How does the Surface Laptop stack up to Apple’s notebooks? – Macworld

The MacBook Air has been such a hit for Apple the past few years that even Microsoft is making one. Starting at $999, the Surface Laptop sure looks good–it’s got a MacBook Air price, a wedge shape, weighs 2.76 pounds, the latest Intel core i5 processor, and a high-resolution display.

Given that Apple hasn’t updated the MacBook Air in ages, the Surface Laptop attacks Apple at a vulnerable spot right in the midst of a product transition. Well played by Microsoft, but if you look a bit closer it sure looks like Apple’s got the Surface Laptop surrounded.

The $999 laptop

If there’s any place that Microsoft has got Apple over a barrel, at least for the moment, it’s at what you can buy for $999. The processors in the MacBook Air are two generations behind those in the Surface Laptop, and the Air’s screen isn’t Retina.

macbook air applePexels

The MacBook Air is a great deal, but will never get a better screen.

But look closer: The Air’s got 8GB of RAM to the Surface Laptop’s 4GB. Microsoft cut the base specs of the Surface Laptop to the bone to get it to $999, and Apple doesn’t seem to be willing to ship a computer with 4GB of RAM anymore. The Surface Laptop also only has a single USB 3 port, while the Air has two. And while the Surface Laptop’s Mini DisplayPort works fine with external displays, the MacBook Air’s pulls double duty as a Thunderbolt 2 port.

Still, the Surface Laptop is a modern computer and the Air is a couple of years out of date. If there’s any glaring weakness in Apple’s laptop line, it’s the company’s inability (or refusal) to bring its new, updated MacBook models to within hailing distance of the $999 price of the MacBook Air. Until Apple can do that, I guess the MacBook Air will keep kicking around? At some point it seems like Apple will need to bite the bullet and make a MacBook available for $999 or $1099, just so it can send the Air to the graveyard at last. In the meantime, Microsoft is there–with a high-resolution screen, if not a whole lot of RAM.

The MacBook versus the Surface Laptop

The true successor of the MacBook Air is, of course, the MacBook. And at $1299, the MacBook and Surface Laptop are pretty similar. The MacBook is three-quarters of a pound lighter, though its Intel m5 processor isn’t as powerful as the i5 processor on the Surface Laptop. Both devices offer 256GB of storage, 8GB of RAM, onboard Intel graphics, and a choice of colors. The Surface Laptop’s got a slightly larger screen, while the MacBook’s is a slightly higher resolution.

macbook no glow 2Jason Snell

The single-port MacBook stacks up to the $1299 Surface Laptop pretty well. 

These are very similar laptops, though Apple has traded some weight and thinness for some processor power. Each has a single USB port, though Microsoft’s port doesn’t need to double as a charging connector or video-out port. But Apple’s choice of USB-C makes it seem like a more forward-thinking design; Microsoft’s single USB–3 connector already seems old school.

In the end, it’s clear that with a single refresh–an extra port here, a newer processor family there–the MacBook is more than a match for the Surface Laptop at $1299, unless you believe that most regular users would prefer an extra three-quarters of a pound in exchange for a little more processor power. I don’t, to be honest.


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