Surface Laptop 5 – “Premium and simply gorgeous”

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.


TL;DR

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.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 – “Sizzle Video”

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.

Image of Surface Laptop 5 with Alcantara finish

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.

Screen options

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.

Image taken in doors with no filters – Surface Laptop 5

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.

Connectivity

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.

USB and Headphone ports on Surface Laptop 5

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.

Battery Life

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.

Sustainability

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.

Image (c) Microsoft.

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.

  1. Look: High-quality, thin, lightweight, premium design and workmanship
  2. Performance: Vast range of technical configuration (and therefore price)
  3. Support: Built to run Windows by the company that makes Windows
  4. 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).

Microsoft celebrates 10 years of Surface with new devices

TL;DR

Microsoft Surface celebrated 10 years of Surface yesterday, with the 2022 line up, which saw Surface Pro 9 with 5G, Surface Laptop 5 and Surface Studio 2 + being  launched.

With what was a modest event, compared to previous years, Microsoft unveiled a handful of new and updated Surface devices including:

  • Surface Pro 9
  • Surface Pro 9 with 5G
  • Surface Laptop 5
  • Surface Studio 2+
  • Audio Dock and Microsoft Presenter +

The keynoted by Panos Panay, EVP and Chief Product Officer at Microsoft, kicked off the event taking viewers through the history of Microsoft’s journey with Surface.

Surface Pro 9

Always my favour form factor that makes Surface a Surface is the Pro range. Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet was annouced with a new Liberty floral print design in blue colour, which has been created in collaboration with design house Liberty London.

Surface Pro 9 – Image (c) Microsoft

Like the Laptop 5, The Surface Pro 9 comes equipped with Thunderbolt connectors and has a 120Hz, 13-inch PixelSense display which makes it perfect for use both as a hand-held tablet and as a laptop when attached to a type cover keyboard.

Microsoft displayed how the Windows 11 adapts with larger spacing between apps when the keyboard is detached from the tablet. Microsoft showcased just how quickly Windows 11 adapts to the change in use, with larger spacing between apps when the keyboard is detached from the device.

Surface Pro 9 is the first in the series with 5G capabilities. This variant is built on the ARM-based Microsoft SQ3 processor powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon and has a battery life of up to 19 hours.

Other variants of the tablet are powered by Intel’s 12th-generation EVO processor.

The front facing camera is centred and field of view has been widened. The (optional) Surface Slim Pen 2 The tablet has a microactuator inside, which, according to Microsoft means “its ink-focussed view makes writing on the screen feel like writing on paper with digital ink that appears to flow”.

Exlusive also to the Surface Pro 9 5G model, is a new NPU (neural processing unit)  which Microsoft said is the most powerful ever in a laptop. The NPU gives the Pro 9 the ability to dynamically focus on the subject at all times, even if the subject is moving. It can automatically creates blur effects and smooth auto framing.

Also provided by the NPU, is a new Voice Focus, which drastically cuts out all kinds of background noise. This was showcased with a leaf blower and hair dryer and seemed extremely impressive (almost magical).

Surface Laptop 5

Laptop 5 was first new product revealed at the event and follows last years Surface Laptop 4, released in 2021.

Surface Laptop 5 – image (c) Microsoft

Following the same popular design size,  Laptop 5 was shown being opened with just one hand revealing a new, quieter keyboard which has been further optimised for responsiveness.  As you’d expect, the design is sleek and light and available in four colours, including the newest colour, sage green.

Surface Laption 5 is built on the latest Intel EVO platform and now has Thunderbolt 4 ports.

Microsoft says that the laptop is up to 50 percent more powerful than its predecessor. It has up to 18 hours of battery life and features a fast charge feature, which powers up the laptop in 30 minutes to provide 9 hours of battery life.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 has the usual 3:2 PixelSense display for both their 13.5-inch and 15-inch models and feature Dolby Vision IQ to deliver richer details and sharper contrast that are tuned to automatically adjust colour accuracy. The screen is also 120hz.

From an audio perspective, we get Dolby Atmos 3D spatial processing speakers, placed right behind the corners of the keys on the keyboard.

Surface Studio 2+

A superb device that many thought had been forgotten was also brought back to life. Oddly called Studio 2+, rather than 3, this could suggest a design change might come in the future, but for now it keeps the futuristic design of Studio 2 and is beautiful.

Surface Studio 2+ — Image (c) Microsoft

Surface Studio 2+ is powered by Intel i7 quad-core processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060, which Microsoft say is “five times more powerful than the original Surface Studio.”

It comes with three Thunderbolt ports in keeping with rest of the line up and has a 4K display with a colour depth of DCI P3. This also naturally features both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio.

