically depending on the application you're using and other contextual cues (and can be customised).
Note that the MacBook Pro is still available without the Touch Bar, if you want to save a bit of money.
One other note on design: the MacBook Pro may be less helpful appealing from a ports standpoint. While the Surface Book 2 comes with USB 3.0 and USB-C, the MBP has only USB-C - which means you'll have to load up with dongles if you've got older peripherals and accessories.
Here are some photos of the two laptops so you can make up your own mind.
MacBook Pro 2017
Surface Book 2
That's enough of the exterior design. Let's look at what's inside: here are the laptops' specs lists.
MacBook Pro specs
- 7th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processors (starting builds range from 2.2GHz to 3.1GHz, but higher speeds are available via build-to-order)
- Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640/650/Radeon Pro 555/560 with 2GB/4GB memory
- 8GB/16GB RAM
- 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB storage (SSD)
- 13.3in (2560x1600, 227ppi) or 15.4in (2880x1800, 220ppi) display
- 720p FaceTime HD camera
- 2 or 4 USB-C ports, 3.5mm headphone jack, 2 or 3 microphones, stereo speakers
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
- macOS High Sierra
- 304.1mm x 212.4mm x 14.9mm; 1.37 kg (13.3in model)/349.3mm x 240.7mm x 15.5mm; 1.83kg (15.4in model)
Surface Book 2 specs
- 7th-gen Intel Core i5-7300U/8th-gen Intel Core i7-8650U processor
- Intel HD Graphics 620/Intel UHD Graphics 620/GTX 1050/GTX 1060
- 8GB/16GB RAM
- 256GB/512GB/1TB storage (SSD)
- 13.5in (3000x2000, 267ppi, 3:2) or 15in (3240x2160, 260ppi, 3:2) display
- 8Mp rear camera, 5Mp front camera
- 2x USB 3.0 ports, USB-C, 2x Surface Connect, 3.5mm headphone jack, dual mic, stereo speakers
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 LE
- Windows 10 Pro Creators Update
- 312mm x 232mm x 13-23mm (13.5in model) or 343mm x 251mm x 15-23mm; 1.5kg/1.9kg
Apple's 2017 MacBook Pro models are available now, having launched in June.
We've still got a little time to wait for the Surface Book 2; UK pre-orders will open on 9 November (direct from Microsoft's site) and the smaller 13.5in models at least will ship on 16 November. We have to wait still longer for the 15in units, but Microsoft hasn't named a shipping date for them yet.
The MacBook Pro and Surface Book 2 are each available in a range of configurations, and the price you end up paying is therefore fairly variable.
MacBook Pro prices
- MacBook Pro (13in, 128GB): £1,249
- MacBook Pro (13in, 256GB): £1,449
- MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13in, 256GB): £1,749
- MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13in, 512GB): £1,949
- MacBook Pro (15in, 256GB): £1,899
- MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15in, 256GB): £2,349
- MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15in, 512GB): £2,699
Surface Book 2 prices
- Surface Book 2 (13.5in, i5, 256GB): £1,499
- Surface Book 2 (13.5in, i7, 256GB): £1,999
- Surface Book 2 (13.5in, i7, 512GB): £2,499
- Surface Book 2 (13.5in, i7, 1TB): £2,999
- Surface Book 2 (15in, i7, 256GB): £2,499
- Surface Book 2 (15in, i7, 512GB): £2,899
- Surface Book 2 (15in, i7, 1TB): £3,299
You'll be able to pre-order the Surface Book 2 on Microsoft's website.
The Surface Book 2, like its predecessor, is an impressive machine both inside and out (although we're still not sold on that reptilian hinge design). Its screen is a little sharper than the MacBook's, and the extra flexibility offered by the hybrid design, and by having both USB-C and USB 3.0, will prove useful to many prospective buyers.
Where it really counts, things are probably about evenly matched, in terms of bang for your buck: the Surface Book 2 is a somewhat more powerful system, with the option of 8th-gen Intel chips, but that's to be expected from a product that is both five months younger and a few hundred quid more expensive.
It's a perfectly decent alternative, then, but your preference is likely to come down to the software. The operating system, first of all: we prefer macOS any day of the week, but Windows 10 has its fans in their millions. And don't forget the issue of finding applications to run on that OS, an area where Apple is clearly strong but Microsoft is in pole position.
We won't be burning our MacBooks just yet, but the Surface Book 2 looks like a very creditable rival to its crown, and we look forward to testing it thoroughly when review samples become available.