Research and testing are a big part of what we do at Prowess. We’ve looked at everything from tablets to two-in-ones to laptops to servers, comparing performance, security, usability, and other factors.

Recently, we completed a project comparing several Microsoft Surface devices to Apple MacBook Pro and Apple iPad Pro devices. This study had two overall goals. The primary goal was to see which devices offered the best overall user experience and productivity for office and creative workers. But as a secondary goal, we also wanted to determine which devices were easiest for IT staff to manage, support, and secure.

Some of the results from our testing were expected, and some were a surprise. Here’s what we found.

Real-World Testing

Device manufacturers and vendors love scripted benchmark testing. Straightforward performance numbers can be useful, but they don’t always tell the full story. User experience, manageability, and other “human” factors can’t always be tested using an industry benchmark.

At Prowess, we like to go deeper in our testing to get a fuller picture of the benefits or shortcomings of a device. To accomplish that objective, we put together 10 real-world scenarios, covering common tasks like organizing and running team meetings, collaborating on documents, working on the road, and designing creative assets. Each scenario was broken down into specific user steps that we could time to compare results. We also made note of features that were available or absent on specific devices. And we looked at the overall user experience. After all, if a task is cumbersome to perform, users are more likely to become frustrated and either avoid the task or seek out an alternative option.

Which Device Wins for Usability and Productivity? The Answer Might Surprise You

Apple likes to tout its ease of use in marketing materials and TV ads. Despite that claim, in every scenario we tested, the Microsoft Surface device outperformed the Apple device for productivity and manageability. In most cases, the Surface device allowed the user to complete the scenario in fewer steps or clicks. And in several tests, the Surface device supported features or capabilities that were absent from the Apple device. The most notable example of missing functionality was support for a touchscreen and pen, which all Surface devices offer, but Apple MacBook Pro devices do not.

Our full benchmarking paper tells the whole story, but here are three examples of real-world scenarios we tested in which the tested Surface device outmatched the comparable Apple device.

1. 41 percent faster to complete photo capture and editing tasks on the road using a Surface Pro device compared to an iPad Pro device

The Surface Pro is not only light and portable, it’s a full-featured, powerful device that supports full Windows 10 applications. The iPad Pro, in contrast, uses iOS apps. In many cases, there is no iOS version of an app that’s commonly used in Windows or Apple macOS.

That was the case in our test scenario, where a real estate agent was able to use a Surface Pro device to take photos of homes, edit the photos, create a brochure in Adobe InDesign, and export the brochure to a PDF file for clients. The iPad Pro doesn’t support InDesign, so the iPad Pro real estate agent needed to switch from an iPad Pro to a MacBook Pro to complete the design task. Changing devices is slow and cumbersome because the user needs to carry two devices, transfer files back and forth, and work around the lack of cellular network support on the MacBook Pro.

2.Three times faster to log in with a Surface Book 2, compared to a MacBook Pro

The Surface Book 2—and all Surface devices—supports Windows Hello, which lets you log in almost instantly by just looking at the screen. The Apple devices require you to authenticate by entering a password, which is slower and more prone to user error. In our user testing, logins were three times faster on the Surface device, which can add up to significant time savings over the course of days and weeks. Our testing showed that just one login per day would result in nearly an hour per year saved for each Surface user, which results in 45 weeks/year of extra time for a 500-user organization.

3. 169 percent faster to add and manage a Microsoft Surface Laptop in a Windows domain, compared to an Apple MacBook Pro

Many organizations rely on Active Directory and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager to manage users and devices. The two Microsoft tools provide admins with granular control of device features and user access. Adding a Surface Laptop to a Windows domain is quick and easy because the device and user automatically inherit all the preconfigured domain policies. But adding a MacBook Pro to a Windows domain adds complexity and time. In our testing, we could add the Surface device to a Windows domain in nearly one-third the time it took to add the MacBook Pro. And even after adding the Apple device to the domain, the policies didn’t provide the same level of management or security as the Surface Laptop.

A Winner Surfaces

These are just three examples of how Microsoft Surface devices offer workers a better user experience and greater productivity than comparable iPad Pro or MacBook Pro devices. Check out our full report for the other testing scenarios and all the details. And as always, you can follow Prowess on our blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn to keep up with more emerging trends and technologies.

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