As an executive with one of the leading global media agencies – my life revolves around presentations.  For a good 50% of my working week I am either giving a presentation, planning a presentation or sitting in a presentation.

And yes, that’s every bit as glamorous as it sounds.  I am very familiar with PowerPoint and Keynote and have a passing familiarity with Prezi.  Sometimes if I’m lucky, I get to view a presentation from one of the TV Networks, Mediaworks or TVNZ, and boy are they inspiring – there’s nothing like a professional showreel to get a media exec pumped up about the content.

Because of this I know how important the hardware component of a presentation is.  Most people prefer to present off of a laptop, whether it’s a Windows or Mac machine.  I have seen only a handful of presentations given from an iPad in the last two years, and a solitary presentation given on a Windows smartphone.

Despite the functionality of phones and tablets, business people prefer laptops when it comes to getting work done.  Why?  Well it has to come down to the keyboard.  In my experience, presentations change all of the time.  They need to be tailored to the audience, have the dates updated;  new facts and figures and viral content come to hand constantly, so you are forever tweaking your slides before you walk into a room and share your creation with your audience.

Phones and tablets are great for viewing content, but even with a bluetooth keyboard, they are not great for creating the content or substantially tweaking it while running between meeting venues across town or in different cities.

Two Productivity Machines Compared:

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For the past two months I have been running an Apple MacBook and a Microsoft Surface 3 alongside my standard HP work laptop.

I’m aware that the two machines don’t seem directly comparable.  One is tablet/laptop replacement while the other is a fully featured notebook (with a price tag to match).  However they both had what I want from a mobile business perspective.

Both of them are light ultraportables with enough grunt to power my most used business applications; generally Excel, Powerpoint, Word and e-mail as well as a number of web based applications accessed through a browser.

On the whole I’ve found both to be preferable to carting my heavy laptop around town.  Whether I’m on a plane or making changes to a document in the back of a taxi (yes, that happens), both are small enough and light enough to enhance my productivity.

But just what are the pros and cons of each for business on the go?

Microsoft Surface 3:

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You could call it a tablet but with a Type Cover added the Surface 3 is essentially a super light laptop replacement.  It may be marketed at Uni students but I found it to be a great secondary device for work.

The Surface 3 has a number of features which mean it just helps get the business done.  To list these off I am talking about, a full version of windows, the full desktop version of the still dominant Office suite,  a full size USB 3 port, an SD card slot for additional storage or for swapping data and a min displayport that allows yo to connect to a screen or projector (as long as you have the right adapter in your work bag).

One new thing I discovered in the last fortnight which really tickled my fancy was the ability to remote control my presentations using an app on Windows Phone – I can now say goodbye to my separate “clicker”.

Where the Surface 3 struggled slightly though was when I needed to work off of my lap while cooped up in a taxi.  The kickstand can only lock into 3 angles (unlike the more expensive, more aimed at real business users, Surface Pro 3 which has many more) and with the type cover it was sometime hard to find just the right angle for comfortable typing.

On the whole though, I loved the lightness and versatility, especially when I used it as my main device on a 48 hour business trip to Melbourne.  One light device and a small USB power cord is certainly preferable to carrying a 2.5KG laptop and a power brick.

Apple MacBook:

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The new MacBook is a leading edge machine in many ways the business world is not quite ready for it.  Not yet at any rate.

The minimalist, sleek device has one single USB C port through which power, data and video are channeled.  Unlike the Surface, there are no extra ports to plug a USB stick or SD card into.  If you want to do that you’ll need an additional adapter.

That’s because this device is built for the wireless streaming future.

If you do stock up on the accessories you’ll be able to get the most out of everyday business/presentation situations.

The battery life is good but not great so you’ll probably want to keep the power cord on hand.  I averaged about six or seven hours of constant work on a single charge versus the nine quoted on the website.

It’s a statement device though, for sure  Nine times out of ten someone in the room would comment on the MacBook when I used it.  It is unbelievably thin and light and has a gorgeous 12 inch retina display so it attracts comments from the Mac cognoscenti.

In a straight power shootout the MacBook Air can still rule over the Macbook and consequently that range provides slightly better value for money.

While the MacBook can run Office for Mac I enjoyed using Keynote for my presentations.  It just has a layer of sophistication that gives each presentation a quality edge.  However sharing Keynote files with my clients and colleagues is pretty much a no-go so they would eventually have to be output in Powerpoint format or PDF which meant compromises on functionality.

Its traditional Notebook form factor meant it had the edge over the Surface in those type-from-your-lap-while-travelling situations.

At the end of the day the MacBook made an impression (and in the world of advertising, media and commerce that carries some value).  In fact in other industries – creative, design, publishing – Macs are pretty much essential tools and the MacBook would be the number one choice.

However for me, on a day to day basis, the Surface 3 helped me get more work done.

Microsoft Surface 3 website:  Priced from $799 plus $199 Type Cover.

Apple MacBook website:  Priced from $1999.