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Microsoft Surface Laptop vs Apple MacBook Air: Which is best for me?

Microsoft has taken the wraps of its latest Surface Laptop computer and already talk has started about its similarities with Apple’s MacBook Air. But how do these lightweight laptops really compare, for specs, size, price and the rest?

While the Microsoft Surface Laptop is aimed primarily at schools and runs the lightweight Windows 10 S operating system, it can still be directly compared to Apple’s MacBook Air running the full-fat MacOS. After all, these machines are very similar physically and quite alike in terms of specs too.

But which is better for your needs? Is one good enough to sway you from Team Windows or Team Mac to the opposition? We line the two laptops up and compare specs and dimensions to find out.

For more on the Microsoft Surface Laptop, check out our full Surface Laptop feature comparing to the Google Chromebook Pixel. And don't miss our in-depth MacBook Pro 2017 re-review.

Microsoft Surface Laptop is more compact than the Apple MacBook Air

When it comes to compact design and portability, Apple might have set the bar with its MacBook Air but Microsoft has just smashed it.

The MacBook Air for 2017 sits at 0.68-inches tall when closed, at its thickest point. Meanwhile the Surface Laptop tops out at a teeny tiny 0.57-inches. Microsoft’s machine is also lighter at 1.25kg, when compared to Apple’s 1.34kg MacBook Air.

Microsoft Surface Laptop has a better screen than the Apple MacBook Air

Apple's latest MacBook Air features a 13.3-inch LED display with a resolution of 1440 x 900, at an aspect ratio of 4:3.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop has a slightly larger 13.5-inch LCD PixelSense display in comparison. This pumps out crystal clear 2256 x 1504 resolution visuals, at a slightly more rectangular 3:2 aspect ratio.

While the Surface Laptop wins on resolution, it also offers full touchscreen controls. That's something you won't find on the MacBook Air, which relies on touchpad input. As the Surface Laptop can be used with a finger for fast interactions or with a Surface Pen for sketching, annotating, drawing and so on, it's more likely to appeal to creative types.

Microsoft Surface Laptop is more powerful than the Apple MacBook Air

Apple’s Macbook Air comes with a standard 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 chipset, with Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz. However, this can be configured up to a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 with 3.2GHz Turbo Boost if you need a bit of extra power. You can also slot in up to 8GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 RAM.

Microsoft has these specs beaten with its Surface Laptop. This surprisingly powerful machine comes with the newer Intel Kaby Lake processors, making it immediately more capable and battery efficient. You can spec it up to an Intel Core i7 processor with the latest Intel Iris Plus Graphic 640 and plug in up to a hefty 16GB of RAM. As well as handling apps and games with ease, the Surface Laptop should also be able to stream 4K video from the likes of Netflix.

Both machines can be configured to offer up to 512GB of SSD storage. Plenty for a decent selection of apps, as well as a reasonably sized media collection.

Microsoft Surface Laptop has a better battery life than the Apple MacBook Air, allegedly

One of the most impressive features of the Surface Laptop is its battery life. This device, so says Microsoft, will last up to 14.5 hours between charges. That result beats the MacBook Air’s 12 hour battery convincingly.

Just as crucial, though, is Microsoft's claim about the lack of battery drain when its new machine is hibernating. The company says that when the Surface Laptop is snoozing, it won’t use any power at all. That means you can close the lid without bothering to turn the power off, and when you return after days it’ll still have the same battery life remaining. As an added bonus, the Surface will boot up instantly upon opening.

Apple’s MacBook Air is very efficient in standby mode, but it does still use power. This could mean you return to a dead laptop if you leave it in this state for several days by accident.

Apple MacBook Air has more connections than the Microsoft Surface Laptop

Microsoft has opted to go fairly minimal with ports and simply offers a USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm headphone port and one Surface Connect Port.

Apple’s MacBook Air offers two USB 3.0 ports, Thunderbolt 2, SDXC card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack and MagSafe 2.

Microsoft Surface Laptop rocks the new Windows 10 S, while Apple's MacBook Air runs MacOS

Comparing Apple and Microsoft operating systems is a tough one, as this most likely comes down to personal preference and previous experience. However, in this case, we’re looking at Apple’s fully fledged MacOS up against Microsoft’s minimal Windows 10 S system.

As such it’s clear that the MacOS will offer a lot more for demanding users, with a freer and more well-established system. Windows 10 S will limit the user to Windows Store apps only, meaning it’s fast and secure but not as open a system.

Check out our WIndows 10 S feature for all you need to know about Microsoft's latest cut-down OS.

MacBook Air boasts a more affordable asking price than the Surface Laptop

The Apple MacBook Air starts at £949 for the i5 model while the Surface Laptop will be $999 for the i5 starter spec model. UK pricing has not yet been announced, but don’t expect a direct conversion using base rate. Instead, we reckon Microsoft will simply change that dollar sign to a pound sign.

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