Surface Laptop 5 is a premium, lightweight, and gorgeous l laptop which builds on the success of its predecessor. This is my one-month, hands-on review.
Surface Laptop 5 was released in October 2022, along with the new Surface Pro 9 and Surface Studio 2+ as part of the 10-year anniversary of Surface.
Surface Laptop 5 is available in several colours including platinum, black, sage and sandstone, this latest iteration of hasn’t changed much from last years’ Surface Laptop 4. It features the same dimensions and form factor as previous generations (which has barely changed since the original version) but has received the annual welcomed tech update and now includes the latest 12th generation Intel chipsets, built on the Intel® Evo™ platform, offering up to 50% power than previous generation. Find out more about Intel Evo?
Surface Laptop 5 starts from just under £900 (plus VAT), subject to specification.
The marketing team have done a great sizzle video as always, which you can see below.
On Test: Surface Laptop 5 | i5 | 16GB RAM | 256GB SSD
Thanks to Microsoft, I was able to get my hands on a Surface Laptop 5 on launch day and have been using it as my daily machine to allow me to put it through the paces and write this hands-on review.
If you have never looked at the Surface line of laptops before, then you should! – Microsoft make the most gorgeous looking, premium devices on the market – all of which feature an anodized aluminum metal process, resulting in a luxury and smooth finish, which closely resembles the look and class of a MacBook. If you’ve ever used a cheaper, plastic built Laptop before, you will instantly notice the premium feel of Surface difference.
For this review, I tested testing a 13.5″ black Surface running Windows 11 22H2, powered by a 12th generation i5-1235U processor with 16GB RAM and 256GB SD.
Specifications and customisations
Like previous models, Surface Laptop 5 comes in 2 sizes and a range of different specs within each range (as well as colour options).
- 15″: 12th-Gen Intel Core i7-1255U, 8-32GB RAM, 256GB-1TB SDD
- 13.5″: 12th-Gen Intel Core i5-1235U or i7-1255U, 8-32GB RAM, 256GB-1TB SDD
There are a range of colours available, but the 15-inch model only offers Black or Platinum, while the 13.5″ version also provides the option of Sage and Sandstone. I like the black personally on Surface Laptop range though I do think next time I might try a colour!
Microsoft also offer Alcantara options for the keyboard area, although it is limited to the 13.5″ Platinum model only. This gives a slightly soft and more premium finish to the keyboard deck, which provides a nice alternative to the aluminium metal. See below.
Overall feel and use
This is a quick laptop. I have been using a Surface Book 2 and Surface Pro X for a few years now as my two main devices, yet after just a few hours with the Surface Laptop 5, I could feel that this was a great bit of kit. Everything from the speed to power on (instant on), Windows Hello sign-in, launching apps, multitasking, and switching apps was effortless and fast. Video was smooth and audio was sharp and felt like it surrounded me.
The Surface Laptop 5 itself is thin and light – the 13.5 ” I am testing weighs just under three pounds, which is perfect for on-the-go and taking between home and office.
Both the 13.5″ and 15″ models look similar their predecessor, the Surface Laptop 4 (and those before it – a design that still looks modern and fresh. The device feels every bit premium design as you’d expect from a Surface. It is built from high quality refined aluminium in the popular minimalist design, with full size keyboard, large and responsive track pad, 120Hz, 3:2 ratio, 201 PPI pixel sense display, protected by Gorilla Glass 5.
Sensors, camera and speakers are hidden out of sight, the lid has an elegant and subtle Surface Logo on the lid, and around the sides of the device are the standard range of ports, which consist of the Surface Connector (I know many don’t like this but I like it from a consistency perspective), USB-A, USB-C (Thunderbolt 4) and a 3.5mm headphone jack (which interestingly has been removed from the latest Surface Pro 9 line up).
Microsoft have also further perfected the balance and feel of the device, with one-handed opening and nicely cut-away base that gives the impression that the device is floating above your workspace.
Available in 13.5- or 15-inch variants, the screen is super clear and bright and features 120Hz refresh, 3:2 aspect ratio 201 PPI pixel-sense display. The 3:2 aspect ratio is standard across all Surface devices and gives additional vertical space when working on docs or browsing the Web, but it does mean you’ll get the black pillar box lines top and bottom if watching a movie in 16:9. The screen aspect ratio works really well for work and school.
