March 17, 2022

The Battle of Surface Laptop Studio vs MacBook Pro M1

Mia Chen-Wong
Microsoft Surface Solution Specialist
AMD versus Intel, Tesla versus Edison, Netflix versus every other streaming platform. History is littered with infamous rivalries that passionately divide the public. And when it comes to global brands, these rivalries create relentless competition as the fight for wallet share rages on.

Perhaps the most famous tech rivalry of all is the one between Microsoft and Apple. And it appears this rivalry isn’t going away any time soon, with the battle taking the form of innovative new products, features and capabilities regularly released to tip the scales in each brand’s favour.

Which brings us to the highly anticipated launch of Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, announced in September 2021, but only generally available in Australia from March 1st, 2022. This follows last year’s debut of Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro M1. 

So, how do the two latest models stack up?

Let’s start with a quick peek at each devices positioning, from the brands themselves.

Here is how Microsoft describes the new Surface Laptop Studio:
Our most powerful Surface Laptop is the fastest yet, pairing speed, graphics, and long battery life with the versatility of a high-performance laptop, presentation-ready stage, and portable creative canvas.

Here’s Apple on the MacBook Pro M1:
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is Apple’s most popular Pro notebook. Students use it to power through university, and pros use it to channel their creativity. With the M1 chip and Big Sur, the 13-inch MacBook Pro becomes even more powerful and even more Pro.

OK, great. Now let’s break this down by taking a look at the specs in the cold light of day.

The performance

Surface Laptop Studio  – Quad-core powered 11th-Gen Intel® Core™ H Series processors and NVIDIA® RTX™ A2000 GPU.

MacBook Pro M1 – M1 Pro (8-core CPU, 14-core GPU or 10-core CPU, 16-core GPU), with optional M1 Max with up to 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU.

Performance wise, both devices are engineered to handle your most complex workloads and business-critical desktop software like Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Lightroom, Autodesk AutoCAD and plenty more. MacBook Pro M1 claims 16 hours of battery endurance while Laptop Studio . Neither device will have you rushing to find a charging point mid-presentation.

Given these specs, it is clear that these are two very powerful devices each targeting the same end users – ranging from executives, engineers, designers, researchers, and generally anyone who needs a high-spec, high performance device to run memory intensive desktop apps. 

The form factors


Surface Laptop Studio – the device slides from laptop to an angled stage to a tablet canvas model with a platinum magnesium and aluminium chassis.

MacBook Pro M1 ­ – clamshell laptop with a brushed aluminium chassis.

While the Macbook Pro sticks to the traditional laptop form, Studio Laptop gives users choice depending on their task.  It can act as a standard laptop, or the screen can be pulled forward for touch interaction, or laid flat to write on – just like a tablet. For digital creatives, the unique sliding touchscreen makes Laptop Studio hard to pass by. Laptop Studio users also don’t need to switch between devices for tasks, they already have 2 devices in one.

The digital pen

Surface Laptop Studio  – pairs with the Surface Slim Pen 2

The digital pen functionality is only available on the Laptop Studio, but it’s such a useful feature it needs mentioning. Users can draw, sketch and take notes on the screen just like on paper. Never lose the pen with a clever built-in Slim Pen ‘garage’ for storage and charging in almost all type cases.

The displays

Surface Laptop Studio – 14.4” PixelSense™ Flow touchscreen with 500 nits of brightness and a refresh rate up to 120Hz.

MacBook Pro M1 ­ – 14-inch Retina display with True Tone and a 120Hz refresh rate using ProMotion technology and mini-LED screens (Apple calls it Liquid Retina XDR).

Laptop Studio is touch screen, the MacBook Pro is not. This really comes down to personal choice, but for those used to touch screens and digital inking, moving back to a standard touchless device will feel like a step back. Laptop Studio also edges out MacBook Pro offering nearly half an inch more in screen real-estate.

There is also one MacBook Pro feature that has stirred up some controversy amongst users –  a large notch at the top middle of the screen to make way for the 1080P FaceTime camera.

Apart from that, both devices use the latest screen technologies to work well in low/bright lights and have the same refresh rate.

The connectivity

Surface Laptop Studio – 2 x USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1 x Surface Connect port

MacBook Pro M1 – 3 x USB4/Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, MagSafe 3, headphone jack, SD memory card slot

It’s nice to see both devices offering a raft of ports – the Surface is missing a HDMI port which is easily fixed with a USB-C adapter. This is not an issue if you’re using a dock to connect to external screens.

The security

Surface Laptop Studio – Microsoft ecosystem security with Windows 10 or 11, and biometric authentication

MacBook Pro M1 – Apple macOS ecosystem and built-in M1 security

The Microsoft Surface line up is first and foremost made for businesses and therefore makes sense that Microsoft have heavily invested in security features on this device. Laptop Studio comes preconfigured with BitLocker, firmware TPM chips, and cloud-powered Microsoft 365 Defender. The device also plays well with Microsoft Endpoint Manager and DFCI for seamless device management down to the firmware layer, supporting zero-touch deployment and remote management for simpler IT processes.

Apple is also making its pitch to the enterprise, which means security must be front and centre. Their operating system – macOS – includes, amongst others, XProtect antivirus software to detect and block known malware, and Gatekeeper, a feature designed to stop users from installing malware. The M1 Chip is considered highly secure, however malware and a ‘harmless’ flaw have already penetrated the M1 in Macs.

Making your choice for the enterprise

Of course, the Apple versus Microsoft rivalry will rage on. But putting the brand cult to the side and focussing solely on the features and capabilities of these two adjacent devices puts the Laptop Studio firmly in the lead. Yes, both devices offer premium features for the enterprise, but it is Laptop Studio that provides that next-level flexibility that allows users to work and collaborate naturally, in the ways they prefer. Digital inking, multiple modes, unrivalled security and redefined looks, all come together in a device that is perfect for today’s busy, creative and power-demanding professional.

Ready to upgrade your Surface fleet?

If you would like to see how this device will enhance your current fleet, contact us to secure a demonstration unit today. Data#3 is your go-to partner for end-to-end support, maintenance and training for all your Surface fleet requirements.