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Surface Laptop 2 vs. MacBook Air: Which should you buy?

The Surface Laptop and the MacBook Air both appeal to a similar type of user — in particular students — especially since they're priced about the same. But there are still plenty of differences to consider.

Surface Laptop 2 vs MacBook Air tech specs

Until the recent refresh, it was impossible to suggest anyone buy a MacBook Air over the Surface Laptop 2, whether you were a Mac fan or not. However, Apple has finally brought its popular laptop back into the present. It now packs a gorgeous display, current hardware, and still comes in an eyecatching design — just like the Surface Laptop 2.

Surface Laptop 2MacBook Air
Processor8th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 (quad-core)8th Gen Intel Core i5 (dual-core)
GraphicsIntel UHD 620Intel UHD 617
Display13.5-inch PixelSense
2256 x 1504
13.3-inch Retina
2560 x 1600
RAM8GB or 16GB8GB or 16GB
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1.5TB

MacBook Air has better outputs

Even though there are no longer any legacy ports on the MacBook Air, it does have a fairly big advantage over the Surface Laptop 2. Not only does it have the new USB-C, but it has Thunderbolt 3 as well. Not only is that future proofing, ensuring the MacBook Air is compatible with the next generation of accessories, but the Thunderbolt 3 opens up a world of possibilities.

You can attach high resolution displays to it, connect fast external storage, and perhaps most interesting of all, hook up an eGPU, putting a full desktop graphics card into your MacBook Air.

The Surface Laptop 2 has no USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 and to get the most from it, you'll be getting the first-party Surface Dock.

That's a pretty big deal for the MacBook Air to have.

Surface Laptop 2 is a nice upgrade on its predecessor

The Surface Laptop 2 itself is only a mild upgrade to the original model, but it has some important improvements. In our review we determined you can expect at least an extra hour from its battery, despite the processor having been bumped to a quad-core over the dual-core from the first one.

It isn't perfect — there's no USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 for example, and the alcantara keyboard can certainly get quite dirty —but compared to the MacBook Air, it's leagues ahead. You're getting cutting edge hardware, with a gorgeous high-resolution, pen enabled screen thrown in for good measure.

Compared to the MacBook Air on its own, the Surface Laptop is simply more powerful. It has a quad-core processor, better onboard graphics and the option for a Core i7 for those who need it.

Best overall value

Microsoft made small, but important upgrades in the Surface Laptop 2, and it's one of the most complete packages you'll find in this price bracket. It's powerful, has great battery life, a high-resolution touch display, digital pen support, and a design that arguably outdoes Apple.

MacBook buyers can do better

The MacBook Air is finally a laptop Mac fans can consider, but if you're open to Windows then the Surface Laptop 2 is still a better bet. Nevertheless, Apple has delivered the MacBook Air the world has always wanted, and finally brought its iconic model into the present.

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.