A thin and light Windows notebook at a low price, the new Surface Laptop Go 2 has been positioned by Microsoft as a competitor to Apple’s latest M2 MacBook Air. Here’s how ultraportable notebooks compare.
Days before Apple unveiled its revamped MacBook Air, Microsoft decided to launch the concept of a thin and powerful notebook. As the successor to the 2020 Surface Laptop Go, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is a natural competitor to the MacBook Air with significant cost savings.
But while the Surface is priced low, the specs are also much more restrained than Apple’s latest lineup of notebooks. In fact, one could argue that Microsoft is chasing the Chromebook market with its lowest price point of $599.
Playing the Surface against the MacBook Air might not be an even fight, but it’s worth determining if the price difference justifies the spec gap between the two devices.
|specifications||MacBook Air (2022, M2)||Surface Laptop Go 2|
|starting price||$1,199Compare M2 MacBook Air Prices||$599.99Available from the Microsoft Store|
|Dimensions (inches)||11.97×8.46×0.44||10.95 x 8.12 x 0.62|
|advertisement||13.6″ Liquid Retina,Wide Color (P3),Correct Sound||12.4-inch PixelSense,3:2 aspect ratio,10-point multi-touch|
|brightness||500 nits||330 nits|
|processor||Apple M2||11th gen Intel Core i5-1135G7|
|graphic||8-core GPU,10-core GPU||Intel Iris Xe graphics|
|memory||8GB, 16GB ,24GB||4GB,8GB|
|storage||256GB,512GB,1TB ,2TB||128GB , 256GB|
|battery||52.6 Wh lithium polymer,Up to 15 hours web, 18 hours video||41 Wh,Up to 13.5 hours|
|Networking||802.11ax WiFi 6Bluetooth 5.0||802.11ax WiFi 6,Bluetooth 5.1|
|biometric security||touch identification||Windows Hello,fingerprint power button|
|camera||1080p FaceTime HD||720p HD f/2.0|
|Audio||Four-speaker sound system,three-microphone array with directional beamforming,headphone jack with high-impedance headphone support,Dolby Atmos support with Spatial Audio||Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio Premium,Two far-field studio microphones,Headphone jack|
|ports||2 x Thunderbolt/USB 4,3.5mm headphone jack,MagSafe 3||1 x USB-C,1 x USB-A,3.5mm headphone jack,1 x Surface Connect port|
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Physical Specs
At first glance, the Surface Laptop Go is fairly close to the MacBook Pro in many different design areas. Both have relatively thin bezels around the display, slim appearance, and are lightweight.
The two are made from aluminium, although the Surface uses a combination of aluminium and a polycarbonate composite resin with fibreglass and “30% post-consumer recycled content” for the base.
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At 11.97 inches by 8.46 inches, the MacBook Air is slightly larger than the 10.95 inches by 8.12 inches on the Surface Laptop Go 2. Although the Surface uses a slight taper that the MacBook Air no longer has, it is at 0.62 inches, it is still thicker than the 0.44 inches of the MacBook Air.
The different materials used in construction and the smaller footprint also result in a lighter weight of 2.48 pounds for Microsoft and 2.7 pounds for Apple.
The two are the same size and there isn’t much benefit in the slight differences in dimensions.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Display
The Surface Laptop Go 2 features a 12.4-inch PixelSense display, which is a little unusual given its 3:2 aspect ratio. Apple has historically kept a 16:10 aspect ratio for the Air, but the 13, 6-inch display is slightly larger than usual but not quite as extreme as the Surface’s aspect ratio.
The PixelSense display is LED-backlit, just like Apple’s Liquid Retina version, but it’s not as bright at 330 nits compared to 500 nits.
It’s also not as high-resolution, at 1,536 x 1,024 pixels versus 2,560 x 1,664 on the MacBook Air. That means pixel densities of 224ppi for the MacBook Pro and just 148ppi for the Surface.
Microsoft’s big advantage is that you can touch the display of the Surface Laptop Go 2.
One thing for Microsoft is that the screen is fully touch-enabled with 10-point multi-touch. Apple still refuses to add touch capabilities to its MacBook line.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs. M2 MacBook Air – processor and graphics
Microsoft put an Intel processor in its Surface Laptop Go 2, with all configurations using the same Core i5-1135G7 chip. This is an 11th-generation quad-core processor with eight threads and a maximum turbo speed of 4.2 GHz.
This chip is paired with either 4GB or 8GB of LPDDR4x memory and uses its own integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics.
Apple’s M2 features an eight-core CPU that pairs four efficiency cores with four performance cores, a 16-core Neural Engine, and a Media Engine for hardware-accelerated processing of video encodes and decodes. On the MacBook Air, two options of the Apple silicon chips are available, with one featuring an Apple-designed 8-core GPU and the other featuring a 10-core GPU.
Then there’s Apple’s Unified Memory, which applies to both the CPU and the GPU. The base model is 8GB, just like the top-end configurations of the Surface, as well as higher capacities of 16GB and 24GB.
How big the difference in performance is, we’ll have to turn to Geekbench. Initial results state that the M2 can achieve a single-core score of 1,919 and a multi-core score of 8,928.
In contrast, the Intel Core i5-1135G7 only manages 1,239 in the single-core test and 4,147 in the multi-core test.
