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Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review

The notebook computer evolution continues with the addition of Thunderbolt 4.

Last updated: 29 March 2023

CHOICE verdict

Microsoft’s Surface laptops improve incrementally on each new release, and key features this time round are faster, 12th-generation Intel processors and the addition of high-speed USB-C Thunderbolt 4. The Surface Laptop 5 comes in 15-inch or 13.5-inch screen sizes. The main improvements with this generation are the speed bump of a faster processor, faster storage and support for Thunderbolt 4 connections. For those who want a very high speed external connection, the addition of Thunderbolt 4 might make it worth upgrading to this model.

Price: From $1699

Our entry-level test model has a 12th-gen Intel Evo Core i5-1235U processor, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 8GB RAM (memory), and 256GB (gigabytes) of solid-state drive (SSD) storage (which leaves you with usable space of 198GB). There's no AMD Ryzen variant as offered previously. Wireless connectivity is via Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 open front

This 13.5-inch glossy screen has a resolution of 2256 x 1504 pixels.

Screen sizes and resolutions remain the same as the previous model, and the 13.5-inch model we tested has very good overall quality, with excellent colours, brightness and contrast. 

This 13.5-inch glossy screen has a resolution of 2256 x 1504 pixels, giving a pixel resolution of 201ppi (pixels per inch) and a squarish 3:2 aspect ratio, which is great for documents and web browsing. The 720p HD front-facing camera supports Windows Hello for login.

Performance and battery

Performance for everyday work is quick enough thanks to the Intel Core i5-1235U CPU, and storage speed is an improvement over the previous model we looked at (notwithstanding the differences in spec). 

Battery life was almost six hours in our heavy-duty test, so all-day battery life in normal use should be no problem. Microsoft actually claims up to 18 hours of battery life for "typical device usage". 

Closed view

We tested the entry-level 13.5-inch model with the Platinum Alcantara finish. Three other metal finishes are available: Black, Sage, and Sandstone.

Charging the battery back up to 80% was quick, at just over an hour, but to get to 100% took almost double that time (this is typical of modern batteries – it's that last 20% that takes the longest).

There are no outward physical changes in the design between the previous generation and this one, except that you get a couple more colour options. 

The Alcantara finish on our model's palm rest gives it a luxurious feel. The body has the same sleek look and feel and weighs just 1.3kg, so it's easy enough to carry around everywhere.

Thunderbolt 4 added

The Surface Laptop 5 is still a minimalist design, with only one USB-A and one USB-C port for external devices, but the USB-C port is now Thunderbolt 4, which makes it convenient to plug in a hub when using it at a desk. You also get a headphone jack and magnetic-attach Surface Connect for the power adapter. 

The upgrade of the USB-C port to Thunderbolt 4 is a welcome addition. It allows you to hook up a Thunderbolt hub to add very quick access to external storage, a second monitor, and other peripherals. You may want a hub that includes HDMI and an SD card slot, which are both absent from the laptop itself.

Alcantara keyboard

We tried out the Alcantara version, which gives a soft and luxurious feel to what is already a very good keyboard.

User comfort

The relatively light weight and slim profile of this laptop makes it comfortable and convenient to use and transport. 

Microsoft has put effort into making a very comfortable backlit keyboard and they succeeded. The touchpad is large (115 x 76mm) and works well. This makes it suitable for long sessions of work without discomfort. 

The company has refined a winning formula with this fairly minimalist but capable laptop. There's a faster 12th-gen Intel processor, faster storage and support for Thunderbolt 4. This adds much-needed versatility, especially if you plug in a Thunderbolt hub. For those who want a very high speed external connection, that might make all the difference.

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.