The old adage says if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Now, while that’s often sound advice, there’s obviously a limit to how long you can run something – especially a gadget – before it starts to lag. And with the Surface Laptop 5, it feels like Microsoft is starting to test that limit, because while the laptop is as sleek and sleek as ever, even with the inclusion of a new processor, it’s easy to see where its aging chassis could use some. updates or quality of life improvements. So while I’ll never complain about getting a performance boost, I still feel like Microsoft could do better.
Design, keyboard and ports
I’m not going to spend too much time talking about the exterior of the Surface Laptop 5 because it’s the same chassis that Microsoft has been using for three or four generations. The 13 and 15 inch models feature an aluminum body with large 3:2 screens for increased productivity. Our 13.5-inch review unit weighed 2.86 pounds and was just 0.57 inches thick. The whole package is super sleek and in some ways I can see why Microsoft doesn’t want to mess with the design – it really is a thing of beauty. It’s slim and minimalist, just like a MacBook, but different enough that you’ll never confuse the two. Still, I think Microsoft is more than capable of tweaking the current chassis to accommodate new components without ruining its beauty.
New this year is a sage green color option like the one we have on the Surface Laptop Go 2. But Microsoft hasn’t stopped there as the company has also created custom wallpapers for Windows 11 that match to the exterior paint of the system. I know this is a pretty minor change in the grand scheme of things, but the little extra color coordination is kind of nice.
Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 5’s keyboard and touchpad don’t leave much to complain about. The keycaps are well spaced while having good crisp actuation, although after some hands-on time with the 15-inch version I noticed the larger model has slightly deeper key travel. And while its touchpad which measures 4.5 x 3 inches isn’t as large as what you’d find on a similarly sized MacBook, there’s still plenty of room to swipe the mouse.
One of the other big changes to the Surface Laptop 5 is its new USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4 port, which provides increased bandwidth for transferring data or sending video to external displays. Unfortunately, on the 13.5 and 15-inch models, there are only two USB connectors in total: the aforementioned Thunderbolt 4 port and a standard USB 3.1 Type-A slot. Luckily, Microsoft didn’t drop support for wired audio, so you still get a 3.5mm headphone jack in addition to the company’s magnetic Surface Connect port for charging and connecting.
But if you’ll allow me to show myself a bit, I kind of wish Microsoft would drop the Surface Connect port altogether. Due to recent EU regulations, we are set to make all phones support USB-C for charging and data, and apart from the proprietary connectors that Apple and Microsoft use on MacBooks and Surfaces, laptops are not far behind. Not only would getting rid of the Surface Connect port free up space for another USB-C plug — which is both smaller and more versatile — but I find its weak magnets and awkward shape make it harder to use than the ‘USB-C.
Screen and webcam
Like its chassis, the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 5 features the same 2,256 x 1,504 PixelSense touchscreen that Microsoft used on the previous model and it’s just fine. It has good brightness that hits just under 400 nits on my light meter with rich, saturated colors. The only new tweak for 2022 is support for Dolby Vision IQ, which automatically adjusts things like color profiles and contrast based on ambient conditions. It’s a nice idea, but given that almost every phone made in the last few years has similar display technology, Microsoft isn’t [exactly] innovate here.
That said, while its image quality is good, the Surface Laptop 5’s screen is starting to show its age a bit. The bezels are a few millimeters thicker than what we got on last year’s Surface Laptop Studio, which makes things feel a bit bulky. You also don’t get support for HDR or high refresh rates.
But what lags the most is its 720p webcam, which is passable at best. You don’t get any support for Microsoft’s Windows Studio effects like you do on the Surface Pro 9 5G and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 1080p webcams should be the staple on high-end laptops . Thankfully, Microsoft retained the built-in infrared cameras for Windows Hello facial recognition, which still work great.
Inside, Intel’s new 12th Gen processors deliver a big leap in performance. The downside is that, unlike the previous generation, there’s no AMD-based setup, which is a bit of a shame. That said, with around 20% higher scores in PCMark 10 compared to the Surface Laptop 4, it’s hard to get too upset.
Don’t expect to do any hardcore gaming, as both models are limited to Iris XE integrated graphics. In Overwatch 2, I had to lower the settings to medium in order to get a somewhat stable 60fps, although you can get a bit more performance if you want to lower the game resolution or enable oversampling. But no matter what you do, this thing isn’t really meant for playing AAA titles.
Battery life and ports
When it comes to battery life, with a time of 12 hours and 39 minutes, the Surface Laptop 5 performed respectably but not exceptionally well. By comparison, last year’s 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 fared better with a 15:25 rating, as did other ultraportables this year, including the Lenovo Yoga 9i at 14:22 and the M2 MacBook Air at 5:05 p.m.
As a longtime Surface user, I appreciate that Microsoft has kept the bonus 5-watt charging port built into the included power adapter, which is really nice for powering small peripherals like a mouse or headphones. wireless. And I should mention that if for some reason you lose or forget your charging brick at home, you can always charge the Surface Laptop 5 via USB-C.
Although the Surface Laptop 5 hasn’t received a slew of updates, it still has a very sleek design and the addition of new 12th Gen Intel chips and a Thunderbolt 4 port provide a big boost in speed and friendliness. Sure, it might not have the sharpest webcam or a ton of ports, but if all you need is a streamlined ultraportable for general productivity, the Surface Laptop 5 packs all the essentials into one. very elegant set.
It’s somewhat telling, however, that Microsoft only sent the 13.5-inch model for review, as there are even more changes I’d like to see on the 15-inch version. I know my dream of getting an Xbox gaming laptop will probably never come true, but I think there’s a ton of potential to turn the larger Surface Laptop 5 into a really good all-rounder by adding the plug in discrete graphics support and a few other ports.
But the hardest part comes when trying to decide between the 13-inch Surface Laptop 5 and something like the XPS 13. For the same $1,000 starting price, Dell’s laptop comes with a processor similar and a larger 512GB SSD instead of a simple 256GB drive, but no touchscreen (though you can upgrade to one if you want). That means you have to choose between getting slightly better value in the XPS 13 or opting for a larger 3:2 touchscreen with the Surface Laptop 5.
Still, if all you want is a sleek ultraportable with a nice screen for productivity, Microsoft’s latest clamshell has a lot to like. I just hope next year we get a full refresh instead of just a spec increase.
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