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The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is an okay but not essential upgrade

Surface-level changes.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Display
13.5 inches
Processor
Intel Core i7-1225U
RAM
8GB, 16GB
Storage
256GB, 512GB
Nathan Lawrence
Dec 09, 2022
Icon Time To Read6 min read

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 has been rumoured to release for what feels like the entirety of this year. But I can’t help but feel it would’ve been better off had it been delayed into 2023 and powered by Intel 13th-gen CPUs.

This isn’t a bad laptop by any means: it’s got a decent screen, great performance and a killer keyboard. But as a tech enthusiast who constantly feels the pull towards upgrading, the refinements in the Surface Laptop 5 compared to the Surface Laptop 4 aren’t enough to make this upgrade feel essential.

Quick verdict: Microsoft Surface Laptop 5

If you’re new to the Microsoft Surface Laptop range, the Surface Laptop 5 is a solid performer. For Surface Laptop 5 owners, though, the incremental refinements aren’t enough to justify the upgrade.

pro
Pros
pro Compact, lightweight and quiet
pro Fast everyday performance
pro Keyboard feels great
con
Cons
con Default screen brightness on battery
con Limited ports
con Still a 720p webcam
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 value for money

Reasonable starting prices for 13.5-inch models.

Prices start at $1,699 for the 13.5-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 and $2,149 for the 15-inch model. The 512GB versions of the Intel Core i5 13.5-inch models costs start at $1,699 RRP for 8GB RAM and $2,399 for 16GB RAM. There is no i5 option for the 15-inch models, which cost $2,899 for double the memory (16GB RAM) and 512GB storage.

Strangely, CPU options are determined by the colour you choose if you shop via the Microsoft Store (uncheck the forced colour choice if you want to see all options). The AMD options from Surface Laptop 4 are also absent. Pricewise, the Surface Laptop 5 is competitive in terms of the 2022 pricing for the last-gen Surface Laptop 4.

Shop around for the best prices and configuration options, starting with the table below.

Store
Price
More info
Microsoft Store
🔥From $1,849
$1664
The Good Guys
From
$1569

Before you make a decision, be sure to read our recommendation for the specs.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 design and features

The bezels loom large, especially on the 13.5-inch model.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 unboxing
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Included accessories
What's in the box?

If you buy a brand new version of this product, the box will include the following:

  • The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5
  • A proprietary charger
  • The usual documentation

Microsoft sent the fastest version of the 13.5-inch screen for review. While the uniform screen bezels aren’t massive, they are more noticeable than the similar ones on the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 I used for comparisons.

Admittedly, the screen on the Surface Laptop 5 is great to look at most of the time, except that it’s prone to reflections when in bright settings. It’s a touchscreen, too, if that’s your thing, but you run the risk of smudges. I strongly recommend hanging onto the thin keyboard cover to stop keys from making a mark on the screen over time (as was the case with the Surface Laptop 4).

The keyboard and trackpad are both still as impressive as what I’m used to from the Surface Laptop 4, which means they’re ideal for writers, students or anyone else eager for a laptop that’s built for extended use.

Despite how they’re tucked away, the speakers offer solid sound. They may lack big-oomph bass, but the Omnisonic speakers offer a well-balanced soundscape with respectable volume. Unfortunately, the 720p webcam and microphone are still more serviceable than impressive.

The Surface Laptop 5 uses a familiar proprietary charger, which is the solitary port on the right of the chassis. On the left is a 3.5mm audio jack alongside a single USB-A port and one USB-C port. That’s not a lot in the way of port options, even if there’s a sneaky USB-A charging port on the power brick.

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Upgrades
Bullhorn
What can be upgraded?

