Surface Laptop Go 3 vs MacBook Air: the key differences so far

two laptops against a split blue and pink background
(Image credit: Future)

The Microsoft Surface Event 2023 featured plenty of news and product reveals during the surprise presentation, including the Surface Laptop Go 3 and Surface Laptop Studio 2 as well as updates on its OpenAI collaboration and ChatGPT integration into Bing and other Microsoft products. There was a last-minute stealth reveal of the Surface Go 4 via a press release after the presentation as well.

Of course, the most interesting of the bunch was definitely the Surface Laptop Go 3, which not only has some impressive specs upgrades compared to previous models but is also much lighter and faster.

But how does the Laptop Go 3 compare to its direct competitor, the M2 MacBook Air? That's the important question, as Apple currently sports some truly excellent laptops that combine near-unparalleled CPU efficiency and portability, making it one of the best MacBooks around.

In this piece, then, we'll be pitting the Surface Laptop Go 3 against the MacBook Air, comparing both laptops' prices, specs, and performance. Naturally, the below comparisons are subject to change as we learn more about the Surface Laptop Go 3 through extensive benchmarking, but for now, here’s how we expect these laptops to stack up.

Surface Laptop Go 3 vs MacBook Air: specs comparison

Microsoft Surface Go 3 keyboard from the side

(Image credit: Future)
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Surface Laptop Go 3 vs MacBook Air: Specs
Surface Laptop Go 3M2 MacBook Air
Display: 12.4-inch PixelSense13.6-inch Liquid Retina
Resolution: 1536 x 1024 (148 PPI)2,560 x 1,664
CPUIntel Core i5-1235UApple M2 (8-core)
GPUIntel Iris XeIntegrated 10-core
Camera: 720p HD front-facing1080p FaceTime HD
RAM:Up to 16GB LPDDR516GB Unified LPDDR5
Storage: 256GBUp to 1TB SSD

Surface Laptop Go 3 vs MacBook Air: price and availability

Microsoft Surface Go 3 view from the side on wooden table

The iPhone 14 lineup hit stores on September 16, 2022 (Image credit: Future)

So far we only have a starting price for the Surface Laptop Go 3, which is $799 (UK and Australian pricing is TBC at the time of writing). It's an excellent price point, and one that neatly rivals even the M1 MacBook Air, widely considered to be one of the best laptops ever made. And it definitely undermines the M2 MacBook Air, both the 13-inch and especially 15-inch models.

Meanwhile, you can get the M1 MacBook Air for $999 officially, though it routinely gets deals that bring the price down as low as $799. The M2 MacBook Air is $1,199 / £1,249 / AU$1,799 for the 13-inch model and $1,299 / £1,399 / AU$2,199 for the 15-inch, though current deals will often shave up to $200 off the MSRP.

Surface Laptop Go 3 vs MacBook Air: design and display

Microsoft Surface Go 3

(Image credit: Future)

The Surface Laptop Go 3 retains its highly portable design of 10.95 x 8.12 x 0.62 inches, a 12.4-inch screen, and a weight of 2.49 pounds. This is easily one of its best traits, making it ideal to carry around. Unfortunately, its display won't be upgraded for the refresh, keeping the PixelSense screen that boasts a 1536 x 1024 resolution, 1000:1 contrast ratio, 320 nits brightness, and 3:2 aspect ratio.

The M2 MacBook Air is slightly heavier and larger with a 13.6-inch screen and a weight of 2.7 pounds, though the screen size could be a bonus for some who prefer it. Its display is otherwise superior to the Laptop Go 3 with a higher 2,560 x 1,664, a Liquid Retina display, backlit LED, IPS, and 500 nits brightness.

Port selection is where the Laptop Go 3 ekes out a win, with a USB-C 3.2 (data, DisplayPort, and charging) port, USB-A 3.1, 3.5 mm headphone jack, and the dreaded Surface Connect port - which could easily be replaced with another USB port, Microsoft! The M2 MacBook has two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, MagSafe 3 charging port, but refuses to get with the program and include a USB Type-A port.

The Laptop Go 3 trails behind in its keyboard and webcam, with the former lacking LED backlighting and the latter being the same 720p HD front-facing camera as the previous model. The M2 MacBook Air has keyboard backlighting on both versions and a much better 1080p FaceTime HD webcam.

When it comes to accessibility, however, Microsoft remains the leader of the pack with full compatibility with the Microsoft Adaptive Accessories, as well as the Surface Adaptive Kit and the built-in adaptive touchscreen. One of the presenters during the event, who was born without fingers on one hand, demonstrated how the adaptive touch feature made it easier to use the touchpad. 

None of the MacBooks have anywhere close to that level of accessibility and, as I've noted before in my own observations, the trackpad is very difficult to use and truly needs an overall (and no, the magic mouse is not a good solution).

Surface Laptop Go 3 vs MacBook Air: performance

Microsoft Surface Go 3 closed side view on wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

Right now, the Surface Laptop Go 3 hasn't been released for review, which means can only go with what Microsoft claims as of right now. So far, the tech giant stated that it's 88% faster than the original Laptop Go 3. Until we get our hands on the laptop and test it ourselves, however, we can't speak for both benchmark and productivity performance.

The M2 MacBook Air features the exceptional Apple silicon that offers some of the best CPU performance in the market. According to Apple, the M2 has an 18% faster CPU, 35% faster GPU (now 10 cores), and a 40% faster neural engine than its predecessor. Both benchmark and productivity testing further back these claims, with how much faster and more efficiently it runs any task.

Surface Laptop Go 3 vs MacBook Air: battery

According to Microsoft, the Surface Laptop Go 3 has a battery life of up to 15 hours, which is an excellent metric if it turns out to be true. Judging by the previous Surface Laptop Go 2, which lasted on average eight hours in both productivity and movie streaming tests, this might not be completely accurate.

The M2 MacBook Air 13-inch features up to 16 hours of battery life and the 15-inch has up to 15 hours after testing. Even if the Laptop Go 3 lives up to its promises, both MacBook Air models can easily compete and even surpass the Laptop Go 3.

Surface Laptop Go 3 vs MacBook Air: verdict

two laptops against a split blue and pink background

(Image credit: Future)

It seems that, based on the information we have right now, the M2 MacBook Air is still the better laptop overall. It has better features, a superior screen, excellent performance, and a confirmed better battery life. If you want a high-quality laptop that's perfect for productivity work, this would be the better choice all-around.

However, the Surface Laptop Go 3 beats out the MacBook Air in two key areas: price and accessibility. Neither of these categories is anything to sneeze at either, as the former is important for those on a tight budget and the latter is extremely important for those who need a more accessible laptop for everyday use.

The Laptop Go 3 could also surprise us with excellent battery life and performance once we've reviewed it, so make sure to stay tuned to this piece and our news coverage to get the latest news.

Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.