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Microsoft Surface Laptop vs. Apple MacBook Air: Tech spec showdown

The actual target market audience may be a little different because Microsoft is going after the students directly. However, Apple laptops have long been a favorite of those with student loans. So any comparison seems fair.

Let's take a quick look at these two laptops side by side.

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Surface Laptop vs. MacBook Air Technical Specifications

CategorySurface LaptopApple MacBook Air
Display13.5-inch Pixel Sense display
10 point multi-touch
13.3-inch LED display
Display resolution2256 x 1504i
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
1440 x 900
Aspect Ratio: 16:10
SoftwareWindows 10 SmacOS Sierra
Processor7th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7Intel Core i5 or i7
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB Solid State Drive (SSD)128GB, 256GB, 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive (SSD)
Memory4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM8GB RAM
Graphicsi5: Intel HD graphics 620; i7: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640Intel HD Graphics 6000
PortsOne full-size USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, Headset jack, Surface ConnectTwo USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 2, SD card slot, headset jack
Battery14.5 hours of useUp to 12 hours
PenSurface PenNo
Weight2.76 lbs2.96 lbs
Dimensions12.13 inches x 8.78 inches x 0.57 inches12.8 inches x 8.94 inches x 0.68 inches (thickest point)
PriceFrom $999From $999

Not a close fight

For once, Apple is pretty much outclassed across the board. And again, that's down to the fact the MacBook Air hasn't had a meaningful upgrade in some time. Considering the entry level models of both cost the same, it's utterly damning to see what you get extra with Microsoft's laptop.

There is no room for Thunderbolt 2 in 2017.

A better display, better processors, better graphics, potentially higher RAM, it's lighter, it's thinner, has better claimed battery life and has digital pen support. When you look down the MacBook Air specs, the fact it still runs a Thunderbolt 2 port shows its age.

It's almost insulting to the premium laptop space that Apple even still sells the MacBook Air. Let alone still sells it for a thousand dollars. No-one should buy this MacBook Air in 2017. No-one.

So, the choice is pretty clear. If you're comparing these two, get a Surface Laptop, because it's actually a 2017 laptop and is worth the money. Windows 10 is superb and honestly, even this Windows-specific site can recommend you a better MacBook to buy if you're absolutely dead set on one of those.

Any of them. Just not the MacBook Air.

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Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

