I tested Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop Copilot+ PC and it outperformed my MacBook Air in 3 ways

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

It has been approximately 20 hours since I received the Microsoft Surface LaptopI untangled it from all its glory upon unpacking it and put it on my desk instead of my trusty MacBook Air M3. This morning, I pretty much checked out my regular apps and services like any other day, only this time, on a Windows PC instead of a Mac.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the Surface Laptop line has always had more of a “MacBook for Windows users” aesthetic with its aluminum unibody design. Maybe it’s the fact that this year’s Surface Laptop and MacBook Air come in 13- and 15-inch sizes. Maybe it’s the gap in AI skills… for now.

Also: Each Copilot+ PC Microsoft just announced will take on Apple’s M3 MacBooks

Whatever the case, this scenario is basically Microsoft’s dream and its latest Copilot+ PC Initiativewhich standardizes a new wave of computers that offer enhanced on-device AI capabilities (with an NPU that must run at least 40 TOPS), increased battery life and efficiency, and ultra-portable designs.

You’ll hear and see more about these brand-name laptops in the coming weeks, months, and maybe years. But for now, here are three ways the Surface Laptop has already made switching from a MacBook Air more beneficial than you expected.

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1. Smoother on-device AI features

NPU for Microsoft Surface Laptops

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I have yet to integrate AI tools into my daily workflow, in part because the best chatbots and the available task services require me to navigate to them (read: type a URL, sign up for an account, or both) and not the other way around. That little friction in the user journey, combined with past experiences of AI hallucinationsIt has kept me on the fence for the last two years.

That’s why I loved the current set of AI features available on the Surface Laptop, most of which integrate seamlessly into common apps like Microsoft Word, Paint, and Teams. Instead of forcing services on me through pop-ups and automated behaviors, AI services to clean up text documents, generate images, and apply video filters are always just a click away.

Also: Microsoft delays withdrawal due to security issues and asks Windows Insiders for help

Having a dedicated Copilot key certainly contributes to this burden-free experience. While relearning Windows shortcuts and multitasking tricks and also figuring out what apps, benchmarking services, and games are really supported on ARM platform (spoiler: there aren’t enough of them yet to mindlessly download anything), it’s been helpful to have an assistant that can be accessed via keyboard, voice, and the taskbar.

Perhaps the most important aspect of these new Copilot+ AI features is that they work on the device – based on local data, providing more private, secure and faster processing capabilities. For everyday users, this may not be as significant. But if you keep your personal data protected (and away from any remote cloud servers) is a priority, you’ll feel a little better using the AI ​​features on these new Copilot+ PCs.

2. Windows Hello feels faster than ever

Microsoft Surface Laptop Co-pilot

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One thing I always do when testing any laptop, phone, or tablet is to see how quickly the device activates and unlocks using facial recognition. If the device, such as a Macbook Air or Pro, does not support facial recognition, I will evaluate the speed based on the fingerprint sensor.

Also: I just ordered the cheapest Surface Pro option: why I (probably) won’t regret it

Comparing my MacBook Air M3 to the Surface Laptop isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but since setting up Windows Hello, which takes advantage of the laptop’s infrared (IR) camera and front-facing camera, I feel like I’m experiencing a new level. of comfort. It’s much faster than waiting for the laptop to boot and then entering my password or fingerprint.

The best part is that Windows Hello automatically activates when I lift the laptop lid and can scan my face even in low-light environments thanks to the infrared camera.

3. Touch screen support

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

I know. Like Windows Hello, touchscreen support has always been a key advantage that Microsoft Surface laptops (and other Windows PC) have had on MacBooks, but the feature makes a noticeable difference in the context of a Copilot+ PC.

Also: I demoed all the new AI features coming to Copilot+ PCs and I’m almost sold on the hype

For example, the new Cocreator tool in Paint requires you to type a prompt for image generation and Draw a base sketch for Copilot to work with. Normally, I had a hard time drawing circles and straight lines on a trackpad, but it wasn’t necessary on the Surface Laptop. Instead, I brought the laptop closer and started drawing with my finger.

While I’ve always found touchscreen functionality to be more beneficial on larger screens, using smaller ones 13.8-inch Surface Laptop It feels more like a 2-in-1 tablet. When my writing space is limited, like on a bus, a plane, or a crowded cafe, being able to simply reach out with my hand and tap, swipe, and drag items on the screen is very useful. and intuitive.

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