2015 really was the year of the hybrid. We saw very few tablets launch that year which didn’t have optional or bundled keyboards. Apple’s done it with the iPad Pro, and even Google has a 2-in-1 with the Pixel-C. Now Microsoft has launched the Surface Pro 4 and – alongside it – the more laptop-like Surface Book. But how do they differ and which is best for you? We’ll explain all in our Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4 comparison.
It’s easy to look at the two devices and come to the wrong conclusion that they’re the same: tablets which dock onto keyboards. Technically that’s true, but the Surface Pro 4 is a tablet with an optional keyboard while the Surface Book is really a laptop with a detachable touchscreen.
They’re not the same, then, but that doesn’t necessarily make your choice any easier. So let’s look at design, hardware and prices to help you decide.
Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4: Price
Since the Surface Book comes with a keyboard, it’s naturally more expensive. The cheapest model costs £1449/$1499, which incudes a Core i5, 128GB, and 8GB RAM.
At the top end, it costs £3049. That’s with a Core i7, 1TB, 16GB RAM, and an nVidia graphics chip in the keyboard.
You can order a Surface Pro 4 in the UK, with prices starting at £749 and stretching to £1,799. Broadly speaking, the basic specifications are similar to the Surface Book at those two prices, but remember that the keyboard isn’t included. It’s an extra £109.99.
Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4: Design
If you’ve already owned or used a Surface Pro, you’ll be familiar with the Pro 4’s design. It’s hard to tell apart from the Pro 3 at a glance. However, as you’ll learn in our Surface Pro 3 vs Pro 4 comparison the changes are mainly internal.
There’s still the ‘infinite position’ kickstand and the thin keyboard with the double magnetic hinge that gives it a more comfortable angle for typing. However there’s now a glass trackpad which is a big improvement over the previous model.
The Surface Book is slightly larger than the Surface Pro 4 due to its larger screen: 13.5in against 12.3in.
Yet, it’s lighter at 726g (without the keyboard) than the Surface Pro 4 which weighs 766g for the Core m3 version or 786g for the i5 or i7. Admittedly, most people won’t notice much of difference in practice.
The Surface Book has a proper metal chassis for the keyboard as well as the tablet. It looks and feels much more like a laptop and there’s a strong mechanical mechanism which joins the two components which helps with this feeling. Some 2-in-1s use magnets to hold the screen to the keyboard and this isn’t nearly as reassuring.
The odd ‘dynamic fulcrum’ hinge could end up being a love or hate affair. Some have already expressed their dislike of the fact that there’s a gap between the screen and keyboard in the closed position. Others think it’s unnecessary while others still think it’s “cool”.
There’s no kickstand on the tablet, so once detached from the keyboard it’s designed to be held and used rather than propped up to watch videos or anything else. Both devices come with a Surface Pen for writing, sketching and drawing.
Ports and connectors are important on any device, but it’s here that the Surface Book ‘wins’. Many will appreciate the Surface Pro 4’s full-size USB 3 port, even miniDisplay Port output, but the Surface Book offers a pair of USB 3 ports, the same vide output and a full-size SD card reader (the Pro 4 has a microSD reader).
Surface Book vs Surface Pro 4:Hardware and specs
The Surface Pro 4’s 12.3in screen is marginally bigger than its predecessor at 12in, with a higher 2736×1824 resolution. The entry-level model uses a Core M3 processor, but the rest of the range gives the choice of a 6th gen Core i5 or i7 CPU.
As we’ve said, the 13.5in screen on the Surface Book is larger still and has a higher 3000×2000 resolution. However, both have the same 267ppi pixel density and 3:2 aspect ratio. Microsoft says this is because the A4 format is best for creative types: these aren’t primarily entertainment devices intended for watching video.
The Surface Book offers no Core m3 option, nor 4GB of RAM as the cheapest Surface Pro 4 does, but that’s no bad thing. It’s a premium device aimed at those wanting a powerful laptop as well as the portability of a tablet.
Both machines run Windows 10 of course, and all the storage options are solid-state. The main difference is in graphics power as certain models in the Surface Book range include a separate nVidia graphics chips which – because they’re located in the keyboard section – can only be used when the tablet is docked.
Few people will be too bothered about the on-board cameras, but the pair seem to share their cameras with 8Mp at the rear and 5Mp front-facing webcams.
We’re yet to run our benchmarks on either device, but Microsoft claims the Surface Pro 4 will run for up to 9 hours but the Surface Book can manage up to 12.