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Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 vs Apple MacBook Air 2022: Which is better?

The Surface Laptop 5 is the latest clamshell laptop from Microsoft, but how does it compare to the competition?

We’ve stacked it up against one of the best ultra-portable laptops on the market – this year’s MacBook Air – to find out. We’ve reviewed both laptops, so are able to provide our thoughts on which is the better buy. 

We’ll be covering all of the important categories when judging the two laptops, including design, screen, performance and battery life. Keep scrolling down to get the full breakdown. 

Price

If you want an M2-powered MacBook Air, you’ll need to pay at least £1249. That gets you 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Upgrading to a 512GB SSD will cost you £1549. The MacBook Air is only available in one size, with a 13.6-inch screen. 

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 comes in two sizes: 13.5-inches and 15-inches. The former has a base price of £999, matching the specs of the MacBook Air with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD.

If you fancy opting for the 15-inch Surface Laptop 5, it will cost you £1299 at the very least. Again, you’ll get 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

  • MacBook Air – From £1249
  • 13-inch Surface Laptop 5 – From £999
  • 15-inch Surface Laptop 5 – From £1299

So in comparison, the MacBook Air is considerably more expensive than the corresponding Surface Laptop 5. Although Apple will justify the higher price via the inclusion of a faster processor and more cutting-edge design. 

Design and screen 

Microsoft hasn’t updated the design of the Surface Laptop 5 in years. That means it’s got a chunky, unsightly screen bezel. It’s also missing key features such as a fingerprint scanner. 

Despite showing its age, Microsoft’s 13-inch laptop is still pleasingly portable, weighing in at just 1.30kg and measuring in at just 14.5mm. Apple has the edge here though, with the MacBook Air coming in at 1.24 kg and 11.3mm. 

Being super skinny does have its downsides, with the MacBook Air being slim on ports, featuring just two Thunderbolt 4 connections, a headphone jack and a MagSafe charging port. Microsoft isn’t much better here though, with the Surface Laptop 5 seeing 1x USB-A, 1x Thunderbolt 4, a headphone jack and Surface Connect for power delivery.

Both laptops impress when it comes to colour options. The MacBook Air is available in Silver, Starlight, Space Grey and Midnight. The Surface Laptop 5 is available in Platinum, Sage, Black and Sandstone. 

MacBook Air M2 laptop

There isn’t much separating the two laptops when it comes to screen specs either, featuring LED technology and a similar resolution. Microsoft does offer a touchscreen though, giving it a minor advantage over Apple. 

Performance 

The performance is where Apple really comes into its own. The M2 chip is one of the most powerful chips you can find in ultra-portable laptops, and is capable of pacing through productivity and content creation workloads. 

Even though our review sample was powered by the most powerful processor option – the Intel Core i7 – the MacBook Air still posted superior results in both of the Geekbench tests.

Surface Laptop 5MacBook Air M2
CPUIntel Core i7-1255UM2
Geekbench Single12061928
Geekbench Multi66498968

The performance gulf is so great here that you’ll likely notice a difference with real-world workloads, especially when it comes to intense workloads such as photo and video editing. Neither laptop has a discrete GPU, but Apple has repeatedly demonstrated that its Apple Silicon processors have enough graphics power to compensate for that. 

So if a high performance is important to you, the MacBook Air is the obvious pick. 

Battery life

Both the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 and MacBook Air impressed us during the battery tests, but Apple still came out as the winner at the end. 

When looping 1080p video, the MacBook Air was able to last for nearly 14 hours. In a similar test, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 lasted 12 hours and 43 minutes before requiring a recharge. 

As a result, both of these laptops should be able to get you through the working day on a single charge. Results are similar enough that I wouldn’t recommend opting for one over the other on battery life alone. 

Verdict

If you fancy a 13-inch laptop, it’s clear that the MacBook Air is the superior option. It has a faster performance, nicer design and matches the Surface Laptop in every other major area including battery life, screen specs and ports. 

The 13-inch Surface Laptop is admittedly cheaper, but I’d argue that the M1-powered MacBook Air represents better value at that price point. It’s difficult to see why anyone would pick Microsoft’s laptop instead unless you prefer Windows to macOS. 

Of course, the larger 15-inch Surface Laptop 5 is worth considering instead of the MacBook Air if you value a big screen more than a faster performance. But you will need to pay more for the privilege of extra screen estate. 

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