Comparing the Surface Pro 3 to the MacBook Air, Point by Point

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-08-12 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Microsoft has decided that the best way to fight Apple is to take on the company with a direct attack. First, Microsoft targeted Apple's Siri with a series of ads showing how its own virtual personal assistant, Cortana, can perform more tasks than Apple's alternative. Now, though, Microsoft has decided it's time to take the fight to the MacBook Air with ads that showcase how its own Surface Pro 3 is, in the minds of the Redmond, Wash.-based company, a better option for consumers. The ads, while admittedly one-sided, examine the key features that Microsoft believes set its own products apart in the marketplace. Microsoft contends that the Surface Pro 3's touch-screen, the device's Intel Core i7 processor option and other aspects of its design make it more suitable for consumers. Apple, at least so far, has yet to respond publicly or launched an ad campaign of its own taking aim at Microsoft's claims. Frankly, that isn't Apple's style. At this point, it's a one-sided conversation that doesn't pretend to be an objective comparison of what the two devices offer to buyers. This slide show aims to carry that flag by comparing 10 key features in both devices. It's up to buyers to decide which device best suits their needs.

 
 
 
  • Comparing the Surface Pro 3 to the MacBook Air, Point by Point

    By Don Reisinger
    Comparing the Surface Pro 3 to the MacBook Air, Point by Point
  • Design: Tablet vs. Notebook

    The differences between the MacBook Air and Surface Pro 3 are obvious at first glance. Apple's device is a traditional notebook with the traditional clamshell lid. The Surface Pro, meanwhile, is a tablet in the traditional sense, but also works with a snap-on keyboard that helps it act like a notebook.
    Design: Tablet vs. Notebook
  • Screen Considerations: 12-inch Display or Multiple Options

    Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 comes with a 12-inch display and a resolution of 2,160 by 1,440 pixels. Apple's MacBook Air comes in two options: an 11.6-inch version boasting a native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels, and a 13-inch model that has a native resolution of 1,440 by 900.
    Screen Considerations: 12-inch Display or Multiple Options
  • Form Factor: Specs That Make for Mobility

    The key component in both the Surface Pro 3 and MacBook Air is mobility. For the MacBook Air, the device has a tapering height that measures from 0.68 to 0.11 inch. Depending on the screen size chosen, customers will find a width of either 11.8 inches or 12.8 inches and a depth of either 7.6 inches or 9 inches. The 11-inch model weighs 2.4 pounds while the 13-inch version comes in at 3 pounds. The Surface Pro 3 is 11.5 inches wide, 7.9 inches deep and just 0.36 inches tall. It weighs 2.4 pounds.
    Form Factor: Specs That Make for Mobility
  • Where's the Power: Comparing Intel Core Options

    The Intel Core is the processor of choice in both the MacBook Air and the Surface Pro 3. On the Apple side, customers can choose between a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor and a 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 option. The Surface Pro 3 comes in a range of options, including a 1.5GHz Intel Core i3, a 2.9GHz Intel Core i5 and a 3.3GHz Intel Core i7.
    Where's the Power: Comparing Intel Core Options
  • Operating System Decisions: OS X or Windows 8?

    Both the MacBook Air and the Surface Pro 3 are running full versions of their respective operating systems. That means that the MacBook Air is running the latest OS X Mavericks while Microsoft has ditched mobile operating systems in favor of Windows 8.1 Pro in its option. Both operating systems can run full applications.
    Operating System Decisions: OS X or Windows 8?
  • Affordability Concerns: Multiple Options on Both Fronts

    Affordability and pricing is always a major concern for consumers. That's perhaps why both companies offer so many options. On the Surface Pro 3 front, customers can pay as little as $799 for the lowest-end model or as much as $1,949 for the highest-end version. The MacBook Air is similarly priced on the low end, at $899, but goes up to $1,199 for the standard highest-end Apple notebook.
    Affordability Concerns: Multiple Options on Both Fronts
  • Application Availability: All You Need

    One of the nice things about the MacBook Air and the Surface Pro 3 is that they both come with the aforementioned full operating systems. That means that they are both compatible with the latest and greatest full-power software found in a desktop environment. So, whether it's Photoshop or Office one is after, both applications will run just fine on both devices.
    Application Availability: All You Need
  • Touch Capability: Full Touch-Screen vs. Touch Gestures

    Since the Surface Pro 3 is a tablet first and foremost, the device comes with a full multi-touch screen. Apple's MacBook Air is slightly different in that it doesn't come with a touch-screen, but has a track-pad that can handle a wide range of touch gestures, including pinch-to-zoom and swipe. Either way, customers will find touch features in both products.
    Touch Capability: Full Touch-Screen vs. Touch Gestures
  • Battery Life: It's All About All-Day Work

    Looking at battery life for a mobile product is of utmost importance to many a customer. That's probably why Apple and Microsoft have both done a solid job of delivering solid battery life in their products. The 11-inch MacBook Air will last up to nine hours of wireless Web time and nine hours watching video. The 13-inch model pushes those figures to 12 hours. The Surface Pro 3 comes in at nine hours of battery life when browsing the Web continuously.
    Battery Life: It's All About All-Day Work
  • Thinking Seriously About Storage and Memory

    Storage and memory is yet another important consideration. Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 comes with between 64GB and 512GB of storage and between 4GB and 8GB of RAM. The MacBook Air comes standard with 4GB of RAM but is configurable to 8GB. Its storage ranges from 128GB to 256GB.
    Thinking Seriously About Storage and Memory
 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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