Biological activated carbon (BAC) and membrane bioreactor (MBR) were systematically compared for the drinking water treatment from slightly polluted raw water under the same hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 0.5 h. MBR exhibited excellent turbidity removal capacity due to the separation of the membrane; while only 60% of influent turbidity was intercepted by BAC. Perfect nitrification was achieved by MBR with the 89% reduction in ammonia; by contrast, BAC only eliminated a moderate amount of influent ammonia (by 54.5%). However, BAC was able to remove more dissolved organic matter (DOM, especially for organic molecules of 3,000 ∼ 500 Daltons) and corresponding disinfection by-product formation potential (DBPFP) in raw water than MBR. Unfortunately, particulate organic matter (POM) was detected in the BAC effluent. On the other hand, BAC and MBR displayed essentially the same capacity for biodegradable organic matter (BOM) removal. Fractionation of DOM showed that the removal efficiencies of hydrophobic neutrals, hydrophobic acids, weakly hydrophobic acids and hydrophilic organic matter through BAC treatment were 11.7%, 8.8%, 13.9% and 4.8% higher than that through MBR; while MBR achieved 13.8% higher hydrophobic bases removal as compared with BAC.