Holiday Cheer from Microsoft and Apple

Microsoft and Apple have put some new, high-price goodies on the market for the holidays. In a word, they’re getting “touchier” as tablets get more computing capability and computers use more touchscreen technology.

If you’re looking for an apples-to-apples comparison…no pun intended…maybe that should be oranges-to-oranges comparison, that may be tough. Both are pricey and feature Intel i5 and i7 processors. Each will do fine for those willing to spend the money. That said, here’s what we like and what you can expect.

Microsoft is heavily promoting its Surface Studio as a highly creative tool for design tasks that have long been associated with Macs. A tablet that acts like a computer, it starts at $2,999 and can go up to $4,199, and it can be used with a variety of tools, including the Surface Dial and Surface Pen, which enable you to draw on the screen. Because it’s a Microsoft product, it comes with Windows 10 Pro and a 30-day trial of Microsoft Office.

The Studio has four USB 3.0 ports (one high power port), a full-size SD™ card reader (SDXC compatible), a mini display port and a headset jack, and it has a high-resolution display and graphics card for artistic and gaming applications.

If you don’t need all the Studio’s computing power, you can choose the Surface Book at $1,499 or the Surface Pro 4 at $899. The trend we see is that mobile users who need more computing power and the flexibility of a tablet for mobility and touchscreen/keyboard capability will be looking more closely at a Surface.

Microsoft is also rumored to be planning to release a Surface phone in the spring of 2017.

The MacBook Pro doesn’t have the Dial or a pen, but its more advanced models have the Touch Bar, which is a strip just above the keyboard. It’s more like something you would find on a tablet. It appears and disappears as needed to give you shortcuts to the controls, sliders, menus and tools that relate to the task at hand. As you tap, swipe or drag the Touch Bar keys, you see the results of your actions. Touch Bar can help you access favorite websites in Safari, answer (or reject) incoming FaceTime calls or get predictive suggestions of the words you may want to use when writing, just like with iOS devices.

With Touch Bar opened to outside app developers, you may see it for many apps, and you can still use versions of the physical function keys, such as for adjusting screen brightness or speaker volume, that used to reside above the keyboard.

MacBook Pro has a big track pad, which we rate as a plus, and the 15-inch model has four USB-C ports — that double as Thunderbolt 3 ports — which can be used for Thunderbolt, USB, DisplayPort, HDMI, VGI, and charging. The USB-C ports are new technology. The basic 13-inch model only has two USB-C/Thunderbird 3 ports. This means you may need a dongle to attach certain hardware. There’s no SD card reader, which could be a problem for photographers.

We’ll have a MacBook Pro in a few weeks, and we’ll see how it’s all set up.

If you’re thinking about either or both of these systems, contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to discuss how you plan to use it and your budget considerations. We’ll also be able to guide on what to expect when integrating your purchase(s) into your home or office network – and among multiple users.