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Apple's MacBook Air vs. Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2

The MacBook Air, last updated in 2018, is Apple's most affordable notebook machine, with pricing that starts at $1,199 for the newest hardware. Microsoft also makes a comparable machine, the Surface Laptop 2, which came out right around the same time Apple released its 2018 ‌MacBook Air‌ update.

In our latest video, we decided to pit the ‌MacBook Air‌ against Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 to determine which machine is the better value and the best buy.

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Both the ‌MacBook Air‌ and the Surface Laptop 2 are thin, light machines, with each one weighing in right around 2.75 pounds. The Surface Laptop 2 has a 13.5-inch display with a 2256 x 1504 resolution, while the ‌MacBook Air‌ has a 13.3-inch display with a resolution of 2560 x 1600, so all in all, design wise, these two machines are quite similar, though the Surface Laptop 2 offers a 3:2 display.

The Surface Laptop 2 comes in a matte black color (it's also in burgundy and blue) that we were a fan of because it's a nice deviation from the standard gold, silver, and space gray shades Apple uses for its notebooks. Inside, the ‌MacBook Air‌ is all aluminum, but the Surface Laptop 2 uses an Alcantara fabric design, which has become a key feature of the Surface lineup.


When it comes to key feel, the ‌MacBook Air‌ wins out, though those who are not fans of the butterfly key design might not agree. The ‌MacBook Air‌ also has a better trackpad, which is unsurprising because most PCs can't match the feel of the Force Touch trackpad with its haptic feedback.

Both laptops have a questionable port situation, with the ‌MacBook Air‌ limited to two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports and Surface Laptop 2 featuring a USB-A port, a proprietary charging port, and, inexplicably, a Mini DisplayPort, an odd choice for a modern laptop. It has no USB-C ports, which is disappointing given that USB-C is the standard device and accessory makers alike are transitioning to.


The ‌MacBook Air‌ uses Touch ID in lieu of a password to make logging in faster, while the Surface Laptop 2 uses Windows Hello for facial recognition. Future Macs might adopt Face ID, but for now ‌Touch ID‌ is just as useful. Each of these laptops features a 720p webcam, which are both terrible, and while both have decent sound, the ‌MacBook Air‌'s speakers are crisper and clearer at max volume.

Each of these machines features similar internal specs, and both are designed for simple tasks rather than heavy duty video editing or 3D work. You can do light editing or use Photoshop on these machines, but that's not their primary purpose.


With these thin, light laptops with low-powered processors, battery life is impressive. Both the ‌MacBook Air‌ and the Surface Laptop 2 offer somewhere around 10 to 12 hour battery life for everyday tasks like using email and browsing the web.

Price is the major differentiator between the Surface Laptop 2 and the ‌MacBook Air‌, and could push some to choose the Surface Laptop 2 instead of the ‌MacBook Air‌.

The base model Surface Laptop 2 features a 1.6GHz 8th-Gen dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage all for $999, while the base 2018 ‌MacBook Air‌, offering similar specifications with less storage -- a 1.6GHz 8th-Gen dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD -- is priced starting at $1,199.


The Surface Laptop 2 and the ‌MacBook Air‌ are similar enough that choosing one over the other ultimately comes down to ecosystem and operating system preference. Microsoft's machines, of course, run Windows, which an Apple product user might not prefer, while Windows users won't want a machine running macOS.

What do you think of Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2? Let us know in the comments.

Top Rated Comments

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9 months ago

The MacBook Air, last updated in 2018, is Apple's most affordable notebook machine, with pricing that starts at $1,199

This is a sad sentence
Rating: 81 Votes
9 months ago
Why didn’t you compare the Surface with the same spec MacBook Air in terms of storage? Oh wait, that’s because it’s $400 more expensive so you purposefully chose the 128GB model instead to make it appear like the price is similar.
Rating: 61 Votes
9 months ago
Never thought I would say this, but that windows PC is sexier then the Mac. What a fine looking machine.
Rating: 52 Votes
9 months ago

You're dreaming.


