Watch out, Apple: Microsoft's Surface Laptops match MacBooks for performance and beat them on repairability

right to repair
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For years, Microsoft’s Surface series has been a series (ha!) of disappointments featuring poor performance, stuttering, slowdowns, forced resets, and installed programs refusing to run, all wrapped up in a price point entirely undeserved for its level of quality. However, a clear difference between previous iterations and the 2024 models sets the latter apart in the best way possible.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 7 and the Microsoft Surface Pro 11 are exceptional laptops that have effectively set the golden standard for AI PCs. Microsoft has finally taken all the feedback and complaints over the years and worked to improve on most of these. As a result, we finally have Surface laptops that are not only worthy of their price points but are excellent in their own right.

If Apple is smart, it will note what is now its biggest competition and adjust its own strategies to better match Microsoft’s initiatives – not only for the sake of its business but also for the larger environmental impact.

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How bad was the Surface series?

While not the absolute worst laptops ever released, it was often mind-blogging how, year after year, Microsoft could release such mediocrity at an MSRP that matched far superior portable machines. It was the epitome of a series with plenty of potential, but failed to even remotely live up to it while suffering yearly releases meant to attract the Surface loyalists and only them.

Before 2024, I reviewed two other Surface laptops: the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 and Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3, receiving three out of five stars and three and a half out of five stars, respectively. 

For the former, I cited how its poor performance, bad port selection and outdated design, along with a steep price tag, placed it far below its rivals. This was also the laptop that ran a ridiculous amount of programs and tasks in the background, which overtaxed the OS and resulted in slowdown and larger programs crashing. The latter only fared slightly better with average performance, a tired design, a bad webcam, and incredibly outdated specs.

The other major issue was how anti-user repairable Microsoft laptops were, especially the Surface series. In 2017, iFixit gave the first Surface Laptop a zero out of ten in repairability because it was an absolute nightmare to tear down, resulting in catastrophic damage to the machine. And for years after, later iterations weren’t much better.

A Microsoft Surface Laptop at Microsoft's Copilot Plus PC event

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

What changed this year?

The biggest, most definitive change between older Surface models and the 2024 suite is the introduction of Qualcomm Snapdragon CPUs. For months, manufacturers have been promoting their refreshes outfitted with these chips, boasting their superior performance and battery life, two vital keys to running AI tools and AI-based components.

The question was then, will these chips live up to the hype? And for the Surface series, they turn mostly mediocre and above-average laptops into some of the best Windows laptops and best laptops in the market right now. Their performance is exceptional, extremely responsive, and absolutely zero stuttering.

Considering that Snapdragon chips are made from the same Arm architecture that Apple’s latest M3 chips are also built on, it’s a testament to how closely Surface laptops match MacBooks. Both sport speedy performance and high efficiency, which keeps them nice and cool during the most intensive operations.

What also significantly improved is the Surface series’ ease of repairability. In 2021, Microsoft partnered with iFixit to sell Surface repair tools, culminating in both the Surface Laptop 7 and Surface Pro 11 receiving eight out of ten scores from iFixit and are stated to be some of the most repairable laptops in the market.

Meanwhile, Apple’s MacBooks are some of the worst laptops for repairability, according to a report called Failing the Fix, which was compiled by the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a consumer advocacy organization in the U.S. Having such an abysmal level of repairability in 2024 is blatantly anti-consumer and worsens the reputation of MacBooks comparison to Surface laptops.

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Final thoughts

Microsoft has truly upgraded its lineup of Surface laptops, with the Microsoft Surface Laptop 7 and Microsoft Surface Pro 11 rewarded with glowing reviews due to their outstanding performance and repairability. 

The accolades are well-deserving, as the tech giant took in often scathing criticism and used it to finally enact the necessary changes to actually make the Surface series competitive. And now that competition is finally heating up on Microsoft’s end, the ball is now in Apple’s court. 

It’s time for the tech giant to revisit its MacBook design, not only to maintain top-notch performance and efficiency but, more importantly, to address and fix the increasingly egregious lack of self-repair options for consumers. 

Apple’s control over every aspect of the manufacturing and repair process has been a long-standing feature of the brand. Still, with the growing threat of e-waste and its devastating ecological effect, it’s finally time for this to change. If Microsoft can do it, so can Apple. There’s no longer an excuse to accept anything less.

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.