The gorgeous 28inch screen can be adjusted with just a one-finger push which allows it to intelligently glide and stay in what ever position works for the mode of work. Leveraging Windows 11’s snap layout feature, the screen is large enough to have four separate 14-inch display windows open at the same time, something designers love.

Audio Dock and Microsoft Presenter+

Two other hardware products were revealed at the event. These were Microsoft Presenter+, which is a Teams remote with a mute button, and Audio Dock with multiple ports and spacial speaker and mic

Windows and Surface Together

Whilst the focus was of course about the new Surface line up, most of which were inline with the predictions, the importance and development of Windows was also front of stage. As such, Microsoft used this event to showcase new features for Windows 11, many designed specifically around Surface and other multi form factor devices like Surface Studio Laptop, a Surface Pro and Studio 2+.

Following up from the Windows 11 22H2 update that is now rolling out, Microsoft highlighted so of the new accessibility features that are built in to Windows 11. This incudes a system-wide live captions from audio content, which automatically appears on the screen when any audio from any source is playing.

Among other accessibility features showcased was system wide voice access for voice control and navigation which include new natural voices.

Pricing and Availability

No official announcement of the price of any new Microsoft Surface product was made during the event.

New Surface devices are coming next month….

Microsoft has confirm what many were expecting. They are holding a Surface event next month (October 12th).

Being held and streamed online also, the event, which is officially dubbed “Microsoft Fall 2022 Event,” is being hosted the day before its global Ignite Event. October also marks the 10 year anniversary of Surface! Wow.

What to expect

As is usual this time of year, the rumour mill and noise around the event is on fire.

It is “expected” that Microsoft will be annoucing the Surface Pro 9 which will have the option of Arm or Intel processors, update to Surface Laptop and a new (but different) Surface Studio.

Stay tuned.

There is also rumour of new Surface accessories coming too, and knowing Microsoft there will also be a couple of suprises..

To find out first hand what is new and what to get excited about, you can register and watch live by registering here.

Surface Laptop Go 2 – “Hands on” Review

Last year, I reviewed the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go. Now, after a couple of weeks of use as my “temporary” daily machines, this is my review of the updated, 2022, Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 which starts from just £600 in the UK (about $US 700).

You can also check out my video review here:

TL;DR

So – in short, the 2022 edition of the Surface Laptop Go 2 is a fantastic device for anyone in an admin role, those who travels a lot, work in education, front-line, sales etc., that needs a “good” overall performer (for email, web, office apps, bit of Netflix or Paramount+, etc.) but isn’t a “power user”. Laptop Go 2 is sleek, fast, affordable, portable, and easily powerful enough for most productivity tasks at home or work.

Image of Surface Laptop Go 2
Surface Laptop Go 2

INTRODUCING “LAPTOP GO 2”

Version 2 of the Surface Laptop Go 2 – is every bit similar in shape, size, look at feel than the original but improves on it in several ways (under the hood). Inside, we now get an 11th Generation Intel Core processor alongside Intel Iris Xe graphics [last year’s model had the 10th Gen processors and Intel UHD graphics).

Microsoft say that the battery life in this model has also been slightly increased, partly owing to new Operating System Efficiencies in Windows 11 along with the lower power consuming 11th Gen chipsets.

LOOK AND FEEL

Laptop Go 2 weighs in at just 1.13kg and measures just 278.2mm x 206.2mm x 15.7mm – making it beautifully compact and lightweight and ideal for both students or anyone who travels or commutes a lot who are looking for something small, light but functional to take back and forth on the daily commute.

As you come to expect with a Surface Device, Laptop Go 2 is sleek and stylish. It comes in four colours including the standard Platinum, Ice Blue, Sage, and Sandstone. The model I tested was the Platinum model which is made of lightweight aluminium and has the familiar mirrored Microsoft logo on the lid.

When you open the clam-shell lid, you are presented with a full-size rubberised plastic keyboard, which Microsoft claims “provides 30% more key travel than the MacBook Air and a large trackpad. Being a more “budget friendly” device, there is no backlighting on the keyboard and the trackpad doesn’t have haptic feedback like the new Surface Laptop Studio debuted.

The power button (which does light up), also serves as a fingerprint sensor which you can use with Windows Hello to unlock the laptop.

Connectivity-wise, you get the same ports as on the Surface Laptop and last year’s Laptop Go 1 – a Single USB-C port (which supports 4K video), Single USB-A port, 3.5 mm headphone jack and the Surface Connect port which it uses for charging. You also get Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Note: the USB-C port doesn’t support charging like many new laptops, so you’ll need to keep using the Surface Connect Port charger which comes in the box.

