Surface Pro 4 Vs 13.3 MacBook Air 2015 Comparison





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With the Surface Pro, Microsoft trying to get into competitive laptop market and surely they are getting closer with each new Surface released. And the Surface Pro 4 is not an exception. Even Microsoft stated that it is 50 percent faster than a 2015 MacBook Air 13.3. If this is in fact true, then the Surface Pro 4 promises to be a tablet that outperforms its competition. But we shouldn’t just take their word for it. So we decided to test both and come up with a comparison. Here’s how the Surface Pro 4 compares to the MacBook Air.

Pros

Surface Pro 4MacBook Air 13.3
Amazing type coverGood keyboard
Pixel sense displayFlash storage
Surface penCool and quiet
Good performanceGood battery life

 

Cons

Surface Pro 4MacBook Air 13.3
Below average battery lifeMediocre display
Glitched cameraOutdated design
Relatively expensiveBelow average speakers
Separately sold type coverLimited connectivity

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Specifications

ModelSurface Pro 4MacBook Air 13.3
ProcessorIntel Core i5 6300UIntel Core i5 5250U
ChipsetSkylakeBroadwell
GraphicsIntel HD graphics 520Intel HD Graphics 6000
Video MemorySharedShared
Memory8 GB8 GB
Storage256 GB SSD128 GB Flash
Optical DriveNonenone
Display TypePixelSense displayLED
Screen Size12.3 inches13.3
Screen Resolution2736 x 18241440 x 900
AudioDual speakersStereo speaker
KeyboardType coverForcepad
Navigation4 x 2 inches touchpad4.1 x 3 inches touchpad
Camera8 MP rareFaceTime HD camera
Video PortsMini Display PortThunderbolt 2.0
Audio PortsHeadphone/MicHeadphone/Mic
Total USB Ports12
USB 2.0 Ports00
USB 3.0 Ports12
Media PortsmicroSDSDXC
Wi-Fi802.11ac802.11 b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth4.04.0
EthernetNoneNone
Battery Life7 hours14 hours
Width11.50 inches12.8 inches
Depth7.94 inches8.9 inches
Height0.33 inches0.68 inches
Weight1.7 pounds2.96 pounds
Operating SystemWindows 10OS X Yosemite
Warranty1 Year limited1 year
Base Price$899$999
Price of the Reviewed Unit$1429$999

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Build and Design

Surface Pro 4MacBook Air 13.3
 

The Surface Pro 4 looks nearly identical to last year’s model, although that’s not really a bad thing. The magnesium body feels solid, as does the friction-hinged kickstand, which rotates back with a stiff but secure-feeling action. There’s a thin vent that runs part of the way around the edge to help cool the system and a new, shiny Microsoft badge on the back. The angled edges are sharp without being painful, and, as before, the Type Cover flips around and lies flat against the back when you put the device in tablet mode.

If you take a more thorough look at the Surface Pro 4, however, you’ll realize that Microsoft has addressed several niggling issues with the design. The most obvious of these being the Surface Pen’s new docking mechanism.

The docking system works in the same way it did on the Surface Pro 3, using a magnetic lock to hold the stylus on the tablet’s short side. I wasn’t a fan of the system on the Pro 3, because the magnetic lock was quite weak and the pen would detach itself when met with even the slightest of nudges. The position of the lock itself was even more annoying, since it placed the pen over the tablet’s physical power and volume keys.

Overall, Microsoft has made a series of subtle improvements that are small when viewed on their own, but add up to create a pretty good improved user experience.

 

The MacBook Air’s design has now remained unchanged for five long years. If Apple didn’t feel the need to tinker with it before, there’s even less chance that it’ll change any time soon.

The MacBook Air’s aluminum body, which supports the main enclosure and the display, is as durable as ever. Its lid can be easily raised with a single hand and doesn’t droop in any position, and you have to press really hard to detect flex on the machine’s base or lid.

It’s also easy to clean with a damp cloth. If there’s one drawback, it’s that the aluminum body can scratch easily to leave permanent black marks, so you should consider buying a sleeve if you’re going to sling it into a bag for transportation.

After all, the MacBook Air is a traditional premium laptop, whereas the Surface Pro 4 represents a new kind of hybrid device that combines laptop functionality with tablet accessibility.

