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Surface Book vs. Surface Pro 4: Picking the best came down to just one thing

Mark Hachman, Gordon Mah Ung | Oct. 26, 2015
Two great productivity machines, one hard choice.

That’s why I think the Surface Pro 4 is the device for people on the go all the time. You’re getting a real computer with the productivity of a laptop but the footprint of a tablet.

Performance

Mark: For me, any discussion of a mobile device begins and ends with battery life—the best computer in the world is worthless if it doesn’t have power. The Book offers 13.6 hours of battery life; the Surface Pro 4 offers just over 8. No, the SP4 isn’t shabby at all, but you know how battery life tends to dwindle down over the life of the product. Journalists endure the CES test—a day that begins at 6 a.m., ends at 2 a.m., and involves frantically racing around and filing stories, images and video, often without a power outlet nearby. In such an environment, I want great heaping handfuls of battery life. The Book delivers in spades.

surface book surface pro 4 mobilemark 14 1.5 office productivity battery life
Man, look at the gorgeous battery life number the Book puts up. Click on image to enlarge.

And I know the Book doesn’t offer the graphics performance of a gaming notebook, or even a midrange laptop with a discrete GPU. That’s fine by me. I can run Crysis 2 on a Surface Pro 4 at resolutions and frame rates that make Original Gamers turn away in embarrassment. I ain’t proud. But the Surface Book gives me a decent discrete GPU that does it one better. And wouldn’t it be a nifty trick if Microsoft decided to sell a Dock with an external GPU, or just a better base? I think the future’s pretty bright for the Book here.

Gordon: There’s no question the Surface Book’s GPU option smokes the competition. And I mean all of the competition—not just the Surface Pro 4. But if you look at the CPU results, the Surface Pro 4 hangs right there with the Surface Book on just about any task that doesn’t stress the GPU. Intel’s integrated graphics has really come a long way. Even more impressive is the performance of the Surface Pro 4 over the Surface Pro 3. My biggest gripe with the Surface Pro 3 was how the performance fell off when it got hot, as well as the fan noise just running Chrome. The Surface Pro 4 fixes both issues.

surface book surface pro 4 3dmark skydiver overall
The discrete GPU inside the Book gives it an edge. Click on image to enlarge.

I do wish Microsoft had aimed a little higher on battery life, as parity with the Surface Pro 3 wasn’t exactly aiming high. One thing I’d add though: The full story on Surface Pro 4 isn’t written yet. We pretty much know how all the iterations of the Surface Book will perform in battery life and CPU and GPU performance. The highest-end Surface Pro 4 will actually feature Intel’s Iris graphics, which should give it a very serious improvement in performance, while the lowest-end Surface Pro 4 will feature Intel’s power-sipping Core m3 chip. So Surface Pro fans, stay tuned—it may very well give the Surface Book more of a challenge.

 

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