Tech

Qualcomm AI-Powered Microsoft’s New Surface Laptop: MacBook Air Fair Competitor

Key Points

  • The new Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first clamshell laptop with Qualcomm chips, representing a significant attempt to transition to Windows on Arm.
  • Previous Arm-based Windows machines had issues with app compatibility and performance. The new Surface Laptop addresses these issues, providing a better user experience.
  • The new Surface Laptop is one of the first Copilot Plus PCs, featuring AI-focused chips for enhanced performance and battery life.
  • A flagship AI feature, Recall, is designed to take screenshots of user activities. Its launch is delayed due to security concerns.
  • Microsoft offers a high-end model with a 12-core Snapdragon X Elite processor and a base model with a 10-core Snapdragon X Plus processor. The base model, priced at $999.99, offers impressive battery life.
  • The 7th Edition includes a larger 13.8-inch LCD display with smaller bezels, an upgraded 1080p front-facing camera, a precision haptic trackpad, and an additional USB-C port.
  • The new Surface Laptop models are all metal with four colour options, excluding Alcantara fabric.
  • The Surface Laptop competes well against the MacBook Air in multicore performance benchmarks, though it lags in single-core performance.
  •  Native ARM64 app support has improved, enhancing performance for apps like Chrome, Slack, and Spotify. Some heavy apps like Adobe Premiere Pro still face challenges.
  • The new Surface Laptop offers impressive battery life, particularly with ARM64 native apps. It can last an entire workday without needing a charger.
  • Features like Cocreator in Paint and translation in Live Captions leverage the new NPU chip, setting the stage for future AI-powered applications and enhancements in Windows.

 

The new Surface Laptop isn’t just a refresh; it’s a significant leap forward for Microsoft, says The Verge. It’s the company’s first clamshell laptop powered by Qualcomm chips, marking their most serious effort yet to transition to Windows on Arm.

Microsoft’s previous attempts with Arm-based Windows machines were marred by poor app compatibility and sluggish performance. However, this time, Microsoft seems to have found the right balance between processing power and battery life, something only Apple has achieved so far with its laptops.

A Game-Changer in Windows Laptops

Microsoft has seemingly nailed it with this new Surface Laptop. Everything about it feels superior, not just closing the gap with the MacBook Air but setting a new standard for what a Windows laptop starting at $999.99 should be.

It also stands out as one of the first Copilot Plus PCs, featuring AI-focused chips that introduce a new era of artificial intelligence in Windows.

Also read: Microsoft faces EU antitrust charges for tying Teams to Office Suite

The flagship AI feature, Recall, is designed to let you recall memories and moments by taking screenshots of nearly everything you do on your PC. Although this controversial feature isn’t launching just yet due to security concerns raised by researchers, it leaves some big questions about the future of Microsoft’s AI efforts in Windows.

Hardware Improvements

Design and Display: The Surface Laptop 7th Edition boasts several subtle yet significant design changes. The 13.8-inch LCD display now has smaller bezels, rounded corners, supports HDR with Dolby Vision, and offers up to a 120Hz refresh rate. The 15-inch model also features smaller bezels and rounded corners. However, the display could benefit from an anti-reflective coating to reduce glare in bright environments.

Also read: 5 Laptops for students

Camera and Trackpad: An upgraded 1080p front-facing camera is integrated into the top of the display, providing surprisingly good image quality and supporting Windows Hello for facial recognition login. The new precision haptic trackpad offers consistent click feedback and is fully customisable, providing a superior user experience compared to previous models.

Keyboard and Ports: The keyboard remains largely the same, except for the new Copilot key, which launches a less functional Progressive Web App version of Copilot. The Surface Laptop now includes a second USB-C port, both compatible with USB 4, a USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microSDXC card reader on the 15-inch model.

Performance and Battery Life

Qualcomm Chips: The base $999.99 model features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Plus chip, while the higher-end models use the more powerful 12-core Snapdragon X Elite. These chips significantly enhance performance, making the Surface Laptop feel as responsive as Intel- or AMD-powered laptops. However, the performance can vary depending on whether apps are native ARM64 or run on the Prism emulator.

Battery Life: The battery life is impressive, with the 13-inch model offering phenomenal longevity. On a typical workday, the laptop can last up to seven hours with heavy usage and still have 70 per cent battery remaining for lighter tasks the next day. Charging is also efficient, reaching 80 per cent in an hour with the 65W charger.

Also read: Apple recalls 15 in MacBook Pro laptops over battery fire risk

AI Features and Windows on Arm

Copilot Plus PCs: The new Surface Laptop is a Copilot Plus PC, featuring a neural processing unit (NPU) for AI-powered Windows 11 features. Despite the delay of the Recall feature, other AI capabilities like Cocreator in Paint and translation in Live Captions showcase the potential of AI in enhancing user experience.

App Compatibility: Microsoft and Qualcomm have made strides in encouraging developers to support native ARM64 apps, with notable improvements in app performance and compatibility. However, some heavyweight apps like Adobe Premiere Pro still lack ARM64 versions, affecting the overall experience for certain users.

The new Surface Laptop represents a major step forward for Microsoft in the realm of Windows on Arm. With significant improvements in performance, battery life, and AI integration, it sets a new standard for Windows laptops. While there are still challenges to address, particularly with app compatibility and the delayed Recall feature, the Surface Laptop is a compelling option for those seeking a high-performance, AI-enhanced Windows experience.

Samuel Bolaji

Samuel Bolaji holds a Master of Letters in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He is an experienced researcher, multimedia journalist, writer, and Editor. He is currently the Editor of Arbiterz.

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