At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

  • Decent performance
  • Simple Windows install with no bloatware
  • Great keyboard

Cons

  • Dated design with thick display bezel
  • Expensive to upgrade RAM and storage
  • No AMD option

Our Verdict

If you stick with simple specs, the Surface Laptop 5 is a decent option for a Windows 11 laptop, but the combination of a dated design and expensive upgrades mean anyone with more demanding needs is better off looking elsewhere.

The Surface Laptop 3 was a great piece of hardware – so good in fact that Microsoft changed as little as it could in its successor, and hasn’t changed much more for the Surface Laptop 5. 

That means the fifth model won’t appeal much as an upgrade option, but if you’re using an older Microsoft laptop – or another brand entirely – then there’s still plenty here to like, so long as you can forgive what’s becoming a bit of a dated design and don’t mind the decision to ditch AMD and go all-in on Intel. 

Is the Surface Laptop 5 still worth buying?

The Surface Laptop 5 remains the latest version of Microsoft’s thin and light laptop. Despite it being launched in 2022, it looks like Microsoft is skipping a year, with the Surface Laptop 6 not expected until at least 2024.

It means that almost everything in this review still applies. The Surface Laptop 5’s design still looks the part, even if it’s not the most modern these days. Performance from 12th-gen Intel CPUs is more than enough for everyday usage, and the keyboard is one of the best on any laptop.

There are still better value for money laptops out there, even if you’re looking for a Windows 11 device. But if you can find a discounted model of the Surface Laptop 5, it becomes much easier to recommend.

Microsoft still sells the Laptop 5, so look out for deals there or via retailers such as Amazon. The latter’s discounts are sometimes exclusive to Prime members, but not always.

Design & build 

  • Same design as last two generations 
  • Thick bezel around the screen 
  • Two size options: 13.5in or 15in 

The Surface Laptop 5 is a pretty slick looking piece of hardware, with the caveat that we’ve seen it all before and it’s beginning to get old-fashioned. 

Microsoft has chosen not to update the design it’s used for the last few years, so we get the same simple metallic exterior with a reflective Windows logo, and a sparse interior with a spacious keyboard and trackpad. 

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

It looks pretty sharp, and to be honest it only shows its age in one area: the screen. The display itself isn’t the problem – I’ll get to that in a minute – but there’s so much blank black space around it, in a thick bezel that other manufacturers have long since done away with.  

In turn that means that the laptop as a whole is bigger than it really needs to be for the screen size, giving you extra chunk and heft to lug around with you. 

That problem is certainly worse on the larger 15in model I’ve been reviewing, which is downright heavy at over 1.5kg – every time I lift my backpack I remember this thing is in there – and I expect the smaller 13.5in version would be a little more forgiving. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 - closed

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

It helps that ports are the same between both sizes at least. Either way you get a single full-size USB-A 3.1 port, one USB-C 4.0 & Thunderbolt 4 port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the little-loved Surface Connect port for charging. You’ll appreciate that if you have older Surface accessories, but otherwise it feels like an increasing waste given that the USB-C port can also be used for charging. 

The other reason to prefer the smaller model might be the range of colours. While the larger laptop is only available in black or platinum, if you go small you can also get it in either sage green or a burnished sandstone finish. And if you’re a fan of Microsoft’s suede-like alcantara fabric linings, note that this is only found on the smaller version in the planium colour. 

Screen & speakers 

  • Work-focussed 3:2 aspect ratio display 
  • LCD ‘PixelSense’ touchscreen panel 
  • Decent Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers 

Microsoft hasn’t yet made the jump to OLED in its laptops, and instead still equips the Surface Laptop 5 with LCD displays, using panels it calls ‘PixelSense’. It also sticks with the standard 60Hz refresh rate, rather than adopting a more responsive panel. 

There’s little difference between the screens on the two sizes here other than the resolution: 2256 x 1504 in the smaller model, and 2496 x 1664 in the larger – with a matching pixel density of 201ppi in either case. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 - main

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Either way, it uses the increasingly popular 3:2 aspect ratio, giving you a taller, boxier display that’s better suited to productivity. You’ll get a little extra screen space for documents and email, with the trade-off that you’ll probably have to put up with black letterboxing whenever you fire up a film on Netflix. 

Actual screen quality mostly impresses. You won’t enjoy the deep blacks and wider dynamic range of an OLED panel, but this is bright enough to suit a range of lighting conditions, with vibrant colours and plenty of detail on offer. It’s a touchscreen too, giving you another option for navigating Windows, and it supports the Surface Pen stylus, though this is sold separately. 

As for audio, in addition to the 3.5mm headphone jack (no longer a guarantee on a modern laptop) you’ll get a pair of built-in speakers. These are upfiring – which is good – but fire through the keyboard – which is less so.  

Quality is decent, with plenty of clarity, but a distinct lack of bass even by laptop standards. Dolby Atmos support should help when watching movies or playing games in particular, but at this quality level won’t make a whole lot of difference. 

Keyboard, trackpad & webcam 

  • Comfortable keyboard 
  • Spacious touchpad 
  • Average 720p webcam 

The large keyboard on the Surface Laptop is generally impressive. Comfortable key spacing, decent travel, and three backlighting settings sum up to produce a comfortable typing experience that isn’t the best in a Windows laptop, but not too far behind. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 - top

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

I have one caveat to that. I’ve been using the Surface Laptop 5 for just about a month for this review, and just today, as I write it up, it’s developed an unusual fault: a squeaky space bar. It’s a sporadic but irritating sound that’s only crept in today but is already getting on my nerves – and raises my doubts about the keys’ ultimate longevity. 