Storage: The baseline comes with 256GB of M.2. Microsoft themselves will let you bump that number of to 512GB for around $300. However, if you fancy paying a little less now and little more later, there's nothing stopping you from upgrading it yourself further down the line.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 - Performance and battery life

Speedy performer with okay battery life.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 unboxed

The jump from 11th-gen to 12th-gen Intel CPUs makes for snappy everyday performance, whether going from powered off to Windows 11 in seconds or multitasking between programs. The test Surface Laptop 5 had an Intel Core i7-1255U processor, 16GB of 5200MHz memory, 512GB storage and batter life rated up to “18 hours of typical device usage”.

That CPU includes Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, which is great for indie gaming and okay for some mainstream gaming if you’re willing to fully drop the resolution and visual settings (and treat 30 frames per second as playable). But this isn’t a gaming laptop, so that’s a nice-to-have. The memory and storage are standard these days, both of which are fast enough to keep up with everyday personal or business computing.

In terms of raw performance, here’s how the Surface Laptop 5 compares to other recent laptops in Geekbench, Novabench and Cinebench benchmark tests.

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Processor rankings
How do we rank processors?

Essential processors should be able to handle the basics: email, social media and some light web browsing. Gaming or more advanced tasks like image and video editing are likely off the table. 

Everyday processors should be able to confidently meet basic performance requirements for most people. Email, social media and web browsing shouldn’t be a hassle, and while they aren’t able to handle graphically-demanding AAA releases, they should be able to run some indie or casual games. 

Enthusiast processors should be able to easily exceed the minimum requirements of most users and be powerful enough to handle some AAA gaming, though not at the highest fidelity.

Extreme processors should be able to do anything you can think of. Games should run at high frame rates on the highest possible settings, and multitasking shouldn’t be limited in any significant way.

The battery life was somewhat underwhelming, particularly compared to better results from Surface Laptop 4 with AMD CPUs. My Full HD YouTube video test lasted a smidge over eight hours, and the screen isn’t particularly bright on default settings. You can expect shorter longevity if you’re boosting brightness for darker content.

Outside of CPU-intensive tasks on a full-brightness screen, the Surface Laptop 5 should comfortably make it through a full work or study day, but it’s not a viable tablet entertainment replacement on long-haul flights. Recharging went from 0% to 94% in 90 minutes, which is fast. That final 6% of charge took a further 20 minutes, assumedly because slower charging towards the end is designed to help preserve battery longevity.

Battery size
Light Bulb
Laptop batteries: why size isn't everything

Laptop batteries are typically measured in watt-hours (Whr), this unit measures how much power is expended per hour. The more Whr a laptop battery has, the longer the battery life is on paper. However, raw size isn’t everything. It’s not uncommon to find two laptops with the same amount of Whr and very different battery life. There are plenty of other factors that can affect battery life, from software optimisation to how the display has been calibrated. 

It’s also worth noting that batteries can only go so big. Most airlines won’t allow you to take any device with a battery larger than 100Whr onboard, so most manufacturers treat that as an unofficial size limit.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 vs Surface Laptop 4

Incremental upgrades only.

It’s disappointing that Microsoft is back to offering Intel CPUs exclusively for the Surface Laptop 5 range, instead of the AMD/Intel split for the Surface Laptop 4. The Surface Laptop 5 has the latest available CPU and RAM, but the Surface Laptop 4 is slightly lighter.

Display resolution and screen bezels are functionally the same between generations, with the 720p camera returning. The Surface Laptop 5 ships with Windows 11, but the Surface Laptop 5 comes with Windows 10, though a Windows 11 upgrade is incredibly straightforward.

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Pre-installed software
What software is installed by default?
  • Windows 11 (and that's it!)

Is the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 worth buying?

An unessential upgrade for Surface Laptop 4 users.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 close

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 feels more like refinement than revolution. If you own a Surface Laptop 4 and suffer from FOMO, you’re better off waiting another generation. That said, the Surface Laptop 5 is a speedy, lightweight performer with a decent screen and a great keyboard. But it’s far from an essential upgrade.

What spec should I buy?

