Microsoft Surface Laptop
Microsoft Surface Laptop REVIEW
Prices start from $1519
PAT PILCHER flips the lid on Microsoft’s newest Surface PC and finds that it looks a lot like the last one, but contains secret weapons.
I’d written a while ago about how Microsoft’s Surface range now has four variations to choose from. I’d reviewed the Surface Pro 7, and coveted the Surface Pro X. This time I’ve managed to get my hands on the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop. It looks and feels gorgeous. A lot is going on under its hood. This is thanks to Intel’s 10th generation CPU and the addition of a USB-C port, both of which extends its versatility.
The Surface Laptop 3 is thin and light (1.26 kilograms), which makes slipping it into a laptop bag and lugging it about a breeze. I also like its trackpad (they’re something I’d previously had issues with on Surface Books), and its keyboard wasn’t too shabby either. I also never found it wanting with demanding apps either, thanks to its beefy 10th generation Intel processor.
All told, it’s a very well-designed piece of gear. Its aluminium chassis is eye-catching and feels solid. An Alcantara-fabric lined top deck is also available and a nice touch as there’s no freezing cold surface on hands/wrists when typing on a cold day. Microsoft has upped their design game. Here’s hoping other PC makers are taking note.
It isn’t perfect though (even if it comes close). The most significant criticism is that there really isn’t a lot separating the 2019 model from the 2018 model when it comes to its design. You could, of course, argue that this is a case of ‘if it isn’t broken, why fix it?’
Powered by a 10th-generation Ice Lake, quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU, the Surface Laptop sports a default of 8GB of RAM and starts at 128GB of storage. There are also multiple configuration options, you can upgrade to an Intel Core i7 chip, boost its RAM and storage to 16GB/256GB or even 512GB or a whopping 1TB. The surface laptop also comes in a 15-inch XXL version.
Intel’s 10th-gen CPU is perhaps one of the more significant upgrades of this year’s model. At its launch event, Microsoft said that the 13.5-inch model packed a whopping 3x more processing power than the MacBook Air. This isn’t a massive surprise as the MacBook Air uses an older dual-core CPU which will always be slower than the quad-core silicon in the Laptop 3. Either way, it’s a significant performance increase over last year’s Surface Laptop.
One of the most significant tests of any Laptop is gaming. Intel’s new Iris graphics are supposed to be a step up over previous integrated graphics. While they won’t play any popular games with detail settings on high, many titles are playable with low to medium graphics settings. If you opt for a top of the range model with an i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, the Surface Laptop has the makings of a highly portable video editing tool.
There’s plenty of power on offer, but battery life is the trade-off. A MacBook Air delivers 12-14 hours of battery life in a looped video clip test (with screen brightness set to 60 percent). The Surface Laptop gave just over eight hours before demanding quality time with a power adaptor. With typical use, I averaged five to six hours of use. That’s not too bad, but your mileage will vary depending on your Surface Laptop’s spec and what you’re using it for. Battery life is also offset by the fact that the Surface Laptop comes with fast charging. I was able to go from 0 to just over 80 percent in under an hour, which proved handy more times than I could count.
Microsoft has also dumped the Mini DisplayPort in favour of a USB-C port (there’s also USB-A, a charging port and 3.5mm headphone socket). The addition of USB-C increases versatility, but there are issues. While monitors are hitting the market with USB-C support, the Surface Laptop’s USB-C port doesn’t support Thunderbolt speeds. This means most external GPUs won’t work. The trackpad also deserves special mention. It is 20 percent larger which makes it a joy to use. As with Microsoft’s other PCs, the keyboard is excellent, with well-spaced and decent sized scrabble tile style keys. In use, I also found the keys’ 1.3mm travel was perfect.
It might look like last year’s model, but the Surface Laptop 3 is beautifully designed. It’s also a solid performer that’s highly portable, which makes it a dependable workhorse.