Microsoft Surface Laptop vs. Apple MacBook Air: The Ultimate Arm-Based Laptop Showdown

With the arrival of the new Microsoft Surface Laptops, it’s time to pit them against Apple’s highly acclaimed M3 MacBook Air. Which of these Arm-based laptops takes the crown?

Unveiling the Microsoft Surface Laptop

 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 13-Inch (2024)
– Bottom Line: Powered by Qualcomm’s Arm-based Snapdragon CPUs, the latest Surface Laptop represents a leap forward for Windows PCs. Enhanced with onboard Copilot AI and improved connectivity, it sets a new standard in the PC arena.

Apple MacBook Air (2024)
– Bottom Line: The 2024 MacBook Air incorporates more power into its sleek design, boosting monitor support and gaming capabilities. It’s undoubtedly the best ultraportable Mac yet.

The rivalry between Apple and Microsoft extends into the ultraportable laptop market, with Microsoft’s 2024 Surface Laptops switching from x86 processors to Arm-based silicon, directly challenging Apple’s latest MacBook Air models.

Portability: Ultra-Thin Designs

Both Apple and Microsoft prioritize weight and thinness in their laptops. The 13.6-inch MacBook Air weighs 2.7 pounds and is 0.44 inches thick when closed. The 13.8-inch Surface Laptop, on the other hand, weighs slightly more at 2.96 pounds and measures 0.69 inches thick.

For the 15-inch models, the MacBook Air remains slender at 0.45 inches and 3.3 pounds, while the 15-inch Surface Laptop is 0.72 inches thick and 3.67 pounds.

Winner: MacBook Air

Components and Performance: Specs Comparison

We haven’t conducted benchmarks on the new Surface Laptops yet, so we’ll compare their internal hardware and potential capabilities for now. Both companies use the same processors for their 13- and 15-inch variants: Apple’s M3 versus Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite.

Apple’s M3 features an eight-core CPU running at 4.05GHz, while the Snapdragon X Plus in the base Surface Laptop has 10 cores at 3.4GHz. The Snapdragon X Elite, standard in the 15-inch Surface Laptop, boasts 12 cores at 3.8GHz.

For graphics, the Apple M3 includes an eight- or 10-core integrated graphics processor (IGP). Qualcomm claims its Adreno IGP in the Snapdragon X Elite can perform up to 4.6 trillion operations per second, though it doesn’t specify the number of graphics cores.

Regarding memory and storage, Apple starts its MacBook Airs with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, upgradeable to 24GB RAM and 2TB storage. Microsoft starts at 16GB of RAM (upgradable to 32GB) and offers similar storage options.

Winner: Surface Laptop (provisionally)

 Battery Life: Endurance Comparison

Apple claims up to 15 hours of wireless web browsing for both the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Airs, with actual testing showing 21 hours and 38 minutes for the 13-inch and 17 hours and 11 minutes for the 15-inch.

Microsoft estimates up to 13 hours of wireless web usage for the 13-inch Surface Laptop and up to 15 hours for the 15-inch model. They also promise up to 20 and 22 hours of video playback for the respective models.

Winner: Too early to call

 Display: Clarity vs. Speed

Apple’s MacBook Air features Retina displays with 500 nits brightness and 224 pixels per inch (ppi) resolution. Microsoft’s Surface Laptops have 3:2 aspect ratio PixelSense Flow touchscreens, with a lower resolution at 201ppi but a faster 120Hz refresh rate.

Winner: Tie

Ports and Features: Connectivity and AI

The MacBook Air offers two USB4 ports, a MagSafe power port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. It supports Wi-Fi 6E.

The Surface Laptop adds more ports: USB4, USB Type-A, an audio jack, and a Surface Connect power port, plus a microSD reader on the 15-inch model. It also supports Wi-Fi 7.

Microsoft’s edge extends to features, particularly with Copilot AI—a ChatGPT-powered tool for enhanced productivity. Apple’s Siri, while useful, doesn’t match Copilot’s capabilities.

Winner: Surface Laptop

Price: Value Comparison

The base 13-inch Surface Laptop is priced at $999.99 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB storage. The equivalent MacBook Air costs $1,099 with 8GB RAM and the same storage. The 15-inch models start at $1,299 with 256GB storage, but again, Microsoft offers 16GB of RAM compared to Apple’s 8GB.

High-end configurations of the Surface Laptop can reach $2,399.99, while a fully loaded 13.6-inch MacBook Air costs $2,299. The 15-inch MacBook Air peaks at $2,499.

Winner: Surface Laptop

 Early Verdict: A Tight Race

Without comprehensive testing, it’s too soon for a definitive verdict. However, Microsoft’s new Surface Laptops present a strong challenge to Apple’s MacBook Air with competitive pricing, advanced AI features, and robust hardware configurations. As we await detailed performance reviews, it’s clear Microsoft is poised to shake up the ultraportable laptop market.

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