Many Apple users hesitate for changes. They tend to fall in love with both OS and their hardware, tending to resist any big changes. I have been a Mac user for a long time now and I understand from their perspective.
In this article, I will explain with my first hand experience the transition to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 from the MacBook Air. Hopefully, this article will help making decisions to those Apple users thinking about switching to the devices like the Surface Pro 4. Unfortunately I have only been using the Surface Pro 4 for a short period of time, hence I can not go over all the features of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, just yet. Nevertheless, I will identify some of the pros and cons of switching from the MacBook Air to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
Comparing the interface of Windows 10 to Apple’s OS X El Capitan is like comparing two opposite extremities. The Apple OS is super simple and uber user friendly. Consequently, it is less customizable and has a shorter learning curve. I was able to get used to MacBook Air features faster than I could on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. It has already been 3 weeks since my transition from OS X to Windows 10, and I am still discovering new tools and features from the Windows 10 OS. Nevertheless, I found the extra customization capabilities extremely useful. Windows 10 OS system has a wider range of audiences beyond the average user like me, whose primary use is for school and media/entertainment.
In my opinion, the navigation of both devices are quite elegant. They both utilize gestures to open different windows and switch between windows/applications. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 uses the side of the screen to navigate while the MacBook Air uses the track pad. Although this might be purely subjective, I think MacBook’s trackpad based navigation is faster/easier to scroll and also to switch between apps. The MacBook also features wider range of gestures despite lacking touch capability. On the other hand, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has the Action Center gesture which gives you a quick access to all your notifications, settings, and toggles. The Action Center acts as a notification bar, similar to the one on your mobile device. The MacBook Air also has better response to sensitivity than the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 overall. Nevertheless, I found both approach very usable for my needs.
Screen and Keyboard Ergonomics
In terms of screen size, MacBook Air does have a slight edge on paper with a 13-inch screen compared to the 12.3-inch screen of the Surface Pro 4. But in my transition from the MacBook Air to the Surface Pro 4, the difference in screen size was not noticeable with any daily use. Could this be because of the higher resolution?
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4’s type cover felt slightly more compact compared to the MacBook Air but it was easily adaptable. Despite its compact size, the keyboard was surprisingly easy to get used to and type at a near full speed. Furthermore, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has the option to use a third party Bluetooth keyboard such as the Cooper Case for a more comfortable typing experience.
Initially, I completely wrote off the on-screen keyboard on the Surface Pro 4 and was disappointed to find that no 3rd party keyboards were available in the Microsoft App Store. But after some additional trial and error usage, I found that it worked quite well after all. You can’t replace a full size keyboard with an on-screen keyboard of course, but for short quick touch-ups, it worked surprisingly well. Still, I would like to see some of the nicer on-screen keyboards currently available on the smartphones ported to the Windows platform. I’ve tried some free-to-try 3rd party keyboards but it was pretty clear to me that Microsoft doesn’t want anyone to replace their on-screen keyboard as other keyboards felt they were not well integrated into the OS.
The portability of both devices are definitely very good. There were no problem with how it fits in hand or in my bag. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is lighter in weight and it is also thinner than the MacBook Air so there is less discomfort carrying it around. Furthermore, Microsoft Surface Pro 4 can be used as a tablet, therefore it can be a more portable media device for movies or videos for traveling. I prefer carrying the Surface Pro 4 more so than the MacBook Air.
In the near future, I will be writing an article that compares different cases for the Surface Pro 4, so stay tuned.
My final thoughts on the transition (so far) from the MacBook Air to Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is impacted more by the operating system than the hardware. Personally, I find the Windows 10 operating system to be more useful than the OS X El Capitan despite my recent years of reliance, and the Window 10 OS integrates the touch capability quite well both as a laptop and as a tablet. I find myself enjoying the tablet mode quite a bit more than I had expected.
Overall, I still have much to learn, but I have to admit the Windows platform has come a long way, both on the hardware and on the software fronts.