For the purposes of this review, this article is comparing the $1,799 version of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to the $1,599 version of the Surface Pro 4 (just reduced from $1,799). Both are great machines, but which one should you get?
The MacBook Pro has a 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 (227 PPI) pixel resolution screen. It runs a 2.9GHz (Turbo Boost 3.3GHz) dual-core Intel i5 processor and has 8GB of RAM. It also has an Intel Iris Graphics 550 GPU.
The Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3-inch 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI) pixel resolution screen. It runs a 2.2GHz (Turbo Boost 3.4GHz) Intel Core i7 processor and has 16GB of RAM. The Surface Pro 4 runs an Intel Iris Graphics 540 chip.
It’s obvious that the Surface Pro 4 has higher specs, but that may not make a difference in the long run as the MacBook Pro does more with the specs it has.
The MacBook Pro is, perhaps, the best designed portable notebook ever. The fact that it only weighs 3.02 pounds and has such a sturdy aluminum build is fascinating. The speakers are on the sides this time, and they are the best sounding speakers ever to be placed on a laptop. Taking the place of the function keys is what Apple calls the Touch Bar. It’s an OLED strip that is cool to look at and fun to press, but not much more than a gimmick right now.
The Surface Pro 4 feels like a solid device, but the glass layer on top of the screen is so thin that it can easily break. The unit weighs 2.37 pounds with the Type Cover (you don’t want to buy the unit without this, even though it costs extra) and feels perfect for a laptop-tablet hybrid. However, it’s definitely more of a laptop and feels heavy when used as a tablet. The Surface Pro 4 offers Dolby Audio speakers on the sides, but they are not as nearly powerful as the ones on the MacBook Pro.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The new Butterfly keyboard on the Pro has upset some, but it’s actually the best keyboard this reviewer has ever used. It took a while to get used to. Instead of key travel, there is key crunch. You will be able to type faster on the new MacBook Pro keyboard than most other laptops.
The new touchpad on the Pro is absolutely huge. As usual, it works very well. Because of its size, the Apple touchpad makes you wish that you can use a digital inking device, such as the Apple Pencil, to handwrite notes.
The Type Cover on the Surface Pro 4 offers an excellent portable typing experience. It has certainly improved since the Type Cover on the Surface Pro 1 and 2. The keys get a nice bounce and the touchpad, which Microsoft has a hard time perfecting, has improved, but could use some more work.
Despite having less impressive specs than the Surface Pro 4, the MacBook Pro runs just about as fast. Editing 4K videos is easy as long as there aren’t too many other programs running in the background. OS X still allows for a smooth computing experience that Windows 10 still can’t rival.
The Surface Pro 4 runs fast as well, but you would never guess it has the best processor (Intel Core i7) or 16GB of RAM. Editing 4K videos with Cyberlink Power Director proved to be somewhat choppy at times, whereas doing the same with Final Cut Pro on the MacBook Pro was a far better experience.
Despite advertising 10 hours of battery life, the MacBook Pro offered 7.5 hours with brightness set at 75 percent while Hulu Plus videos continuously streamed. Doing the same with the non-Touch Bar version of the MacBook Pro allowed 8.5 hours.
The MacBook Pro battery life may not be as good as advertised, but it is certainly better in that department than the Surface Pro 4. After doing the same tests on the Pro 4 that were done with the MacBook Pro, Microsoft’s device only allowed 5.25 hours of battery life. This would have been good in 2012 but certainly not in 2016.
The Surface Pro 4 may look better on paper, but the MacBook Pro, even though it is $200 more, offers a more rounded experience. If you absolutely must have Windows 10 or absolutely need to do digital inking, the Surface Pro 4 is your best bet. For everyone else, it’s really a no-brainer: The 13-Inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is the best ultra-portable laptop you can buy now, even if you are paying at least $200 more than you should be paying.
[Featured Image by Daryl Deino]