How do the Microsoft Surface Laptops stack up to the MacBook Air?

Comparison of Surface Laptops Prototypes: Surface X, Surface Air, Surface 7, Surface 7, Air and Surface 8, Apple 8, and the 7th Edition

The new Surface Laptop could be the most impressive laptop the company has ever made. It uses a new Arm-based processor that could give Apple laptops a run for their money in terms of performance. That’s no mean feat, considering Apple’s striking lead since 2020, but we won’t know how it compares until we get a Surface Laptop in hand. I was able to do a deep dive into their specs to compare them on paper.

Microsoft claimed at its May 20th Surface Artificial Intelligence event that its so-called Pilot Plus PCs will be 58 percent faster than an M3 MacBook Air. The company wasn’t specific about whether this was Snapdragon X-equipped machines, but those are the first Copilot Plus PCs, so it’s possible.

The new Surface Laptop no longer follows the numerical naming structure as before. It succeeds the Surface Laptop 5, but instead of being called the Surface Laptop 6, Microsoft is going with “editions” and for some reason is skipping number 6. The Surface laptop is the 7th edition.

Microsoft spent more time talking about the AI chops because it clearly wants these machines used for AI tasks. The neural processing unit in the Surface can perform 45 trillion operations per second, orTOPS, which is the number of mathematical equations it can solve per second. That’s more than double the 18 TOPS Apple claims for its Neural Engine chip in the M3. It’s even more than the M4 that’s in the new iPad Pro, which Apple says can pull off 38 TOPS. That’s impressive, though TOPS is a bit arbitrary since it doesn’t tell us much about workload being carried by the chip.

Don’t count on those numbers. There is no benefit to comparing without real-world testing, even if the two companies detail how they tested. Microsoft bases the 20-hour number on the amount of time you can play a video on the Surface with a variety of storage, memory and processor options. Apple tested an M3 MacBook Air, using the same video and brightness set, as the other one, but also with a different resolution. There is no guarantee, but it can be similar to 150 nits.

The Surface and Air have similar battery capacities. The Surface Laptop is rated at either a nominal 54Wh or 66Wh, whichever is greater. Microsoft says that amounts to 20 or 22 hours of video and 13 or 15 hours of web browsing, depending on whether you’re using the smaller or bigger Surface. The 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Airs both have comparable 58.6Wh capacities for video and 15 hours of web browsing, according to Apple.

The crucial factor in Apple’s performance has been how much power it actually uses to get there. Many laptops with better raw performance have been offered, but no one has really discussed Apple’s energy cost with them.

Surface Laptops versus MacBook Airs: A High-Performance Prototype for the Extreme Class Computing System ($24GB$ Memory and 2TB SSD)

The Surface Laptop uses Windows Hello face authentication, rather than a fingerprint sensor, for logging in. The MacBook Air has a notch in its screen since the year 2022, but it still uses Touch ID and has no Face ID.

Both can spend a lot more. If you’re after a high end Surface, you can pay $2,499.99 for a 64gigabyte model with a 1 Terabyte of storage and a Qualcomm X Premium processor. For the same price, you can get a 15-inch MacBook Air with 24GB of RAM and 2TB SSD.

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