Microsoft Surface Laptop 5, still a stylish laptop

Release time:2023-07-12 13:38

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5, still a stylish laptop

In its fifth iteration, the Surface Laptop has never needed a makeover as much as it does now. Don't get me wrong - it's still a stylish laptop, and I appreciate how some of its aesthetics have gracefully aged. Microsoft also claims that its fans don't have many complaints. But with so many options for laptop designs in the future, the Surface Laptop 5 feels like it has been left behind by some of the best laptops you can buy today.

I believe the Surface Laptop needs a redesign. In its fifth generation, five years since its initial launch, it urgently needs a new look. I do like the 3:2 aspect ratio screen and the symmetrical bezels around it. It's a look that no other laptop has copied word for word, but its time is definitely starting to show. Especially the bottom bezel doesn't look good in 2022.

If Microsoft updated the webcam this time, I could forgive the thick top bezel because it should have it. But no - it's still a mediocre 720p webcam, despite the fact that there is enough space to make something better.

The Surface Laptop 5 is no longer leading in portability.

It's not necessarily a terrible webcam, Microsoft has made some software adjustments to improve the quality of last year's model. But what this camera really needs is a higher resolution.

Portability is another aspect that the Surface Laptop design used to excel at but no longer stands out. The 13.5-inch model is 0.57 inches thick, and the 15-inch model is only 0.01 inches thick. That's very small, but in a world where the MacBook Air M2 is 0.44 inches thick, the Surface Laptop 5 is no longer leading.

The sage green color option that first appeared on the Surface Laptop Go 2 earlier this year is the only new thing here. The metal version, as well as the platinum Alcantara model, still offer sandstone and black, but Alcantara is only available in the base configuration.

Speaking of the base configuration, the price scaling here is a bit out of touch. It comes with an Intel Core i5-1245U, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage - priced at $1,000. That matches the current price of the MacBook Air M1 and Dell XPS 13. However, unfortunately, your customization options are limited and expensive. There are no larger storage options like 1TB or 2TB. Additionally, the XPS 13 offers 512GB (or 1TB, depending on the date) of storage at the same price.

Microsoft continues to charge extra for memory and storage upgrades, with a $300 fee to upgrade from 8GB to 16GB of RAM. Luckily, the Surface Laptop 5 still has user-accessible storage, meaning you can upgrade it yourself for a cheaper price.

Missed Opportunities

In the tech industry, not moving forward is equivalent to standing completely still. But Microsoft decided to play it safe with the Surface Laptop 5.

The screen remains unchanged compared to previous versions of the Surface Laptop. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it lacks the eye-catching and fresh design elements of many new Surface devices. The Surface Laptop Studio, introduced last year, features a modern rounded-edge screen and a variable refresh rate of up to 120Hz. Granted, it's a more expensive product, but even the Surface Pro 9 includes a variable refresh rate.

Then there are the processor options. AMD was introduced in last year's Surface Laptop 4, significantly improving multicore performance and battery life. The Ryzen version of the Surface Laptop has been discontinued - at least for now. What's left is only Intel's 12th generation U-series chips to fill the gap. These are not Intel's best. They are 15-watt chips with only two Performance cores. The device will never get too loud or too hot.

In terms of performance, the Surface Laptop 5 is bottom of the pack alongside the Dell XPS 13 9315, still one of the weakest Intel 12th generation laptops I've tested. I guess the Core i5 version of the Surface Laptop 5 will perform similarly to the XPS 13.

This is the unfortunate part. The Ryzen version of the Surface Laptop 4 actually outperformed the Core i7 Surface Laptop 5 in Geekbench multicore performance. The newer model wins in single-core performance, but that means in some real-world tests, the Surface Laptop 5 isn't any faster than the Surface Laptop 4. Video encoding in Handbrake is an example where both laptops perform equally. The newer Ryzen 6000-driven devices, like the Asus Zenbook S13, perform the same test nearly 20% faster.

It's not the end of the world, and it doesn't mean that the Surface Laptop 5 performs poorly. The Surface Laptop has never been known for its performance, but the Surface Laptop 4 made significant strides in changing that perception. However, the Surface Laptop 5 reverses that trend.

Battery life is another aspect where the Surface Laptop 4 was enhanced with the use of AMD chips. The Surface Laptop 5 performs well, lasting about 10 and a half hours in light web browsing. However, it still falls behind the Surface Laptop 4 by several h