MacBook Air or Surface Laptop Go, Which Should Your Church Choose?

Alright! It’s time for that all-time favorite debate…Windows vs. macOS! Specifically, I want to look at the hardware put out by each company and how well it fits into a church office. Look, I’m not going to pull punches on this one, people have an almost religious affinity to their preferred operating system, but it’s always best to try and settle in on one system across your church if at all possible. This is what we call in church IT management “scalability.” So which to choose, the MacBook Air or the Surface Laptop Go?

Just a quick note here before we dive in, these two aren’t the only make or even model to choose from at your church. While I work with churches happy with Surface devices and others with MacBooks, there are also churches getting great experiences using Dell or HP business grade laptops. Whatever you do choose though, be sure to get business grade laptops… you’ll thank me later! 😉

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2:

The Surface Laptop Go is a great laptop for Microsoft 365 users.

Microsoft themselves have been producing a range of tablets, laptops, desktops, and digital whiteboards for a while now. While some early models had teething issues, these days they are largely pretty solid. The base models of the Surface Go aren’t power houses per se, but they are a pretty good value overall. The nicest part of using Microsoft Surface devices is that you don’t have to worry about updating firmware and drivers via an update tool like you really should with an HP or Dell systems.

Here’s the specs for the Surface Laptop Go 2:

  1. Design & Display: It boasts a sleek design with a 12.4” PixelSense™ Display, making it visually appealing and easy to work with.
  2. Performance: Powered by the 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 Quad-Core processor, it ensures smooth performance for all your tasks.
  3. Storage & Memory: Options range from 4GB to 8GB RAM and 64GB eMMC to 256GB SSD, you’ll want to get an 8GB model as that’s really a minimum these days.
  4. Battery Life: With up to 13 hours of typical device usage, it’s reliable for a full day’s work.
  5. Intune/Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM): This is where the Surface Laptop Go 2 shines for church offices. Not only can you manage all the usual Intune/MEM settings but you can also reliably manage driver and bios updates. You can potentially do that with other make and models, but it’s a whole lot less frustrating with Surface devices.
  6. Nonprofit Discount: 8% on new and up to 40% on refurbished.

If your church is using the Microsoft 365 donations… and I’m going to reiterate you are probably crazy if you aren’t making full use of them! Then the Surface Laptop Go 2 is a great option. It integrates so well into the Microsoft 365 ecosystem that it can make a lot of sense for even small churches to adopt the Microsoft Surface devices. My only issue with it is that it’s not necessarily a multi-tasking powerhouse, so if you are the type to have dozens of applications running with massive numbers of tabs open all while trying to make a Teams or Zoom call… well… you might be disappointed.

Apple MacBook Air:

The MacBook Air is well made and the obvious entry level choice for churches invested in Apple products.

Apple has been putting out devices for a long time. At one point they had a decent foothold into the small business and corporate market, but they largely had given up on that when they cut their server hardware a couple decades ago. Fortunately, there are MDM management options for Apple devices… Microsoft Intune included. It’s not necessarily going to be a very straightforward integration as you need to link Apple Business Manager, but it is viable.

  1. Design & Display: The MacBook Air comes in 13-inch and 15-inch models with the M2 chip. It has a Liquid Retina display with a 2560×1664 native resolution, ensuring crisp visuals.
  2. Performance: The Apple M2 chip with an 8-core CPU and GPU ensures top-notch performance, making multitasking smooth.
  3. Storage & Memory: It starts with 8GB unified memory and storage options of 256GB SSD, which can be configured up to 2TB.
  4. Battery Life: The MacBook Air promises up to 18 hours of Apple TV app movie playback and up to 15 hours of wireless web usage.
  5. Intune/Microsoft Endpoint Manager: While you can connect a couple of Apple devices manually to Intune and treat them as BYOD devices, if you have any number of these then you want to setup Apple Business Manager to handle identity so that users can sign in with their M365 accounts.
  6. Nonprofit Discount: No official discount program for nonprofits.

The MacBook Air is a solid device. It carries a premium price tag for being an Apple product, but it’s priced at only a few hundred dollars more than the Surface Laptop Go 2. If you are at a church where macOS will be compatible with everything and you also plan to deploy a lot of iPads and/or iPhones, then it can make a lot of sense to invest in integrating Apple Business Manager with Entra (formerly Azure Active Directory).

The Verdict:

From a hardware standpoint, they are both solid entry level business grade laptops. For churches with less than 20 staff I would definitely lean toward the Surface products because they are much easier to scale, cheaper to purchase, and you can readily get good IT managers with lots of experience in the platform; however, as churches grow, that’s when macOS devices start to become increasingly viable. Again, try not to have one-off devices because just having one device that can’t be managed like all the others means you need more policies, more rules, more attention to emerging security threats, and more diverse experience and expertise.

Isaac Johnson

Isaac has been in professional ministry since 2002, holds an M.Div. from Moody, and his goal is to equip churches to reach digital natives.

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