Surface Pro and MacBook Air have similar free disk space

Before the launch of the Surface Pro, Microsoft copped some significant flack when they announced the amount of free storage space available on the system. As the operating system - in this case a full copy of Windows 8 - takes up a significant amount of space, people felt cheated that they weren't able to have a full 64 or 128 GB for their own data and apps. Many people compared the situation to that of an iPad or even the Surface RT, which give you more of the advertised free space.

Ed Bott of ZDNet feels that a comparison between the Surface Pro and the iPad is unfair, as the former can be used as a full-strength PC complete with traditional desktop Windows applications, while the iPad is more of a consumption device tethered to the App Store. A more appropriate comparison should be made between the Surface Pro and Apple's MacBook Air: both contain ultraportable specs including x86 Intel processors, both have similar amounts of RAM, and both come in 128 GB models.

In a lengthy report, Bott crunched the numbers to discover the Surface Pro and MacBook Air contain very similar amounts of free space after the OS and other partitions are factored in. The MacBook Air in its stock configuration has 92.2 GB of 128 GB available for use (77.3%), while the Surface Pro comes with 89.7 GB free (75.2%). A significant portion of the Surface Pro's storage is taken up by a recovery partition, which if you choose to remove (at no cost to system capabilities) nets you more storage, increasing the amount of free space to 97.5 GB (81.8%).

It's also worth noting that Mac OS X and Windows report storage capacities in different ways. OS X likes to use the decimal (Base 10) system, meaning a drive advertised as 1000 GB will show up as very close to 1000 GB in the OS; Windows, on the other hand, uses the binary (Base 2) system, meaning the same "1000 GB" drive will show up as only 931.5 GB.

Not only that, but the total capacity of the Surface Pro and MacBook Air "128 GB" disks are different. When comparing both in Base 2, the MacBook Air's disk is only 112.2 GB while the Surface Pro's is 119.1 GB - so where did the Air lose 7 GB? As it turns out, the Air's solid state drive contains a hidden EFI and Restore partition amounting to roughly that missing space, which unlike the Surface Pro cannot be re-purposed to add more free space.

Using the Recovery Drive wizard you can transfer the Surface's 7.8 GB recovery partition to a USB flash drive, bumping the total free space on the unit up to 97.5 GB. The MacBook Air's recovery partition cannot be removed, so you're stuck with a maximum of 92.2 GB of free space and less than the Surface Pro after a simple tweak has been applied.

At the end of the day though, both systems have very similar capabilities and very similar free storage space, and the large percentage available on the 128 GB units should be more than enough for day-to-day work.

Source and Images: ZDNet

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lt8480 said,
Yes an horrible analogy...

Please explain why the analogy is flawed, as I'm genuinely interested to know. Both involve a product being advertised primarily on a particular feature but not being able to use the full amount of it due to preinstalled components. The assumption with storage space - like with seats - is that the user has access to it.

theyarecomingforyou said,

That's exactly why people are outraged. How is it a horrible analogy? The car still has seven seats, it's just the engine is on two of them and you can never use them - it didn't claim you could use the seats, just that they exist. That's exactly the same situation with the Surface and it's storage space being taken up by the operating system and applications.

If you remove the engine of the car to reclaim the seats, the car stops working.

If you remove Windows from the Surface Pro, the unit still works. You could boot into an OS from external storage if you really wanted to.

Horrible analogy, but I agree with you. This already has been an issue people have complained over, I've heard it first hand at work. The next problem I see coming is regarding Office not being installed on the Surface Pro.

I understand very well why it won't, but seeing as customers already complain that the laptop or desktop computers do not come with Office, I don't doubt for a second that someone's gonna pick up the Surface Pro with this same expectations, especially seeing that the Surface RT will, and it'd only be "logical".

Scorpus said,
If you remove the engine of the car to reclaim the seats, the car stops working.

If you remove Windows from the Surface Pro, the unit still works. You could boot into an OS from external storage if you really wanted to.

That makes no sense. If you remove the operating system the tablet stops working; if you remove the engine the car stops working. If you install the operating system using external storage the tablet will work again with the full storage capacity; if you install the engine externally then the car will work again and you'll have all your seats back. Where's the difference?

That's like saying that a car has a total carrying capacity of 1000 lbs, but the car itself weighs 448 lbs, leaving only 552 lbs for passengers. 552 lbs is not enough to carry 5 average size adults. The competition also advertises carrying capacity of 1000 lbs, but the car itself weights only 125 lbs (it is a very lightweight car), leaving 875 lbs for passengers, which is possible for 5 average adults.

A prospective owner would think that it's a fair comparison that they both carry 1000 lbs total, but it is not. That is misleading.

It's the same argument as when Apple were advertising "4G LTE" in countries that don't support it. Yes it IS a "4G LTE" chip, but no you can't use it.

Simon- said,
That's like saying that a car has a total carrying capacity of 1000 lbs, but the car itself weighs 448 lbs, leaving only 552 lbs for passengers. 552 lbs is not enough to carry 5 average size adults. The competition also advertises carrying capacity of 1000 lbs, but the car itself weights only 125 lbs (it is a very lightweight car), leaving 875 lbs for passengers, which is possible for 5 average adults.

Close, but you're missing the point of this article. I'll try using your analogy:

It's like saying that a car has a total carrying capacity of 1000 lbs, but the car itself weighs 448 lbs, leaving only 552 lbs for passengers. 552 lbs is not enough to carry 5 average size adults.

