Microsoft Surface Pro 8 vs Apple MacBook Air M1

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 vs Apple MacBook Air M1

Today, a lot of us have started working remotely, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But even after the pandemic eventually ends, many companies will stick to remote work. As a result, we’re depending more on our computers and tablets. Microsoft and Apple offer both kinds of devices, and the competition is only getting intenser. This is the Surface Pro 8 vs the MacBook Air M1, two lightweight yet exceptionally mighty devices, head-to-head.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 8 vs. Apple MacBook Air M1: Specifications

Microsoft Surface Pro 8Apple MacBook Air M1
CPU
  • Quad-core 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 Processor
  • Quad-core 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 Processor
  • Apple M1 chip
Graphics
  • Intel UHD Graphics (i3)
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics (i5, i7)
  • 7-core GPU
  • 8-core GPU
Body
  • 287×208.3×9.4 mm
  • 30.41×21.24×1.61 cm
Display
  • Screen: 13” PixelSense Flow Display
  • Resolution: 2880-by-1920 at 267 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • Up to 120Hz Refresh Rate (60Hz default)
  • Touch: 10-point multi-touchGPU Ink Acceleration
  • 13.3″ LED-backlit display with IPS technology
  • Resolution: 2560-by-1600 at 227 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors
  • 400 nits brightness
  • Wide color (P3)
  • True Tone technology
Ports
  • 2 x USB-C
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 1 x Surface Connect port
  • Surface Type Cover port
  • Compatible with Surface Dial off-screen interaction
  • 2 x USB-C
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
Storage
  • 128GB or 256GB (Wi-FI or LTE)
  • 512GB or 1TB (Wi-Fi only)
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 2TB
RAM
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
Battery
  • Up to 16hours of battery life
  • Charge to 80% in just over an hour
  • Built‐in rechargeable lithium‑polymer battery
  • Up to 15 hours wireless web
  • Up to 18 hours Apple TV app movie playback
Audio
  • Dual far-field Studio Mics
  • 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Dolby Vision support
  • Stereo speakers
  • Wide stereo sound
  • Support for Dolby Atmos playback
  • Three-mic array with directional beamforming
Camera
  • Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)
  • 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p full HD video
  • 10.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD and 4k video
  • 720p FaceTime HD camera
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • Nano SIM and eSIM (Wi-Fi + Cellular models)
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
Color
  • Platinum
  • Graphite
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Space Gray
Price
  • Starting at $1,099
  • Starting at $999

Design: The MacBook kicks the Surface out!

Body

The MacBook Air M1 has had the same design for a few years now. It’s one of the slimmest and lightest laptops out there, and it never fails to impress. When it comes to comparing the bodies of the Surface and the MacBook, the latter has an obvious advantage — a keyboard.

The MacBook Air M1 not only is cheaper than the Surface Pro 8, but also includes the keyboard and trackpad, built-in. Surprisingly, it’s cheaper than the Surface, and you won’t need to buy a keyboard/trackpad accessory separately. In the case of the Surface, you’re adding at least $99 to the original (more costly) purchase to match the Mac.

From an almost objective point of view, the Surface doesn’t look anywhere as good as the MacBook Air. The former simply doesn’t look as premium. Additionally, Apple’s slim notebook can rest on one’s lap or other surfaces more comfortably. In the case of Microsoft’s, the kickstand can limit where you can conveniently place your device.

Ports

Apple has become infamous for ditching ports on iDevices. This sacrifice comes in the name of minimalism. We agree, portless devices do look sleek, but they break functionality. Dongles don’t look good attached to any device, but average users are slowly shifting to alternative solutions. Depending on the cloud and going wireless is one way to do it, even though most power users would probably disagree.

The Surface offers two USB C ports, in addition to the fans’ favorite — a 3.5 mm headphone jack — and Surface accessory ports. The MacBook Air also offers the same two USB C ports and a 3.5 mm headphone jack — surprisingly.

Conclusion

In this round, Apple wins over Microsoft. Both offer the same main, versatile ports, but the MacBook Air has the design of its body as an advantage. It’s also worth noting again that the MacBook Air is cheaper and doesn’t require buying an extra keyboard accessory.