Sorry friend, Microsoft has passed Apple in the hardware game, and they're not the only ones.
Rating: 48 Votes
9 months ago

The base model Surface Laptop 2 features a 1.6GHz 8th-Gen dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage all for $999, while the base 2018 MacBook Air, offering similar specifications with less storage -- a 1.6GHz 8th-Gen dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD -- is priced starting at $1,199.


this part of the post is intentionally vague to try and skew the opinions?

the two CPU's, while both technically being 'i5's are NOT entirely comparable.

the MBA is a i5-8210Y ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_Core_i5_microprocessors#%22Amber_Lake-Y%22_(dual-core,_14_nm)') series CPU at 7w.

the Surface laptop ships with the Intel Core i5-8250U U series 15w CPU.

performance wise, for benchmarks:
https://cpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Intel-Core-i5-8250U-vs-Intel-Core-i5-8210Y/m338266vsm651922

on the highest end options (i7)
https://cpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/Intel-Core-i7-8650U-vs-Intel-Core-i5-8210Y/m353957vsm651922 (not there is no i7 variant macbook air even available)

this puts the Surface Laptop approximately [S]30-40%[/S] 70 - 100%+ faster than the MacBook Air.

WHY Apple ecided to go with the "Y" series after the Air had been a U series for so long is beyond me. I think they were afraid of cannibalizing MbPro 13" sales so purposely gimped the Air.

However, at the higher price point that the air is now, the use of a slower chip continues to potentially reduce the actual value you get per dollar out of the Air.



it's such a weird gimping of the product that the only reason foreseeable is business motivated and not product motivated. the Fct that this part of the article was written without EVER diving into the fact that these are not the same class of CPU is disingenuous and SHOULD be clearly stated if you are doing a direct comparison.
Rating: 44 Votes
9 months ago
Remember the days when Apple was YEARS ahead of the competition?

[MEDIA=youtube]2-BwO_jBKxk[/MEDIA]
Rating: 40 Votes
9 months ago

Doesn't the Surface Laptop 2 have a quad-core CPU?


Yup. Microsoft kind of screwed itself on its own marketing here. Both the MacBook Air and the Surface Laptop 2 have a Core i5, but one is a Y-series chip, and the other a U.

MacRumors should amend the article accordingly. The Surface Laptop's CPU is only 2% faster in single-core, but 69% (nice) in multi-core.
Rating: 32 Votes
9 months ago
Absolutely .... I work for a company that has about a 50/50 mix of Macs and Windows laptops deployed and I do support for both of them there. I've got one of the new Macbook Pro 13" models and a Surface Laptop in my office, and can alternate between using either one.

It won't be a popular thing to say in THIS forum ... but Windows 10 has come a long way and keeps innovating in areas where Mac OS X is stagnating right now. I feel like OS X was always the superior OS, but Apple is slipping. They're too interested in iOS devices these days, and in the unification of OS X and iOS (will probably see ARM processor based Mac laptops in the next year).

By and large, our company is dissatisfied with Apple's current offerings. I have one of the new iMac Pros I purchased for my home use, when it first came out. And it was ONLY a possibility for me because my local Micro Center store discounted the thing by $1,000 right out of the gate. A deal like that is tough to turn down, especially when you're a pretty loyal Mac user, invested in the whole Apple ecosystem, from back around 2001, and wanted to upgrade the primary computer at home..... I think it may be the most impressive machine Apple has offered recently, yet the price point is too high without those discounts.

These 2016-17 Macbook Pro models though? Bleah.... They look really pretty, especially with the touch-bars on them. But they're fragile, have unresolved problems with the keyboard and the ribbon cable for the screen inside, and cost more than they should. (Several costly dongle adapters pretty much have to be added in as part of their purchase price, since you can't even attach one to a wired network or plug in an existing USB 2.0/3.0 device without them.)