63 Comments
  • Like most articles like this, it really comes down to whether you want OSX or Windows. Apple is almost always going to give you less specs for the money.
  • they give you less specs because the OS but agree, articles like this are here only to fill up the site
  • The Air series specifically is going to be left behind by Apple eventually so that is part of the reason also.
  • Apple already said the Macbook without touchbar is the Air replacement, they have no intention of releasing a new Air ever
  • And yet you continue to read these articles for what so you can continuously complain about them?
  • Apple 'most' always give you less specs for the money to fill their greedy profits!
  • Not surprised by the results. Surface is the clear winner. Hands-down.
  • I made the switch from a MacBook Air to a Surface Pro 4. The new Surface Pro is a better machine. But it all comes down to OS preference at this stage, Windows is not MacOS and vice versa. While I love my Surface, especially the form factor, I really do miss MacOS as an OS, since it is what I am really used to and comfortable using.
  • Agreed, I thought I would like my surface more than I do but its the os that keeps me from picking it up more, I find myself using my phone a lot more or just waiting until I get home and using an iMac.
  • Look like you spend *a lot* of time browsing the internet. iMac is good for that.
  • in mobile specs are less important really...since ios is more polished and optimized for the hardware,  but in desktop....better specs is a much bigger deal...higher resolution screens,  touch screen, pen support longer battery life....all very important.
  • Could have fooled me; all the users here complain about is specs compared to a competing product; I guess since Apple hasn't updated in a bit they aren't crying yet, but they will!
  • Yes.  they do...but 90 percent of it is fanboy'ism one way or another.  Running specs alone,  the 950 xl should mop up my iphone 6s in speed and applicaiton running.  But it does not.   just as going by specs,  the galaxy s7 should mop up my iphone 6s,  again...but it does not.   However,  there are some specs you cannot ignore...like way longer battery life, touchscreen, pen support etc.   Processor specs are moot for everything besides the most intesive tasks as proven my little ole dell running just a pentium processor.  I paid 599 canadian for it,  added a 2 TB SSHD and 16 gb of ram.   And it does not hiccup doing ANYTHING I want it to.  Including editing photos and videos for my blog.   That also being said,  I would never take a macbook, over any windows device as MacOS is garbage.   LIke early 90s os.  where as windows 10 is the future with touchscreen,  3d builder included etc.   It has it all over MacOS.   
  • Two usb 3.0 ports & Sd card slot included versus Alcantara screen. Macbook wins. Hands down.
  • "Two usb 3.0 ports & Sd card slot included versus Alcantara screen. Macbook wins. Hands down." An Alcantara screen? Shows you don't know what you are talking about and simply regurgitating what others told you rather than researching yourself.
  • Remove de "overflow:scroll" from your .tablebox css rule
  • Yet another vs. article. They must think we can't do research.
  • Or, maybe, we just don't write every article for 'eryker'. We've been over this a thousand times and whining in comments won't change our strategy here. Just scroll over something you do not find interesting.
  • Off topic, but I reported the spam replies to the first comment on here a little while ago and it is still there. How quick until someone sees it?
  • NM, looks like Paul took care of it.
  • I do love it when trolls get burned..Or is it burnt? Anyone?
  • Doesn't this end up being people's research when they do a web search and find this to read?
  • I actually enjoy these articles because I usually know which I would buy, for me it's Windows over Mac so I wouldnt look for such articles nor do I have the time to. So seeing as I follow Windows Central on a daily bases, it's nice to see such comparisons/articles and more importantly their non-biased/honest opinion.
  • I agree 100% it is not even close.. Surface takes it easy.   But this part of the write up seems absurd given the Surface's i/o :
    There is no room for Thunderbolt 2 in 2017.
      Apparently there is no room for TB3 in 2017 either...
  • agreed chief!
  • TB3 uses USB Type-C port and USB Type-C is here to stay. So it may not be meaningful in 2017, but might be big in 2018. We'll see.
  • The big difference is the Operating System. Mac OS Sierra is a mature fully completed sustem and it's boring. Windows 10 is still under active development with major updates comming twice a year, and a very active insider program that anyone can join, that's much more exciting.
  • I find the Surface Laptops lack of ports a problem, the singel usb is a bit weak, and the lack of sd cardreader is disapointing. When the Macbook pro lost its card reader people said at least it has usb-c for a dongle. If it had to usb ports it would be fin, but this is even less then the Surface pro (the micro sd reader actually helps me alot)
  • Mac users are more supportive if their platform; for instance, when Apple released the macbook air with a single USB C port and offed a dongle for expansion, the users adapted, however Microsoft offers a dongle for type C and everyone whines.
  • isheep
  • MAC OS is worth the $999 alone  
  • Indeed, it doesn't have the mobile apps masquerading as desktop software, it doesn't shove adware in the users face, it has opt-out for telemetry so it isn't spyware etc etc
  • Tom: Jerry let's play Overwatch. Jerry: Sorry man. I've got a Mac. Tom: Ok, let's go buy us something useful!
