Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (13.5-inch) review
Microsoft made a few updates to the Surface Laptop, and I’m very sad about one of them
By Monica Chin, a senior reviewer covering laptops and other gadgets. Monica was a writer for Tom’s Guide and Business Insider before joining The Verge in 2020.
Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales
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Yes, the bezels are still big.
Yes, the bezels are still big.
I’m a big fan of Microsoft’s laptop hardware and have been devotedly buying its Surface devices as my personal computers for a number of years now. Very few companies make hardware as uniquely beautiful as the Redmond tech giant does. So I was a bit happier than some of my fellow tech critics were to hear that Microsoft didn’t mess too much with the design of the Surface Laptop.
The Laptop 5, releasing today, looks almost identical to last year’s Laptop 4. The main difference is the processor on the inside and the processor options. Previous versions of the Surface Laptop have offered a choice between Intel and AMD SKUs; Intel offered more raw power, while AMD was more efficient, so consumers could shop to their preference. Not so this year. The Laptop 5 is Intel-only.
Microsoft has not provided a reason for this. When asked, an executive told Verge editor Tom Warren, “We focused on shipping Intel 12th Gen.” So here I am, reviewing a 13.5-inch Intel-powered laptop that puts a somewhat unremarkable chip in a still-remarkable chassis.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 13.5-inch
- Strong single-core performance
- Super thin and light chassis
- 3:2 display
- Thunderbolt support
- Camera still 720p
- Would like some more ports
- Battery life a step back from last year’s AMD model
$1000 at Microsoft$1700 at Best Buy$1300 at B&H
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This thing is so thin, man.
Here’s what you need to know about the Surface Laptop 5.
- There are two screen sizes. As in past years, Microsoft is selling a 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 model and a 15-inch 2496 x 1664 model. Screen size is the main difference; processors and other internal components are mostly the same. Both panels support Dolby Vision IQ (which is supposed to help optimize HDR content). The 13-inch display is quite sharp and more than bright enough for home use. I did catch some glare when there was direct light on the glossy display, but it wasn’t stark enough to be a problem.
- It’s a pretty machine. The familiar Windows logo adorns the lid, and the finish is professional. It’s quite light at 2.86 pounds, and holding it feels very much like holding a MacBook Air.
- The bezels are big. I wouldn’t say that this interferes hugely with the user experience, but I will concede that, as with last year’s model, they are… blocky. Shrinking the bezels seemed like a no-brainer tweak to refresh the design in a modern way and bring the laptop closer to premium competitors.
- There’s a green one. The sage model, limited to the 13.5-inch size, is new this year, and it’s supposed to be green. I was sent the sage option to review, and I will say that calling it green is a… stretch. It looks gray to me. But, you know, epistemic humility and all that.
- Finally, Thunderbolt. One of the Laptop 4’s pain points was the lack of Thunderbolt, even on Intel models. The Laptop 5 finally brings that standard to the sole USB-C port it has, along with a USB-A and a headphone jack on the left side. That, for the record, is not very many ports. I wish there were more — at least an SD slot.
- The keyboard is still a bit flat. Surface keys have a very identifiable snap. That’s one of my favorite things about the Surface Book keyboard, which remains one of my favorite keyboards on the market to this day. But I could feel my fingers thunking on the Laptop 5 in a way they don’t on the Surface Book, and I wish there were more travel here.
The trusted Windows logo remains.
I could feel my fingers thunking on the Laptop 5
One other note I have about the chassis is that there’s something going on with the little pads on the bottom of the deck. Specifically, they have no grip at all, and this model was sliding around my desk to no end. This won’t be a problem for everyone. I just feel the need to mention it here because it drove me, personally, up the wall. Thank you for listening. We’ll get through this together.
See, I just don’t know about calling this “green.”
Here’s another angle. Look green to you?
The Surface Laptop model I have retails for $1,699. It’s the most expensive model, including a Core i7-1255U (on paper, efficient and tailored to thin-and-lights) as well as 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. I used it largely for Google Docs work and research as well as some Spotify, TV watching, and messing around in Photoshop. For that sort of workload, the 1255U is going to be totally fine. It got through everything without any noticeable heat in the keyboard and chassis.
