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The new Surface Laptop Go 2 is a thin and light Windows notebook at a low cost, and has been positioned by Microsoft to be a competitor to Apple’s latest M2 MacBook Air. Here’s how the ultra-portable notebooks compare.
Days before Apple introduced its overhauled MacBook Air, Microsoft decided to launch its take on the concept of a thin and powerful notebook. In the follow-up to the 2020 Surface Laptop Go, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is a natural competitor to the MacBook Air, with considerable cost savings.
However, while the price is low for the Surface, the specifications are also a lot more reserved than Apple’s latest notebook addition. Indeed, you could argue that with its lowest price of $599, Microsoft’s going after the Chromebook market.
Pitting the Surface against the MacBook Air may not be an even fight, but it is worth determining if the difference in price warrants the specification gap between the two devices.
|Specifications||MacBook Air (2022, M2)||Surface Laptop Go 2|
Compare M2 MacBook Air prices
Available at the Microsoft Store
|Dimensions (inches)||11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44||10.95 x 8.12 x 0.62|
|Display||13.6-inch Liquid Retina,
Wide Color (P3),
3:2 Aspect Ratio,
|Resolution||2,560 x 1,664||1,536 x 1,024|
|Brightness||500 nits||330 nits|
|Processor||Apple M2||11th-gen Intel Core i5-1135G7|
|Intel Iris Xe Graphics|
Up to 15 hours web, 18 hours video
Up to 13.5 hours
|Networking||802.11ax Wi-Fi 6
|802.11ax Wi-Fi 6,
|Biometric Security||Touch ID||Windows Hello,
Fingerprint Power Button
|Camera||1080p FaceTime HD||720p HD f/2.0|
|Audio||Four-speaker sound system,
Three-mic array with directional beamforming,
Headphone jack with high-impedance headphone support,
Dolby Atmos support with Spatial Audio
|Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Audio Premium,
Dual far-field studio mics,
|Ports||2 x Thunderbolt/USB 4,
3.5mm headphone jack,
|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 Specifications
The Surface Laptop Go is, at first blush, reasonably close to the MacBook Pro in many different design areas. Both sport reasonably thin bezels around the display, a slim appearance, and are lightweight.
The two are made using aluminum, though the Surface uses a combination of aluminum and a polycarbonate composite resin with glass fiber and “30% post-consumer recycled content” for the base.
The MacBook Air is a bit bigger at 11.97 inches by 8.46 inches versus 10.95 inches by 8.12 inches for the Surface Laptop Go 2. Though the Surface does use a slight taper that the MacBook Air no longer has, it’s still thicker at 0.62 inches than the MacBook Air’s 0.44 inches.
The different materials used in its construction and its smaller footprint also translate into a lower weight, at 2.48 pounds for Microsoft and 2.7 pounds for Apple.
The two are in the same ballpark of size, and there’s not much advantage in the slight differences in dimension.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Display
The Surface Laptop Go 2 has a 12.4-inch PixelSense display which is a bit unusual due to its use of a 3:2 aspect ratio. Apple has historically maintained a 16:10 aspect ratio for the Air, but the 13.6-inch display is a little taller than usual but not quite as extreme as the Surface’s ratio.
The PixelSense display is backlit with LED, just like Apple’s Liquid Retina version, but it’s not as bright at 330 nits versus 500 nits.
It’s also not as high-resolution, at 1,536 by 1,024 pixels versus 2,560 by 1,664 for the MacBook Air. That translates to pixel densities of 224ppi for the MacBook Pro and a mere 148ppi for the Surface.
One thing in Microsoft’s favor is that the screen is touch-enabled complete with 10-point multitouch. Apple still resists adding touch capabilities to its MacBook lineup.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Processor and Graphics
Microsoft has included an Intel processor in its Surface Laptop Go 2, with all configurations using the same Core i5-1135G7 chip. That’s an 11th-generation quad-core processor with eight threads and a max turbo speed of 4.2GHz.
That chip is paired with either 4GB or 8GB of LPDDR4x memory, as well as using its own onboard Intel Iris Xe Graphics.
Apple’s M2 has an eight-core CPU, pairing four efficiency cores with four performance cores, a 16-core Neural Engine and a Media Engine for hardware-accelerated handling of video encodes and decodes. Two options of the Apple Silicon chip are available on the MacBook Air, with one sporting an 8-core Apple-designed GPU and the other using a 10-core GPU.
Then there’s Apple’s Unified Memory, which applies to the CPU and the GPU. The base model is 8GB, the same as the upper configurations of the Surface, as well as higher 16GB and 24GB capacities.
