From the outside, the new model looks identical to the previous generation, aside from the addition of a new colourway.
That means it offers excellent build quality, a great screen and one of the best keyboards around. But is there more going on under the surface?
We wanted to find out exactly how much better the Laptop 5 really is, so we've been putting it to the test. Here's what we found out.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5
There are not many new features to get excited about on the Surface Laptop 5, but it's a small improvement to one of our favourite laptops, which makes it easy to recommend.
- Best-in-class fit and finish
- Great display and speakers
- Superb keyboard and trackpad
- Thunderbolt 4 (finally!)
- Increased performance
- Not much different to the Surface Laptop 4
- No AMD options this time around
- Could use some additional ports
- Size: 308 x 223 x 14.5mm
- Weight: 1.29kg
- Finishes: Platinum with Alcantara palm rest or Matte Black, Sage and Sandstone with Metal palm rest
- Ports: 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-A 3.1, 3.5mm headphone socket, Surface Connect Port
As we mentioned in the introduction, the Surface Laptop 5 is visually identical to the Laptop 4, except for the addition of the new Sage colourway. That happens to be the colourway that we have in for testing, and it looks lovely in the flesh.
Depending on the lighting conditions, the chassis appears in different shades of greenish-grey, and it always looks superb. This model has the metal palm rest, rather than the Alcantara fabric finish that's available on the Platinum variant.
Our daily driver is a Surface Laptop 4, with the Alcantara keyboard surround, so we're very familiar with the fit and finish. This is our first time using the all-metal version, though, and we're quite fond of it.
It adds rigidity to the keyboard, which makes it even better to type on, and it was already one of our favourite laptop keyboards. The trackpad feels more solid too, with a deeper sound to the click that inspires confidence. Though these aspects are also likely true of the all-metal Laptop 4.
The selection of ports looks identical, but the singular USB-C port now supports Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4.0 connectivity. This is something that Surface fans have been asking for for a long time, and we're pleased to see it finally implemented.
Otherwise, you get a singular USB-A, a headphone/mic port and Microsoft's proprietary Surface Connect port. We'd have loved to see the addition of an HDMI or even a secondary USB-C port, but the port selection gets the job done, and we're happy that the headphone socket is still present.
The Surface Laptop 5 also gets a bump from Bluetooth 5.0 to Bluetooth 5.1. We didn't really notice a difference in performance, but the connection was very stable, and connecting to our Surface Headphones 2 and Arc Touch mouse was seamless and rapid.
Display, speakers and webcam
- 13.5-inch 2256x1504 Touchscreen PixelSense Display
- Individually colour calibrated with Dolby Vision IQ support
- Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Atmos support
- 720p Webcam with Windows Hello
Moving on to the display, not much has changed here either. You'll still get the same resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, a Gorilla Glass coating and a very responsive touch screen - with chunky bezels that are starting to look a tad dated.
By today's standards, it's not the most impressive display, many similarly priced models offer OLED panels and far higher refresh rates. That said, it does look good in use, and while you won't get the deep inky blacks of an OLED display, you get decent contrast and solid colour accuracy.
What's new on this model is support for Dolby Vision IQ. When watching supported content, this technology uses a sensor to adjust picture settings based on the ambient light around you. It works well, but it's far from game-changing.
We found that in day-to-day use, it felt like the screen adjusted to ambient light a little faster and more reliably than the previous model - which might be a side-effect of this new feature.
The speakers remain unchanged, and that's fine by us, because they were already some of the best available on a Windows machine. There's plenty of detail along with spaciousness and weight that you wouldn't expect from such a thin chassis, with no visible speaker grilles.
The webcam is also the same, and this is something we would have liked to see an improvement on. It's only 720p, which lags behind most rivals in 2023. That said, it's not a bad webcam, and you'll never get complaints during conference calls, it's just unlikely to impress anyone, either.
Performance and battery
- 12th Gen Intel Core i7-1255U
- 16GB LPDDR5X, 512GB SSD (upgradable)
- Quoted battery life: Up to 18 hours of typical usage
- Charges via Surface Connect port or USB-C at 65W
The biggest update on the Surface Laptop 5 is the move to Intel's 12th Gen processors, which Microsoft says offer up to a 50 per cent performance increase over the Surface Laptop 4, as well as longer battery life.
In practice, we didn't find the performance increase to be quite that impressive, though it definitely is faster. The Laptop 5 had no issues coping with our typical workday tasks. It barely broke a sweat with some Photoshop work, web browsing and light video editing.
In real terms, the new processor equates to about 20 per cent faster render times in Adobe Premiere. Though our Surface Laptop 4 is the Ryzen 5 version, so it's not quite apples-to-apples.
Speaking of the Ryzen model, there are unfortunately no AMD processors available this time around. We think this is a real shame, as the old Ryzen 5 4680U model offered not only the best bang for buck, but also the best battery life.
The Laptop 5, as configured, is quoted as having up to 18 hours of battery life, which is one hour less than the old Ryzen model, but one hour more than its Intel-based predecessor. In reality, we managed around 11 and a half hours on a charge, which is pretty respectable, if a little shy of our AMD machine.
Charging can be done with the included Surface Connect adapter, which works a bit like Apple's MagSafe chargers, in that it magnetically attaches and can be yanked out without throwing your laptop across the room. However, the USB-C port can also be used for charging, so long as you have a 65W-capable charger.
It takes about an hour and a half to fully charge from flat, but it'll get up to 80 per cent in less than an hour, which is great if you're on the go.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is an interesting one. On one hand, there's barely anything new here, other than the processor, which makes it hard to get excited about. On the other, it's a small improvement to what was already one of our favourite laptops, which makes it very easy to recommend.
It wouldn't have been hard to make this an appealing upgrade - updating the screen, shrinking the bezels and using a better webcam would have done just that. Instead, the only meaningful upgrades are the new processors and the addition of Thunderbolt 4.
If you're a Surface Laptop 4 owner, there's no real reason to upgrade, unless you absolutely need Thunderbolt connectivity. But, if you're thinking of buying a Surface Laptop for the first time, this could be a great choice.
It's the fastest Surface Laptop to date, it has a fetching additional colourway and it still has all of the features that made us fall in love with its predecessor - superb fit and finish, excellent keyboard and trackpad, a lovely screen and outstanding speakers.
We think it's a solid purchase, though savvy shoppers might want to consider the older model instead, which offers most of the same experience at a lower cost.