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Surface versus MacBook: Which Laptop Is Ideal for a College Student?

Posted In Hardware - By Techtiplib on Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 With No Comments »

Having a good laptop for college is basically a requirement nowadays. With a multitude of options that come in varying price points, it can be a chore to find a model that fits the bill.

As a great starting point, make sure that it has a long battery life and decent CPU performance. Aside from being able to perform all the schoolwork that needs doing, it also doesn’t hurt if it can handle extracurricular activities such as these:

Surface versus MacBook: Which Laptop Is Ideal for a College Student?
  • Listening to music
  • Streaming shows and movies
  • Video chatting
  • Gaming

Lastly, the best laptop for a student needs to last a long time without the need for repairs or replacement.

For those having a hard time looking for a unit that checks all these boxes, it’s a good idea to start with these two newer offerings from Microsoft and Apple respectively: the Surface Pro 4 and the MacBook Pro.


  • Surface Pro 4: 3.5 mm audio port, microSD slot, and one USB 3.0 port
  • MacBook Pro: 3.5 mm headphone port, HDMI port, SDXC slot, USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, four Thunderbolt 3 ports

Since MacBook features a more traditional laptop design while the Surface is more of a hybrid laptop/tablet device, each one is built with a different set of ports.

The MacBook will give more connections with its dual USB ports, HDMI output, an SD card slot, and the Thunderbolt. With that said, the Surface is considerably lighter, which makes it the better choice for those who want a more portable unit.

Keep in mind that these two models have limited connections, so it’s wise to purchase a multiport adapter. This allows one to enjoy added functionality, especially with the Surface Pro 4.


  • Surface Pro 4:6th generation Intel m3, i5, i7-4GB, 8GB, and 16GB RAM
  • MacBook Pro: 5th generation Intel i5, i7-8GB, and 16GB RAM

The Surface is built with a higher Intel processor generation and a slightly better graphics card, compared to that of the MacBook. With that said, the jump in performance between these processors isn’t very big. While both graphics cards are more than capable of handling typical schoolwork, they’re not built for gaming or other similar graphics-intensive applications.

Operating Systems

  • Surface Pro 4: Windows 10 Pro
  • MacBook Pro: OS X 10.11

Both operating systems are comparable in terms of their reliance on app stores, their capability to allow multiple desktops, and their minimal and sleek designs.

Windows 10 is more optimized for making touch-screen inputs, and OS X is less so. However, the latter wins when it comes to connecting with smartphones. One can flit between devices when browsing the web, taking calls, and texting.


  • Surface Pro 4: Up to 1 TB
  • MacBook Pro: Up to 2 TB

Despite having a smaller and lighter design than the MacBook, the Surface has decent storage offerings. The MacBook does have a slight advantage because it comes with a 2 TB option. Keep in mind that a higher degree of storage means a more expensive upgrade.


  • Surface: Prices can vary depending on location
  • MacBook:  Prices can vary depending on location

The Surface features a more affordable entry-level unit than the MacBook does. But to get one with equal standing as that of the Macbook’s entry-level unit, the Surface costs slightly more for similar specs. With that said, it’s good to keep in mind that the Surface is a laptop/tablet hybrid, so it’s like getting two devices in one.


For outgoing students who prefer to take their work wherever they are, be it in a coffee shop, public transportation, or during class, the Surface is the way to go. It combines excellent laptop power with the intuitiveness of a tablet device. On top of that, it sports a much lighter design that’s easier to carry anywhere.

However, nothing beats the MacBook’s capability for powering through different tasks, which makes it a better option for all-day productivity. It features a reliable operating system and a crisper typing experience that some may prefer over the Surface’s touch-screen design. It also holds a lot of potential for iPhone users since OS X is getting more compelling as time passes.

While both models function similarly, they have a few distinct design aspects that can make each one a better choice depending on one’s needs and preferences.

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