For the best value and battery life, we recommend the base model of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5. There are options to pay for more storage and RAM but unless your usage calls for it, we think keeping the cost low beats out those benefits when it comes to the Surface Laptop 5. 

Recommended spec
Display13.5-inches PIxelSense
Processor12th Gen Intel Core i5
RAM8GB
Storage256GB
RRP$1,699

How does Surface Laptop 5 compare?

Product
Availability
Display size
Resolution
Weight
Rating
13.6-inches 2,560 x 1,6641.49kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
15.6-inches3840 x 21602.98kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
16-inches2560 x 16002.5kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
14-inches3024 x 19641.6kg
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
13.3-inches2880 x 18001.3kg
3.3 out of 5 stars
3.25
16-inches2560 x 16002.7kg
3.3 out of 5 stars
3.25
17-inches2560 x 19201.5kg
3.3 out of 5 stars
3.25
14-inches2560 x 1600 1.2kg
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
13.5-inches2256 x 15041.56kg
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
13-inches2880 X 1920878g
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
14-inches2880x18001.39kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
16-inches2560 x 16002.3kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
12.4-inches1536 x 10241.1kg
4.2 out of 5 stars
4.15
15.6-inches‎1920x10802.5kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
16-inches3840 x 24001.95kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
13.3-inches2880 x 18001.2kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
13-inches2560 × 16001.29kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
13.4-inches1920 x 12001.2kg
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
1.56-inches2560x14401.9kg
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
Huawei MateBook D14Huawei Matebook D14 (2021)
14-inches1920 x 10801.38kg
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
12.4-inches1536 x 10241.1kg
4 out of 5 stars
4
14-inches3840 x 21601.3kg
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5

How we review laptops

Whether you're looking at a mainstream computer brand like Dell or a dedicated gaming brand like MSI, there's an immense number of decisions you'll need to make when purchasing a laptop. If you're not sure where to start, here are a few important features to consider when shopping for your next laptop:

  • Screen size and type: Unlike upgradeable components like your GPU, RAM and storage, you're stuck with the display you buy when you purchase a laptop. Is it a comfortable size? Does it offer a wide-viewing angle?
  • Resolution: Similarly, you can't change your display's resolution after the fact. 1080p (Full HD) is the bare minimum these days and most laptops worth their price tag aim for 1440p at least (QHD or QuadHD) but you can also opt for 4K if you're willing to spend a little extra.
  • Refresh rate: A screen's refresh rate is the measurement of how frequently it changes. If you play fast-paced multiplayer games like Call of Duty, you know that the difference a few milliseconds that a high refresh rate gets you can count for a lot. The higher the refresh rate, the better. Most conventional laptops offer 60Hz to 90Hz but fancier gaming laptops can offer 144Hz, 165Hz or even 240Hz screens.
  • Ports and connections: Like your screen, ports will impact your everyday experience with a laptop, particularly if you use it for work. While you can work around this with USB hubs and adapters, a laptop with fewer ports than you need can quickly become a headache.
  • Future-proofing: There are no hard and fast rules here but as a general suggestion, you'll want to sure you're laptop has the legs to survive a few years of technology improvements in any way you can. You can overshoot on your desired specs, spending more on a machine that's more powerful than you currently need, or opt for a model or brand that has support for upgrades down the track. Check which features of the machine are upgradeable. The Dell XPS 15, for example, supports additional RAM, while Apple MacBooks do not.

Check out our dedicated laptop buying guide for more suggestions on shopping for the best laptop for your needs.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 FAQs

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 was released on 26 October 2022. There are 13.5-inch and 15-inch screen sizes to choose from, with some variety in CPU, RAM and storage.

Prices for the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 start at $1,699 for the 13.5-inch version with an Intel i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage. The most expensive Surface Laptop 5 costs $2,899 for a 15-inch screen, an i7 CPU, 16GB RAM and 512GB storage.

Every Microsoft laptop released after the launch of Windows 11 can run the latest operating system, including the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5.

Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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