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MacBook Air

One is a laptop that’s barely larger than a tablet. The other is a tablet with laptop characteristics. Both are powerful devices. Both cost roughly the same. Which is the better buy for a busy independent knowledge worker or a corporate suit with a BYOD cheque to spend?

For many users this isn’t a choice they’ll ever have to make. Some have a religious conviction that Apple is the only path to salvation. Others are addicted to Microsoft Office. People who work for large companies may have the decisions made for them by the technology department.

Put these aside, which is the smarter buy?

Both devices are nice. Microsoft has shown extraordinary attention to details – that’s a given with Apple.

Microsoft Surface Pro
Microsoft Surface Pro

Style

The two companies are selling their kit on capabilities and style instead of the usual tech industry focus on specifications and price. That said, a quick look at specifications and price is revealing.

Surface Pro prices start at NZ$1350 for the 64GB version. A decent keyboard adds NZ$200 to the price. Roughly the same money buys a 13-inch MacBook Air with 128GB of Flash Storage. Both have an intel Core i5 processor.

Macbook storage goes further than Surface storage, so Apple is at a clear advantage at this point.

Another specification point in Apple’s favour is battery life. The company says its 13 inch Macbook Air runs for 12 hours on a charge – some reviewers report better figures. On the other hand Microsoft claims five hours for the Surface Pro. In other words, for a full day’s work you’ll need to pack a charger.

Display

Microsoft’s display wins hands down – 1920 by 1080 pixels on a ten inch screen means 208 pixels per inch. That’s almost the same image quality as an Apple Retina display. The 13 inch Macbook AIr has 1440 by 900 pixels on a bigger screen for a lower density. I make it around 155 pixels per inch, but I may be using the wrong formula to calculate this.

The point where the two devices depart is the touch screen. If you think this is important, then the Surface Pro is the winner. There’s much to be said for touch. On the other hand, for someone like me who mainly uses a computer to write and otherwise create content, the MacBook Air looks a better bet.