Display: The Surface touches our hearts!

The MacBook Air M1 offers a 13.3″ LED-backlit display with a 2560 x 1600 at 227 pixels per inch (ppi). On the other hand, the Surface has a 13″ PixelSense display with a 2880 x 1920 at 267 ppi. The display sizes are almost identical, however the Surface has a touch screen. This is a major advantage to Microsoft, not to mention the higher resolution. The display not only supports touch input, but also the Slim Pen 2. Apple’s MacBook Air, on the other hand, doesn’t support Apple Pencil.

Accessories: This one’s a tie!

When it comes to accessories, the MacBook doesn’t require a keyboard or trackpad — they’re already built-in. This gives Apple extra points because built-in keyboards tend to be more durable that attached ones. You also don’t have to pay extra for them. Microsoft would charge you at least $99 extra to match the MacBook setup.

Though, to be fair, the Surface supports the Slim Pen 2. Apple has no alternative or equivalent on the MacBook, so Microsoft has earned a few extra points for that. If your occupation has you depending on digital illustration, then you might want to consider the Surface.

Capability: Apple blows away Microsoft on a macro level!

m1 chip overview

Performance

The entry model of the Surface Pro 8 and the MacBook Air M1 both offer 8GB of RAM. But when it comes to the processors, the Apple M1 chip outperforms the Intel chips. The MacBook is more capable and energy-efficient than the Surface. However, the Air can be upgraded to a maximum of 16GB of RAM, while the Pro 8 is configurable to 32GB. Though, to lay out all of the details, the MacBook Air can have up to 2TB of storage, which beats the Surface’s 1TB limit.

Software

Comparing two desktop operating systems can be very subjective, especially when Windows and macOS have both matured. At this point it’s mostly a matter of taste of what you go for. If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, buying a MacBook would definitely make more sense, for example.

Personally, I prefer macOS, not only because I use other Apple devices, but because I love how quickly developers adopt new APIs. Apple pressures developers into keeping their apps functional and up to date. And whenever a new major feature is made available on macOS, such as dark mode, most teams behind popular apps implement it into their app as soon as possible.

With the redesign Big Sur brought, I feel like macOS is complete and almost perfect for me. The new “childish” UI that’s inspired by iOS only makes the system look more familiar and less (unnecessarily) complicated. Not to mention the ability to run iOS/iPadOS apps without using any third-party software.

Conclusion

The MacBook Air objectively outperforms the Surface. As for the operating system, it really depends on your taste and what you’re looking for. As a result, Apple wins this round!

Finishes: Apple colors its way into victory!

This round is short, particularly because the Surface offers two color options, while the MacBook Air goes for three.

MacBook Air M1:

  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Space Gray

Surface Pro 8:

  • Platinum
  • Graphite

Both companies offer relatively similar colors (excluding the Gold from Apple), so the finish shouldn’t be a major factor when you’re making your purchase decision. And you could always put on a case, cover, or skin if you’re into more “fun” and lively colors. However, Apple gets this round merely because they offer more color options.

Bottom Line

The Surface Pro 8 and MacBook Air M1 are two very different devices made for different kinds of people. Despite their relatively similar software (both run a desktop OS), they each offer different features, capabilities, and builds. Which one is right for you is up to you personally. We have only made it easier for you to weigh the pros and cons before you go ahead and buy your shiny new powerhouse!

    Surface Pro 8
    The Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft's flagship tablet, and it comes with an all-new design, a 120Hz display, Thunderbolt 4, and more.

About author

Mahmoud Itani
Mahmoud Itani

Mahmoud is an Istanbul-based Beiruti who has always sought freedom through writing. His hobbies include keeping up with tech news, writing articles about Apple devices & services, crocheting, meditating, and composing poetry. You’ll likely find him jogging at a park, swimming in open water, brainstorming at a coffeehouse, or merely lost in nature. His personal pieces are available on his website, MahmoudItani.com, and he can be reached via [email protected] or the provided social links.