Head to head: Apple MacBook Air vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 for Business

When every ounce and inch counts for business travel, these ultraslim laptops pack a lot of performance per pound.

apple macbook air vs microsoft surface laptop 2 b

At a time when 2-in-1 tablets are coming of age in business, ultraslim laptops with traditional clamshell designs are staging a comeback with sales gains in an otherwise flat market, according to IDC. These systems deliver top performance in a thin, light, and sophisticated package.

Once luxury items meant for inhabitants of the C-suite (and often called “executive laptops” for that reason), today’s ultraslim notebooks can be a cheaper alternative to high-end detachable tablets. The 12.9-in. iPad Pro tablet, for instance, starts at $1,000, but after you add a stylus, keyboard case and adapters, the up-front cost can soar to nearly $1,500.

At about $1,200, ultraslim laptops are more powerful, sport bigger screens, and have a better assortment of apps than the typical tablet. If you’re deploying hundreds or thousands of computers throughout an organization, the price advantage of getting clamshell laptops can add up quickly.

I set up a shoot-out between the latest generation of thin and light executive notebooks from Apple and Microsoft. While the $1,200 Apple MacBook Air is smaller and more traditional, Microsoft’s $1,300 Surface Laptop 2 for Business points to the future with a touch screen and all-out performance.

[ Related: Head-to-head: Apple iPad vs. Microsoft Surface Go for Business ]

Each weighs a bit less than 3 lbs., is powered by an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, and has a 13-in. screen. While both displays show UHD resolution, the Laptop 2’s is touch-sensitive and offers an optional stylus for sketching, drawing and doodling, making it the more user-friendly of the two.

I tested, measured and benchmarked their performance in the office, and they became my temporary travel mates on the road. In a series of business trips, they were my constant companions, allowing me to write emails, go through spreadsheets, develop new products, research competitors, and stay in touch with my fellow workers.

Which came out on top when the digital dust had settled? Here are the results.

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