Microsoft

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


Elegant power

Surface Laptop 2


Former glory

MacBook Air


The Surface Laptop 2 looks identical to the first one save for a new black paintjob, but the important updates are underneath. It’s now more powerful while delivering better battery life, and it still has that stunning touch display.

$999 from Microsoft

Pros

  • Latest generation quad-core processor
  • Gorgeous design
  • Stunning touch-enabled display
  • Superb build quality
  • Excellent battery life
  • Well priced compared to MacBook lineup

Cons

  • Alcantara keyboard will get dirty easily.
  • No USB-C connector

The MacBook Air hasn’t been updated in so long that it’s basically impossible to recommend anyone buy it. Even diehard Mac users will be better off buying another laptop.

$999 from Apple

Pros

  • Apple’s trademark design and build quality
  • Legacy ports not offered on newer MacBooks.
  • Decent battery life

Cons

  • Horribly outdated hardware
  • Sub-par display
  • Ridiculously expensive
  • Still using a 5th Generation Intel Broadwell processor

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. However, the MacBook Air is so overdue for updated hardware that it’s pretty impossible to find a good reason anyone should buy one.

Surface Laptop 2 vs MacBook Air tech specs

While these two laptops are priced similarly, the hardware couldn’t be further apart. The table below highlights some of the main features of each laptop, and it doesn’t make for happy reading if you were considering a MacBook Air.

Surface Laptop 2 MacBook Air
Processor 8th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 (quad-core) 5th Gen Intel Core i5 (dual-core)
Graphics Intel UHD 620 Intel HD 6000
Display 13.5-inch PixelSense
2256 x 1504
13.3-inch LED
1440 x 900
RAM 8GB or 16GB 8GB
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB 128GB, 256GB or 512GB

MacBook Air is overpriced and outdated

One thing that hasn’t changed is the Apple design and build quality. However, the MacBook Air hasn’t had a meaningul refresh in three years, and it still costs $999. The last time Apple did anything to it at all was mid-2017, but aside from a higher clock speed on the processor, nothing else changed.

The MacBook Air hasn’t had a meaningul refresh in three years, and it still costs $999.

Not only is it three generations old now, it’s only dual-core compared to the quad-core found in the Surface Laptop 2. There’s no Core i7 variant of the MacBook Air, and the integrated Intel graphics are also what you’d expect to see on a 3-year-old laptop. In today’s world, this spec just doesn’t cut it and certainly not for $999.

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 2018 hardware for a similar price to Apple’s laptop from 2015, with a gorgeous high-resolution, pen enabled screen thrown in for good measure.

A clear winner

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.

Our Pick


Surface Laptop 2

Slim, sexy, powerful and easily better than a MacBook Air.

The Surface Laptop 2 is leagues ahead of the MacBook Air while costing about the same. It’s easily the one to go for.

MacBook buyers can do better

The MacBook Air isn’t even a good choice for the diehard Mac fan who doesn’t want anything else. It’s pretty unacceptable that Apple is happy to sell people a three year old laptop for $999, and you’d be better off with a Surface Laptop 2 if that’s your budget.

Worth Avoiding


MacBook Air

Even diehard Mac fans should look elsewhere

No-one should pay $999 for a 3-year-old laptop. If you’re dead set on a MacBook, however, either look at the 12-inch model or the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

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