Microsoft Surface Pro 4 vs. 12-inch Retina MacBook

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Gizmag compares the features and specs of the Surface Pro 4 (left) and Apple's "new MacBook"

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You could compare the Surface Pro 4 to several different Apple devices, including the iPad Pro, MacBook Air and maybe even the iPad Air 2. But let's see how it sizes up next to Apple's slim and sexy (and somewhat impractical) 12-inch "new" MacBook.

Size

The Surface Pro 4 is just a little bigger than the new MacBook, measuring 2 percent taller and 4 percent wider.

The thickness measurement above is for the Surface in tablet mode. Once you add its keyboard cover and fold it over, it's total thickness is nearly the same as the new MacBook, at 13.2 mm thick.

Weight

We included the standard keyboard cover with the Surface's weight measurements, and that has the MacBook weighing 13 or 15 percent lighter (depending on which Surface processor configuration you go with).

Build

Both devices have all-metal bodies: magnesium for the Surface and aluminum for the MacBook.

If we're counting the Surface's Type Cover, though, then you can add its plastic and felt-like material to the Surface's list of build materials.

Detachable tablet

Apple's only 2-in-1 is the new iPad Pro, as no MacBooks transform into tablets.

Trackpad material

Microsoft made good on one of the most-requested upgrades from the Surface Pro 3, as the Pro 4's trackpad is not only bigger, but also made of glass.

Pressure-sensitive trackpad

The MacBook uses Apple's Force Touch (similar to the 3D Touch found in the new iPhones), which uses advanced sensors and haptic feedback to make the mostly fixed trackpad feel like it's moving.

More than a fun parlor trick, though, it removes the "diving board effect," where the top end of the trackpad is much harder to press than the bottom. With Force Touch, it's easy to click anywhere on the pad.

Colors

You can choose from several different colors for the Surface's keyboard covers, but the tablet itself only ships in silver (with a black front).

Display size

The Surface Pro 4's screen is about 8 percent bigger than the Macbook's.

Display resolution

The Surface's screen is 8 percent sharper (based on pixel density), but since you won't use the MacBook as a tablet, where it would sit closer to your eyes, its 226 PPI screen looks plenty crisp.

Touch screen

You can't touch the MacBook's screen (well, you can, but all that would accomplish would be putting smudges on it). You can navigate the Surface using your fingers.

Pen

You can also use the (bundled) Surface Pen with the SP4. The new model has 4x the levels of pressure sensitivity, compared to the Surface Pro 3's Pen.

Fingerprint sensor

If you'd like, you can buy a more expensive Type Cover for the Surface that has a fingerprint sensor built into it.

Facial recognition login

You may not want to bother with that, though, because the Surface Pro 4 also lets you securely log into your device just by flashing your pretty mug.

USB ports

If you're considering the new MacBook, then this is one of the most important categories. Unless you count its headphone connector, the MacBook only has one port: the new USB Type C standard. Chances are, you don't yet have any accessories that are compatible with it, so you'll need to buy adapters for now and then gradually upgrade all your external hard drives and cables later on.

Dedicated charging port

When we say the USB-C port is the MacBook's only port, we mean it. That same port is used for charging, so, unless you buy Apple's US$79 multiport adapter, you won't be able to use any USB accessories while charging.

The new MacBook has some great qualities, but you could say Apple's decision to include only the one USB-C port is clinging to the future while flipping the bird at the present.

Video out

That same USB Type C connector is also used for video out (using an adapter), if you want to hook up an external monitor or watch movies while connected to a TV. The Surface has a dedicated port for video out.

Processor

Both machines offer fanless but underpowered Intel Core M processors (though the Surface's is a newer version). Once you get past the entry-level tier, though, the Surface offers a much more powerful Core i5, with an even faster i7 available in more expensive models.

RAM

The Surface Pro 4 ships in three different RAM configurations.

Storage

The MacBook starts with an SSD with double the storage of the entry-level Surface.

MicroSD

There's no storage expansion on the new MacBook either, as it has no SD or microSD slots. The Surface does support microSDs.

Battery

Apple is estimating an extra hour of battery life over the Surface Pro 4, but stay tuned for our SP4 review for our actual battery results.

Cameras

The Surface has a tablet-like front and rear camera setup, while the MacBook only has a webcam (which, surprisingly, has lower resolution than Apple's other laptops from the current era).

Software

It's Windows 10 Pro vs. OS X El Capitan on the software front.

Split-screen multitasking

Both operating systems now support split-screen multitasking.

Voice assistant

Windows 10 has Microsoft's Cortana built-in. Siri has yet to make "her" way to OS X.

Release

The Surface Pro 4 launches on October 26.

Starting price

Even when you include its keyboard in its price, the Surface starts at $271 cheaper than the 12-inch Macbook. The MacBook does give you double the storage in that entry-level model, though. To get a Surface with 256 GB of storage, you're ponying up at least $1,429 (though the Surface's microSD slot can make the 128 GB model easier to justify).

Stay tuned for Gizmag's Surface Pro 4 review. For more on Apple's super-slim laptop, you can check out our new MacBook review.

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