All of Microsoft’s MacBook Air-beating benchmarks

All of Microsoft’s MacBook Air-beating benchmarks

Microsoft is on a mission to take down the MacBook Air with its new range of Copilot Plus PCs. It’s so confident it has finally got Windows on Arm right that it spent an entire day pitting its new Surface Laptop against the MacBook Air at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington, last month. The Verge was shown multiple benchmarks and simulated real-world tests to demonstrate a new Qualcomm-powered Surface Laptop beating Apple’s bestselling laptop.

While I’ve covered Microsoft’s confidence in beating Apple’s M3 processor previously, I thought it would be useful to examine all of the benchmark claims and battery life estimates in detail. Microsoft touched on some of these during its Surface and Windows AI event last week, but the claims onstage weren’t always as detailed as what Microsoft employees showed me last month.

I wasn’t able to run the benchmarks myself, but the results should serve as an important data point as we get closer to the launch of these Copilot Plus PCs on June 18th. It’s also important to note that, unlike Apple’s MacBook Air, Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop isn’t fan-less, allowing it to squeeze more performance out. Microsoft only compared its Surface Laptop to the MacBook Air M3 — not a MacBook Pro that comes equipped with fans.

Either way, benchmarks aren’t everything, and we’ll get a better idea of true real-world performance and battery life when we review the Surface Laptop next month.

Microsoft compared its Surface Laptop directly to a MacBook Air M3 multiple times last week.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Raw performance

Microsoft started the day of benchmarks by first measuring raw performance between the Surface Laptop and MacBook Air M3. It showed two benchmark claims, featuring sustained performance using the Cinebench 2024 multithreaded workload and peak performance using Geekbench 6’s multithreaded test.

The Surface Laptop achieved a score of 980 in Cinebench 2024 multithreaded and a score of 14,000 in Geekbench 6 multithreaded. Microsoft avoided highlighting the single-threaded scores of both benchmarks, presumably because the MacBook Air would score slightly better here.

Either way, Microsoft claims its new Surface Laptop will beat a MacBook Air M3 in Cinebench multithreaded workloads by 50 percent. In Geekbench 6, the Surface Laptop is only 16 percent better. Onstage last week, Microsoft also claimed its range of Copilot Plus PCs will be “58 percent faster than a MacBook Air M3.”

Real performance

Next up, Microsoft covered what it describes as “real performance.” The main test here was a HandBrake ToS benchmark, which measures how long it takes to encode a 4K video file. The Surface Laptop with a Snapdragon X Elite managed this in five minutes, eight seconds, faster than the six minutes, 26 seconds that the MacBook Air M3 took.

More importantly, this was twice as fast as the Surface Laptop 5 running a 12th Gen Intel Alder Lake CPU, which took 10 minutes, 30 seconds to complete the task. A Surface Laptop 4 took even longer at 13 minutes, 32 seconds.

Microsoft claims Copilot Plus PCs will beat the MacBook Air on battery life.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Battery life and efficiency

Microsoft’s comparisons to the MacBook Air M3 also extend to battery life. During the tests, I saw Microsoft simulate battery life across web browsing and video playback. Microsoft uses a script to simulate web browsing. On 2022’s Intel-based Surface Laptop 5, it took eight hours, 38 minutes to completely deplete a battery; the new Surface Laptop lasted two times that, hitting 16 hours, 56 minutes. That beats the same test on a 15-inch MacBook Air M3, which lasted 15 hours, 25 minutes.

Microsoft ran a similar test for video playback, which saw the Surface Laptop last over 20 hours, with the MacBook Air M3 reaching 17 hours, 45 minutes. That’s also nearly eight hours more than the Surface Laptop 5, which lasted 12 hours, 30 minutes.

Microsoft claimed onstage last week that new Copilot Plus PCs with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite processor will offer “20 percent more battery life than the latest MacBook Air 15-inch.”

NPU performance and efficiency

The final benchmarks that Microsoft showed me were related to NPU performance. Microsoft claims that the NPU inside the Snapdragon X Elite is nearly two times faster at AI acceleration tasks than Apple’s M3 Neural Engine on the cross-platform Procyon AI Computer Vision benchmark.

The Surface Laptop scored 1,745 on the Procyon AI Score, while the MacBook Air managed 889. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite has 45 TOPS of AI acceleration performance, much more than the 18 TOPS found on the M3.

Microsoft also showed off the Surface Laptop hitting a 4.5x inferencing efficiency for its Phi Silica model prompt processing over the M3, alongside 24 TOPS / watt of peak inferencing efficiency.

Notepad by Tom Warren /

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