Will Microsoft's New Surface Book be the Macbook Pro Killer?

Today I attended Microsoft's press event in NYC. I assume that they wanted me there because I am one of the few photographers who doesn't currently use Apple computers. I was excited to see the new Surface Pro 4, but I wasn't prepared to see a Macbook Pro and iPad Pro killer.

The Surface Pro 4

I've been planning on buying a Surface Pro 4. I have a super powerful gaming machine with dual monitors in my office and I have an iPad that I use to surf the web and watch videos, and I have a cheapo HP laptop that I use only when I'm forced to (like right now as I'm writing this in a NYC Barns and Noble). 
The Surface Pro 4 would allow me to have a tablet that could replace my iPad and a laptop when I needed to type and it would have enough power for me to edit pictures and videos on the go as well. It seemed like the best option for me. 
The guy I was sitting next to at the event happened to be the guy who was actually in the Surface Pro 3 promo that Microsoft played on stage. He uses the Surface Pro 3 on a daily basis for his business and he was convinced it was better than any standard laptop. During the introduction of the Surface Pro 4 he was giddy with excitement. It felt like I was at an Apple event next to one of those crazy Apple fans. 
The Surface Pro 4 looked amazing. It has better hardware, 16gb of RAM, 1TB hard drive, a bigger screen but yet a smaller footprint. I was certainly excited but it didn't feel revolutionary to me. 

The Surface Book

Next they debuted the new Surface Book, a gorgeous laptop with a very unique hinge design. For the next 10 minutes they talked to us about how it was the best laptop in the world and it still had touch and pen capabilities. "But it can do one more thing" they said. I noticed the hinge design seemed strange and therefore I thought the laptop would bend backwards like the Lenovo Yoga. The promo video began to play and then I saw the screen detach from the bottom portion of the laptop. The self proclaimed super fan next to me flipped out and I felt a level of excitement that I have only felt from Apple products in the past. I've never once been excited for a Microsoft product, but today I was and so was everyone else in the room. The product received a standing ovation. 
The premise is pretty simple. It's a ultra powerful tablet that can connect to a keyboard base to add both GPU power and battery life. Microsoft claims that it's 2 times more powerful than the Macbook Pro and it has a whopping 12 hours of battery life when it's connected to the keyboard. 
When I first saw it I quickly lost interest in the Surface Pro 4, it seemed like the ultimate machine; a workstation, portable laptop, and tablet all in one. 
The Surface book
After the event I was able to play with the Surface Book. It was the first laptop that felt like it was made by Apple. I can say that as someone who doesn't use Apple computers but fully appreciates the quality of their design. 
The tablet portion of the "Book" easily snaps on and off the keyboard and when it's attached it feels and looks like it's one unit. Both the tablet and the keyboard have their own charging ports so they can work totally independently.

The One Flaw

The only flaw that I can currently see is that the tablet portion of the Surface Book can only last for 3 hours on a charge by itself. This is because they wanted it to be as thin as possible and they wanted it to power workstation quality components in an ultra thin package. It's a beautiful product to hold but I can't see that replacing my iPad which can last 10 hours or more on a charge. The battery life alone may make me purchase a Surface Pro 4 over the Surface Book because I assume I'll be using it as a tablet more than a laptop. 

Should you buy the Surface Pro 4 or the Surface Book?

You may think that the Surface Book is wildly more powerful than the Surface Pro 4 and that's not entirely true. Both products will have the same processor, memory, and hard drive options. The Surface Book will have a dedicated graphics card. The majority of computer users don't use graphic intensive programs though. I met with Adobe today and they told me that Photoshop and Premiere only use GPU power if you start adding effects and filters, everything else is run off of the processor and RAM. 
If you play current video games you're going to want to go with the Surface Book but if you're like me and you spend most of your time in Photoshop and Premiere (doing basic edits) the Surface Pro 4 will have more than enough power. 
Tomorrow I have been invited to another Microsoft event and I will get hands on time with every one of their new products. If you have any questions you would like for me to ask them, please let me know in the comments below. 
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michael buehrle's picture

looks cool. wonder what the price will be with 16 gb ram and 1 tb drive if it starts at 899 ? not sure i'm ready to give up my mac.

Lee Morris's picture

I bet it will be very expensive. I can't imagine anyone would switch for this but it will force mac to innovate themselves.

Bryan Dockett's picture

the top of the line is $2700 (16gb ram, 512 ssd, dGPU), base = 1500 (8gb, 128ssd, w/o graphics)

Jason Vinson's picture

that's a chunk of change...

David Davidson's picture

'mac' is a product and can not innovate itself. This would make it an amazing product however.

Zsolt Seres's picture

I'm a mac user, but this SurfaceBook is very cool! And the SurfacePro is a better idea&product ( with a full workstation OS ), than the iPadPro with iOS...good morning Microsoft! GO!

Justin Haugen's picture

no need to be a "macbook pro killer", it merely has to exist. We're always going to need a high-end laptop experience in windows and mac form. I'm just glad it's here. Microsoft is really getting their shit together.

Lee Morris's picture

Agreed. "Killer" doesn't mean Mac users will switch to Windows but it finally feels like a product that can actually compete with the MacBook Pro which has been so much better than any other laptop I've used.

aaronbratkovics's picture

Not a Mac VS Windows thing but..

I like what windows is doing and I feel they are finally making a breakthrough. The problem is...I love the operating system that a mac offers and its simplicity....everything works nicely together (opinion)

I have been through windows computers since 95 and finally switched in 07.

