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Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 vs. Surface Laptop 4: Is the upgrade worth it?

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 5 is here, ready to replace the ultrathin Surface Laptop 4. Announced at the annual fall Surface event, the laptop brings some changes to the lineup, but most of the differences are on the inside.

Seeing as Microsoft decided to drop AMD in the Surface Laptop 5, the battle between the Surface Laptop 5 and the Surface Laptop 4 could be fiercer than one might expect. Intel versus AMD debates are always spicy. Let’s see how these two laptops compare.

Specs

The front and back of the Surface Laptop 5 on a table.

The specifications show the biggest difference between the Surface Laptop 5 and the Surface Laptop 4. There are two models, a 13.5-inch and a 15-inch, and each gets a slightly different set of specs.

Surface Laptop 5 Surface Laptop 4
Dimensions Surface Laptop 5 13.5″ — 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches
Surface Laptop 5 15″ — 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58 inches
Surface Laptop 4 13.5″ — 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches

Surface Laptop 4 15″ — 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58 inches

Weight Surface Laptop 5 13.5″ — Fabric 2.80 pounds; Metal 2.86 pounds
Surface Laptop 5 15″ — 3.44 pounds
Surface Laptop 4 13.5″ Platinum and Ice Blue Alcantara — 2.79 pounds

Surface Laptop 4 13.5″ Matte Black and Sandstone Metal — 2.84 pounds

Surface Laptop 4 15″ in Platinum and Matte Black Metal — 3.40 lbs

Processor Intel Core i5-1230U (Surface Laptop 5 13.5″ only)
Intel Core i7-1250U
Intel Core i7-1185G7
AMD Ryzen 7 4980U Surface Edition
Graphics Intel Xe Graphics (Integrated) Intel Iris Xe (Integrated)
AMD Radeon (Integrated)
RAM Up to 32GB Up to 32GB
Display Surface Laptop 5 13.5″ — PixelSense 2256 x 1504 IPS
Surface Laptop 5 15″ —  PixelSense 2496 x 1664 IPS
Surface Laptop 4 13.5″ — PixelSense 2256 x 1504 IPS
Surface Laptop 4 15″ — PixelSense 2496 x 1664 IPS
Storage Up to 1TB SSD Up to 1TB SSD
Touch Yes Yes
Ports 1 x Surface Connect

1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x USB-A 3.1
1 x USB-C with USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4

1 x Surface Connect
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x USB-C 3.2
1 x USB-A 3.2
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2 Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Webcam 720p and IR Camera 720p
Operating system Windows 11 Windows 10
Battery Surface Laptop 5 13.5″ — Up to 18 hours
Surface Laptop 5 15″ — Up to 17 hours
Surface Laptop 4 13.5″ AMD Ryzen 5 Edition — Up to 19 hours
Surface Laptop 4 15″ AMD Ryzen 7 Edition — Up to 17.5 hours
Surface Laptop 4 13.5″ Intel Core i5 Edition — Up to 17 hours
Surface Laptop 4 15″ Intel Core i7 Edition — Up to 16.5 hours

Price and availability

Microsoft offers a lot of flexibility when you choose your exact model of the Surface Laptop, and that hasn’t changed in this new generation.

Preorders for the Surface Laptop 5 opened October 12 and it will be available for sale starting October 25. In terms of pricing, Microsoft did ramp things up a bit compared to the previous generation. The absolute cheapest configuration of the Surface 5, with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage, will cost $999. That price can go up to as high as $2,499 if you choose to buy the 15-inch version with a Core i7 processor and 1TB of storage.

When it comes to the Surface Laptop 4, the cheapest model costs a whole $200 less than the next-gen offering, starting at $799 for the basic set of specs and maxing out at $2,099 for the top set of specs in the 15-inch model.

Design

Surface Laptop 5 color options.

Apart from bidding farewell to AMD, the overall design hasn’t been changed that much, although there are some new, bolder color options.

The 13.5-inch version of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 can now be bought in Sage Green in addition to the Platinum Alcantara, Sandstone, and Matte Black. The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 4 has all of these colors except Sage Green, instead of which it has Ice Blue.

Unfortunately, the 15-inch version of both laptops doesn’t get any of those fancy colors; you can only get it in Platinum or Matte Black.

Aside from the updated color range, the Surface Laptop 5 retains its sleek, ultralight design. It’s a gorgeous laptop, and it weighs so little that you can take it anywhere, making it a solid choice for productivity tasks. The differences in weight and dimensions are so small between the Surface Laptop 5 and the Surface Laptop 4 that they’re completely negligible.

In short, the Surface Laptop 5 looks and feels just as good as the Surface Laptop 4, which is great, but it’s no huge upgrade.

Performance

Using a Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 sitting on a couch with a dog.

Microsoft decided to focus solely on Intel Alder Lake-U processors in this generation, dropping AMD entirely. While this might not be entirely unexpected, as the Surface Laptop 4 was one of only a few Surface devices with AMD CPUs, it’s still a controversial decision.

Moving away from Ryzen chips and onto the Intel Core i5-1235U and the Core i7-1255U CPUswill likely have an impact on performance, but it could just be a result of Microsoft trying to focus on productivity as opposed to creative workflows. In our hands-on review of the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5, we noted that if Microsoft were to keep offering both AMD and Intel, the next-gen Surface could have had a Ryzen 5000 or even 6000 CPU.

As of right now, the 12th-generation Intel CPUs in the Surface Laptop 5 are some of the best processors to be found in any laptop, especially one so thin. While keeping AMD would have opened up the options a little more, Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs certainly have a lot to offer. The chips found inside the new Surface come with 10 cores — two performance cores and eight efficiency cores — which should deliver solid multi-threaded performance.

For productivity and day-to-day tasks, the Surface Laptop 5 is likely to excel. We’ll have to run some benchmarks to compare the two properly, but in all likelihood, the Intel version will still outperform the last-gen fourth iteration of the Surface, and it’ll likely breeze through the tasks it was intended to tackle. After, all, this isn’t a gaming laptop, but a beautiful work tool equipped with Intel’s latest hardware.

It’s a tough call

A diagonal front view of a Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 on a white background.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 retains pretty much everything we loved about the Surface Laptop 4. It’s thin, it’s elegant, and it’s a great productivity tool that won’t weigh you down if you travel a lot.

On the other hand, it’s hard not to mention that it could be better. It’s a shame to see that Microsoft focused all of its efforts on Intel, once again, when AMD makes some great CPUs just for this kind of laptop. The feeling that we may have missed out is definitely there, and it’s difficult to shake off.

With that said, if you plan to use the laptop for its intended purposes, you’ll likely see an improvement from the switch-up to Intel Alder Lake — but will it be huge? It’s hard to say.

Microsoft didn’t make any drastic changes in this iteration of the Surface Laptop, that’s for sure. You can upgrade if you want to, but you’re unlikely to see a massive difference one way or the other.

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