  • But you can play Overwatch on a Mac, it's called boot camp.
  • 😂😂😂 on cost of FPS
  • Actually not at all. Provided the specs are comparable.
  • So to make a Mac useful, we need to use Windows. Ding!
  • You mean everything about Macbook except the OS is a piece of garbage worth nothing 😛
  • Lets wait for a New Air (if it ever sees light) and then compare. 
  • The offended Macbook fan, "Great deal"; if Apple hasn't update for a comparison, then talk to Tim Cook and stop whinning here because they're using hte current Apple product for comparison!
  • The new entry level MacBook is the air replacement.
  • Can we just wait few days and assess things again if/when an updated MacBook Air comes out at WWDC next week?  As it stands, most Mac fans would not even buy the Air.
  • Articles like this only demonstrate the desperation to feel relevant against apple, the desperation becomes especially clear and sad when a 2017 product is up against an Apple product from 2015.
  • The surface should and IS compared with its competitors.
  • Not really, the targeted audience of both devices will choose between these two. These are what's on offer for them, simple as.
  • The only demonstration of desperation is your usual drivel comment whining about it being an unfair comparison. If you want a fair comparison don't blame Microsoft nor WC, tell Timmy Cook to update his products rather than shoveling two year old products onto his drones 
  • And yet if they compared a new MacBook pro to a surface 3 (non pro) you and the rest would be moaning about it until the end of time.
    Apple fanboy sites don't need to review their newest products against old products from Microsoft in order to feel relevant.
  • Don't be stupid about this. Comparing the Macbook Pro to a non-Pro Surface would be like doing a comparison between an iPad (even the Pro) and a Surfacebook (any version). The Surface Laptop and the Macbook Air are comparable products with a similar purpose, so the comparison makes sense.
  • Stupid? You mean comparing a 2 year old product to something new kind of stupid?
  • Is there a newer version of the Macbook Air to compare against? If not, then this is a legitmate comparison. 
  • Because the Surface 3 does not use the same class of processor. EVery time there is a comparison between a Microsoft product and an Apple product, the Apple fan boy sites complain, but only on the stats that show Apple losing. Timmy Cook compares an iPad to the Surface Pro, showing how the battery life is longer, and that is all well and good. But show how the SP has better connectivity options and suddenly that argument is null and void. Compare the number of apps on the store and it supposedly shows that iPad is the better, but talk about the 16 million applications available to Windows, and that is not a fair comparison; like that is Microsoft's fault that Apple restricts their devices. In the beginning of the SP, they were compared over and over again on Apple fanboy sites. When the MBA was shown to be better, it showed the superiority of the Apple offering. But when the SP won, then the comparison was invalid because the SP didn't have an attached keyboard. Now we have a MS device with an attached keyboard, and people like yourself whine that it isn't fair. The Apple fanboy sites compare the SP to Apple Products, from the MBA to the MBP with HQ processor. And, predictably, people such as yourself like to cherry pick and if the stats show Apple winning, then it is good. But if Microsoft is better, then it isn't fair, the stat is meaningless, it is not a feature people want, and so on. Apple fanboys repeated that people don't want a pen with their computer, so that stat on SP was a hinderance, not a benefit. Then iPP was introduced with a pen, and suddenly pen computing was the best thing Apple ever invented and all those claims of how no body wants a pen was quickly forgotten, and if you brought up that fact then you were attacked for using a few outliers to attack poor, poor Apple. Apple fanboy sites make these comparisons all the time, but only if you can twist the argument to make Apple look better.
  • The choice is pretty clear except for storage average performance!
    The Surface Laptop SSD: Toshiba PCIe Gen3x2
    Seq Read: 900 MB/s
    Seq Write: 200 MB/s
    The MacBook Air SSD: Samsung PCIe Gen3x4
    Seq Read: 1300 MB/s
    Seq Write: 650 MB/s
  • Mac OS does not run the software I use so... no need for any Apple. And no.. parallels and boot camp are not the answer.
  • But they are the answer, you literally have the option of running anything you want, within the confines of the power of your machine of course.
  • Incomplete. Where are the sizes, weights, etc. ? VS articles are not very interesting, but at least do it right !
  • There are dimensions and weight right there in the table. Looks like you didn't look close enough ;) 
  • MacOS wipes the floor with Windows 10S though.
  •   Neither of those is worth the money in my opinion, I'd get something like the new Huawei Matebook X or the XPS 13 over the Surface Laptop any day.
  • Let's all agree they are both a waste of money.
  • Why are you comparing Microsoft's brand new offering to Apple's outdated offering? The regular "MacBook" is their current offering with the Air line being phased out. This is like comparing the Surface Pro 2 to the brand new MacBook Pro
  • Hmm I thought the Surface Laptop had an SD card slot.
  • Tell me if I am wrong, but I read somewhere the Air's SSD is faster than the Surface's?? (what they checked was duplicating files, about 5 GB, and the Air copied it at 300mbps, while the surface at 110mbps)
  • how much does it affect in real world usage?