The competition also advertises carrying capacity of 1000 lbs, but the car itself weights only 440 lbs (it is a very lighter car but not by much), leaving 560 lbs for passengers, which also isn't enough for 5 average size adults, but people have been driving those cars for 2 years and the internet didn't throw a fit about it.

Whilst we are at it... if you are going to use "decimal bytes" why not put the numbers into some imaginary "decimal bits" that would yield an even better lie!

The flack that Microsoft received did not happen after they announced that they had been conservative with their estimates (by about 6-7GB), it occurred after they (themselves) originally confirmed that the 64GB Surface Pro would have 23GB of free space. Yes, there was also mention of the 128GB model only having 83GB free, but, by and large, the "outcry" was directed at the introductory model for having a paltry ~36% of free space (i.e. more "used-up" space) because the majority of its bigger brother's/sister's drive capacity still had ~65% left-over.

So fine, ignoring that Apple's laptop comes with iPhoto/Garageband/iMovie pre-installed on top of the applications that compete with what the Surface comes with, the 128GB MBA still wins against the 128GB Surface Pro OOTB, with the latter retaking the crown after a simple clean-up utility that regains the space stolen by the recovery partition (although if this was a general consumer product, I'm not sure the majority would use such a feature). As I said earlier though, the problem wasn't really with this model in the first place.

The main perpetrator was the 64GB Surface Pro. This model still comes with less than 50% free space (bumped up to almost 60% if the recovery partition is removed). What does Ed Bott have to say about the comparison between the 64GB versions of the Surface Pro and MBA? Answer: "Based on my extrapolations, I expect that the MacBook Air will compare more favorably to a Surface Pro in this configuration." Heck, even if the Surface Pro beat the MBA here, people should still be able to bitch about it (and the MBA) for not having the majority of the drive capacity as available, free space OOTB.

Edited by Manish, Feb 8 2013, 2:40am :

Well let see with the 128GB, it has 83GB available space. So the OS and pre-install apps will take around 45GB.

With the 64GB, it will be 64GB - 45GB (OS and pre-install apps) = 19GB.

I don't know how your mind works. But it seems like you think with the 64GB, the OS and pre-installed apps should be less? ...

The Surface was pitched as 'No Compromises' At it launch they kept saying No Compromises, No Compromises, No Compromises, No Compromises, the Surface has turned out to be all compromises including less than 50% of the drive space being available to the customer.

MDboyz said,
You are complaining that it only leave you less than 50% of available space on the 64GB. Of course, it's because the storage is smaller.

You're failing to see the point(s) being made. The 128GB Surface wasn't the issue to begin with, so I personally don't see much point in "crunching numbers" for that particular spec. The actual complaint was for the 64GB Surface Pro, which seems like it was created as an afterthought following the production of the 128GB model. To compare, Apple manages to leave around 45GB free (base 2) in the 64GB MBA.

In my opinion, there shouldn't be a device, from anybody not just Microsoft, where you're left with less than half of the drive capacity OOTB. That is why they received deserved flack for the 64GB model. Let's say that Windows took up 64GB and Microsoft had released the same size models, would you still think the 64GB offering was acceptable with 0GB free space OOTB?

I'd gladly take a MacBook Air that will last me several more hours and is lighter for portability, over the Surface Pro.

JHBrown said,
I'd gladly take a MacBook Air that will last me several more hours and is lighter for portability, over the Surface Pro.

3,5hours under full load of a MBA vs the surface pro's 4hr+?
How is that more time?

JHBrown said,
I'd gladly take a MacBook Air that will last me several more hours and is lighter for portability, over the Surface Pro.

Read again, ignorant.

Why use a keyboard, Surface Pro with OneNote installed has very good handwriting recognition, and that is when I use a mouse let alone a Pen

The problem is NOT the capacity with the 128gb but the capacity with the 64gb (a trap product). Also, 128gb for a full os, is not enough space., specially when the product is sell for a "pro" market.

Also, a full fledge OS in a 10" screen?, thanks but no!.

btw, OSX uses about 6gb x language and it is possible to get rids of other language & stuff, so this "study" looks a bit biased.

Brony said,
Also, a full fledge OS in a 10" screen?, thanks but no!.

Er yes please - this is a perfect laptop replacement for me at work! You get finger input, or a pen, or a mouse I don't see an issue.

128gb (or 90 or so) is easily enough for me to install all my apps (including VS2012) and have plenty of space for our entire codebase and build for it. Our build machine at work has a primary drive with 128GB and builds 8-10 products on a regular basis. The mechanical drive in it is used just for backups. On a pro i'll be able to stick in a memory card and/or USB sticks too, or carry a small portable drive etc etc. I think the 64 won't fit our needs but as a travelling dev i'm seriously happy with the pro as a potential purchase.

This whole storage space thing is silly. Computers have always been sold with total drive capacity listed. No one has ever advertised a computer with XXGB of free space available. The microsoft surface is the first time i've ever seen this brought up. There are lots of other ultrabooks with SSD's on the market and i don't see these crazy topics of storage space brought up about them.

A better car analogy whoud be the car is advertised as 200HP. Guess what at the engine it's 200HP, but by the time you drive the alternator, power steering, a/c, water pump, and the drive train you get about 160HP. So thats 160HP you have access to out of your 200HP. Because the car needs 15% of it to run vital functions. I never see anyone complaining about that. Because its a known fact that 99% of car are listed as crank HP not wheel HP. Just like computers are listed as total drive space, not available drive space.

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