Nowadays, if you buy a brand new laptop, it is hard to buy an absolute lemon. Unless you scrape the bottom of the barrel and get some God-awful sub-£200 underpowered computer, you should be fine. Hell, even that inexpensive computer may meet some people's needs. However, some of us spend many hours of each day on a computer, so it makes sense to invest in something great. If you're reading ITProPortal, I'm sure you fall into that category. If you ask me which computer to buy, I would recommend many (depending on budget), but two stand out among the crowd.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which is due to start shipping in the UK soon (August) and Apple MacBook Air are great balances between portability, power and cost. Yes, there are more powerful computers, but they are often very heavy and have terrible battery life. Portability cannot be underestimated when it comes to a laptop's value and both of these machines are super thin and light.
Last month, my colleague Mihaita pondered the question of which of these two devices you should buy based on specs alone. However, as someone who has used both, hands-on, for long periods of time, I am ready to definitively tell you that the Surface Pro 3 is better. Do you agree?
Here are my five good reasons why you should go Microsoft rather than Apple.
1. Screen quality
The MacBook Air 13.3in (the model I am using for comparison) uses a washed-out non-IPS display that simply looks horrendous by today's standards. It uses a 1440 x 900 resolution that makes pixels easily visible. Apple usually makes great hardware, but the screen on the Air is simply not up to its normal standards. It also uses a 16:9 aspect ratio that is not ideal for surfing the web.
The Surface Pro 3, however, offers a gorgeous 2160 x 1440 resolution display with vibrant colours that hides pixels from the average eye. It even uses a 3:2 aspect ratio which is better suited for surfing the web. I smile every time I look at the beautiful display on the SP3.
Speaking of the screen, the Surface Pro 3 is a touchscreen hybrid device that also serves as a tablet. This essentially kills two birds with one stone. Apple users will have to buy a MacBook Air and an iPad for the same experience found on SP3. This is a huge inconvenience for travellers who must pack two devices, two chargers, and worry about keeping data synced between the two.
Even in laptop mode, the touchscreen comes in handy when sitting at a desk or table. Many people find a touchscreen on a laptop to be cumbersome and not ideal. True, you wouldn't want to use the touchscreen exclusively at a desk, but having the option is better than not having it, and you'd be surprised at how many times I reach out and touch the SP3 display. The stylus is just icing on the cake.
The SP3 without the Touch Keyboard attachment weighs 800 grams. With it, it weighs 1.09kg. The 13.3in MBA? 1.34kg. That is a fairly significant weight difference.
But hold on, an iPad Air weighs 470 grams. So, to get a similar experience to the SP3, an Apple user would have to carry an MBA and iPad Air, which would weigh just over 1.8kg. This means your backpack or briefcase will weigh 700 grams more with Apple's products. The Surface Pro 3 is so light, that I often have to check my backpack to see if I forgot it.
4. More (and better) apps and programs
I love both OS X and Windows 8.1. However, Windows has the edge, because it has more apps and programs. To take it a step further, the programs are better too. Don't get me wrong, there is some fine software for Apple's OS, but for someone wanting to get work done, on the go, it is no comparison. Office 2013 is far superior to Office 2011.
But wait you say, that's not fair because Microsoft makes Office, right? Okay, fair enough. I encourage you to read this article that lists suggested apps and programs for the Surface Pro 3. You will see many selections, not only from Microsoft, that blow away the offerings on OS X.
Some people will say the MacBook Air is less expensive, but that is debatable. A Surface Pro 3 with i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and touch cover would cost £1,209. A 13.3in MacBook Air with i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD would cost £1,079.
So, the MacBook Air is cheaper right? Not so fast. You still do not have a tablet. To get the same features from Apple you also have to buy an iPad Air at £399. This means going Apple would cost an extra £269 and you would be juggling two devices, as well; ouch!
Overall, both the Surface Pro 3 and MacBook Air are great laptops - the Surface Pro 3 is simply better. For the money, you are getting more features and access to more apps and programs. Even though the MBA overall is solid, the fact that Apple in 2014 can sell its customers a laptop without a touchscreen is beyond me. Not to mention, the display quality is so poor in comparison with the Surface Pro 3, that it is hard to believe they are both being sold in the same year. As someone who has spent a lot of time with the Surface Pro 3, I can assure you it is the real deal.
The MacBook Air had a long run as the king of thin and laptops, but now it must be said: All hail the new king, Surface Pro 3!
For another view, you might also want to check out: The case in favour of Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet.