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Apple MacBook Air (M1) Vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 7+

CRN compares Apple’s new M1 MacBook Air with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7+, featuring 11th-gen Intel Core processors.

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When Apple unveiled its new MacBook Air featuring the M1 chip, CEO Tim Cook touted the “Apple Silicon” processor as a way to make the already-popular laptop even better. The MacBook Air with M1 is “dramatically faster” and offers “extraordinary” battery life, Cook said at the time. Impressively, reviews of the MacBook Air have largely confirmed the claims. But there’s still plenty that the MacBook Air lacks, which you can find with top Windows 10 devices—such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7+. The 2-in-1 tablet is the latest edition of Microsoft’s productivity-focused Surface Pro series, and offers some obvious—and not-so-obvious—advantages over Apple’s new MacBook Air. For instance, for any user that wants a convertible device with a touch screen, the Surface Pro 7+ can deliver while the MacBook Air just cannot. Still, the performance results for Apple’s M1 processor vs. 11th-gen Intel chips—which power the Surface Pro 7+—are pretty stunning. It might be worth re-considering how badly you need that touch screen after all.

Which of these two devices—the new M1 MacBook Air or the Intel-powered Surface Pro 7+—is the better fit for you? In the following slides, we compare Apple’s MacBook Air (M1) vs Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7+ on specs and price.

Display and Keyboard

We’ll start by considering the two most visible parts of any laptop or 2-in-1 tablet—the display and the keyboard. Both the MacBook Air with M1 (with its Retina display) and the Surface Pro 7+ (with its PixelSense display) offer a vibrant and colorful viewing experience. But there are some big differences. As mentioned, the Surface Pro 7+ is a tablet—though one that can attach and detach from a keyboard. That of course means that the Surface Pro 7+ offers a touch screen, while the MacBook Air (like all other Apple notebooks to date) does not have a touch screen option. Perhaps a touch screen is not as important to you as screen space, however. In that case, the M1 MacBook Air may have the leg up with its 13.3-inch display, which is 8 percent larger than the Surface Pro 7+ screen at 12.3 inches.

Since the two displays are different sizes, it’s worth comparing them on pixels per inch (ppi) rather than overall resolution. By that comparison, the Surface Pro 7+ comes out ahead with resolution of 267 ppi vs the MacBook Air’s resolution of 227 ppi. Apple aims to compensate by adding support for P3 wide color on the new MacBook Air with M1—which provides a more “true-to-life” display experience, Apple said. The M1 MacBook Air is also brighter, at 500 nits, versus brightness of 395 nits on the Surface Pro 7+ display.

In terms of the keyboard, the MacBook Air offers Apple’s Magic Keyboard design, with improved keys over the previous butterfly keyboard design. The Magic Keyboard on the MacBook Air offers 1 mm of key travel. Microsoft has two detachable keyboard choices for the Surface Pro 7+, and both offer deeper keys than on the MacBook Air, with key travel of 1.3 mm. The two choices are for a basic Type Cover or for the “Signature Edition” keyboard featuring fabric around the keys.

 
 
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