Below the keyboard you’ll find the spacious glass trackpad. Using glass instead of plastic results in a smoother pad with less friction and drag. There’s no support for the haptic feedback many premium laptops now offer, but otherwise there’s little to complain about here. 

Then there’s the webcam. This is one of the elements overdue an upgrade, as the 720p resolution and grainy quality don’t quite cut it any more. Together with the dual microphones this serves for basic video calls, but it definitely won’t have you looking your best. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 - camera

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

It does however support Windows Hello facial recognition for signing into the PC, which works pretty well. That’s your only biometric option though, as there’s no fingerprint scanner.

Specs & performance 

  • 12th-gen Intel processors 
  • No Intel option 
  • Loads of RAM and storage 

While the Surface Laptop 4 gave buyers a choice between Intel or AMD processors, Microsoft has made the choice for you this time around: it’s Intel or bust.  

At least Microsoft is using the 12th-gen Intel chips – the latest at the time of release – though you are limited to the low-power U-series versions. If you opt for the 13.5in model you’ll still get to choose between the i5-1235U and the more powerful i7-1255U, though the 15in laptop only comes with the i7 chip. 

The processor comes with up to 16GB of RAM on the smaller machine and up to 32GB for the larger, with a similar split of up to 512GB storage for the little laptop and a maximum of 1TB for the 15in. 

In benchmarks, the Laptop 5 essentially does about as you’d expect: it’s not the most powerful machine around, but it’s comparable to most similarly priced flagship rivals. Some do a little better, some do a little worse, but they’re all in the same ballpark.

The bottom line is that performance is strong, in line with what you’d expect from a productivity laptop at this price. With lower power chips and no discrete GPU option this won’t really suit gamers or creative power users, but there’s still plenty of power for Photoshop, basic video editing, and spreadsheets galore. 

Battery life & charging 

  • Good but not exceptional battery life 
  • Charging with Surface Connect or USB-C 

Last time around, there was one clear advantage to picking an AMD chip in the Surface Laptop 4: better battery life. 

With no AMD option on the Laptop 5, you’re denied that perk, though the good news is that this year’s Intel silicon has picked up when it comes to power efficiency.  

My i7-powered 15in model lasts just about a full day of work, including web browsing, writing, light photo editing, and a little too much Slack chat. Going by benchmarks again, it’s in the middle of the pack for similarly sized devices.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 - card reader

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

Still, it’s not quite a comfortable full-day, and I’d definitely want to have a charger with me if I was out and about, as there’s still a touch of battery anxiety when you try to stretch this out to a full shift. 

The good news is that you can charge the laptop with either the Surface Connect charger it comes with, or any sufficiently powerful USB-C charger. That means your phone charger may well do the job, saving you from carrying another cable and power brick, and freeing you from the frustratingly fiddly Surface Connect socket. 

With 37% charge restored in half an hour this is far from the fastest laptop charging around, but it’s ultimately pretty typical.

Software 

There’s surprisingly little to say about the software side of the Surface Laptop 5, which ships with Windows 11.  

Although this is Microsoft’s flagship hardware, it doesn’t pack the laptop with custom features or extra tricks the way that Google does with its Pixel phones, instead trusting this to serve as a showcase for the standard Windows experience. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 - keyboard

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

You don’t even get any extra software freebies beyond the standard month-long free trials of Microsoft 365 and and Xbox Game Pass. The welcome flipside of that is that unlike some Windows rivals you won’t have to put up with loads of pre-installed apps and bloatware – this is Windows at its cleanest. 

Price & availability 

The Surface Laptop 5 starts from $999/£999 for the 13.5in model with an i5 processor, while the larger 15in version starts from $1,299/£1,299. 

Those are friendly enough starting prices, but they climb quickly. Go fully loaded and you’ll pay $2,399/£2,399 for the 15in with an i7, 32GB RAM, and 1TB of storage. 

Given it was released in 2022, you may now be able to find some discounts. But otherwise, plenty of other laptops offer better value for money.

Verdict 

Microsoft has arguably phoned it in with the Surface Laptop 5 – all it really did is throw in the latest Intel chips and Thunderbolt 4 and call it a day – but fortunately the start point was good enough to get away with it. 

Some elements are undeniably dated, such as the thick black bezel around the display and the basic 720p webcam, but with strong performance and an otherwise sleek design the laptop still holds up well. 

A good spread of ports help, and while I’m no fan of the fiddly Surface Connect socket, its appearance will appeal to existing Surface owners with accessories they’re hanging onto.  

Microsoft will have to make real changes soon, but in this iteration the Surface Laptop 5 can ride out one more generation as an appealing option. 

Specs

  • Display: 3:2 PixelSense LCD touchscreen ; 13.5in (2256×1504), 15in (2496×1664)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-1235U, i7-1255U
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
  • Memory: 8/16/32GB LPDDR5x RAM
  • Storage: 256/512GB/1TB SSD
  • Ports: 1 USB-C 4.0/Thunderbolt 4, 1 USB-A 3.1, Surface Connect, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Camera: 720p front-facing with Windows Hello support
  • Wireless: WiFi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1
  • Operating system: Windows 11 Home
  • Colours: Platinum, Sage, Sandstone, Matte Black
  • Weight: 1.27kg (13.5in, Platinum with alcantara), 1.3kg (13.5in, Black/Sage/Sandstone), 1.56kg (15in, Platinum/Matte Black)