Surface Laptop 5 (13.5-inch) benchmarks
|Cinebench R23 Multi||7691|
|Cinebench R23 Single||1674|
|Cinebench R23 Multi looped for 30 minutes||7061|
|Geekbench 5 CPU Multi||8975|
|Geekbench 5 CPU Single||1643|
|Geekbench 5 OpenCL / Compute||17801|
|PugetBench for Premiere Pro||331|
|Premiere Pro 4K export test||9:45|
Temperatures hovered in the mid-80s (degrees Celsius) at their highest with a handful of jumps as high as 100
To simulate heavier workloads, I ran both CPU and GPU benchmarks. Across the board, compared to the AMD-powered Surface Laptop 4 I reviewed last year, this Intel model is better on single-core tasks, better on graphic tests, and worse on some multi-core tasks. This is unsurprising — single-core is Intel’s strength. But it is somewhat remarkable that an AMD model from last year (powered by an AMD chip that was already, at that time, a generation old) continues to outmuscle Intel’s current line in any tests at all. Cooling was also fine during this process, with temperatures hovering in the mid-80s (degrees Celsius) at their highest with a handful of jumps as high as 100.
The ports are all squeezed onto the left side, with the Surface connector on the right.
Battery life averaged seven hours and 51 minutes of continuous use with brightness at medium. Compared to what I’ve been seeing from other Intel thin-and-lights this year, I will take that result. I saw three hours longer from the AMD Surface Laptop 4, however, even though the two units have a battery that’s nearly the same size.
Agree to Continue: Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (13.5-inch)
The mandatory policies for which agreement is required to use the laptop are:
- Microsoft Software License terms (Windows Operating System) and Manufacturer’s Limited Hardware Warranty and Agreement
In addition, there are a bunch of optional things to agree to, including:
- Privacy settings including location, Find My Device, diagnostic data, inking and typing, tailored experiences, advertising ID
- Sign up for a Microsoft 365 free trial
- Sign up for an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate free trial
That’s two mandatory agreements and eight optional ones.
Ultimately, the Laptop 5 continues to be a well-built and well-performing laptop that, while expensive, is not so high in the retail clouds that any substantial flaw is a nonstarter. (Cough, ThinkPads.) It is a good computer that I enjoy using. It has more than enough power for general use, while those who need heavier graphic chops may prefer the much heavier Surface Laptop Studio, which is available with discrete GPUs.
But the battery life is not as good as last year’s AMD models were providing. It is legitimate to trade off some efficiency in exchange for additional power. It’s a tradeoff I’m sure some shoppers are happy to make. But it wasn’t one Microsoft needed to ask of them. Microsoft could’ve had it both ways.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 accessibility (as reviewed)
- The letter keys are 0.6 x 0.6 inches with 0.1 inches between them. All keys are backlit. Fn and Caps Lock have indicator lights. The power button is 0.6 x 0.1 inches. The volume keys are 0. 6 x 0.4 inches. The keys are grayish-green with white text and take a small amount of force to depress.
- The speakers reached an average of 80 decibels in my testing, which is on par with a standard external speaker.
- The lid can be opened with one hand.
- There is a touchscreen with a 1300:1 contrast ratio.
- The touchpad is 4.5 x 3 inches.
- Setup involves turning the device on and clicking through several menus.
- The Laptop 5 supports facial logins but not fingerprint logins.
- Windows 11 includes a dedicated accessibility menu.
- Windows 11 includes a built-in screen reader (Narrator). It supports third-party screen readers, including NVDA from NV Access and Jaws from Freedom Scientific. A full list of compatible software can be found on Microsoft’s website.
- Windows 11 supports voice typing (accessed by Windows + H) and speech recognition (toggled with Windows + Ctrl + S).
- Color Filters, including inverted, grayscale, red-green, and blue-yellow can be toggled with Windows + Ctrl + C. Contrast themes are toggled with Alt + Left Shift + Print Screen. Standard Dark Mode and custom colors are also available under Personalization.
- Caption color and size can be customized and appear close to the bottom of the screen.
- The keyboard can be remapped with Microsoft’s PowerToys. Sticky Keys is supported. An on-screen keyboard is available.
