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Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 Review: A Solid but Unremarkable Upgrade

If you liked the Surface Laptop 4, you'll like the Surface Laptop 5.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography | PCs and laptops | Gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
3 min read
Sage green Surface Laptop 5 open and sitting on a black windowsill with books to its right
Lori Grunin/CNET

The Surface Laptop line reminds me so much of an older generation of MacBooks... and not in a good way. Microsoft has stuck with the same essential design for years, doing the least to keep it current. The Surface Laptop 5 is a fine notebook, just as it's always been, but it's not as up-to-date or high performing as a lot of similarly priced (or cheaper) models -- the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1, Lenovo Yoga 7i, HP Spectre x360 or even the MacBook Air if you swing that way. At least, it wasn't for the $1,700 top-end model we reviewed.

Age always shows in the screen bezels, which dates the design. Both the Surface Laptop 5 and the Surface Studio 2 Plus seem to have been updated with enterprise buyers in mind, where product buying gets approved for specific configurations and a change that may increase the price means another round of approvals, but IT departments want the laptops it distributes to be as homogeneous as possible for easier accessorizing, support and deployment. Both of those make switching to another manufacturer a higher barrier than for a typical consumer. (It's also why you'll sometimes see updates to products that have you thinking "Why did they bother?")

microsoft-surface-laptop-5-2586.jpg
7.9

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (13-inch)

Like

  • Nice keyboard and touchpad
  • Premium-feeling build
  • Fingerprint resistant
  • Solid display

Don't like

  • Limited upgradeability
  • Can run hot on the bottom
  • Single USB-C/Thunderbolt port
  • 720p webcam
  • Fat-bezeled screen
  • Expensive for what you get
  • Not updated to Wi-Fi 6E or Bluetooth 5.2

Available in 13.5- and 15-inch sizes, the major difference from the Surface Laptop 4 is the move to Intel's 12th-gen Core processors, specifically a choice of an i5-1235U or i7-1255U for consumers and i5-1245U or i7-1265U for business buyers (the latter chips come with support for Intel's vPro security). With the processor change also comes faster DDR5 memory: 8GB, 16GB or 32GB (15-inch only). You have a choice of 256GB, 512GB or 1TB removable solid-state drive for storage, though it's only intended to be removed by a technician (not the rest of us). 

Actually, it comes in about four configurations for each size, not all of which are available in all four colors. In other words, if you want the $999 base configuration of the 13-inch with an i5, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD but with 16GB memory instead, you can't get it -- you have to pay more for the 512GB version. You'd have to pay a technician to install the new SSD.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (13-inch)

Price as reviewed $1,700, £1,699, AU$2,699
Display 13.5-inch 2,256 x 1,504 (201 ppi, 3:2 aspect ratio) 60Hz touch display
CPU 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-1255U
Memory 16GB 2,593MHz DDR5 (soldered)
Graphics Intel Iris Xe
Storage 512GB SSD
Ports 1 x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, 2 x USB-A (1 in power brick), headphone jack, 1 x proprietary (Surface Connect port)
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201, Bluetooth 5.1
Operating system Microsoft Windows Home (22H2)
Weight 2.9 lbs/1.3 kg

We tested the top $1,700 13-inch model -- in the new Sage green -- with the i7, 16GB and 512GB SSD. The previous model we reviewed was last year's 15-inch AMD version Surface Laptop 4.

There's just a single USB-C port, a USB-A 3.1 port, a combo headset jack and a Surface Connect port. One positive, though, is the USB-C port is now USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4, and it still supports power input so you're not forced to use the proprietary Surface port. 

But Microsoft missed the memo on improving built-in webcams and stuck with its old 720p version the Surface Laptop 5; other PC-makers have bumped up to 1080p full HD for generally sharper, more detailed video conferences. The company says that Windows 11 improves the quality of the existing camera, but it's still not great in anything less than well-balanced lighting. And unlike other companies who've said that the tiny display bezels hamper its ability to swap out the webcam for a better one, there's plenty of room in the Surface Laptop's fat bezels for an upgrade.

Top down view of the keyboard and touchpad, attempting to show the green of the laptop

The Sage green is can be pretty subtle unless you see it against certain background colors.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Microsoft added Dolby Vision IQ support, but in the case of the Surface Laptop's same-as-ever screen that just means it can display Dolby Vision-encoded content a little better than it otherwise might. I think of it as it-can-just-do-the-math HDR. The screen that was so notable a few years ago hasn't kept up with OLED or P3-gamut, high-brightness screens, though it does have a slightly higher contrast than a typical IPS panel.

The biggest upgrade were some new components, but they perform in the same range as other laptops with them, and frequently at the bottom of that range. I suspect Microsoft's settings are very conservative to help keep cooling and battery life within reason in the older chassis design. And running on battery can result in about a 30% performance hit, something to keep in mind if you work that way a lot.

The Surface Laptop 5 remains afloat as a solid machine. It's just not one that stands out in any particular way. Just like the last one.

Performance scores

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (2022) 6,317Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 6,545HP Spectre x360 14 (2022) 7,404Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (UM5302TA) 7,649Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch, Gen 7) 8,378Apple MacBook Air (2022) 8,592
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R23 CPU (multicore)

HP Spectre x360 14 (2022) 5,891Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch, Gen 7) 6,580Apple MacBook Air (2022) 6,796Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (2022) 6,923Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 7,498Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (UM5302TA) 10,322
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R23 CPU (single core)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 1,127Apple MacBook Air (2022) 1,604HP Spectre x360 14 (2022) 1,686Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (2022) 1,719Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch, Gen 7) 1,750
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

PCMark 10 Pro Edition

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 4,314Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (2022) 4,651HP Spectre x360 14 (2022) 4,920Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch, Gen 7) 5,584Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (UM5302TA) 5,833
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited

Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (2022) 2469Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (UM5302TA) 3233HP Spectre x360 14 (2022) 3542Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch, Gen 7) 3571Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 3714Macbook Air (2022) 6803
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

JetStream2 (JavaScript and WebAssembly benchmark) in Chrome

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (UM5302TA) 208HP Spectre x360 14 (2022) 221Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch, Gen 7) 227Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (2022) 238Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 238Apple MacBook Air (2022) 267
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test (minutes)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 574Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (2022) 577HP Spectre x360 14 (2022) 640Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch, Gen 7) 765Apple MacBook Air (2022) 1039
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Configurations

Apple MacBook Air (2022) MacOS Monterey 12.4; Apple M2 8-core chip; 8GB RAM; Apple 10-core GPU; 256GB SSD
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (UM5302TA) Microsoft Windows 11 Pro; 2.7GHz AMD Ryzen 7 6800U; 16GB DDR5 6,400MHz RAM; 512MB AMD Radeon graphics; 1TB SSD
Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (2022) Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-1255U; 16GB DDR5 4,800MHz RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics; 512GB SSD
HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 (2022) Microsoft Windows 11 Pro; 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-1255U; 16GB DDR4 4,266MHz RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics; 1TB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 7i (14-inch, Gen 7) Microsoft Windows 11 Home; 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-1255U; 16GB DDR5 4,800MHz RAM; 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics; 512GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 Microsoft Windows 11 Home (22H2); 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-1255U; 16GB DDR5 2,593MHz RAM; 1GB (shared) Intel Iris Xe graphics; 500GB SSD

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