As to how much of a performance difference there is, we need to turn to Geekbench. Initial results say the M2 can produce a single-core score of 1,919, with a multi-core score of 8,928.
By contrast, the Intel Core i5-1135G7 can only manage 1,239 for the single-core test and 4,147 for the multi-core.
It’s expected that the Surface Laptop Go 2 would be beaten by Apple’s latest chip, given the price, but not with so much of a lead.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Camera
Apple updated its FaceTime HD camera in the MacBook Air to a 1080p version, switching up from the 720p version used before. It benefits from the advanced image signal processor included in the M2 for improved picture quality.
Microsoft includes a 720p webcam, which doesn’t inspire confidence. However, it includes Windows Hello support, so it can be used for facial recognition when logging into Windows 11.
Microsoft also manages to hide its webcam in the bezel. Apple, meanwhile, included a cut-out notch in the display for its camera system.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Connectivity
Apple hasn’t historically offered the widest selection of ports on the MacBook Air, and the 2022 edition isn’t that much different from the previous one. You have a pair of Thunderbolt/USB 4 connections and a 3.5mm headphone jack, but this time you also have MagSafe 3 for charging.
Microsoft offers four ports, one each of USB-C, USB-A, a headphone jack, and a Surface Connect port.
On the wireless side, both can connect to Wi-Fi 6 networks and older standards. The Surface does have a small leg-up with Bluetooth by using Bluetooth 5.1 against Apple’s continued use of Bluetooth 5.0.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Power
Apple packs a 52.6Wh lithium-polymer battery into its MacBook Air, which is quite a lot given its slim frame. The Surface uses a smaller capacity battery, at 41Wh.
As for how much time you can use the battery, the MacBook Air is claimed to last for up to 15 hours of wireless web access or up to 18 hours of video playback from the Apple TV app.
Microsoft says the Surface can last up to 13.5 hours of “typical device usage.” This isn’t really descriptive at all, but it probably doesn’t cover high-intensity applications such as games.
Microsoft includes a 39W power supply in the box with the Surface. Apple adds a 30W USB-C Power Adapter by default, though it gets upgraded to a 35W Dual USB-C Port Adapter if you go for the 10-core GP and 512GB of storage 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 includes a four-speaker sound system in its MacBook Air, complete with Dolby Atmos support with Spatial Audio. The headphone jack is also better in that it contains high-impedance headphone support that should benefit audiophiles.
The Surface uses dual far-field studio mics to get audio in, while the MacBook Air uses a three-mic 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 does describe the storage as “removable” but adds that it is only removable by an authorized technician.
As the appetite for storage has grown over time, 256GB may not be enough for many users in 2022, and ideally, there should be a 512GB or higher option on Microsoft’s side.
Apple offers 256GB in its base model, with alternative configurations for 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB. Unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn’t hint that its non-removable storage can be taken out at all.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Other Features
Both notebooks include fingerprint-based biometric security. Apple uses a Touch ID sensor on the keyboard, while Microsoft uses one built onto the power button.
Apple offers the MacBook Air in four colors: Silver, Starlight, Space Gray, and Midnight.
Microsoft stocks the Surface Laptop Go 2 in four colors: Sage, Ice Blue, Sandstone, and Platinum.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 vs M2 MacBook Air – Pricing
Microsoft’s base configuration of the Surface Laptop Go 2 costs $599.99, including 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. A version upgrading to 8GB of memory costs $699.99, while 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage costs $799.99.
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.
Upgrading the MacBook Air memory to 16GB is an extra $200, and a further $200 more to reach 24GB. Going from 256GB of storage to 512GB costs an extra $200, with 1TB an additional $200 and 2TB for $400 on top of that.
The most expensive MacBook Air can be acquired for $2,499, excluding power adapter upgrades.
Cheap and cheerful, but not a powerhouse
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is certainly a great value notebook for what it offers. If you want a decent quality notebook that runs Windows 11, it’s hard not to compete against what Microsoft has presented here.
However, price and a touchscreen are practically the only benefits of going for the Surface Laptop Go 2 over the MacBook Air. Apple’s notebook is the more capable device on paper, with the penalty of being twice the cost of Microsoft’s offering.
Platform-agnostic customers may look at the two and turn to the Surface Laptop Go 2 if they want a simple notebook to get light tasks done. If they have the budget for an M2 MacBook Air and a family that will use the purchase, it may even be tempting to go for two of the Surface Laptops.
It’s certainly the cheaper option for consumers. But with the lower-resolution display, the lower performance, and the woeful memory and storage, potential owners must also know they are buying something that isn’t as good as the M2 MacBook Air in many respects.
You can do better than the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2. You just have to be prepared to spend a bit more for the privilege.
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