The Surface Laptop Go 2 is expected to be beaten by Apple’s latest chip given the price, but not by that much.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Camera
Apple has upgraded its FaceTime HD camera in MacBook Air to a 1080p version, moving from the 720p version previously used. It benefits from the M2’s advanced image signal processor for improved image quality.
While the MacBook Air includes a notch for the webcam, the Surface Laptop Go 2 has no such display intrusion.
Microsoft includes a 720p webcam, which doesn’t inspire confidence. However, it includes Windows Hello support, so it can be used for face recognition when logging into Windows 11.
Microsoft also manages to hide its webcam in the bezel. Apple, on the other hand, has a cut-out notch built into the display for its camera system.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Connectivity
Apple hasn’t offered the widest range of ports on the MacBook Air in the past, and the 2022 edition isn’t much different from the previous one. You’ve got a pair of Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack, but this time you also have MagSafe 3 for charging.
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On the wireless side, both can connect to Wi-Fi 6 networks and older standards. The Surface gets a slight head start with Bluetooth, using Bluetooth 5.1 over Apple’s continued use of Bluetooth 5.0.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Performance
Apple packs a 52.6 Wh lithium-polymer battery into its MacBook Air, which is quite a lot given the slim frame. The Surface uses a lower-capacity battery at 41 Wh.
As for how long you can use the battery, the MacBook Air is said to last up to 15 hours of wireless web access or up to 18 hours of video playback through the Apple TV app.
You could play games on the Surface Laptop Go 2, but probably not all day.
Microsoft says the Surface can last up to 13.5 hours with “typical device usage.” This isn’t really descriptive at all, but probably doesn’t cover high-intensity applications like gaming.
Microsoft ships a 39W power adapter with the Surface. Apple adds a 30W USB–C power adapter by default, but will upgrade to a 35W dual USB-C port adapter if you opt for the 10-core GP and 512GB of memory or higher. A 67W USB-C power adapter is also offered.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Audio
The Surface Laptop Go uses a set of “omnisonic speakers” with Dolby Audio Premium. It also has a 3.5mm headphone jack in case you want to use wired personal audio accessories.
Apple is integrating a four-speaker sound system into its MacBook Air, complete with Dolby Atmos support with Spatial Audio. The headphone jack is also better in that it includes high-impedance headphone support, which audiophiles should benefit from.
The Surface uses two far-field studio microphones to capture audio, while the MacBook Air uses a three-microphone array with directional beamforming.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Storage
Microsoft offers users two storage options: a 128GB SSD or a 256GB SSD. It describes the storage as “removable” but adds that it can only be removed by an authorized technician.
As appetites for storage have grown over time, 256GB may not be enough for many users in 2022, and ideally there should be a 512GB or greater option on Microsoft’s part.
Apple offers 256GB in its base model, with alternative configurations for 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB. Unlike Microsoft, Apple isn’t implying that its non-removable storage is removable at all.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – More features
Both notebooks feature fingerprint-based biometric security. Apple uses a Touch ID sensor on the keyboard, while Microsoft uses one built into the power button.
The power button on the Surface Laptop Go 2 doubles as a fingerprint reader.
Apple offers the MacBook Air in four colors: Silver, Starlight, Space Gray and Midnight.
Microsoft offers the Surface Laptop Go 2 in four colors: Sage, Ice Blue, Sandstone, and Platinum.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air Prices
Microsoft’s base configuration of the Surface Laptop Go 2 costs $599.99, which includes 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. A version upgrade to 8GB of memory costs $699.99, while 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage costs $799, cost $99.
The MacBook Air starts at $1,199 with the 8-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory, and 256GB of SSD storage. Upgrading to the 10-core GPU adds $100 to the price.
MacBook Air storage upgrade to 16GB will cost an additional $200, and another $200 to reach 24GB. Going from 256GB to 512GB will cost an additional $200, 1TB will cost an additional $200 dollars and 2 TB an additional $400.
The most expensive MacBook Air is available for $2,499 with no power adapter upgrades.
Inexpensive and cheerful, but not a powerhouse
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is certainly a budget notebook for what it offers. If you’re looking for a decent quality notebook running Windows 11, it’s hard not to compete with what Microsoft has presented here.
However, price and a touchscreen are practically the only advantages the Surface Laptop Go 2 has over the MacBook Air. Apple’s notebook is the more capable device on paper, with the downside that it’s twice the price of Microsoft’s offering.
Platform-agnostic customers can look at the two and turn to the Surface Laptop Go 2 if they’re looking for a basic notebook for light tasks. If they have the budget for an M2 MacBook Air and a family that will take advantage of the purchase, it can can even be tempting to choose two of the Surface Laptops.
Certainly the cheaper option for consumers. But with the lower-resolution display, lower performance, and abysmal memory and storage, potential owners also need to know they’re buying something that doesn’t quite as well as the M2 MacBook Air in many ways.
They can do better than the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2. You just have to be willing to shell out a little more for the privilege.
Where to buy
Apple’s M2 MacBook Air, meanwhile, starts at $1,199 and will go on sale in July 2022. Don’t forget to bookmark our round-up of the best M2 MacBook Air deals and our Mac price guide for the latest discounts on Apple’s new hardware save.