The new Air comes in at a more acceptable price point, but as you discovered -- there's probably just more overall value in jumping ship back to Microsoft.

It pains me to say that. I had a GREAT run with Apple products over the last decade, plus. But the whole ecosystem is starting to underwhelm. Siri? Coming in last in capabilities vs the competition. HomeKit? More costly and less options than the competitor's home automation solutions. Apple TV? It's ok .... but Roku offers more streaming options and is even working with my local cable company so it can be used in lieu of a traditional set-top box with their TV subscriptions. I'm not saying I'm ready to run away from Apple immediately. But a lot is riding on what they do next. If they head further down a path of trying to get me to just use an iPad as a computer replacement, I'm done with them.



I just replaced my dead 2012 Macbook Air with a Surface Laptop 2. It took a lot of soul searching and questioning wether I really wanted to leave the Mac OS ecosystem after over 10 years. I have to say, the Surface Laptop is a great piece of hardware, has a great screen and Windows 10, although a bit of adjustment, is slick and easy to use.

For me it ultimately came down to the fact that I just wasn't excited about the current Mac lineup. I was faced with buying the latest Macbook Air, which aside from a speed bump, nicer screen and touch ID felt identical to my existing Air. The Surface Laptop 2 was different enough that I decided to take the chance. Just my two cents, YMMV.

Rating: 28 Votes
9 months ago
I returned a 2018 MacBook Air today that I bought on refurb two weeks ago because it's severely underpowered. I've had a few MacBook Airs over the years, and for the most part they've been pretty kick-ass. I knew going into the purchase that it had a 1.6ghz processor, and I've had a 2.2ghz in my last Air, but man did this new unit crawl. Over the past two weeks of regular use, I've found myself waiting for the computer to catch up on steps inside of tasks that were instant on every other Apple machine I've owned for the past several years (save a horrible 1.6ghz 2015 iMac I got on craigslist for super cheap that I kept for 2 months before getting rid of).

The fact of the matter is that Apple's current lineup is crap. They're jamming 3-4 year old hardware in beautifully designed cases, and purposefully restricting specs on new machines to shoehorn or even trick customers (non-saavy regular folks) into buying whatever is considered to be a "new" computer. Like many of us who frequent MacRumors, I am the point-guy for many of my friends & family when it comes to Apple support and purchase decisions, and I continually find myself directing people to buy 2015 MacBook Pros (regular USB ports, solid keyboards, and now can be found for ~$1100 on ebay/craigslist).

I don't even know how Apple can have a machine labeled "Pro" that only has two USB ports, one of which is instantly occupied by charging. I know that the current gen is called "four Thunderbolt 3" model, but in my opinion Touch Bar ≠ pro machine, and even right now the Touch Bar-less units have only 2x thunderbolt/USBC ports.

It's honestly pathetic how transparent their business practices of tricking the customer and up-selling are. NO computers should come with the option for 8GB RAM in 2019. NO mobile phones should come with less than 128GB storage. Apple has gone downhill and it's a cliche to say it's when Steve passed but you know he would have heads rolling with the current offerings (not to mention the confusing decision-process consumers are faced with!)



WHY Apple ecided to go with the "Y" series after the Air had been a U series for so long is beyond me. I think they were afraid of cannibalizing MbPro 13" sales so purposely gimped the Air.

However, at the higher price point that the air is now, the use of a slower chip continues to potentially reduce the actual value you get per dollar out of the Air.

Rating: 22 Votes
9 months ago
I don't understand why people fixate on the sticker price of things. Consider all the money you'll spend over the entire time you intend to own the product, add it all up and then see which is the less expensive option. I know a lot of Mac owners will keep their MacBooks for many years longer than the vast majority of Windows laptop users. My MacBook Air lasted me 7 years before I decided to replace it. I would rather spend $1199 on another one that will likely last me another 7 years than spend $999 every one to two years.
Rating: 19 Votes

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