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Product Listing

Microsoft Surface Laptop: Is this one of the best Windows notebooks?

By Kenny Yeo - 1 May 2018

Performance Analysis

So what are the available models?

Microsoft has a good number of SKUs so there’s bound to be something for everyone. The Surface Laptop is powered by Intel’s seventh generation Core processors. You can get them with either a Core i5 or Core i7 processor. They will come with either 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of RAM. Storage options range from 128GB all the way up to 1TB. In total, Microsoft has five configurations of the Surface Laptop.

The configuration on Microsoft’s website is a bit of a convoluted mess, which makes it hard for users to compare the various configurations, so here’s a handy table detailing all five configurations.

Microsoft Surface Laptop SKUs
Processor Memory Graphics Storage
Intel Core i5-7200U 4GB Intel HD Graphics 620 128GB
Intel Core i5-7200U 8GB Intel HD Graphics 620 256GB
Intel Core i7-7660U 8GB Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 256GB
Intel Core i7-7660U 16GB Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 512GB
Intel Core i7-7660U 16GB Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 1TB

 

Hmm… so these are powered by older processors?

Yes, now that Intel has 8th generation Core processors available, these are technically powered by outdated (albeit slightly) processors. Readers who want the latest and greatest in hardware will obviously be miffed by this, but let’s face it, the real world differences in performance and portability between the 7th and 8th generation processors are going to be very little. More important is the implementation of these processors and not the processors themselves. Another point to note is that the Surface Laptop was actually launched in the USA nearly a year back, but it only made its way to Singapore recently, hence the mismatch in expectations for some readers.

 

Right, so how is its performance?

The Surface Laptop we tested is the mid-range model with a Core i5-7200U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Overall performance is quite decent and mostly matches our expectations of a notebook with a Core i5 processor.

One positive thing to note is that unlike the Core i5 version of the Surface Pro, the Surface Laptop does not suffer from severe performance throttling issues. This is likely because the Surface Laptop has active cooling whereas the Core i5 version of the Surface Pro is fanless and has to rely solely on passive cooling heatsinks.

Here are its performance figures below. As you can see, it performs decently on computing benchmarks but loses significantly to the Core i7 Surface Pro when it comes to graphics because the latter has a processor that comes with the more powerful Intel Iris Plus graphics. It’s also a tad slower than notebooks equipped with newer 8th generation Core processors like the HP Spectre and Lenovo Yoga 920. However, the difference isn’t all that great and you would be hard-pressed to tell during everyday use. However, we would definitely recommend getting a unit with 16GB of RAM as 8GB is the bare minimum these days and gets used up really quickly especially if you are a heavy web browser and keep a lot of browser tabs open simultaneously.

 

How is the battery life?

On the flip side, the Surface Laptop offers pretty good battery life. In our test, which consists of productivity tasks and light gaming, the Surface Laptop managed just over 5 hours, which is a very good result.

So if we were to apply our Portability Index to its battery life result, we would end up with a portability score of 4.119. It's no match for the amazing LG gram 14, which happens to weigh just 980g and has a battery life of an incredible 9.5 hours. But, the Surface Laptop is still one of the most portable notebooks we have tested. So yes, the Surface Laptop is a very portable notebook considering how most other notebooks fare.

8.0
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 7.5
  • Mobility 9
The Good
Stylish looks
Unique Alcantara lining
Decent performance
Excellent battery life
Great keyboard and trackpad
Full-size USB port
The Bad
A little chunky and heavy
No Thunderbolt 3
No full-size SD card reader
7th generation Core processors
Can be pricey
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