Laptops: For image handling, Surface issues MacBook a challeng

First we were seduced by the iPad and then the iPad with the Retina (Apple talk for high resolution) display with its accurate colours and contrast right out of the box. Then it was just a short step to the MacBook Pro, a portable computer that miraculously showed the right colours and contrast no matter the angle from which it is viewed. And before you knew it we had bought an iMac and the iHeresy was complete.

Quite simply, if you were serious about using a computer for photo editing then there was no choice. Only Apple seemed to care about colour-accurate displays. Well, not any more.

The Microsoft Surface Book is a portable computer that could entice us back into the cult of Gates. We have been using the Surface Book ($2299) alongside the MacBook Pro 13″ Retina ($1999) laptop, and choosing which to worship is not easy.

They use the same processor, the Intel Core i5, and have similar screen sizes. Both are high definition, with the Surface Book being marginally sharper and better colour balanced with a dazzling true white. Photos and videos look stunning on this display, and by comparison the MacBook images look a little dull.

They both come with 128 GB flash drives, with higher drive capacities and faster processors available at much higher prices. So why does the Surface Book cost more? To start with, it has a touch screen that can be written on with the supplied stylus. This is of more interest than it might seem because the display section of the computer can be detached from the keyboard and used as a tablet.

What’s more, the display can be folded back flat against the base of the unit to make it easier for touch and stylus operation. You could argue that the computer/tablet combination would add many hundreds to the price of the MacBook, and even then you would not get the seamless integration of laptop and tablet.

However, things don’t all go the Microsoft way. The two units have similar keyboards with trackpads. The MacBook’s trackpad is a sweet thing, sensitive to the touch, easily interpreting multi-finger gestures and responding to a gentle tap to execute the command. The Surface Book touchpad is coarser and less responsive so we paired the Book with a Bluetooth mouse and then it worked flawlessly – but portability is compromised.

When it comes to the Windows 10 versus Mac Os El Capitan operating systems, the choice is easy – go with the one you know and love. But the Mac OS does have the advantage of in-built applications that Windows doesn’t seriously try to match. For the photographer, the inclusion of Photos and iMovie in the Mac system is just about a deal decider. Windows also has something called “Photos” which offers less in photo editing functions than the average smartphone can manage. The MacBook can be used for photo and video editing without any additional software, and that is not possible with the Surface Book.

Windows does give access a huge array of excellent free applications, including the well-regarded Photoscape picture editor. When Photoscape and Irfanview, another free app, are installed on the Surface Pro, it is as good as the MacBook. But that still leaves video editing software lacking and we have not found anything to compare with iMovie. Wondershare Filmora is an iMovie clone, but it costs about $75 and doesn’t handle 4K video. Microsoft advise that the clunky old Windows Movie Maker is “not supported on Windows 10″.

The killer argument for the Microsoft Surface Book is that it could be all the computer you will ever need. Add a 1TB external hard drive (about $90) a Bluetooth mouse (ours cost $5) and an external 4K monitor and you will have an all-in-one laptop, tablet and desktop computer. Add Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements to the software and it adds up to a neat, do everything, space saving photo and video editing machine. It could be time to worship at the shrine of Gates once again.


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