Microsoft Surface Laptop
A fantastic premium laptop for a reasonable price, as long as you don’t need upgrades to RAM or storage
SCORE ✪✪✪✪✪ PRICE £1,041 (£1,249 inc VAT) from microsoft.com/en-gb/store
It might be the least radical laptop or hybrid that Microsoft has yet produced, but that doesn’t mean the Surface Laptop is short of fresh and innovative thinking. The design, for example, drops the MacBook Air chrome look for matte-finish aluminium, a range of subtle colour tones and an angular, slimline style that looks amazing. And it’s as smart as it is stylish. Weighing only 1.25kg and a little bigger than a hardbound A4 notepad, you could comfortably carry Microsoft’s laptop around all day, yet it has the 13.5in screen and ergonomics to get just about anything done.
That screen is one point of contention. There’s no disputing its incredible clarity and definition, with a 2,256 x 1,504 resolution giving a pixel density of 201ppi. It’s perfectly bright, hitting a maximum luminance of 397cd/m², and rich colours and punchy contrast make photos and movies look fantastic. Colour accuracy is also impressive, with an average Delta E of 1.41 and 95.6% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut. The 3:2 aspect ratio makes a lot of sense when you’re web-browsing or working on a single application, making the screen seem bigger than it is. It’s only when you’re snapping two windows to either side that you miss the width of a 16:9 display.
Using Microsoft’s pen doesn’t feel as natural on the Surface Laptop as on the Surface Pro or Surface Book, particularly as the screen can’t tilt anywhere near as far backwards. When you do, though, it’s every bit as sensitive to motion, weight and pressure, so you can still take notes. Most users will probably eschew the optional stylus, but still use the touchscreen for simple Windows tasks and gestures; the kind of thing at which it excels. Used in combination with the generously sized, smooth and ultra-responsive touchpad, it makes Windows a pleasure to navigate around. Does the keyboard let the side down? Not at all. Once you get used to the slightly odd feel of the Alcantara material on the surround and wristrests – some love it, some aren’t so sure – the keys are well-sized, well-spaced and extremely well-weighted, and the Surface Laptop doesn’t suffer from the slight bounce that pulls the Surface Pro’s Type Cover back from greatness. The sound, meanwhile, has you wondering how on earth the Surface laptop can produce such a racket. The bass isn’t massive or overpowering
“The 3:2 aspect ratio makes sense when you’re webbrowsing or working on a single application, making the screen seem bigger”
but there’s enough of it to give action film soundtracks some much-needed thump, while there’s a surprisingly wide stereo spread.
Performance is every bit as good. With Windows 10 Pro installed, the mid-range Core i5-7200U/8GB RAM version delivered a benchmark score of 49, behind the Core i7 Surface Pro but ahead of most of the competition. Move up to the more expensive Core i7/16GB variants, and you could comfortably do anything that doesn’t involve compositing and rendering 4K video or editing extremely highresolution images.
Of course, the Surface Laptop doesn’t come with Windows 10 Pro preinstalled, but Microsoft’s more security-conscious Windows 10 S. For many of us, the limitations of Windows 10 S – particularly the fact that only Windows Store apps can be installed – outweigh its security advantages, but as Windows 10 Pro can be installed at no extra cost, this isn’t really a reason not to purchase.
Much the same goes for the Surface Laptop’s connectivity. There’s no USB-C connection, just a single USB 3 port, an audio jack and a mini DisplayPort, but while fitting the first would have been smart, it doesn’t really limit your options at this point.
The Surface Laptop isn’t necessarily the best premium laptop of the moment, but it’s the one that offers the best balance of mobility, ergonomics, performance and price. Throw in a battery life of 10hrs 42mins and it’s an outstanding device in nearly every way.
LEFT Microsoft has eschewed MacBook Air-style chrome for a stylish matte-finish aluminium
LEFT The incredibly clear screen has a resolution of 2,256 x 1,504, resulting in a pixel density of 201ppi
ABOVE Some users will love the unusual Alcantara material – some really won’t