With Apple’s release of two ARM-powered MacBooks, and Microsoft’s iteration of the ARM-powered Surface Pro X, there’s an easy comparison to make between the two platforms as they both move away from Intel’s x86 architecture. And if all you want is the highest benchmarking result possible, it’s a slam-dunk win for Apple.
But there will be times when the correct choice is Microsoft’s Surface Pro X.
The two machines are geared towards different styles of computing. The MacBook Air is very much a traditional laptop, with a fixed keyboard, hinged screen, touchpad, and no touchscreen. The Surface Pro X is very much a 2-in-1 device, it’s built around the principles of a tablet, with a thin and light design paired up with a touchscreen (and yes, the incredibly expensive attachable keyboard).
The MacBook Air user will lean into the available power, the full range of creative apps available on macOS, and the ability to bring a traditional computer with them. When you need the grunt of media creation, video editing, app development, or other heavy lifting tasks, Apple’s M1-equipped MacBooks are very attractive.
The Surface Pro X user is looking for a far more portable device with a different feature set. This is a tablet, but paired up with the broad adoption of Windows 10. That opens up a vast range of apps either running as native ARM apps or under emulation. The adoption of progressive web apps increases the flexibility of the Pro X, and the inclusion of 4G LTE support in the device is another key difference.
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Microsoft’s tablet PC is less about power and more about mobility. Yes there are times when the raw power of a computer is needed, but there are other times when a greater focus on mobility and connectivity is the lead requirement. Benchmarks are not the only measure of a useful computer, and there will be times when the ARM-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops are outclassed by the ARM-powered Surface Pro X.
The kicker for Microsoft is that Apple does have an ARM-powered tablet focused device that can challenge the Pro X… the iPad Pro delivers a similarly portable device with 4G LTE connectivity. It’s a different suite of apps, which again will play a large part in a consumer’s choice – will iPadOS offer the right tools or will Windows 10’s library of apps deliver?
There are circumstances where the iPad Pro is the right choice; where the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro is the right choice; and where the Surface Pro X is the right choice.
Context, not benchmarks, are key.