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Microsoft Surface Laptop vs. Apple MacBook (2017): Tech spec smackdown

At first glance the Surface Laptop (opens in new tab) is more like the MacBook Air than Apple's 12-inch MacBook. But because the latter seems to be a forgotten product at this piont, we're comparing the Surface Laptop to the 12-inch MacBook.

The 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 the comparison seems fair.

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

Updated June 7 2017: We modified this story to reflect the refreshed hardware in the Apple MacBook following WWDC 2017.

Surface Laptop and Apple MacBook technical specifications

MacBook

12 Inch Macbook Backs (Image credit: Windows Central)
CategorySurface LaptopApple MacBook
Display13.5-inch Pixel Sense display
10 point multi-touch
12-inch Retina Display
Display resolution2256 x 1504, at 201ppi
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
2304x1440, at 226 ppi
Aspect Ratio: 16:10
SoftwareWindows 10 SmacOS Sierra
Processor7th Gen Intel Core i5 or i77th Gen Intel Core m3, i5 (Y series) or i7 (Y series)
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB Solid State Drive (SSD)256GB, 512GB PCIe SSD
Memory4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM8GB or 16GB RAM
Graphicsi5: Intel HD graphics 620; i7: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640Intel HD graphics 615
PortsOne full-size USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, Headset jack, Surface ConnectOne USB-C 3.1
Battery14.5 hours of use12 hours of use
PenSurface PenNo
Weight2.76 lbs2.03 lbs
Dimensions12.13 inches x 8.78 inches x 0.57 inches11.04 inches x 7.74 inches x 0.52 inches
PriceFrom $999From $1,299

We've not spent enough time with the Surface Laptop to get any real feel for it, but looking at it just on paper next to the 12-inch MacBook makes several things clear.

The 'Apple tax' is very real with the MacBook next to the Surface Laptop.

Any concerns about the price of the Surface Laptop can be quickly washed away by looking at pricing for Apple's laptops. The entry-level MacBook is more expensive, and that's with an Intel Core m3 processor. However you look at it, the Kaby Lake Core i5 in the Surface is just better.

All around, in fact, Surface Laptop is better equipped. The base model loses out in storage and RAM, but at every other step on the ladder it's more powerful than the MacBook. The bump in the MacBook specs as of WWDC 2017 closes the gap, but we're still looking at Y series chips, better known as the new versions of Core m.

Surface Laptop

The Windows 10 S version of the OS could be limiting for some, not like macOS, but it's also easily upgraded to Windows 10 Pro, which levels the playing field.

For a notebook that's not a lot larger or heavier, the Surface Laptop promises better battery life, as well as a performance edge over the MacBook.

Ultimately, if you want a Mac you'll get a Mac. But Microsoft came out swinging with its first traditional laptop.

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.