At first glance the Surface Laptop 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
|13.5-inch Pixel Sense display
10 point multi-touch
|12-inch Retina Display
|2256 x 1504, at 201ppi
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
|2304x1440, at 226 ppi
Aspect Ratio: 16:10
|Windows 10 S
|7th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7
|7th Gen Intel Core m3, i5 (Y series) or i7 (Y series)
|128GB, 256GB, 512GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
|256GB, 512GB PCIe SSD
|4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM
|8GB or 16GB RAM
|i5: Intel HD graphics 620; i7: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
|Intel HD graphics 615
|One full-size USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, Headset jack, Surface Connect
|One USB-C 3.1
|14.5 hours of use
|12 hours of use
|12.13 inches x 8.78 inches x 0.57 inches
|11.04 inches x 7.74 inches x 0.52 inches
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.
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.
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.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. 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 steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine