The Surface Laptop 5 is, like its predecessors, Microsoft’s answer to what a MacBook looked like if it were a Windows machine. That means you get a very well-integrated laptop, but one that’s more to Microsoft’s way of thinking than Apple’s. I’ve long been a fan of the Surface Laptop over the Surface Pro, if only because the keyboard is standard, but in its fifth generation Microsoft didn’t do much more than replace an old one processor by a newer one.
It’s a well-established business model for most laptop makers, but it’s not one that leads to exciting designs, especially if past issues aren’t addressed.
That’s largely the story of the Surface Laptop 5. It’s physically good, but beyond the addition of newer Intel processors, there’s not much that really stands out.
In the box we find:
- Surface 5 Laptop
- AC adapter
- Quick Start Guide
- Security and warranty documents
Surface Laptop 5: Design
When I tested the Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft sent me the matte black 13.5-inch model for the tester. For the Surface Laptop 5, I received the Platinum model. Honestly, although I no longer have the Surface Laptop 4 to compare it to, if you put them side by side, you’d really struggle to see the differences.
Like its predecessors, Microsoft sells the Surface Laptop 5 in 13.5 or 15-inch configurations. New this year is Sage Green finish, if you like color alternatives, although again you’ll have to research what configurations actually exist in each color style. Officially, the Surface Laptop 5 is available in Platinum (Alcantara or Metal), Sage Green, Black or Sand finishes.
However, not all colors can ship with specific processor, storage, or RAM configurations. If you upgrade to the larger 15-inch model, you’re limited to Platinum or Black finishes, and only the Platinum model gives you configuration choices. If you opt for the Platinum Alcantara model, you also upgrade from a Gorilla Glass 5 screen to Gorilla Glass 3, which could have implications if you work in riskier environments a lot.
So the core Surface Laptop experience hasn’t changed massively with this generation. Is this a sign of an established design that works well, or Microsoft resting on its design laurels in a slightly lazy way?
A limited number of ports
While there is an element of perspective, I think there are areas where Microsoft needs to change for the Surface Laptop 5 to continue to be interesting. For example, while I love the thin, lightweight design that’s still very sturdy, I don’t like the limited choice of ports. On the left side you have a single USB-A 3.1 port, a single USB-C 4.0/Thunderbolt port and a 3.5mm headphone jack and that’s all you have. At least Microsoft kept the Type-A option, but the number of ports should be higher considering its price.
The right side houses Microsoft’s familiar Surface Connect port for charging, which was a nice addition when Microsoft put it on original Surface devices a decade ago. Given the existence of powered Thunderbolt on the Surface Laptop 5, the Surface Connect port seems like wasted space that could have been used for a few more connection ports to keep the extra device in the professional realm its price suggests. .
Surface Laptop 5: Display
The 13.5-inch screen remains scaled down from the previous generation, meaning you get a 3:2 aspect ratio screen, a little nicer to set up your spreadsheets. Unfortunately, this also means that you get a 720p webcam. At times, this camera delivers surprisingly clear image quality thanks to its auto-correction capabilities that help fix white balance issues, but outside of good lighting, the image looks a bit pixelated.
In recent years, good quality webcams have become essential for most employees, especially those working remotely, and it’s disappointing that Microsoft has settled for a more basic camera for the Surface Laptop 5. If you want a better camera, Microsoft says you’ll need to buy the Surface Pro 9 — and opt for an additional keyboard at the time of purchase.
Fortunately, the touchscreen itself is excellent, with the right mix of sensitivity and responsiveness, although the panel itself feels rather weak, as it’s not OLED. The touchscreen is impressively responsive, especially when using a stylus. Too bad this stylus is not included in the box, but must be added at checkout.
Surface Laptop 5: performance and operating system
Like the very analog Surface Pro 9 range, Surface Laptop 5 uses Intel’s 12th Gen Core i5 or Core i7 processors. That’s a change from last year’s models that offered Intel or AMD-based systems. It is also a rather light upgrade in terms of performance.
The model that Microsoft sent me had a 2.6 GHz 12th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, making it one of the best configurations you can get. can buy.
The link forward over previous models is there, but it’s not exactly a huge improvement, or one that could have large-scale impacts on how you go about working a device like this. It’s a sign of how well the Surface Laptop’s design and idea is integrated that essentially all you get is an increase in expected specs because Intel has made its processors just a little bit better.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, since this is still a nicely functional laptop. The inclusion of Thunderbolt 4 gives it some headroom for additional high-speed data work if that’s part of your needs.
Windows 11: Accessibility Options and Expanded Productivity Features
First, the Focus feature, which blocks notifications for a period of time so you can manage your productivity. Also new is the Snap feature, which lets you divide your screen into multiple areas and then place windows in those sections for easier multitasking.
File Explorer is another quality-of-life change where you can open multiple tabs of computer file folders in the same window. The Start menu itself also has a few quality-of-life changes, including the ability to organize apps into folders, as well as scrolling through recommended apps.
You can also enable a host of accessibility options in Windows 11. These options have the advantage of working automatically in over 20,000 apps, so you don’t have to make changes in every program.
The sound quality is also excellent — in fact, this is one of the best non-gaming laptops we’ve ever heard. The music is clear enough that you can hear all the instruments and vocals on a single track, yet loud enough that you can hold the song from the rooftops. It’s everything you’d expect from a laptop sound system.
Surface Laptop 5: battery
According to Microsoft, the Surface Laptop 13.5 tested offers up to 18 hours of battery life. If you opt for the larger 15-inch model, the advertised battery life is 17 hours. Battery life claims are always wildly variable, with most ultralight laptops tending to fall far short of their manufacturers’ claims, unless your mode of use is very light.
While surfing the web, the laptop lasted nearly 10 hours, while in a video test the autonomy dropped to 7 hours and 38 minutes. At least it recharges pretty quickly.
Nevertheless, the Surface Laptop 5 should last long enough for a full work day, unless you plan to stream a movie on your lunch break. It’s an acceptable result, although a little disappointing considering that no OLED or HDR display drains power.
As with all Surfaces, the primary charging method offered is the included Surface Charger and its magnetically attached power cable. However, as this is a fully Thunderbolt 4 compatible device, power over USB C is also supported, making the Surface Connect connector on the right side increasingly redundant.
Surface Laptop 5: Verdict
Microsoft has gotten into the habit of sticking with one design for a few more years than it should. That’s been the case with the Surface Pro for a long time, and it seems to be doing the same with the Surface Laptop 5.
Arguably, Microsoft skipped the Surface Laptop 5 this year — all it did was pop in the latest Intel chips and Thunderbolt 4 and stop there — but thankfully the starting point was good enough to get by. Some things are undeniably outdated, like the black-edge screen around the display and the basic 720p webcam, but with solid performance and a sleek design, the laptop still holds its own.
A good distribution of ports helps, and while I’m not a fan of the Surface Connect port, its looks appeal to existing Surface owners with snap-on accessories.
Next year, Microsoft will have to make real changesbut in this iteration, the Surface Laptop 5 may remain an attractive option for another year.
7.6 Good The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 has seen minor improvements, with a slightly faster processor and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity. But with an outdated design and disappointing performance, it may put some off.