Surface Laptop vs. MacBook Air vs. Dell XPS 13 vs. HP Spectre x360 13t: A specs comparison – PCWorld

Microsoft has called its new Surface Laptop the one to “reset the category.”

That’s a lofty ambition for a PC that is essentially wading into a gladiator pit. Unlike the Surface Pro and the Surface Book, which can stay above the fray with ultra-expensive, unique features, the Surface Laptop is just another thin-and-light clamshell, territory well-trod by proven contenders including Dell’s XPS 13, HP’s Spectre x360 13t, and of course, Apple’s MacBook Air.

While I haven’t actually touched a Surface Laptop to see whether its luxurious Alcantara  fabric changes my expectations, I do know no computer ever escapes the scrutiny of bang for buck. I decided to see just what you get out of the Surface Laptop and comparable Apple, Dell and HP laptops at the four popular price points of $1,000, $1,300, $1,500 and $2,000.

Be warned: Some things just can’t be measured in numbers, such as keyboard feel, screen quality, build quality, and OS preference. Microsoft also hasn’t released which exact parts are going into the Surface Laptop, so to some degree this is an educated guess.

One Surface Laptop mystery, until independently verified, is battery life. At 14.5 hours per Microsoft, it’ll likely set the bar for run time. At the same time, most of the other laptops here aren’t slouches either.

macbook pro 13 late2016 review adam 8hero Adam Patrick Murray

What does the Surface Laptop offer when compared to a MacBook Pro 13?

What you get for $1,000

A thousand bucks is the entry level price for a “luxury” laptop, the point where you can wriggle free of thick, ugly plastic and enjoy plusher materials like aluminum and carbon fiber. For a luxury laptop, however, it’s also almost too cheap. You can’t get fancy materials and features unless corners are cut.

You can easily see what Microsoft did to hit the $999 price. Of the four laptops here, the Surface Laptop’s the only one with 4GB of RAM. For general use such as browsing and running Office, you can get by if you have a fast drive behind it. It’s still not optimal, though, and if you like to run a ton of apps and spawn dozens and dozens of browser windows, you’ll want more RAM.

On the performance front, the slowest is likely to be the MacBook Air. It is running a two-generation retrograde CPU at this point, and it has the lowest maximum clock speed. On paper, the Surface Laptop’s performance could be easily 20 percent faster than the MacBook Air on CPU-intensive tasks. I know this because I’ve tested three generations of these CPUs. The Dell XPS 13 should be among the fastest here (and likely as fast as the Surface Laptop), while the Spectre x360 will be the slowest of the Kaby Lake laptops.

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