- The cursor’s size and speed can be adjusted, and gestures can be remapped in Touchpad Settings.
- Windows 11 supports eye control with external eye trackers.
- Windows 11 includes a Snap Layout feature, accessed by hovering over the Maximize button on any open window.
So where are we all supposed to go now?
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Best laptop deals in the UK for March 2021
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The best laptop deals in the UK give you everything you need (and more) with a deep discount to boot. From the cheap and cheerful casual workhorse to power-hungry portable gaming rigs and everything in between!
So, if you’re in the market to buy a new laptop for working while you’re out and about, then read on because we’ve worked hard to make sure you don’t pay a single penny more than you should.
Before we pick some specific models, let’s train you up on what makes a good laptop deal and where you can find them. A great place to start is reading our laptop buying guide, which will take out a lot of the guesswork that may have gone into your purchasing decision. As for where you can find them, you’ve got your usual suspects in the form of Currys PC World, Amazon, Box.co.uk, Overclockers, KRCS, AO.com, Laptops Direct, and more.
However, you will also be surprised at the bobby dazzlers you’ll find when shopping directly from the manufacturers. Whether it’s something from Dell, Lenovo, HP, Apple, Razer, Acer, Asus, or any of the other big players on the field, there is always a discount going on if you have the time to look.
Here are the best laptop deals in Britain right now, at every price range.
Laptop Deals – Quick Links
- Amazon Spring Sale: up to 32% off laptops
- Dell: over £300 off XPS and Inspiron laptops
- eBuyer: up to £200 off laptops from Lenovo, Medion and more
- John Lewis: up to 50% off laptops, Chromebooks, MacBooks and more
- Overclockers: up to 21% off gaming laptops from Asus, Gigabyte and more
Best laptop deals in the UK
Laptop Deals — Windows PC
Asus Zenbook 14 OLED:
£1,099 £699 @ Amazon
Yep you read that right — a massive £400 discount on the incredible Zenbook 14 OLED. The display, as you can probably guess by the “OLED” part, is jaw dropping (alongside that 90Hz refresh rate and capacitive touch). And everything moves swiftly along with an Intel Core i5-1240P processor, 16GB LPDDR5 RAM and a 512GB SSD.
Acer Aspire 5:
£799 £699 @ Amazon
Another hit of a deal that chances are a lot of people are sleeping on. The Acer Aspire 5 may look like a relatively unassuming 15.6-inch laptop on first impressions. But look closer at those specs — QHD display, 12th Gen Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. For £699, that kind of list is a steal.
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14:
£1,799 £1,549 @ Amazon
The ultraportable gaming powerhouse that is the Zephyrus G14 is a fantastic option for those who wish to easily play on-the-go, and this deep price cut just eliminated what my main gripe was with it when I reviewed it last year. That 16:10 QHD display is gorgeously smooth — kept so silky by an AMD Ryzen 9-6900HS CPU, Radeon RX 6800S GPU, and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Plus you can stuff it full of games on that 1TB SSD.
Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro:
£999 £849 @ Amazon
A solid option for content creators and prosumers looking for a little extra GPU horsepower. This IdeaPad 5 Pro packs an RTX 3050 alongside a 4.5GHz AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and a 512GB SSD. Pair that with the legendary ergonomics Lenovo is known for and a gorgeous 16-inch display, and this is a great choice.
Microsoft Surface Pro 9:
£1,099 £919 @ Amazon
Right now, get £180 off the latest Surface Pro 9 — sporting a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and a 256GB SSD. This configuration makes the ultraportable 2-in-1 absolutely fly, and capable of handling some demanding tasks too, for those who’d want to quickly touch up an image in Photoshop (especially on that gorgeous 2880×1920-pixel touchscreen display).
Dell XPS 13:
£949 £933 @ Amazon
Take a look at our 5-star Dell XPS 13 review and you’ll see just how much we love this portable powerhouse for its top-shelf specs and stylish design. This one is no different, cramming an 12th gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB LPDDR4 RAM and a 256GB SSD into this masterfully crafted hardware with a bright and lovely FHD+ display.
