July 21st, 2015
Microsoft is dubbing the Pro 3 “a tablet that can replace your laptop,” and positioning it against the thinnest, most portable notebook on the market — the MacBook Air. Throughout the Surface Pro 3 presentation, Microsoft took the time to compare its newest device against Apple's iconic portable computer.
So how do the two really stack up? This table the specs and features of the Surface Pro 3 and the mid-2014 MacBook Air. We focused primarily on the "laptop" qualities of the Surface Pro 3. Naturally, the MacBook Air lacks a touch screen and support for a Surface Pro Pen accessory, but here's how the rest of its features compare:
In short, the MacBook Air and the Surface Pro 3 have many of the same features. But looking at the price ranges can be a little misleading.
Although the Surface Pro 3 starts at $799, that's for a model with 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM and an Core i3 processor. A more even comparison is between the $999 version of the Surface Pro 3 and the base configuration MacBook Air.
Both machines have Core i5 processors, 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. The Pro 3's speed is clocked a bit higher than the MacBook AIr, but the MacBook Air has an extra USB 3.0 port and a better GPU.
Likewise, the $1299 Surface Pro 3 — which features 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage — is priced the same as a MacBook Air with that configuration. (The $1199 MacBook Air has only 4GB of RAM, but can be configured to have 8GB for an extra $100.)
In fact, the MacBook Air actually comes out cheaper than the Surface Pro 3 once we enter configurations with a Core i7 processor. The MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a Core i7 processor is $1449. A Surface Pro 3 with those same specs is $1549.
A fully maxed-out MacBook Air — including a Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD — is $1749. The highest-end Surface Pro 3 configuration, which boasts the same specs, is $1949.
Again, this isn't a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, if you'll forgive the pun. The Surface Pro 3 has a higher-resolution display, a touch screen and can use a special pen for input.
The bottom line
The Surface Pro 3 can hold its own against the MacBook Air. We'll need to do our full review of the Surface Pro 3 before we can judge its battery life and overall performance — but on paper, the two machines are very similar.
Update: The above tablet originally listed the Surface Pro 3's weight without the keyboard. The more fair comparison with the MacBook Air is with the keyboard included, so its weight was added.
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