Microsoft Surface Book vs Microsoft Surface Pro 4: Two tribes go to war

Now that the mighty Surface Book has joined Microsoft’s ranks, deciding which Surface to buy has become that little bit trickier. Here, we’ll run through the key differences between the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, and explain why you’d want to choose one over the other.

Microsoft Surface Book vs Microsoft Surface Pro 4: Two tribes go to war

Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4: Design

Microsoft Surface Book review: From front

While the Surface Pro 4 was advertised as the tablet that could replace your laptop, the Surface Book goes one step further – this is the device that can potentially replace both your laptop, your tablet and your desktop PC, too.

The Surface Book looks and feels like a lovely laptop should – it just so happens that the screen detaches and turns into a huge 13.5in tablet that weighs only 728g. As a tablet, it has all the benefits of the Surface Pro 4: it works beautifully with the supplied Surface Pen, and it’s light enough to be genuinely usable as a stylus-powered notepad or sketchbook. The downside is that only one-third of the battery is in the tablet, and the other two-thirds are hidden beneath the keyboard. As a laptop, it only loses out due to its weight: at 1.51kg, it’s a considerable 380g heavier than the Surface Pro 4 with Type Cover attached.

The Surface Pro 4, on the other hand, is a tablet that just so happens to do a passable impression of a laptop – or, at least, it does if you also buy the £110 Type Cover. This clips magnetically to the Surface Pro 4 and adds a very usable keyboard and touchpad in a slim 380g package. The downside? The keyboard is relatively thin, so is bouncy and flexible compared to the Surface Book. Also, as the Surface Pro 4 relies on a kickstand to support the tablet in laptop mode, it’s not great when sat on a lap – as all the weight is in the screen, it’s very keen on toppling backwards.

The Surface Pro 4 is a brilliant tablet, and a reasonable laptop, but – even if it won’t appeal to everyone – the Surface Book is the device that gets closest to offering the best of both worlds.

Winner: Surface Book

Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4: Display

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review

You have to hand it to Microsoft: the Surface family has some of the most lovely looking displays of any device out there. Both the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book are at the top of their game, but there are some subtle differences to be found.

While the Surface Book has a 13.5in 3,000 x 2,000 display, the Surface Pro 4 has a 12.3in 2,736 x 1,824 display. This might initially look like an obvious win for the Surface Book, but a quick bit of maths calculates that both displays actually have an identical pixel density of 267ppi.

Colour accuracy, brightness and contrast levels are where the Surface Book outdoes the Surface Pro 4, however. The Book is brighter (435cd/m2 vs 400cd/m2), more accurate (it has an average Delta E of 1.01 vs 1.61) and contrast is significantly better (1,736:1 vs 1,316:1). The only area where the Surface Pro 4 wins out is in the range of colours it reproduces: it covers 97.5% of the sRGB gamut to the Book’s 96.5%.

Would you notice the difference between the two at a glance? Probably not. But the Surface Book’s slight improvements and larger screen give it a marginal edge over its stablemate.

Winner: Surface Book

Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4: Performance and battery life

Microsoft Surface Book review: Charging port

On the face of it, both devices have very similar processors and hardware. One key difference is that the Surface Pro 4’s entry-level model uses one of Intel’s power-efficient Core m3 processors, whereas the Surface Book only comes in Core i5 and Core i7 flavours.

Why does Microsoft make a Core m3 version of the Surface Pro 4? Simply because it provides longer battery life than the Core i5 and Core i7 models, albeit with a trade-off in raw performance. If you want a truly mobile tablet, and don’t mind sacrificing a little power, then it’s a great option to have.

In every other regard, the two Surfaces are very similar. The Core i5 and Core i7 processors which Microsoft employs for both models are virtually identical; they both use DDR4 RAM, and both have superfast NVMe SSDs. The main difference is that the Surface Book also squeezes a GeForce GT 940M GPU into the base, giving it a huge boost in graphics performance – if that matters to you, it’s a big, big plus.

Battery life also puts a clear distinction between the two. The Surface Pro 4 has a single 42Wh battery, whereas the Surface Book has an 18Wh battery in its tablet section and a further 51Wh battery in the keyboard. Of course, this means that the Surface Book only lasts a couple of hours in tablet mode, but it’s between 20% and 40% longer lasting than the Surface Pro 4 with the keyboard attached.

Winner: Surface Book

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