Which One Has More Usable Space: The 128GB Surface Pro Or The 128GB MacBook Air?

Everyone's been making fun of the Surface Pro for being so stingy on hard drive space. The 128GB version of the Surface Pro only has 90GB of free space (originally reported to be 83GB but since boosted). Where the hell did the other 38 gigs go? Well, you could ask the same question to the 128GB version of the MacBook Air. The MBA only has 92GB of free space. What!

And get this. With a few tweaks (namely removing the recovery image), the Surface Pro 128GB actually has more usable space than the equivalent 128GB MacBook Air. Why's everyone making fun of Microsoft for hijacking space? HMM?

Ed Bott of ZDNet, and unapologetic Microsoft man, dug deep to determine the true difference in space between the Surface Pro and the MacBook Air. It's worth a read if you're into splitting bits from bytes and breaking down binary and base-10. Basically, Apple and Windows report disk size differently leading Microsoft too look worse than it actually is. [ZDNet]


    And get this. With a few tweaks (namely removing the recovery image), the Surface Pro 128GB actually has more usable space than the equivalent 128GB MacBook Air. Why’s everyone making fun of Microsoft for hijacking space? HMM?

    The only people making fun of the Surface's free space are either Apple fanatics or people that don't understand how computers work.

      I think the "making fun" starts when you see they are selling a "64GB" version. That was a mistake MS.

        Agreed. It doesn't look so bad on the 128GB model but when you look at how much space is actually usable on the 64GB model, you wonder why they bothered.

          yeah your right, options are a bad thing.....
          /end sarcasm

            Yeah, especially when it also has a microSD card slot to double or triple the overall storage and can be attached to a high-speed USB 3 drive.

      BAM, right in the kissa... its what i been saying all a bloody long, finally someone picks up on this. (not you whitepointer the author)

      "And get this. With a few tweaks (namely removing the recovery image), the Surface Pro 128GB actually has more usable space than the equivalent 128GB MacBook Air. Why’s everyone making fun of Microsoft for hijacking space? HMM?"

      And if you go back and check EVERY BLOODY POST IVE MADE about the surface Pro, i've said this exact thing,

    Surface pro also has a SD card slot up to 64gb.

      More than 64Gb, it was only tested with 64Gb because that is all they had. Some have reported using 128Gb SD and it working without any issues.

    But we weren't talking about these models when the "poo hit the fan" last week.. we were talking about 32 and 64 models. Not sure what the purpose of this article is other than to show that different models of tablets have different amounts of storage space after the OS is taken into account.

    And we're not splitting bits and bytes.. we're talking about 50% of the total advertised storage capacity being unusable by the majority of the population who don't understand how to reclaim that space.

    Last edited 08/02/13 12:13 pm

      There is, and will never be, a 32Gb Surface Pro. As for your second paragraph, that was also true of my Samsung Series 9 wihich was sold to me with a 128Gb SSD, yet only had 59Gb available when I switched it on for the first time. Of course, an hour later it had more than 100Gb available so it was no biggie. If some users are stupid, that's their problem and they shoudl probably be using a Mac (as they are designed especially to part stupid users from their money).

        Ok the RT then.. whatever.. the point is the same. This article is just meaningless in reference to the subject it is leading on from.

        "If some users are stupid, that's their problem"

        Guess we'll let the ACCC decide that rather than you (or me for that matter).

          The ACCC can decide what they like but they will need to decide for everyone and, as we've been clearly shown, absolutely everyone does exactly the same things. If anything, MS are more honest about it than their competitors, particularly Apple who flat-out lie about the capacity of their drives.

          In the end it will be like the debacle we've had since the ACC decided car makers could no longer quote prices without including all on-road costs. As said costs vary from state to state, all it has done is make it much harder to find out how much a new car costs than it used to be. Why? Because the easiest way to comply with the ACCC ruling was to stop advertsing the price altogether.

          If the ACCC were to rule similarly here, do you think computer manufacturers would start advertising available space or just stop advertising how much space there is at all, forcing all of us to dig around to find out for ourselves? Instead of 16Gb, 32Gb and 64Gb, I'd expect Apple to start marketing iPads as S, SL and SX or something similar. Will we all be better off if that happens?

