15-inch MacBook Pro 2017 full review
If you’re on the market for a new laptop at the moment, there are probably two main contenders in your mind: Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Apple’s MacBook Pro. Both have been recently released and include high-end specs – so which is more deserving of your hard-earned cash?
Here, we compare the design, features and spec of both the Surface Pro and MacBook Pro to help you decide which is best for you.
Interested in how the Surface Pro compares to the previous generation? Take a look at our Surface Pro 4 vs Surface Pro comparison review.
UK pricing and availability
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of which is best, let’s first look at the pricing and availability of the Surface Pro and MacBook Pro. It’s slightly difficult to compare directly as each have multiple configurations, so instead we’ve decided to lay out each below.
Surface Pro (2017):
- Core m3, 4GB, 128GB: £799
- Core i5, 4GB, 128GB: £979
- Core i5, 8GB, 256GB: £1249
- Core i7, 8GB, 256GB: £1549
- Core i7, 16GB, 512GB: £2149
- Core i7, 16GB, 1TB: £2699
MacBook Pro 13in (2017):
- Core i5, 8GB, 128GB: £1,249
- Core i5, 8GB, 256GB: £1,449
- Core i5, 8GB, 512GB: £1,949
- Core i5, 8GB, 256GB, Touch Bar: £1,749
MacBook Pro 15in (2017):
- Core i7, 16GB, 256GB, Radeon Pro 555 with 2GB, Touch Bar: £2,349
- Core i7, 16GB, 512GB, Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB, Touch Bar: £2,699
- Core i7, 16GB, 256GB: £1,899
Design and build
The Surface Pro is a slick piece of technology that features the same hybrid design that has made the Surface line so popular in the past. For those unaware, the Surface Pro sports a design that allows it to be used like a tablet, or attached to a keyboard (sold separately) that transforms it into a portable – and powerful – laptop.
However, there is a drawback to being a tablet AND a laptop, and that’s screen size. After all, the 12.9in iPad Pro is one of the biggest tablets on the market and is regarded as too big for a number of tasks.
This means that unlike the MacBook Pro, the Surface Pro is only available in a single (relatively small) screen size: 12.3in, putting it more in line with Apple’s standard 12in MacBook. While some will be happy with the 12.3in display, most users tend to opt for something larger, around 13-15in.
Beyond the display, the Surface Pro is a sleek and attractive 2-in-1 that’ll look great in any environment. Why? The Surface Pro is a rather impressive 8.5mm thick and weighs only 768g, making it both thinner and lighter than the 14.9mm, 1.37kg 13in MacBook Pro. While the MacBook Pro is still regarded as a thin and lightweight laptop, it’s a real achievement for Microsoft.
Speaking of the MacBook Pro, how does it compare in the design department? Despite being the thicker and heavier of the two devices, Apple’s 2017 MacBook Pro has a trick up its sleeve: the Touch Bar.
First introduced in late-2016, the Touch Bar is a touch-enabled OLED strip that sits across the top of the MacBook Pro keyboard, replacing the traditional function keys with app-based contextual controls. So, if you’re watching a movie using QuickTime, you’ll be presented with media controls while if you’re using Photoshop, you’ll get access to relevant shortcut keys.
Beyond the introduction of the Touch Bar in the late-2016 MacBook Pro, 2017’s MacBook Pro is a fairly conventional laptop with the same aluminium unibody we all know and love, along with a large trackpad and a keyboard that utilises Apple’s new shallow-actuation key design that provides low-effort typing.
The real issue is when it comes to ports: Apple’s 2017 MacBook Pro boasts two (or four) Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports along with a headphone jack. This means that those who rely on external USB-powered accessories will have to buy a USB-C adaptor (if it isn’t USB-C enabled) or adopt a wireless way of life.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro, on the other hand, features a full-size USB 3.0 port along with not only a headphone jack but the Surface Connect port (for attaching the keyboard), a MicroSDXC card reader and a Mini DisplayPort.
Features and spec
Moving beyond the design and build of the two laptops, let’s compare the features and spec of each. Both the Surface Pro and the MacBook Pro feature high-resolution displays, although Microsoft’s offering boasts a slightly higher resolution at 2736 x 1824 compared to the MacBook Pro’s 2560 x 1600.
Due to the lower resolution and larger display size of the MacBook Pro, the Surface Pro offers a higher pixel density at 276ppi compared to 227ppi of the 13in MacBook Pro. However, while it has a higher pixel density, we can’t imagine the difference being noticeable across the two laptops in everyday use.
While it took Apple a while to offer the latest Kaby Lake CPUs from Intel on the MacBook Pro range, it finally introduced the chipset in its June 2017 refresh. This means that both the Surface Pro and MacBook Pro now feature the same Intel seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors – although exact performance depends on how much you’re willing to spend on your configuration.
The two are also fairly evenly matched in the memory department, with both the Surface Pro and MacBook Pro offering 8- and 16GB 1866MHz LPDDR3 RAM configurations. However, the Surface Pro is a little more budget friendly than the MacBook Pro as it also offers a cost-saving 4GB RAM configuration.
It’s a similar story in the storage department too, as both the Surface Pro and MacBook Pro offer 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB configurations.
One area where Apple has the upper hand is in the graphics department. While the Surface Pro features integrated graphics, Apple’s 15in MacBook Pro offers a dedicated Radeon Pro GPU with either 2- or 4GB of RAM.
Admittedly the 13in MacBook Pro does come with an integrated Intel Iris Plus GPU, although the performance is said to be boosted by the upcoming Metal 2 as part of macOS High Sierra out later this year.
While the Surface Pro may not be able to compete in terms of graphical power, it can compete in the camera department. Like many tablets, the Surface Pro features two cameras (8Mp on the back, 5Mp on the front) capable of capturing video at 1080p HD. The MacBook Pro on the other hand? It features a single camera above the display that is capped at 720p HD.
Rather obviously, the Microsoft Surface Pro offers Windows 10 while Apple’s MacBook Pro features macOS Sierra, upgradable to High Sierra later this year.
It’s not down to us to decide whether macOS or Windows is better as for many, it’s down to personal preference and let’s be honest, both macOS and Windows 10 are phenomenal operating systems.
It’s worth mentioning that both offer extra features for their respective phones – Apple offers extra features for iPhone users, while Microsoft offers the same for those using (one of the few) Windows 10 phones.
Read next: Best cheap laptops to buy in 2017