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.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

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

(View all)
Avatar
22 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
Score: 81 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 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.
Score: 61 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago
Never thought I would say this, but that windows PC is sexier then the Mac. What a fine looking machine.
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago

You're dreaming.

Sorry friend, Microsoft has passed Apple in the hardware game, and they're not the only ones.
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 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.
Score: 44 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
22 months ago
Deleted.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First iPhone 12 Mini Hands-On Video Surfaces [Update: Video Pulled]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max aren't set to be available until November 13, but a Romanian YouTuber got his hands on the iPhone 12 mini and showed it off today, offering a size comparison between the iPhone 12 and the 12 mini along with going over some of the device's features. The iPhone 12 mini is identical to the iPhone 12 in design and functionality, but it has a...

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

After Mocking Apple, Samsung May Remove Power Adapter From Galaxy S21 Box

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:29 pm PDT by
Samsung's Galaxy S21, coming in 2021, may not include a power adapter or headphones in the box, according to reports from Korean media sites highlighted by SamMobile. Rumors earlier this year also said that Samsung was considering removing these accessories from future smartphone models, but that didn't stop Samsung from mocking Apple for selling the iPhone 12 models without a power adapter...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield Still 'Scratches at Level 6 With Deeper Grooves at Level 7' in Mohs Hardness Test

Wednesday October 28, 2020 7:10 am PDT by
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is "tougher than any smartphone glass," according to Apple, but the displays on the devices still have similar scratch resistance as previous iPhones based on a new test. Zack Nelson today shared his much-anticipated iPhone 12 Pro durability test on his YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and based on the Mohs...

2020 iPad Air vs. iPad Pro: Hands-On Comparison

Tuesday October 27, 2020 3:03 pm PDT by
Apple announced the new 2020 fourth-generation iPad Air in September, but the new tablets just started shipping out to customers last Friday. We picked one up and thought we'd do a hands-on comparison with the iPad Pro, which was last updated in March, because both tablets are about as powerful and share many similarities. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design and ...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter [Updated]

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Apple Files Mystery 'Personal Computer' With Placeholder 'B2002' Name in Bluetooth Product Database

Tuesday October 27, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
Last week, a listing appeared in the Bluetooth product database for an Apple product with a placeholder name "B2002" and a model number of "TBD." MacRumors was alerted to the listing by health and fitness tech website MyHealthyApple. The product is filed under the "personal computer" category, which Apple has used for previous Mac and iPad listings in the database, so it is hard to pinpoint...

Apple Releases First macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 Beta to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday October 28, 2020 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today seeded a new macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 beta to developers for testing purposes, with the new beta replacing the existing macOS Big Sur 11 beta 10 update that was released two weeks ago. The macOS Big Sur beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, subsequent betas will be available through the Software Update mechanism in...

iPhone 12 Models Might Support Reverse Charging of Future Apple Accessories According to FCC Filing

Tuesday October 27, 2020 6:25 pm PDT by
iPhone 12 models could have an inactive wireless charging feature for accessories, according to an FCC filing discovered by VentureBeat's Jeremy Horwitz. In the filing, Apple said that 2020 iPhones support a wireless charging function that will seemingly be enabled for at least one future Apple accessory:In addition to being able to be charged by a desktop WPT charger (puck), 2020 iPhones...