    I think its fair to compare surface pro with iPad rather with a MBP.

      No, considering the Surface Pro runs full Windows 8, desktop mode and all.

      You'd compare the Surface RT with an iPad.

        A desktop computer and a laptop also run full Windows 8, desktop mode and all. So, are you saying that it would be alright to compare the available storage on those to a Surface Pro? I think not! The Surface Pro is a tablet, not a desktop, laptop, ultra book or anything else. Hence, it should be compared to other tablets, not to laptops and ultrabooks. Doing otherwise is simply disingenuous . . . as is Ed Bott's article.

          Considering those desktops/laptops and the Surface Pro run the same OS, yes it would be alright to compare the available storage on them; the OS will take up roughly the same amount of space on the hard drives of both.

          The Surface Pro is a tablet out of the box, but is capable of more than your average tablet, seeing as it has the desktop mode, USB and Mini DisplayPort, meaning you can hook up a mouse, keyboard and monitor and use it like a desktop or laptop. (Yeah it would be expensive and I'd rather just buy an actual desktop or laptop, but the capability is there at least.) Can you do that with an iPad? Come back and talk to me when the iPad starts shipping with Mac OS X instead of iOS.

          Your points are invalid anyway; we're not comparing the devices themselves, just the free space left after the OS is installed on them. And considering both the devices run desktop OSs, it's perfectly reasonable to compare the free space on both.

            "Your points are invalid anyway; we're not comparing the devices themselves,"

            That would be alright if the comparisons were valid, but those are not. I agree that the Surface Pro is intended to do more than a tablet, but at its heart, it is still a tablet and it should only be compared to other tablets. Comparing it to some other device, other than a tablet, is comparing apples to oranges (no pun intended).

            "Come back and talk to me when the iPad starts shipping with Mac OS X instead of iOS."
            Are you sure that is what you want to say? So, should I also come back to you when Surface RT can run full Windows 8? Comparing Surface RT to iPad is quite reasonable as those are intended for similarly purposes. If Apple produced an iPad Pro, then it would be fair to compare it to the Surface Pro.

              The Surface Pro is a highly portable PC in a tablet form factor. Its battery life, size, operating temperature and connectivity are all those of a laptop and many prospective purchasers I've spoken to are considering it as a replacement for their laptop and tablet. Large-screened phones are eating into the need for a tablet for some: Many of our tablet users are ditching them in favour of the larger Galaxy models.
              When we analyse the way our users use their devices, we consider the Surface Pro as a laptop replacement.

            But i can connect a keyboard and display wirelessly with the iPad and use it like a touch laptop can't I?
            I know the iPad is not capable at running multiple windows visible at once (and that is probably the main criticism for doing "real work" along with the weaker processor vs x86), but iOS is incredible extensible wirelessly, and easy to set up that way too.

              Only as long as you are willing to throw away all the peripherals you already have and buy a whole slew of new stuff. Personally, I have spent many years finding the best peripherals for my needs. Having to switch from my Arc or Arc Touch mouses, for example, would require an unacceptable compromise and I would have to pay to do it. To me that sounds like the very definition of stupidity. I buy a new PC every year but I have been using exactly the same keyboard and mouse for more like 4 years and I hope to still be using them in another 4 years, be it on a 3rd or 4th gen Surface or a 5th gen ultrabook or whatever. Maybe Apple will hav erelented and put a USB port on iPad by then.

          Why wouldn't it be fair to compare the available storage on a desktop PC with a 128Gb SSD with a Surface Pro? They would each use exactly the same amount of storage, which would make it a waste of time, but it is certainly a far more valid comparison than comparing it to a toy like an iPad, that is incapable of running proper software applications or suppoting more than a tiny handful of peripheral devices. e.g. Can you connect an external USB 3 HDD to an iPad? How about a cordless mouse (cordless, not Bluettoh because Bluetooth mouses are terrible)?

            "a tiny handful of peripheral devices" the accessory market for iOS is massive.
            Also my bluetooth mouse works fantastically with Windows 7 and has done so for the past 4 years. It's a Microsoft one of course.

