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Microsoft launches Surface Laptop Go with $899 competitor to MacBook Air

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft on Thursday introduced the Surface Laptop Go, a lighter-weight and less powerful iteration of the company's notebook lineup at a price that undercuts Apple's cheapest MacBook Air.

The Surface Laptop Go is much more affordable than other Surface devices, and the lower-end models seem aimed at poaching Chromebook buyers. But the more expensive tiers could be a competitor to Apple's MacBook Air.

Instead of any significant new features, most of the changes on the here are on form factor and price. It packs a 12.4-inch display, weighs less than a MacBook Air at 2.45 pounds, and starts at $549.

Here's how it stacks up against Apple's MacBook Air.

High-end Surface Laptop Go versus MacBook Air

Although it starts at $549, those are underpowered compared to the MacBook Air. The $899 top tier model of the Surface Laptop Go could give the MacBook Air some competition. It sports 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, and a quad-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor. The MacBook Air costs $100 more, but packs a dual-core 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor.

Despite the 12.4-inch display, the Surface Laptop Go features a 1536 x 1024 resolution, with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Apple's MacBook Air sports a 13.3-inch display at a 2560 x 1600 resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio, that utilizes Apple's True Tone technology.

The Surface Laptop Go features a single USB 3.2 type-C port and a single USB 3.1 type-A port, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Surface Connect charging port. The camera is a 720p webcam that won't support Windows Hello facial recognition. For biometrics, users get a fingerprint reader in the power button — but only on the $699 and $899 models. The MacBook Air features two Thunderbolt 3 ports and an integrated Touch ID sensor.

The Surface Laptop Go also features Wi-Fi 6, which the MacBook Air lacks, and a fast charging mechanism that can top a battery off to 80% in an hour. On the other hand, all of Apple's laptops are made of aluminum. The Surface Laptop Go, as a cost-saving mechanism, features a plastic housing.

Base models

The $899 Surface Laptop Go is the top-end model and the most serious competition to Apple's MacBook Air. But Microsoft also has two other tiers for the laptop, and both leave quite a bit to be desired.

For example, the base model isn't much of a laptop replacement, packing just 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. Compared to competing PC makers, consumers can get more bang for their buck for $549. Of course, buyers are paying for the Surface design, as well as features like a full keyboard and Microsoft's Windows Precision trackpad.

There's also a mid-tier $699 model that comes with a more-capable 8GB of RAM, but is still stuck with a 128GB SSD drive. Apple's cheapest MacBook Air model at least has 256GB as the standard storage configuration.

Available in Blue, Sandstone, and Platinum, the Surface Laptop Go is available for preorder starting Thursday. It'll start shipping on Oct. 13.