This does has some knock-on effects in the MacBook Air’s favor. For example, it is much better connected than the Surface, with double the USB ports, and of course a permanently attached keyboard.

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Display

Surface Pro 4MacBook Air 13.3
 

The new PixelSense display on the Surface Pro 4 is stunning. The 2736 x 1824, 12.3-inch screen is bright, colorful and simply a joy to look at.

With an average screen brightness of 382 nits, the Surface Pro 4 is brighter than any Surface or MacBook Air devices yet.

The idea of the PixelSense display is to bring the sensor elements of the touchscreen as close to your finger or Surface Pen as possible, and it works really well. The display is incredibly responsive to touch, and the further sensitivity it brings to the stylus experience is huge.

 

 

Apple fanboys should be disappointed here. But don’t be mistaken! The 1,440 x 900 resolution screen is very good. Colors are rich, blacks are remarkably clean and deep, and the viewing angle is good.

But it’s the resolution that’s the real let down, however. We never expected a retina resolution, least of all at this price, but a small bump to 1,680 x 1,050 or a 1080p could be a lot better.

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Performance

Surface Pro 4MacBook Air 13.3
 

3DMark: Cloud Gate: 5,873; Sky Diver: 3,673; Fire Strike: 856

Cinebench: CPU: 305 points; Graphics: 37 fps

Geekbench 3:  Single Core: 3,135; Multi-Core: 6,649

PCMark 8: Home: 2,406

 

Geek bench 3: Single Core: 2,873; Multi Core: 5,768

Xbench (CPU and disk): 469.55

NovaBench (Overall): 634; Graphics: 42

Unigine Heaven 4.0: (Medium); FPS: 14.4; Overall: 438

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Microsoft is offering the Surface Pro 4 in sixth generation Core i5 and Core i7 options. The i5 comes with Intel HD graphics 520, while the i7 variant comes with Intel HD graphics 540. You can also load the Pro 4 with 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of RAM.

The model benchmarked fairly well. The Surface Pro 4 ran in with a 6,649 multi-core Geekbench score. On the graphics intensive 3DMark: Cloud Gate, it scored a solid 5,873. Neither score are groundbreaking, but they put the Pro 4 on a par with most top-end 2015 convertible tablets and well above MacBook Air.

 

 

Even with a lowly sounding 1.4GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, it runs along at a very pleasant speed for day-to-day tasks.

Its score in Geekbench, 5,768, puts it firmly in the higher range of similar ultraportable. But the super fast solid state storage helps.

 The MacBook Air boots from cold and wakes from sleep incredibly fast, programs open faster and are more responsive when in use. It’s the kind of performance you notice in ‘real use’ rather than merely theoretically.

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Battery

Surface Pro 4MacBook Air 13.3
 

Surface Pro 4 produced far better battery life results than before. Unfortunately, they’re still well below not only Microsoft’s own claims, but what choice rivals are able to put up.

While arguably the most harsh battery test in our lineup, on PCMark 8 Home Battery test, the Pro 4 lasted only 3 hours and 15 minutes.

 

The battery life of the past few generations of the MacBook Air has been impressive, and the 2015 model is no different in that regard.

On PCMark 8 Home Battery test, the MacBook Air lasted a good 9 hours and 30 minutes.

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Verdict

What do you want to do with your laptop? You need to answer that question before you establish which of these two devices to go for.

To be honest, beyond technical specs and performance, the Surface Pro 4 and the MacBook Air 13 inch is sort of an apples to oranges comparison. The Surface Pro 4 is a full functioning hybrid tablet with detachable keyboard, touch screen, and updated stylus running the latest Windows software. While on the other hand, the MacBook Air 13inch is an ultraportable Apple computer.

Anyway, if you’re going to be out and about a lot, grabbing opportunities to work and browse when propped up in a bar, coffee shop, or on a train, then the Surface Pro 4 could well be the better bet. The way it allies true laptop power and a full desktop OS with tablet intuitiveness is unmatched by any other device on the market. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that for pure all-day productivity and ‘power’ tasks, the MacBook Air remains the laptop to beat.

So, find out your needs and go for the one that suited you better!

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