Microsoft released two brand-new laptops this week, both killer Apple rivals — here’s how to choose between them

surface pro surface laptop

Melia Robinson/Business Insider

Microsoft Surface Laptop (left) and Surface Pro (right) are both killer alternatives to the MacBook and iPad Pro.

This week, Microsoft released not one, but two new laptops. 

First, you’ve got the Surface Laptop, an all-new device that’s aimed at students. It also serves as the showcase device for Windows 10 S, a streamlined (but flawed) version of the operating system designed to eke higher performance out of even lower-end hardware. 

Second, you have the Surface Pro. This is a revamped update of 2015’s well-received Surface Pro 4, only this version doesn’t carry a number, just the name. And while Microsoft has previously marketed it as “the tablet that can replace your laptop,” the Surface Pro now carries the tagline of “the most versatile laptop in the world.” 

In this reporter’s opinion, it’s hard to go wrong: In their own ways, each of these new, premium laptops is better than the Apple equivalent, specifically with regards to the iPad Pro and MacBook.

But if you’re having trouble choosing between them, never fear. Here’s what you need to know.

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

That’s the Surface Laptop on the left, and the Surface Pro on the right. They look pretty similar from this angle, apart from the fact that the Laptop sports a 13.5-inch screen to the Pro’s 12.3-inch display.

Both of them run Windows 10. If you’re coming from a Mac, try it. You might be pleasantly surprised. Speaking personally, I like Windows 10 better than Apple MacOS.

Read more about why that is here.

But let’s look a little more closely at the Surface Pro. While it’s marketed as a laptop, the Surface Pro is actually a $799 tablet, with its trademark Type Cover sold separately for $129 (or $159 for the luxe fabric-covered model I’m using here).

The Surface Pen stylus is another $99. The good news is that if you already have a Type Cover or Surface Pen from a previous model, it’ll still work, as will your wall charger.

Read more about the new Surface Pro here.

So to become a laptop, the Surface Pro uses a built-in kickstand to stay upright.

That tablet design, plus the kickstand, actually makes the Surface Pro a great little sketchpad and notepad. You can use it with or without the keyboard attached, giving you a little more flexibility.

With this new model, the Surface Pro kickstand can lean all the way back to about a 20-degree angle, the better for sketching.

The $999 Surface Laptop is… a laptop. As you may guess from the name.

Read more about Surface Laptop, and its one easily-fixable flaw, here.

Other than a touchscreen, there’s no gimmick here. For $999, you get a premium, high-end laptop that rivals anything Apple has to offer.

That is, unless you count the fact that the keyboard is covered in the same high-end fabric as the pricier Surface Pro type covers. Microsoft says it’s easy to clean, but in my experience so far, it’s a big crumb magnet.

Surface Laptop also comes in a range of fashionable colors.

And it sits nicely on your lap.

Which sounds obvious, but there’s one big trade-off with the Surface Pro: That kickstand means it doesn’t really sit nicely anywhere that moves around a lot. Like your lap. It works, but you have to stay really, really still.

So, with all of that said, which one should you get? Well, it depends what you’re going to use it for. The Surface Pro is slim, lightweight, and usable as a tablet, making it good for road warriors or creative types.

If it helps, you can think of the Surface Pro as an alternative to Apple’s lightweight MacBook Air, pictured…

…and the Surface Laptop as a rival to Apple’s core MacBook.

It’s tempting to compare the Surface Pro to the iPad Pro, a tablet that Apple bills as a laptop replacement in its own right. In my experience, the iPad Pro hardware is great… but Apple’s iOS apps aren’t as good as their Windows counterparts.

Ultimately, though, if you’re going to choose between the Surface Pro and the Surface Laptop, the Laptop is probably a better bet for most people. While it doesn’t have the versatility of the tablet/laptop hybrid, the larger screen and the more traditional design will probably scratch more of an itch for most people.

BONUS: There’s also the $1,499 Microsoft Surface Book, a Microsoft-made laptop with a lot of power and a detachable screen. It’s most comparable to Apple’s MacBook Pro. But it’s both heavier and more expensive than either the Pro or Laptop, so be aware.

Read more about Surface Book here.