The screen on the Surface Laptop Go 2 has a 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen display with a resolution of 1536 x 1024p and a 3:2 aspect ratio like that found on most of the newer Surface family. The display is bright, clear, and sharp with great colours and black blacks – event in direct sunlight. Don’t get me wrong, Surface Laptop Go 2 is not intended for professional-level graphics or artwork, but it is more than good for viewing documents, web pages or watching videos. It also doesn’t support use of the Surface Pen, which is of course another cost saving thing.

The Webcam – is tiny and located between two small spatial microphones on the top edge of the screen. Unlike the “bigger” versions of Surface, this does not support Windows Hello and is only a 720p. This is the one area I wish Microsoft hadn’t “saved money” on as webcam quality is important in the new world of hybrid and remote work. I’m also so used to the Windows Hello Camera and personally prefer it over the fingerprint reader. Microsoft say that the camera on the Laptop Go 2 is an upgrade on last year’s model and features a “new camera module providing improved brightness, contrast and colour balance“.

Image taken from Teams Call on Surface Laptop Go 2
Image taken from Teams on Surface Laptop Go 2

Low light and bright backlight quality was handled well, but the image did feel a little grainy at full screen – I think I’d still prefer at 1080p webcam though – feels like a compromise we don’t need.

SPECS, PEFORMANCE & BATTERY

SPECIFICATIONS
The device I’ve had on loan, is powered by a Quadcore, 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, the Intel Iris Xe graphics chipset and 16GB RAM along with a 256GB SSD.

Like all Surface’s Laptop Go 2 is available in both consumer and business editions. The business version ships with Windows 11 Professional and providing enhanced secure features including Secured-Core   security features, which includes a dedicated physical TPM 2.0 chip (rather than virtual TPM in firmware which the consumer model has).  
Choices are otherwise limited in these more budget friendly devices, and Microsoft simply give you options over how much RAM and SSD storage you need.

The entry level unit has 128GB SSD, but only 4GB RAM and no fingerprint reader.

PERFORMANCE
Spoiler
– Laptop Go 2 is not designed to compete with the bigger members of the Surace family like the Surface Laptop, Surface Pro or Studio when it comes to raw power, and graphics performance, but it did do a decent job of everything I threw at it. Throughout my week of testing, I had multiple apps open, including Teams, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook and used it a few evenings for watching a few films and even tried out Clipchamp to edit one of my son’s YouTube “clips” he’d made all without feeling like I was using an under-powered device. I even managed a bit of Minecraft on the device as well as playing TrainSimWorld 2 and Forza Horizon using Xbox Streaming – more on that later!!

BATTERY LIFE
Microsoft states that Laptop Go 2 provides up to 13.5 hours of ‘typical device usage’, but my loan device lasted about 25% less than that – 9hrs 16mins in fact of constant use in my usual home working test scenario:

  • Connected via Wi-Fi.
  • Screen Brightness set to auto.
  • Bluetooth connected headset, keyboard, and mouse.
  • Mix of normal daily use – no special tests – 8-10 Teams Video Calls (camera on), Core Office desktop apps and some social media apps and web browsing.
  • Connected to 4K Ultrawide screen via Surface Dock v1.

This is, I would say the main area of disappointment compared to the advertised specs – as I think you’d still want to take a power adapter out with you – “just in case”.

9 hrs isn’t awful but it’s nowhere near the “up to 13.5hrs”.

One day Microsoft will get this bit right and maybe when (if) they shift to ARM based chipsets for Laptop Go and Surface Go we will see battery life closer to what Apple manage to squeeze out their “M” chip-based devices. performance out of the battery.

XBOX GAME STREAMING

So – this was never going to be the best experience, but while on holiday on the Isle of Wight (if you haven’t been – you should go by the way), I wanted to test Xbox remote play on our Xbox One X (I know I know, where’s the Series-X!). My first test was done running on NowTV broadband (70Mbps or so).

On returning home yesterday, I then recreated the scenario from my desk, streaming from the same Xbox (which is in the same house). The experience was pretty much the same.

In summary, for fast framerate games like this, I’d say “it works pretty well”. Game play was surprisingly good. It did struggle with the odd refresh glitch and jittery in places on high frame-rate games (I was testing it with Forza Horizon 4) but overall and given the spec of the Surface Laptop Go 2, was more impressed than I thought I’d be. The video below show’s how this played out.

Xbox Cloud Streaming – Forza Horizon 4

ROUNDING IT ALL UP

Battery life aside – Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 is a great all-rounder device for students, consumers or business users that are on more of a budget or than need something new and modern, gorgeous, and premium in feel that is both ultra-portable, and good enough for everything a “typical user” needs.

If you are big into gaming, (see above) big graphics/design and art, or you are a number crunching, coding, power-user then, you’ll want to look at the high-end devices like the Surface Laptop Studio or Surface Book 3 – though you can “get buy” when travelling if you need a game-fix and want to play remote or cloud play with the Xbox App.

Check on the hands-on video review here:


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