Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (15-inch) Review: No Better Blues

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9 2-in-1 is now available with either an Arm or an Intel CPU. But the 15-inch Surface Laptop 5 clamshell is now all 12th Gen Intel, all the time, jettisoning the AMD-based option in the previous-gen Surface Laptop 4, which spent a long time on our Best Ultrabooks and Premium Laptops list. The shift to the latest mobile Intel silicon also brings support for Thunderbolt 4 / USB 4 via the laptop’s sole USB-C port for the first time.

But aside from a new light green sage color in the smaller 13.5-inch model (we’re testing the 15-inch model here), the Surface Laptop 5 is effectively the same device on the outside as the Surface Laptop 4 (and 2019’s Surface Laptop 3, for that matter). In many ways, that’s fine given that the all-aluminum, 0.58-inch, 3.4-pound shell still looks and feels great, like an edgier version of Apple’s MacBook Air, at least in our silver “platinum” review unit (black is the other option). The keyboard and 2496 x 1664 touchscreen are still good, although the 720p webcam is starting to feel very dated for a laptop that starts at $1,299 ($1,899 as tested). 

The real issue, though, is that without any real change on the outside, this latest Surface Laptop lives and dies on its performance and battery life. And as we’ll see later in testing, the Intel i7-1265U in our review unit doesn’t exactly excite, especially given a similarly configured (and identically designed) AMD-powered Surface Laptop 4 got better battery life in our testing and is still available for hundreds less.

Design of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5

While there’s nothing new about the Surface Laptop 5’s design, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot to like. The angular aluminum shell, available in either black or platinum (silver), looks great and feels solid. And the device is pleasingly free of branding or other visual clutter, save for the mirrored Windows logo on the lid.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

At 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58 inches and 3.4 pounds, the Surface Laptop 5 is still slim and portable. Dell’s XPS 15 is thicker and heavier, at 0.73 inches and 4.31 pounds, although it makes room for dedicated graphics. 

But if portability is your main concern, smaller laptops might be the way to go. HP’s 13.5-inch Elite Dragonfly is just 2.2 pounds and 0.64 inches thick (and also more expensive, starting around $2,000). The ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers an enticing middle ground with a 14-inch screen and a 2.48-pound heft (nearly a pound less than the Surface Laptop), while costing $235 less than our Microsoft review unit, or $1,564.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Port speed has at least improved with the Surface Laptop 5, but the port count hasn’t. Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 is now on board, which means you can connect up to two 4K/60 Hz displays (provided you bring your own dock). But it exists in the laptop’s sole USB-C port on the left edge, where you’ll also find a USB 3.1 Type-A port and a headphone jack.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The right edge, as ever, is barren aside from Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect port for charging (or docking via a Surface Dock (opens in new tab)). We get the whole minimal vibe that Microsoft is clearly aiming for, but most of the competition offers more connectivity. The Dell XPS 13 Plus may have notoriously ditched the headphone jack, but at least it has two TB4 ports.

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