The screen features the 10-point multi-touch as is super responsive, giving it a natural advantage over other premium products like the Apple Mac Book Pro (which still doesn’t have a touch screen). The screen is super precise and supports all Surface Pen generations. The screen also supports Dolby Vision IQ which works by adjusting the colours on the screen based on the levels of ambient light to boost your viewing experience. Watching movies appeared better than my home TV (I need to upgrade) with ultra-vivid colours which are powered by Dolby Vision®3.
I personally find use any device without a touch screen cumbersome to use as touch now feels so natural across almost every other type of device we use.
The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass 5 (GG3 on the Alcantara version), which not only protects the screen but also provides great resistance to scratching.
Camera / Webcam
The front-facing camera is set in the bezel of the display. This is an HD 720p quality optic that supports Windows Hello. To be honest, 720p seems a bit poor for a premium level laptop, but the camera is high quality and provides good images even in poor light.
Camera quality is ok – more than enough for video calls, but you wouldn’t use it for high-quality photos – a little grainy.
Audio and Sound
Audio quality on Surface Laptop is really good, especially compared to cheaper devices on the market. You get dual studio mics located each side of the web cam and the speakers, leverage Dolby Atmos®.4 to provide virtual surround sound. It’s great for Teams calls or watching movies etc.
As always with super thin devices, connectivity is minimal but practical. All the ports are located on the left-hand side of the laptop with just the Surface connect port located on the right side which can be used for charging and connectivity to a Surface Dock which then gives you almost endless connectivity options as well as multiple screen support at 4k.
You get a single USB-A 3.1 and a USB-C port which supports Thunderbolt 4.0. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone socket and the Surface charging connector.
For connecting more than that you’ll need to use a Surface dock or use Bluetooth of course.
For a device you can carry around and use all day – it needs to be light and have great battery life, or you are forced to carry a charger around “just in case”. Good battery life of course needs to balance three things – performance, battery life and power consumption.
Microsoft say that Surface Laptop 5 can last up to 18 hours of battery life, but the test conditions used by manufacturers is rarely the environment most workers use daily.
I averaged 9 hours and 32 minutes of battery life on a single charge.
I have been using Surface Laptop 5 for just over a month now and have not had a day (yet) where I needed to plug the device in to charge to get me through the day. In my environment I didn’t do anything special – and had settings within Windows as follows:
Screen Brightness: Auto
Keyboard Backlight: Off (this is going to use power)
Screen Brightness: 60% (with auto-adjust off)
Power Saving Mode: Auto
Power mode: Recommended (default)
With these in place, and using a typical mix of Teams calls, Office apps and Web Apps, I averaged 9 hours and 32 minutes for the laptop to go from 100% to it shutting off when i ignored the “plug me in” notifications. By best day was 11 hours 12 minutes and my worst day (which was all day on video calls), the the laptop still powered through for 8hrs 4 mins.
Microsoft is committed to sustainability and carbon reduction, and this applies to the Surface device family also. Microsoft Surface laptops and tablets are EPEAT gold-registered, and Microsoft are committed to carbon neutrality across the supply chain by 2030.
From a repairability perspective (which also reduced waste and prolongs device life), Surface Laptop 5 devices have a replaceable SSD, display, battery, and motherboard, amongst other swappable components. This is a huge win for consumers and business since it means they can not only stretch out the lifespan of the Surface Laptop 5 by replacing failed components, but it also goes a long way to help corporate ESG goals. This is not unique to Surface Laptop 5 either, the slide below from Microsoft showcases just how repairable Surface now is.
Surface is also committed to:
- Ensuring packaging is from recycled, renewable or responsibly sourced content by 2025
- Eliminating all virgin, single use Pretoleum-based plastics by 2025
- Being fully recyclable by 2030
- Uses 100% recyclable packaging by 2030
In the race for king of premium, this is also another winning factor over devices like the Apple MacBook.
Microsoft even have a YouTube video showing some of this repairability. ⬇️
Verdict – Why Choose Surface?
Surface Laptop 5 may not be a radical new or wow design, but Surface Laptop just works. I’m a big fan of Surface, so you may consider me biased (but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong)!
To me there’s four main reason I choose Surface over other brands.
- Look: High-quality, thin, lightweight, premium design and workmanship
- Performance: Vast range of technical configuration (and therefore price)
- Support: Built to run Windows by the company that makes Windows
- Sustainability: Repairable, strong commitments to re-use and recycle as well as low-power and excellent battery life (easily lasts a full day of use).