If you are actively seeking a functional laptop in the 13-inch segment, both MacBook Air and Surface Laptop 3 can be excellent picks. However, just for the same of this discussion, we now end up comparing them, across diverse parameters.
Before we even start, it is necessary to talk about a few aspects. Firstly, we are letting off the hidebound bias towards the macOS and putting it on the same pedestal as the Windows 10 Operating system. Plus, the MacBook Air has evolved over the ages and we shall be comparing the 2020 variant with Microsoft’s offering to keep the contest fair.
So let us dig right into the comparison:
Design: Brilliance Written all Over!!
It is more than appropriate to talk about the aesthetics, especially when both the devices look as good as a modern-day laptop should be. Starting with the MacBook Air, the 2020 variant sports a thinner chassis. Coming to the heft, the Air weighs 2.80 pounds, which is quite acceptable for a 13-inch device.
Besides, the MacBook houses the magic keyboard instead of the butterfly variant pertaining to the predecessors. Not just that, we also liked the Force trackpad, which actually made navigation easier than ever.
In comparison, the Surface Laptop 3 also throws in quite a few standout elements, including the large trackpad that trounces any 13-inch competitor. The metal-chassis followed by a heft of close to 2.8 pounds seems at par with the MacBook Air.
Then again, we also liked the keyboard variant offered by Microsoft and experienced better travel. Therefore, if you are into creating content, the Surface Laptop 3 is a better choice. On the other hand, Microsoft hardly matches up to the quality of the Force touchpad as despite being good, the Precision Touchpad seems a dud in front of Apple’s innovation.
Performance and Value
Before we get into the circuitry, let’s talk commercial and then trace the steps back to the inception. Take note of the fact that we are only talking about high-end models here, as this comparison will help us evaluate the actual potential of these notebooks.
The most beefed-up MacBook Air is currently retailing at $2049. At this price, you get access to 16GB RAM, a massive 2TB storage space, an M1 processor, an octa-core GPU, and the Big Sur OS. The display is enthralling and we shall talk about the same in the subsequent segments.
However, with the news related to the Surface Laptop 4 pretty much existent in the global circuit, the most premium variant of the Surface Laptop 3 gets a sizable price cut at 1899 dollars. This model offers 16GB RAM, 10th gen i7 chipset, 1TB SSD, and other functional specs owing to the touch-based support.
Now that the pricing is out of the way, it is time to concentrate on the performances. The standard MacBook Air comes equipped with the Intel Core i7-1065G7 chipset, which is at par with the one offered by the Surface Laptop 3. However, if we bring the octa-core, ARM-powered M1 model into the mix, Apple gets a pretty significant edge of the latter.
If multi-core performances are considered, the M1 model assumes a benchmark score of 7302, which is significantly higher as compared to the 4878 exhibited by the concerned i7 processor.
Not just that, we tested every version there is, only to find the M1 variant as the clear winner in the 13-inch segment. The Surface Laptop 3 doesn’t lag behind the 2020 model though as the 10th gen i7 processor boasts similar capabilities. While the Iris plus GPU is also comparable, the M1’s octa-core graphics processing unit is worth the bucks and at par with an entry-level discrete GPU.
Coming to the system memory, both the flagships flaunt 16GB of high-speed RAM, with Surface Laptop 3 being a bit more power-efficient. However, we checked for processing speeds and found them to be comparable.
The SSD allotment is way higher if you are considering the premium MacBook Air. However, it is the file retrieval speed that interests us the most. While even the Surface Laptop 3 is pretty fast, Apple is known for sourcing the best SSDs in the market and the MacBook Air doesn’t break the chain.
Display: The Best of Both!!!
Both these laptops feature exceptional displays. While the premium MacBook Air offers 2560x1600 pixels to work with, as compared to the 2256x1504 exhibited by the Surface Laptop 3, we were most impressed by the viewing angles flaunted by the former.
This means, Apple easily outwits Microsoft in this segment, purely based on the color accuracy and sharpness. If you are into graphic designing and Cricut imprints where visuals are of the essence, the MacBook Air is the best bet to rely on.
Portability: Enough Said!!!
If laptop lightness is a defining metric, it would be very hard to single out one particular gadget. Both these notebooks are almost identical when the structural footprint is concerned. However, if you are planning to check to the last gram for the sake of comparison, the Matte Black Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is slightly heavier at almost 2.84 pounds while the MacBook Air remains tagged at 2.80 pounds.
The Surface Laptop 3 is however thinner than the MacBook and fits well into constricted spaces. When it comes to the battery life, the premium MacBook Air promises 18 hours but delivers something in the range of 12, as tested by our experts. For similar usage, the Surface Laptop 3 lasted for almost 9 hours. Therefore, even in the portability segment, the MacBook Air edges out the Surface Laptop 3 by a significant margin.
Lastly, if you are worried about the restricted set of resources, both these gadgets offer ample scope for pairing peripherals into the mix. However, our vote goes to Apple owing to the availability of Thunderbolt 3 ports (TB 4 for the M1 version). While this opens up opportunities for transfer speeds reaching up to 40Gbps, the Surface-version has to make peace with a basic Type-C, Type-A, and the Connect Port.
While both these laptops make excellent buys, you are better off purchasing the MacBook Air if the Apple Ecosystem makes more sense to you. Most importantly, the OS-centric differences, clubbed with the touchscreen abilities of the Surface Laptop 3 do not make the competition just. Therefore, if you have been using Windows 10 for a while now, the Surface Laptop 3 makes more sense as compared to the MacBook Air.However, for a generic and unbiased user who is fine with any operating system, the MacBook Air, boasting powerful speakers, excellent connectivity, and even Wi-Fi 6 support on the high-end model is the best bet to consider