Surface Laptop 2 vs. MacBook Pro: Which Should You Buy?


The sophomore release of Microsoft’s premium clamshell laptop is here. The Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 builds on its heralded predecessor with a revamped keyboard and significant boosts in performance. These intriguing upgrades come second to a sleek black color variant that adds sophistication to an already phenomenal design.

But as promising as the Surface Laptop 2 seems, Microsoft faces a market overflowing with excellent options. Among those is the recently refreshed 13-inch MacBook Pro, which we praised for its blinding speeds and improved keyboard. The Surface Laptop 2 won’t ship until Oct 16, but we’re taking a preliminary look at how it compares to the MacBook Pro, before our official review.

Here’s how the two systems stack up.

Design

The Surface Laptop 2’s design is unchanged from the previous version. Normally, we’d criticize Microsoft for taking a conservative approach, but the design of the original Surface Laptop was so darn captivating that there’s little room to complain.

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The deck on this clamshell laptop is coated in Alcantara fabric, the same material Microsoft uses on the Signature Type Cover. It’s plush, stain-resistant and unlike any material you’ll find on a laptop. Centered on the Surface Laptop 2’s metal lid is a glossy Windows logo that contrasts nicely with the laptop’s many color options. The Surface laptop will be available in Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, Platinum and Black whereas the MacBook Pro has boring Silver and Space Gray finishes.   

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Where the Surface Laptop 2’s design is warm and welcoming, the MacBook Pro comes off as cold and industrial. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The unibody aluminum design popularized by Apple is cherished among consumers and critics alike. So much so, in fact, that the look spawned an era of shameless clones, like the Huawei MateBook X Pro and Xiaomi Mi Laptop Air. The design is agreeably utilitarian, but with thick bezels and a hefty weight, the MacBook Pro is growing stale.

Surface Laptop 2 vs. MacBook Pro (13-inch): Specs Compared

 Microsoft Surface Laptop 2Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch)
Price $999-$2,699$1,799-$3,699
Display13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504 pixels13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixels
CPU8th Gen Intel Core i5, i78th Gen Intel Core i5, i7
RAM8GB or 16GB8GB or 16GB
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB (Platinum only)256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
PortsUSB 3.0, headphone, Mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect4 Thunderbolt 3, headphone
ColorsPlatinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, BlackSilver, Space Gray
Size 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight

2.8 pounds

3 pounds

Price and Value

Both premium laptops rise to exorbitant costs when configured with high-end internals, but the Surface Laptop 2’s pricing is more tolerable. For $999, the Surface Laptop 2 comes equipped with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. We recommend increasing the storage to 256GB, although it will run you an extra $300. A similarly specced MacBook Pro with Touch Bar — with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD — costs $1,800 (that’s $500 more than the Surface Laptop 2!).

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Opting for the more powerful Core i7 CPU on the Surface Laptop 2 will cost you an extra $300, for a total of $1,600. Maxing out the specs for a top-of-the-line model with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD runs up the price to a grand total of $2,700.

The price of the MacBook Pro similarly swells as you upgrade the laptop’s components. Like the Surface Laptop 2, upping the CPU to a Core i7 adds $300 onto the MacBook Pro’s already inflated price. Going all-out with a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD will cost you a bank account-emptying $3,700. Note, however, that jumping from a 1TB to a 2TB SSD costs $800; so, at $2,900, a MacBook Pro with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD costs “only” $200 more than a similarly specced Surface Laptop 2.

Keyboard

The MacBook Pro’s beleaguered keyboard received a much-needed revamp this year. The previous version was beset with issues, which led owners to file a class-action lawsuit against Apple. The keyboard on the new MacBook Pro is still extremely shallow, at 0.55 millimeters of travel, but it at least sounds quieter and is less susceptible to debris. Returning to the MacBook Pro is the love-it-or-hate-it Touch Bar, a touch-sensitive OLED display that offers shortcuts and app controls.

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We didn’t have any complaints with the keyboard on the previous Surface Laptop. Not only did the keys have relatively deep key travel, at 1.4mm (just short of our minimum 1.5mm preference), but the Alcantara fabric deck provided a comfortable surface to rest our wrists on. Not content with what we already consider to be one of the best ultrabook keyboards around, Microsoft re-designed the keyboard on the Surface Laptop 2 to have 1.5mm of key travel. In our brief time with the new layout, the keys felt considerably more comfortable than those on the MacBook Pro.

Display

The Surface Laptop 2 and MacBook Pro have some of the most beautiful displays you’ll find on a laptop. The 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504 screen on the Surface is a tad larger than the MacBook Pro’s 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel panel, but the Apple display has a higher pixel density. Both displays are extremely sharp, so you should have no problems seeing the smallest details when viewing 1080p or 4K videos.

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The MacBook Pro’s display, now with True Tone, proved to be vibrant and bright in our tests. The panel is capable of reproducing 119 percent of the sRGB color gamut, and it reached a maximum brightness of 439 nits. In comparison, the original Surface Laptop’s display was more colorful (135 percent of the sRGB color spectrum) but not quite as bright (361 nits).

Ports

To USB-C, or not to USB-C. If you’re in the latter camp, the Surface Pro’s selection of ports will do just fine. However, if you’re part of the majority who thinks every $1,000+ device should have at least one USB-C port, then the new Surface Laptop will disappoint. The Surface Laptop 2 has the same ports as the previous Surface Laptop: a USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect, and a headphone jack.

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The MacBook Pro may not have a wide variety of connections, but it certainly doesn’t skimp on the latest USB standard. The slim laptop has a straightforward selection of ports: 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack. 

Battery Life

The MacBook Pro’s main shortcoming is battery life. The laptop’s endurance isn’t terrible, but competing laptops, including the original Surface Laptop, perform better in this area. The Apple laptop lasted only 8 hours and 43 minutes on our custom battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of display brightness.

MORE: Longest Battery Life Laptops

Microsoft rates the Surface Laptop 2’s battery life at 14.5 hours, but don’t be so quick to declare it the victor. Microsoft targeted 14.5 hours of battery life on the previous Surface Laptop, but it lasted 9 hours and 2 minutes on our test. That’s a strong result, but not anywhere near Microsoft’s claims. The Surface Laptop 2 should have longer battery life than the MacBook Pro, but we won’t know for sure until we gets our hands on a review unit.

Outlook

The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 2 has a lot going for it. Not only is it more stylish than the MacBook Pro, but the Microsoft laptop is also expected to have longer battery life and a more comfortable keyboard. Unfortunately, the Surface Laptop 2 still lacks a USB-C port and it will need to make massive performance strides to catch up to the blazing-fast MacBook Pro. Still, the second-generation Surface Laptop is shaping up to be an excellent competitor to the MacBook Pro, especially when you consider the gulf in price between the two laptops.

Credit: Laptop Mag 

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