Microsoft Believes Its New Surface Laptop Is an AI-Powered Mac Killer

Two Microsoft Surface devices are displayed on a light background. The device in the foreground is a laptop with a colorful screen showing a stylized Windows logo. The one in the background is a tablet with a detachable keyboard, viewed from the back.

As Microsoft showed off its new Arm-based Surface Laptop Monday, just as much attention was paid to how it compares against its competition, namely, Apple’s popular MacBook Air.

Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop is “the fastest, most intelligent Windows PC ever built,” with a big emphasis on artificial intelligence. That power arrives thanks to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite chip, and Microsoft proved especially keen to show how this chip fares against Apple’s Arm-based M line of chips.

“Connected to and enhanced by the large language models (LLMs) running in our Azure Cloud in concert with small language models (SLMs), Copilot+ PCs can now achieve a level of performance never seen before,” Microsoft details in a press release. “They are up to 20x more powerful and up to 100x as efficient for running AI workloads and deliver industry-leading AI acceleration. They outperform Apple’s MacBook Air 15″ by up to 58% in sustained multithreaded performance, all while delivering all-day battery life.”

Specifically, the benchmark pits the new Surface Laptop against the 15-inch MacBook Air with an M3 chip and an 8-core CPU and 10-Core GPU configuration.

That said, the MacBook Air starts at $1,000, the same price as the new Surface — and that model only packs an M2. The 13-inch model with the M3 is another $100 and the 15-inch MacBook Air with the M3 chip runs $1,300. The MacBook Pro starts at $1,600.

So the Surface looks like it can punch above its weight. And though that benchmark might not appeal to creatives looking for more premium gear, it presents a solid option for the hobbyist consumer — even if Microsoft is still left playing catch-up.

Our Take

It’s certainly impressive that the the new Surface Pro can not just match, but best in a specific benchmark, Apple’s third-generation M chip. However, when it comes to photo editing, the MacBook Air isn’t the competition to worry about. More than likely, pro photographers will gravitate toward a MacBook Pro for a laptop, if not an even more powerful desktop setup.

For the MacBook Pro line in particular, users can opt for the M3 seen during Microsoft’s presentation, or step up to M3 Pro and M3 Max chips.

If the Surface Laptop truly is the fastest Windows PC, then creatives might not be entirely impressed. That said, Microsoft’s strong partnerships with hardware and software companies enable it to achieve some really impressive performance.

It will be interesting to see how Apple’s M4 chip fares against the Surface, as even Apple is starting to grow bored of its M3 chip. The newly announced iPad Pro is already using an M4 chip, and the MacBook lines likely aren’t far behind. After all, it’s hard to think Apple will leave the MacBook Pro with a less powerful chip than the iPad Pro for long.

There’s no question that people gravitate toward lower-cost notebooks like the new Surface and the MacBook Air, for obvious reasons, and regardless of the operating system of choice, it’s great how many powerful options there are out there for demanding photographers and videographers.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.