It’s a battle between MacBook Air and Surface Laptop 4 if you’re looking for a premium thin-and-light laptop with long battery life and impressive performance.
Do not mistake yourself; there is a lot of excellent thin and light laptops the low. But even the likes of the popular Dell XPS 13 and HP Specter x360 (2021) are not up to the price / performance ratio offered by these two laptops. Both perform much better, for example, when it comes to demanding creative workloads, despite being just as thin and light as the Dell and HP offerings. That makes them the two best contenders if you need something for photo/video editing or graphic design. Both of these laptops also have a much lower entry price, starting at under $1000/£1000 for their base models.
But it still begs the question: which of the two should you choose? The answer is not as simple as you might think. But we’ll help you decide between MacBook Air and Surface Laptop 4 by pitting them against each other in a friendly competition below.
MacBook Air vs Surface Laptop 4: Prices and configurations
The MacBook Air and Surface Laptop 4 come in multiple configurations and start at $999 / £999 in the US. Although the latter is priced at $899 cheaper, it’s only in platinum.
Yes, Surface Laptop 4 is available in four different colors: Ice Blue, Sandstone, Platinum, and Matte Black. Or, at least, its 13.5-inch version does. Its 15-inch version is only available in platinum and matte black, but we won’t cover it here since the MacBook Air is a purely 13-inch laptop.
These four colors come in similar configurations, with only a few variations. Platinum starts at $899, which gets you an AMD Ryzen 5 4680U, 8GB memory, and a 128GB SSD. But that’s only available in the US. In the UK and Australia, it starts at a higher price of £999 / AU$1,499, giving you double the storage. This configuration is also available in the United States.
If you want the Surface Laptop 4 in one of the other three color options, you’ll have to pay a bit more because they start with twice the memory and twice the storage of the platinum US base model. Things only get more expensive from there, reaching a whopping $2,299.99 / £2,299 / AU$3,499, which gets you an Intel Core i7, 32GB of RAM and an SSD of 1 TB.
Things are much simpler in the MacBook Air M1 camp. Apple’s thinnest and lightest comes in three different colors – space gray, gold and silver – but they’re all available in Apple’s two main configurations.
The former, which starts you off with an Apple M1 chip with an 8-core processor and 7-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory and 256GB of SSD storage, is available in most regions for $999/£999/ AU$1,499. And the second, more powerful one, which starts you off with an Apple M1 chip with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU and twice the storage capacity, will set you back $1,149 / £1,249 / AU$1,849.
If these specifications are not enough, you can further customize both configurations. You can upgrade RAM and storage up to 16GB and 2TB, respectively. However, be aware of these upgrades as Apple charges a premium for them. A fully-featured MacBook Air will set you back $2,049 / £2,049 / A$3,049. Unlike the Surface Laptop 4, 32GB of RAM isn’t an option.
MacBook Air vs. Surface Laptop 4: Design
In terms of size and weight, the MacBook Air and Surface Laptop 4 are pretty much on par. The MacBook Air is just a fraction of a pound heavier and slightly thicker than the Surface Laptop 4. However, it’s also slightly smaller. Needless to say, if the only requirement you need to meet when choosing your next laptop is that it should be small and light, you can’t go wrong either.
If you’re a bit more discerning, there are noticeable differences once you take a closer look. The Surface Laptop 4 has a slightly larger 13.5-inch touchscreen while the MacBook Air stuck with its 13.3-inch non-touchscreen.
To be fair to the MacBook Air, it has a higher resolution of 2560 x 1600 at 227 PPI compared to its rival’s 2256 x 1504 at 201 PPI. It’s also a bit brighter at 400 nits alongside the Surface Laptop 4’s sub-400 nit average, and comes with Apple’s True Tone technology, which allows it to automatically adjust its color temperature based on ambient lighting.