Asus ROG Strix G15 (RTX 3070 Ti):
£1,649 £1,599 @ Amazon
Save £50 on the 2022 Asus ROG Strix Scar 15. This machine packs a 15.6-inch QHD 165Hz display, 3.3-GHz AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX 8-core CPU, 16GB of RAM and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU. Rounding out its hardware specs is a fast 512GB SSD for storage.
Asus VivoBook 15:
£449 £349 @ Very
Now £100 off, the Asus VivoBook 15 is one of the best cheap laptops for the money. The notebook in this deal packs a 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) display, an Intel Pentium Gold CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD.
Huawei MateBook X Pro (2022):
£1,799 £1,499 @ Huawei
My favourite ultrabook is now £300 off right now in a huge Black Friday deal! The Huawei MateBook X Pro packs a stunning 14.2-inch display, 12th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB DDR5 RAM and a 1TB SSD — all in a sleek, durable and lightweight chassis.
Laptop Deals — Apple MacBooks
M2 Pro MacBook Pro 14-inch (base model):
£2,149 £1,983 @ Amazon
We absolutely adore the new 14-inch MacBook Pro, and the base model is an incredible option for most creative pros. The 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU of the M2 Pro is able to outperform even the M1 Max in terms of intensive tasks, the 16GB of RAM is able to capably handle multitasking, and with 512GB of SSD storage, that’s enough room for most projects. Oh, and did we mention that beautiful design and expanded selection of I/O?
M2 MacBook Air:
£1,249 £1,119 @ Amazon
Save £130 on the M2 Apple MacBook Air in Midnight colorway. It features an M2 8-core processor, 8-Core GPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. It packs a 13.6-inch (2560 x 1664) Liquid Retina display, Magic Keyboard, Touch Bar, and Touch ID.
MacBook Air (M1/8GB/256GB):
£999 £877 @ Amazon
As you can read in our MacBook Air with M1 review, the switch to an ARM-based processor presents a groundbreaking transformation with blistering performance and super-long battery life. All of this is crammed into a seriously sleek chassis and runs so cool, it doesn’t need a fan.
MacBook Pro (M2/8GB/256GB):
£1,349 £1,225 @ Amazon
The brand new M2 MacBook Pro is already getting a discount — even though it’s literally just come out! Get all the powerful benefits of Apple’s chip with an active cooling system for sustained performance.
Laptop Deals — Chromebooks
Asus Chromebook 14 CX1400CMA:
£249 £169 @ Amazon
No frills. No gimmicks. Just a dirt cheap 14-inch Chromebook with enough under the hood for getting the essentials done. If you’re a student looking for an essay machine with binge watching credentials, or a casual user who is looking for something to nail the essentials, the FHD display, 4GB RAM, 64GB of storage, and the Intel Celeron processor is capable of making this Chromebook zip along nicely.
Best laptop deals right now
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Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you’ll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn’t already.
15 Best Laptops of 2023 But you can’t buy them all. Therefore, to help you make your buying decision, the authors have selected 15 of the most outstanding devices. Whether you’re looking for a Chromebook, a gaming laptop, a 2-in-1 convertible laptop, an ultra-light laptop, or something else, you’ll find several options in this article. These aren’t necessarily the best laptops of all time, but they are the best laptops you can buy right now.
1. Apple MacBook Air (M2)
Best Laptop of 2023
Price : From $1049
M2 The MacBook Air is thin and light, powered by Apple’s latest and greatest processor.
2. MacBook Pro (14″ and 16″)
Best Macbook for Creators
Price : Starting at $1899
The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is creative power, powered by Apple’s latest processor. When configured with the M1 Pro or M1 Max, the laptop screen can be shared to three external displays and a 4K TV at the same time thanks to the huge number of ports.
3. HP Specter x360 14
Best Windows Laptop
Price : From $1550
The HP Specter x360 14 is the best 2-in-1 laptop of 2023.
4. Asus Zenbook Pro Duo 14
ASUS Zen Book Duo Laptop
Best Dual Screen Laptop
Price : From $2000
experience for those who are ready for it to bring the keyboard closer.
5. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Best Gaming Laptop
Price : From $1650
The ROG Zephyrus G14 is an amazingly powerful gaming laptop. Its AMD Ryzen 9 processor and GeForce RTX 3060 deliver powerful and smooth gaming graphics performance with a QHD display. That being said, the laptop is surprisingly efficient for other tasks.
