So my friend Tevin is looking for a new computer and he is trying to decide between a Surface Pro 3 and a Macbook Pro Retina 13 inch. Here is a spreadsheet of the specs he is looking at.

SpecsSurface Pro 3Macbook Pro 13″
OSWindows 8.1 ProMac OS X Mavericks (10.9)
CPUIntel i5-4300U (2.9 GHz)Intel i5-4258U (2.4 GHz)
Memory8 GB8 GB
Storage256 GB256 GB
Display12 inches13.3 inches
Resolution2160×14402560×1600
Aspect Ratio3 by 216 by 10
GraphicsIntel HD 4400Intel Iris 5100
Front Camera5 MP, 1080pFaceTime HD (720p)
Rear Camera5 MP, 1080pNone
Ports
USBUSB 3.02 USB 3.0
Display OutMini Display PortHDMI
Removable StoragemicroSDSDXC
OtherNone2 Thunderbolt
Dimensions11.5 inches (w)12.35 inches (w)
7.93 inches (h)8.62 inches (h)
0.36 inches (d) (0.39 inches with Type Cover)0.71 inches (d)
Weight1.76 lb (2.41 lb with Type Cover)3.46 lb
InputTouchscreen, stylus, Keyboard, TouchpadKeyboard, Touchpad
Price
Device$1,169.10$1,399
Extra$116.99 (Touch Cover)
Extra$179.99 (Docking Station)
Warranty$149.00 (2 years, accidental damage)$183 (3 years)
Total$1615.08 (includes student discount)$1557 (includes student discount)
The conclusion he was coming to is that it was comparing apples and oranges so I suggested the idea of going to the Microsoft Store in the Prudential Center and asking one of the salespersons there why he should get a Surface Pro 3 over a Macbook Pro and then go to the Apple store across the street and asking one of the salespersons there why he should get a Macbook Pro over the Surface Pro 3.

In the Microsoft Store the first rep we talked to gave us the regular talk about the features the Surface has like the touch screen and the keyboard and the pen, basically stuff we already knew. We then tried talking to another rep and he gave more specifics as to why he liked the Surface Pro 3 in comparison to the Macbook Pro.

In the Apple store the first salesperson we talked to seemed to not acknowledge anything about the Surface Pro 3. We explained why we were there and he explained what features a Macbook has but didn’t talk why it is better than the Surface Pro. It seemed like the was saying the Macbook was the superior device without comparing the two. The thing that bugged me the most was that he said you don’t have to deal with defragging or viruses on a Mac. You do not need to defrag a Surface Pro due to it having a mSATA (SSD) drive, same with a Macbook Pro. Yes, Windows is more susceptible to malware but if you are smart about how you use your computer you can avoid getting malware. Also Macs can get malware, I worked on a Macbook today at Resnet that had malware on it. Another strange thing he said was,

“You don’t want to be the only person who walks into a room holding a Surface when everybody else has a Macbook.” – Apple Store Salesperson

At the end of the day both devices are great and after talking to both people at both stores it still is like comparing apples and oranges. They both have their upsides. Other notes are that he has an Android device so either computer works for him and he is also purchasing 2 monitors to use with his new device. The docking situation is better for the Surface. He ended up deciding on the Surface. One of the minor reasons he went Surface was that the Apple salespeople (we talked to 3 in total at the Apple store) didn’t really have reasons why their device wasn’t better than competitor devices besides the fact that they were an Apple device. The Microsoft salespeople were honest with what they felt about the Macbook Pro. Both salespersons didn’t seem to know as much about the technical aspects of the devices for example why would a CS student get one or the other. There was also a ton of marketing speak (Quad HD display, Retina display, SuperDrive).

If you are trying decide between a Surface Pro 3 and a Macbook Pro, or any device do these things:

  1. Ask yourself what you need your device to do, what are you looking for.
  2. Don’t talk to salespeople, they will just throw marketing terms at you that are useless.
  3. Read the specs for each device on Wikipedia, the wiki articles should be objective about specs.
  4. Read reviews (The Verge, Engadget, CNET, etc.)
  5. Now with the new knowledge you have, ask yourself if one device better suits your needs over another device.
  6. If one device seems better than another device go to step 13, if you still can’t decide go to step 7.
  7. If you want to waste time to to step 8, if not go to step 12.
  8. Go to stores that sell the devices you are looking at and ask them to pitch it for you. This isn’t for educational purposes, this is for having fun and to question the ability of salespeople.
  9. If you want to waste more time go to step 10, if not go to step 12.
  10. Try each device out for however long you can keep it while being able to get a full refund on it.
  11. Throw some darts at a board, ask your friends to help you decide.
  12. Flip a coin.
  13. Buy the device you decided on.