A month with a new MacBook Pro versus Surface Laptop

macbook pro versus surface laptop

Full disclaimer: I’m a Windows fan and run a successful technology consulting company based on Microsoft products and services.  I’m also a user of the majority of products Apple makes, starting with the first iPhone.  I bought a new MacBook Pro with the M1 chip and used it as my primary machine for a month to see how it stacked against my Surface Laptop.  The idea was to understand what was better or different when using a Macbook Pro versus Surface Laptop.  The highlights are below!

The applications are now the same

All the applications I needed were easy to load and install.  Sure, some of it works differently than on Windows, but Microsoft is making a big effort to standardize its development process to make it app-centric versus package-based.  Head to the App Store and click Install like on your iPhone.  The entire Office suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint) comes as a single App bundle, click and go.  Teams and OneDrive are a little different to install but intuitive.  If you are a long-time Apple user, you will appreciate the ease of App Store and app setup once installed.

It should be noted that the Outlook application on a Mac is quite different than its Windows version.  If you are a long-time Mac user, this will all seem normal, but it does take some getting used to if you come from the Windows version.  All the functionality is there, just different ways of getting to it.  You can always head over to the Outlook Web application and do what you need to settings-wise. The app stores of Macbook Pro versus Surface Laptop are different, but both have come a long way and are quite intuitive now.

You can *almost* do everything

All the routine tasks are handled easily.  The issue is when you wanted to do anything “special”.  Moving files via OneDrive/Finder is clunky, and several SharePoint/Teams functions don’t work correctly.  I found myself having to run downstairs to fire up my Surface at least once a week to complete a task.  I’m sure I could have figured some of this out if I was more familiar with the Mac OS in general.  The reality is that Windows apps will always work better on Windows.  In the same way, Mac OS will only work on Apple hardware! So, Macbook Pro versus Surface Laptop comparisons will come down to which OS you prefer and which your company uses.

The lack of a formal dock is also a productivity hit.  I understand connecting the Mac up via USB-C and Bluetooth, but it takes extra time when moving from one location to the next.  If you have an Apple ecosystem, screen casting via AirPlay or sharing via AirDrop is pretty convenient.

The (corporate) security is not as good for the Macbook Pro versus Surface Laptop

Yes, you can unlock your Mac with an Apple watch, but for some reason, you also can’t unlock a Mac with FaceID.  Surface does this with Windows Hello, which is fully integrated with Microsoft 365 security services.  From device deployment to retirement, the Surface is secured and managed centrally via Azure AD.  The Mac is treated as a mobile device like an iPhone or iPad, which is not bad, just not as secure as a fully joined Azure AD machine.

The Mac also uses your Apple ID for security, which means yet another integration and connection of accounts to get it working properly.  This is not a big deal, but the same way that Apple controlled the hardware AND software to make the user experience seamless….Microsoft is doing that now with the Surface and your M365 user account. So, for the Macbook Pro versus Surface Laptop, the security integration piece for corporate networks clearly counts as a win for Microsoft’s Surface.

Bottom Line

The Macbook Pro versus Surface Laptop debate will continue for years, but most business users will benefit more from the Surface Laptop. If you are like 99% of business users and do not work in marketing with specific creative application needs, get a Surface.  It will function seamlessly with ALL your applications, is easier for your technology partner to secure and support, has a docking option, and looks pretty cool.   You also get a touchscreen and more colors to choose from!