              The problem with Bluetooth mouses is that they take way too long to wake up from sleep and they use more juice. I find it easy enough to put up with the wake-up issue in a keyboard but it infuriates me in a mouse. How long does your mouse last on a set of batteries? My Arc Touch Mouse lasts cloe to a year, with 5-6 hours use a day, minimum. And as many iOS peripherals as there may be, the number pales into insignificance compared to the limitless depths of USB devices you can plug into any PC, which includes Surface Pro.

                I replace my batteries every 3-6 months? I do get the wake from sleep issue, though I don't think I've ever been frustrated waiting an extra 4 seconds. It does save a USB port though. That would be important on the surface, it only has one.
                I reckon that there is an iOS peripheral for almost anything. What do you think is missing besides sheer number?

                  Could I attach my Epson printer to any iOS device? Or my MIDIsport 1x1 MIDI interface or my Novation Ultranova synth/controller or any other peripheral I already own? No, I would have to go out and spend thousands on new stuff that would only ever work with iOS devices and, even then, wouldn't work with last year's iPad or iPhone without an adapter. iOS removes all future (and past) choice, whereas all my current peripherals will work with Windows, Linux or even MacOS, leaving me free to choose whichever OS suits my needs best.

      I think its fair to say you have no idea what your talking about...

      Why vijay? Can I run Autodesk Maya on an iPad? Or Office 365? Can you even buy a 128Gb iPad? No, you cannot, which makes comparing it to a 128Gb Surface Pro a complete waste of time.

      I think you can compare it to either given MS is targeting both markets with the device.

    They imply that there's 128GB available to me when they really mean to the computer system. The available size is used as a marketing point and I think its used dishonestly.

      To be fair though, they never advertise it to have "128GB of usable space". They just say it's a 128GB model.

      No, it implies it has a 128gb SSD HDD, which is does.

        No, it implies that there's 128GB for me to use. It cleverly doesn't say that the OS takes around 40GB of that 128GB (leaving me with 90GB).

          just in case you missed it
          "No, it implies it has a 128gb SSD HDD, which is does."

          so let me get this straight you have owned a magical device at somepoint in your life that contained an OS that didnt take any space?
          and if you actually read the article you would see the OS only takes 18gb not 40.

          Last edited 08/02/13 1:38 pm

          Please show me a product that actually has 100% capacity on it...

          Not even hard drives hace 100% there is always 1-2% used by the technology it self...

      But there is 128 Gb available if you reformat it. Would you rather they sold you the OS separately, just so that you couldn't complain about the available space? Because if someone successfully sued me over this issue, that's how I would solve it - by shipping the device with a completely clean SSD and a Windows installation disc. Then I'd charge you $20 to rent my USB DVD drive to do the installation. Would that work better for you?

    "The only people making fun of the Surface's free space are either Apple fanatics or people that don't understand how computers work."
    AND Gizmodo on the various articles regarding the Surface and how much memory it has or hasn't got.
    Come on Gizmodo, Apple didn't mean to have a go at you for stealing their iphone prototype. give it a rest!!!

    The orange part of you bar graph (Recovery Image) ought to go on the left, in a similar position to the blue (EFI/Restore) to allow easier comparison on the green part (User Data) - the bit we are interested in and the bit the article is all about.

      the graph is from the source article, its not a GIZ graph.

    i just read through that ZDnet article, love that there is finally someone who has a clue actually look into the device and not just make a judgment based on speculation and lack of IT knowledge.

    Saved to favourites for future quotation when the next apple fanboy complains about the storage.

      You might want to get a head start and send it to the ACCC because there are reports that they are investigating this issue with Surface.

    Can't wait to get my hands on one of these Surface Pros. I'm an ex Apple fanboy who can see this device has some killer potential in business. Anyone who says an iPad is a serious business tool, well....is a tool.

    Bring it on.......

    Crazy that having free space is a trump card when comparing OS's. Just install Puppy Linux on either and you will have: (total free space of sdd - around 130mb)

    the defining thing that differentiates the Surface Pro from the iPad is the fact you can use your surface pro to restore your iPad when it screws up.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now