Microsoft’s newest Surface is a laptop. It has the classic clamshell design and runs Windows 10 S. The Surface Laptop joins Microsoft’s Surface Studio and Surface Book, both of which had something unique when they were initially introduced. The Surface Laptop, however, is a bit different — it doesn’t really have anything unique. Sure, the keyboard of the Surface Laptop has an interesting look and feel, but the rest of the device is just like most of the other premium Windows 10 laptops such as Dell’s XPS line.
And that’s completely fine.
Many of Microsoft’s customers, including myself, always wanted a traditional laptop from Microsoft. I wanted a good-looking laptop from Microsoft primarily for work: something that’s not heavy and has a pretty slim design, while including a good set of specs to power all the work that’ll get done on the device. It also didn’t need to have any magical mode that would let me watch movies in a better way or flip the entire device around so I could show it off. I just wanted a simple, good-looking and a powerful laptop from Microsoft. And that’s what the Surface Laptop (almost) is.
I’ve always wanted a traditional laptop from Microsoft
The Surface Laptop is effectively a basic laptop. It isn’t a 2-in-1, it doesn’t have any fancy Clipboard Mode like the Surface Book, and it also doesn’t have interchangeable keyboards. It’s just a normal laptop with decent specs and the premium experience you would hope to get from Microsoft’s Surface brand.
The Surface Laptop lets you upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free
But more importantly, the Surface Laptop is the flagship Windows 10 S device. Even though Windows 10 S is mainly for cheap devices that compete with Google’s Chromebook line, the Surface Laptop is more on the premium end to showcase the OS — similar to what Google did with its $1,299 Chromebook Pixel. In fact, the Chromebook Pixel wasn’t powerful at all when compared to Windows 10 S and the Surface Laptop. Back in 2013 when the Chromebook Pixel debuted, Chrome OS was locked to the Chrome browser which means it could only run web apps and users couldn’t run Android apps on it either. In contrast, the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S lets you use some of the classic Windows desktop apps, as well as all the modern Universal Windows Apps such as Netflix, OneNote, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more. But if you aren’t a big fan of Windows 10 S, Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro until the end of this year, too.
Microsoft still did some really good work with the Surface Laptop, though. The Alcantara-covered keyboard, for example, looks very nice but its durability will be really important. What’s more, Microsoft put a battery on the Surface Laptop that can run up to 14.5 hours — that’s around 5 hours more than Apple’s $1499 MacBook Pro (entry-level model) and around 3.5 hours more than the $1,299 MacBook. Of course, Microsoft says the Surface Laptop’s battery life lasts up to 14.5 hours, but the actual real-life experience will likely be slightly different and that’s frankly the same case for almost all other premium laptops in the market.
But my main problem with the Surface Laptop is its price — not whether it has any special tricks up its sleeves. And it’s a pretty serious issue. With the entry-level of the Laptop, you get the Intel Core i5, 128GB SSD storage, and only 4GB RAM. For $999, Microsoft should have at least packed 8GB RAM on the entry-level Surface Laptop.
The entry-level model comes with only 4GB RAM and costs $999
The Surface Laptop comes with up to 16GB RAM, but if you want at least 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, you will need to pay $300 extra. That’s a lot of money for the extra 4GB RAM and 128GB storage. For comparison, you can get a Dell XPS 13 with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage for only $1099 — Dell has also done some amazing stuff with the quality of its XPS line in recent years, and the devices look and feel very premium.
Another fairly minor issue on the Surface Laptop is obviously the number of ports. The Surface Laptop doesn’t have any USB Type-C, which is a bit disappointing for some customers — but I personally don’t mind at all. It would be nice to have one USB Type-C port, but it isn’t a necessity per se — at least for me, anyway. That’s mainly because the only gadget that uses USB Type-C is my phone, so I don’t really need a Type-C port on the Surface Laptop.
Interestingly, Microsoft was actually testing two Type-C ports on one of the Surface Laptop prototypes, but it isn’t clear why those didn’t make it through the final product.
USB Type-C isn’t a necessity, but putting only one Type-A port is stingy
However, putting only one USB 3.0 port on the Surface Laptop is understandably annoying. The Surface Pro 4 includes only one USB Type-A port, but that device is a tablet which can replace your laptop — but the Surface Laptop is an actual laptop, so it should at least have one more Type-A port than the Pro 4, which unfortunately isn’t the case. Even though I personally don’t have the need for Type-C at the moment, I still believe Microsoft needs to move on to the future and embrace Type-C. I highly doubt Microsoft will make the same mistake with the upcoming Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2, so at least there’s that to look forward to.
To sum it up, the Surface Laptop’s price isn’t too bad, but Microsoft could have done way better with the price (and maybe the ports) here. I mean, a $900 laptop with 4GB RAM just about touches the Apple pricing. But the fact that the Surface Laptop doesn’t have anything unique or mind-blowing like some of the recent Surface devices is perfectly fine for me. If only the entry-level model had 8GB of RAM, the Surface Laptop would have been a perfect laptop for me. But if you have ever wanted a traditional laptop from Microsoft, the Surface Laptop is the way to go.