If you’re buying a new laptop for work this year, then the brand new MacBook Pro and Surface Book must be on your radar. They currently represent the best that Apple and Microsoft have to offer regarding hardware. But which one is better? Each company will probably say its new notebook is better suited for professionals, but independent tests have shown that the 2016 MacBook Pro is better than the Surface Book in one all-too area: Graphics.
Yes, the Surface Book might do better when it comes to professional tasks, but it’s the MacBook Pro that takes the cake. “When it comes to a mobile workhorse, at least, Apple still reigns supreme,” Gizmodo said when comparing the two new laptops.
Apple has been more meticulous than Microsoft at choosing internal components, and GPUs are one prime example. The MacBook Pro’s AMD GPU handily beat the Surface Book’s Nvidia card in non-gaming tests.
“The MacBook Pro rocks an AMD Radeon Pro 450 with 2GB of RAM while the Surface Book has a Nvidia 965M with 2GB of RAM. Both video cards are super thin and low powered to minimize impact on battery life,” Gizmodo said. “Yet the Radeon Pro 450 is specifically built for improving speeds when rendering 3D objects in CAD software, and the Nvidia 965M is more an everyman video card—useful for CAD rendering, but also gaming.”
If that’s not enough, there’s one other reason Apple went for AMD GPUs in the 15-inch MacBook Pro. In its review, Ars Technica revealed that all new 15-inch MacBook Pro models come with discrete graphics cards, which is a first for Apple. Usually, only higher-end 15-inch models would ship with a discrete GPU. But Apple wanted to offer the same kind of performance across the board, so it opted for adding a discrete GPU in all 15-inch MacBook Pros.
The reason for this is pretty simple. Apple wanted all 15-inch laptops to be able to drive two 5K displays, and it needed AMD GPUs to do it.
“When you hook one of LG’s 5K monitors to one of the new MacBook Pros, what you’re actually seeing on the screen is two pictures stitched together to make a single seamless image,” Ars explained. “This is because the version of the DisplayPort spec supported by Intel’s GPUs and almost all monitors these days—version 1.2—doesn’t have enough bandwidth to drive a 5K display at 60Hz all by itself. This will change with DisplayPort 1.3, which is right on the cusp of going mainstream, but it’s not here yet. Apple is actually pushing two DisplayPort 1.2 streams to the monitor over the single Thunderbolt 3 cable.”
AMD’s cards support six display streams, four needed for two 5K display and one for the laptop’s own screen. The remaining stream can be used for a third 4K display. Also, if you want an even better gaming experience on your MacBook Pro, then you can always go for external GPUs. Yes, it’s possible.