My macbook made it through two deployments to the middle east. I replaced the battery and the HD(personally choice) once. It still chugs away running my old copy of photoshop and lr. I even use it to tether in the studio. It's almost been a decade since I bought the thing.

but I don't think this will be the macbook pro killer.

I have bought a mini recently and that's my main workhorse.

Great read! Thanks!

John Lemen's picture

Yes, Lee. Please ask them why Windows 10 was a perfect companion to my Surface Pro 3 for only 10 days and now nothing I do can make it communicate properly. And beware any "Next Gen" until they figure this mess out!

Elias Hardt's picture

I'm going to go ahead and post this now, BEFORE this turns into a Mac vs Windows war ground. The difference between Mac and Windows isn't in the price or specs. It's very similar to the arguments between cars; some people simply like how a Mac works, others might like Windows more. It might take a hell of a lot to get a Ford driver to go over to a Honda. In the same way, this probably won't win over the Mac users, because it simply isn't a Mac.

Lee Morris's picture

This is true for the most part but I have been jealous of Mac hardware for quite some time.

Charles Nolasco's picture

Years ago, Microsoft love to show ads on how machines running on Windows were cheaper. Now they sell hardware in the same price range as Apple.

Elias Hardt's picture

Well said.

Jason Vinson's picture

3 hour battery life is almost a joke...

Stefanos Papadopoulos's picture

Heavily Mac user but I confess....This thing looks cool!!!! but its running Windows and thats a deal breaker for now...I really hope these Windows 10 turn out to be good (Windows 7 or Windows XP good)...actually really hope to be even better than any previous OS cause this thing is really tempting!!

Marek Alliksoo's picture

I've switched over to Win 10 for both home and office use and I think it's far superior to Win XP and better than 7 (8 was shit). I haven't had any issues and everything works nice and clean. I'm not very familiar with OSX, but I think if you were to switch or pick an alternative then Win 10 would be the closest when it comes to having everything set up for you already. (remember installing drivers on XP? Yah, that part is completely gone - half an hour and your running a new OS now)

And when it comes to the two products then the Surface Book doesn't actually look very exciting at all since the only advantage seems a dedicated GPU and beefier keyboard. The Surface 4 already contains everything else, has a longer battery life as a tablet and can be docked in a million different ways to create the "laptop" version out of it (as I've understood) - so what's the point of the "Book".
I'd love to have the Surface eventually to replace the laptop though, but I think mostly I'd still have it docked behind a bigger monitor and possibly a keyboard/mouse - it's nice to have the option to rip it out of the dock and walk around with a really powerful tablet sized laptop though without having it instantly turn into a toilet reader (which is what I think all the Android/Win8RT/iOS tablets are at the moment.)

Ben Ford's picture

The biggest issue with windows is that it just feels like an ancient operating system next to OSX.
No native multitouch? No gesture navigation? Shitty trackpads across the board? _Still_ looks like shit?


Being able to swipe, pinch, and scroll using your trackpad and interact with the OS natively is _so_ huge.

That and the fact that the vast majority of Windows apps are terrible.

Marek Alliksoo's picture

Maybe I don't know what I'm missing, but why would I want any of these controls when I'm working with a keyboard and mouse?
But for Win10 and touch screens I think it works quite good and the trackpad commands were there as well I believe, but I've only tried it a bit on one of the touchscreen laptops so can't compare much.
For any actual work related things, the Kb/mouse combo can't be beaten and I don't need to pinch and scroll for that.
I think that since you use the word apps then you might be comparing the RT side to the actual full OS. For me "apps" refer to phone/tablet applications. the full OS has plenty of software available. For me it's still about the productivity and call me nostalgic, but I like to do that behind a desk and none of the above sounds like necessary behind a desk.

Doc Pixel's picture

There's good news for Mac OSX fans: it looks like there's going to be a big push to getting OSX on the new Surface 4 and Book, even more than there was with the Surface 3. Search for Hackintosh Surface 3. Many YT videos and instructions available for Yosemite.

Kyle Ford's picture

The tablet that was supposed to replace your laptop, is a laptop. SURPRISE.

Biff Stephens's picture

For me a laptop is an all around tool....if Microsoft has a better product then I will switch. I have been on a Mac since the windows 8 preview. I am thankful for that. I love my MacBookAir...does everything I need....I do wish it had more space of course but 2700 for the 1 TB version might be a bit over my price range. I am really interested in the pen...I am sure you will let us know your thoughts..also the trackpad...no trackpad has ever come close to a Mac trackpad....the new one sounds nice though...I can wait to put my hands on one...

Michael Kormos's picture

Yup, it sure will. Just like Zune was an iPod killer. Goooooo Micro!

J J's picture

But can it run OS X?

Ahmed A.R.'s picture

Sure it can.
But why would you run OSX on it, if OSX doesn't support screen-touch yet?!

J J's picture

Sorry, I really wanted to ask - but can it run Crysis?

Richard Johnson's picture

I'm interested in the colour space of the pro 4 screen. Also is it 30 bit or 24? Would you use the pen or drag a Wacom tablet with you for PS work.

Richard Johnson's picture

Finally made up my mind and ordered a Surface Pro 4 today. Australian MS store says its about a one month wait. I went the i7 16gb 256gb option with a dock and type cover. If all goes well i'm hoping to get three years use out of it.

Lee Morris's picture

I think you're really going to love it

Joe Gunawan's picture

Wow, just look at how well it does with footage drop, and edited in real time on Premiere Pro. This thing will be great for mobile editors and will chomp through stills editing/retouching as well:


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