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Microsoft Surface Laptop hands-on: Taking on Apple

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Microsoft (MSFT) finally has a Surface-branded laptop, and it’s gorgeous. Unveiled at a press event in New York on Tuesday, the aptly named Microsoft Surface Laptop is the first true notebook from the Windows maker.

Sure, Microsoft already offers the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, but those are convertible devices that can be used as either laptops or tablets. The Surface Laptop, on the other hand, is a straight-up laptop. And I already want one.

Taking on Apple’s MacBooks

Available June 15 and starting at $999, the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop takes dead aim at Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro notebooks.

That’s not just my take, either. Panos Panay, the corporate VP of Microsoft’s Surface group, specifically name-checked both Apple devices, saying the Surface Laptop is thinner, lighter and more powerful than both.

“We built a laptop, and it’s beautiful,” Panay said. “But it’s beautiful because it’s personal. It’s personal because it’s meant to be a reflection of who you are. It brings that security and superior performance. And probably most important is … it’s going to last you.”

A profile image of the Microsoft Surface Laptop showing its thinness.
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is thinner and lighter than Apple’s MacBook Air.

I spent some time with the Surface Laptop following Microsoft’s event and it’s certainly a stunner. Weighing just 2.76 pounds, the laptop is lighter than Apple’s (AAPL) 2.96-pound MacBook Air. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s certainly noticeable.

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At 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches, the Surface Laptop has a smaller footprint than the Air, which measures 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.68 inches. The Pro, on the other hand, measures 12.0 x 8.4 x 0.59 inches.

A gorgeous display and soft-touch keyboard

Lift open the Surface Laptop’s lid and you’re met with a beautiful 13.5-inch PixelSense touch screen display. Microsoft’s PixelSense panels are among the most attractive around, so it’s good to see the company has brought them to the Surface Laptop.

The notebook’s oddest feature is easily its fabric-covered keyboard deck. The material is the same Microsoft uses on the back of its Surface Pro 4 Type Cover. The fabric is soft to the touch and gives the laptop a kind of warmth.

Microsoft's Surface Laptop soft-touch, fabric-coated keyboard deck.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop’s keyboard deck is covered in a soft-touch fabric.

Naturally, though, my first thought when seeing the fabric was: “What happens when you spill your drink on this thing?” Microsoft, however, says that it specially coated the fabric to make it resistant to absorbing or being stained by the liquids.

Less is more and more is less

Inside, the base $999 version of the Surface Laptop gets a seventh-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive. Apple’s MacBook Air, which also starts at $999, comes with a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.

Interestingly, if you get a Surface Laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, you’ll end up paying about $100 more than a comparably equipped MacBook Air.

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