Both are undoubtedly made from premium aluminum materials and are strong enough to last for years, but there are key differences here as well. The MacBook Air chassis is, according to Apple, made of 100% recycled aluminum while Microsoft makes no mention of using recycled materials to manufacture the Surface Laptop 4.
While its sandstone and matte black models sport a metal palm rest, its platinum and ice blue colorways come with the company’s signature Alcantara material version, which simply enhances your typing experience. That’s mostly because while Apple’s Magic Keyboard is one of the best keyboards we’ve ever used, we found the Surface Laptop 4’s keyboard to be even better.
If your viewing experience is vital to you, the MacBook Air is better suited. However, if it’s your typing experience, you might enjoy using the Surface Laptop 4 more.
MacBook Air vs. Surface Laptop 4: Features
Obviously, the biggest feature difference is that the MacBook Air runs on the newest macOS (at the time of writing, that’s macOS Monterey) while the Surface Laptop 4 comes with the Windows 10 Out-of-the-box home operating system (and a free upgrade to Windows 11).
Both operating systems have their loyal fans, and many users usually prefer one over the other based on their preferences and needs. The macOS offers an incredibly seamless experience, making it ideal for creative workloads, while the Windows operating system prides itself on its versatility.
If you are not sure which operating system you should choose, it would behoove you to read our reviews.
When it comes to other features, however, the MacBook Air might be a bit ahead of the Surface Laptop 4. This is due to its fanless design, which means it can handle intensive workloads – even video editing – without ever running any fans. Stay calm. It’s a brilliant feat of engineering if you ask us. It not only stays cool under pressure, but also beautifully quiet.
When it comes to the rest of the features, both laptops seem to be on equal footing again. Both are lacking in port (MacBook Air only comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports and an audio jack, Surface Laptop 4 only has one USB-C, one USB-A and an audio jack ) and webcam (both are limited to 720p cameras) departments.
For fast and secure logins, Surface Laptop 4 comes with Windows’ extremely convenient Windows Hello face authentication. However, the MacBook Air’s TouchID is just as reliable and secure.
MacBook Air vs. Surface Laptop 4: Performance
Both laptops are also on par when it comes to battery life. While Microsoft promises up to 19 hours of battery life on the Surface Laptop 4 and Apple claims up to 18 hours of video playback on the MacBook Air, we found both devices fell a little short of those promises. . Both laptops averaged around 11 hours in our video loop playback test, a few hours less than either manufacturer’s rating.
Yet 11 am is no joke. That means you get all-day battery life and a little extra juice to kick back after.
However, there is a huge difference between the two in terms of performance. The Surface Laptop 4 is powerful on its own and a multitasking machine that can also tackle 4K video editing workloads. However, it will feel a little sluggish when performing those graphic-intensive creative tasks alongside the MacBook Air.
Thanks to its M1 chip, the MacBook Air is designed to not only tackle 4K video editing workloads like a champ, but also handle some 8K workloads.
MacBook Air vs Surface Laptop 4: Which is better for you?
Are you hesitating between the MacBook Air and the Surface Laptop 4? I hope we have helped narrow down the differences and similarities between the two.
Both are rugged, beautifully designed, and extremely capable portable machines with high-end extras you won’t find in any regular laptop. Both also offer a high computing experience worthy of more expensive models.
However, unless you have a little extra cash, it might be a good idea to go with just one. Of course, the ultimate decision is yours, but our recommendation is:
If you’re a photographer, graphic designer, video editor, or any type of content creator, get the MacBook Air. Its impressive display, powerful M1 chip, and seamless macOS experience provide the perfect conditions for a smoother workflow that saves you time and allows you to focus more on your creative process.
If you’re a programmer, professional, or any type of professional whose work centers around productivity-type tasks, the Surface Laptop 4 is a great match. Its excellent keyboard, touchscreen, secure Windows Hello authentication and multitasking prowess – not to mention the versatility offered by the Windows operating system – are just what you need to get through the day.