6. Asus Chromebook Flip CX5
Best 15-inch Chromebook
Price : From $649
The Asus Chromebook CX5 offers an excellent set of accessories at a slightly overpriced price.
7. MacBook Pro 16 (M2 Pro and M2 Max)
Best Laptop for Video Editing
Price: Starting at $2499
The MacBook Pro 16 with M2 Pro and M2 Max is one of the most powerful and long lasting laptops on the market .
8. Dell XPS 13
Best laptop for students
Price : From $1349
The Dell XPS 13 is the epitome of traditional design, thin and light. It’s sleek and compact, has a great keyboard and trackpad, and has excellent performance.
9. Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
Best OLED Laptop
Price : From $1400 you can buy.
10. Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3
Best Budget Laptop
Price : From $379
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 is an excellent 11-inch budget device. The price includes the keyboard and stand.
11. Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (13.5 inches)
Inexpensive thin and light option
Price : From $870
The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is a thin, light laptop with a 3:2 display and multiple color options. All models are equipped with 12th generation Intel processors.
12. Razer Blade 16
Best laptop for premium gaming
Price : starting at $4300 inch Mini LED display, RGB keyboard and “hardcore” chips from Intel and Nvidia. But it’s not cheap at all.
13. HP Dragonfly Pro
Best laptop for work
Price : From $1550
The HP Elite Dragonfly Pro is one of the best business laptops for freelancers and self-employed. It works great and comes with extra support service.
14. Asus ROG Flow Z13
Best laptop for gaming on the go
Price : starting at $1750 and plenty of options for games in QHD resolution.
15. LG Gram 17
Slim, light 17-inch laptop
Price : starting at $1200
The LG Gram 17 is the best laptop for big screen enthusiasts, offering a 17-inch display and surprisingly light. This particular model runs Windows 11.
Best Laptops for Programming 2022
XDA Developers ranked the best laptops for programming in 2022.
Gone are the days when programmers sat in front of huge desktop PCs surrounded by many large monitors, the article says. Of course, some people still program like that, but these days anyone can learn to code pretty easily and all they need is a laptop to do it. The advantage (or disadvantage?) of your laptop programming is that wherever you go, the programming goes with you. You can write code anytime, anywhere.
Buying a laptop for programming is different from buying a laptop for gaming or general corporate use. Programmers do not always need powerful processors, especially at the beginning, but there is no getting away from the fact that creating software projects is a resource-intensive task.
As with any other reason to buy a laptop, there is no one size fits all solution. In this ranking, laptops that are the best of all, whether you are an experienced or novice programmer, whether you prefer to use macOS, Windows or even Chrome OS. Here are the best laptops for programming.
- Best overall developer laptop : MacBook Pro 16-inch
+ M1 Pro and Max performance
+ Large display
+ Battery life
– Not upgradable
– Display bezels 901 88
- Best with Windows : Dell XPS 15
+ Intel 12 gen processor
+ Separate graphics
+ Possibility to improve memory and SSD
– Can be expensive
– Low power models
- Best 13″ laptop : Dell XPS 13
+ Good display
– No dedicated graphics
– Old model, waiting for update
- Best Chromebook : Acer Chromebook Spin 713
+ 3:2 Display
+ 11 Gen Intel Core i5 Processor
– Expensive for a Chromebook
– Limitations of Chromebook OS
- Best Budget Laptop for Developer : HP Pavilion Aero 13
+ Affordable price
+ 6 or 8 core Ryzen
+ Compact and rugged
– No touch screen
– No Thunderbolt
- Best value for money : MacBook Air
+ Apple M1 processor
+ Development for Mac, Linux, Windows and mobile apps
+ Good battery life
– Not upgradable
– Some ports missing
– Only one external screen
- Best 2-in-1 laptop : Microsoft Surface Pro 8
+ Excellent 3:2 display
+ Up to 32 GB memory
– Keyboard and pen not included
– Higher models are expensive
- Best compact performance : Razer Blade 14
+ Powerful GPU
+ AMD Ryzen 9 processor
– Low battery life
More details about the conclusions you can find in the article.