There is fierce competition this year in the world of thin Windows laptops as the Surface Laptop 4 brings the fight to Dell, Lenovo and everyone else.
Trying to find a laptop is usually not as easy as picking the best one, as there are so many options vying for the best laptop. You already have a choice between Windows and Mac, but if you settle for the former, the amount of choice you have can get a little crazy.
Once you start looking at the options, you will be able to choose between thin, thin and light, thin and light and durable, and even thin and light and durable and capable. The goal is the best for your price range, of course, but figuring out what isn’t easy.
In recent years we’ve seen that the Dell XPS 13 generally ticks all the boxes, but there are other contenders out there, and one of them is from Microsoft.
For four good years now, the Surface Laptop has offered a thin and light version of what Microsoft thinks a MacBook Air-style machine could be, and in its most recent version, the company may have finally managed to find it. ‘balanced.
Is the Surface Laptop 4 a laptop to consider?
The new Surface Laptop might be version four, but you’d be sorry to think there’s something different about it compared to the first model, at least from a design perspective.
Four years after the launch of the first Surface Laptop, the new variant offers the same wedge shape with obvious sides, offering an alloy body and Alcantara middle. The latter might seem like a buzzword, but Alcantara is a fabric used in headphones and cars, and it’s basically a premum textile that makes everything a bit nicer overall.
However, everything is the same, and this is basically just the fourth iteration of a design that Microsoft is clearly in love with.
Fortunately, the hardware is evolving, with an Intel Core processor update under the hood, now with an 11th gen Intel Core i5, paired with 8GB of RAM and a minimum of 512GB in the Intel variant of the laptop. .
When it comes to connection, there is a decent assortment of ways to hook up the laptop to your accessories and networks. As such, you’ll find a WiFi 6 802.11a / b / g / n / ac / ax and Bluetooth 5 connection covering the wireless side of things, while the cable is covered with four individual ports: a rectangular USB connector from Type A, a Reversible ovular USB Type C (USB-C) connector, a 3.5mm headphone jack connector, and the Microsoft Magnetic Surface connector.
You’ll also find an above-screen 720p camera with Windows Hello and Windows 10 Home facial security support on Laptop 4 out of the box.
There’s also a 13.5-inch touchscreen running here with a resolution better than Full HD of 2246 × 1504, which is bright and clear, reaching 201 pixels per inch (201ppi) and plenty of real estate.
You can find higher resolution screens on the market, so it’s not a staggering victory for Microsoft, but there’s a nice screen on the Surface Laptop 4 nonetheless.
One area Microsoft has largely nailed down is usability, with the keyboard and mouse performing as well as they’ve ever been on the Surface Laptop.
This is the fourth generation, and between the fuzzy recessed Alcantara keyboard and the surprising amount of travel the keys provide, you’ll find the Surface Laptop 4 offers a plethora of comfortable keystrokes. There is a bit more flexibility in the keyboard than we would like otherwise, but it’s a very easy keyboard to use and adapt to.
The touchpad is also bigger than we’re used to, so there’s plenty of room to work in the controls and gestures, and while the screen doesn’t fall flat like a Surface Pro, you also have of the touch screen to work with.
And there’s even a security spot with Windows Hello built into the screen bezel, letting you log in quickly and easily using nothing but your face.
It all adds up to a laptop that’s fun to use. We’re especially won over by the Alcantara’s fuzzy wrist pad, which, as the colder months started to set in during our Surface Laptop 4 review period, made our arms more comfortable than cold. , which metal laptops usually offer in spades. It’s a small thing, but certainly welcome.
Oddly, the best thing about the usability of the Surface Laptop 4 is that Microsoft has removed one of the barriers to the initial use of the laptop series: Windows 10 S.
You probably know what Windows 10 is, but Windows 10 S was a version that tried a lot to be more secure and locked down to apps found only on the Microsoft Windows Marketplace. However, several years after its launch, Windows 10 S had hardly improved, and even in the recent Surface Laptop Go, it felt largely wasted.
Fortunately, you could turn off S mode and go back to standard Windows 10, but that was an unnecessary extra step and also affected battery capacity.
Here on the Surface Laptop 4, however, Windows 10 is out of the box, not Windows 10 S. That’s a win for customers.
The same goes for what beats below, with the core of a recent Intel chip in use, although there is clearly a choice. Microsoft released the AMD and Intel versions, so you can take your pick at the time of purchase.
In our Surface Laptop 4 review unit, there’s a capable 11th Gen Intel Core i5 processor paired with 8GB of RAM, which offers little to no lag for your everyday desktop application, and handles a bit more.
We performed a bit more on the machine, installing Adobe Creative Cloud apps and doing some of the heavy lifting, but it didn’t slow down, and the mix of technologies provided what we needed.
On the battery side, Microsoft claims that up to 17 hours are possible with the Intel Core i5 variant of the Surface Laptop 4, but we didn’t quite get that. Rather, we found that more than 6 to 11 were on offer, although a bit more would likely be possible depending on what we did.
Desktop productivity is going to get you the most battery life from the Surface Laptop 4, but it’s not a bad delivery in terms of what you can get, and with so much battery life on offer from the MacBook M1, we can definitely see what Microsoft is aiming for with its laptop.
Of course, your battery life will vary from ours, and you might find that the full 17 is possible, and you can also find a lot less. However, given that Windows laptops rarely tend to go over ten, which isn’t terrible at all.
Another advantage of the Surface battery is the way it can be charged, as you get two types of chargers – a Surface connector and a USB Type-C. This makes it easier to charge, because you get the Surface charging pad in the box. , but you can bring your own Type-C connector.
And priced at $ 1,999 for the model we reviewed with 512GB, or less for a 256GB AMD Ryzen variant, it’s not a cheap laptop at all. On the contrary, it competes with what other professional grade laptops do, with Dell’s XPS squarely in its sights.
We’re not sure whether it has quite the advantage of the MacBook Air M1, but when it comes to thin Windows PCs, Microsoft’s Surface 4 Laptop is certainly a contender for the best.
What needs work?
Overall, there isn’t much to work on in the Surface Laptop 4, with Microsoft more or less embracing the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mantra.
We’re not sure the Surface Laptop 4 formula has gone bad in recent years, and with pretty much nothing in the design changed here, and this thing being just hardware updates, the Surface Laptop 4 finds a way. way to keep things solid without doing. too much review.
If anything, the only thing that takes some work might be this design, which is no longer exciting, and largely seems like Microsoft re-capturing what it has resurrected since the laptop was released in 2017.
Beyond that, we would be keen to have more ports, because with a single USB Type A and a single USB Type C, there isn’t much to plug in. An extra C type would give you a bit more work, especially if you were to use that C type to load, which you can. In fact, you can choose to use either the included USB Type-C connector or the Surface connector for charging, but if you’re using Type C you’re officially on a fast data port until you unplug it. .
An extra Type-C port is all we’re saying, Microsoft. This would have gone a long way in making the Surface Laptop 4 a future-proof little extra.
Final Thoughts (TLDR)
The competition for a PC laptop choice usually centers on something from Dell or Lenovo, although HP has managed to surprise in recent years as well. And this year, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 is also making a good impression.
Although early on, it is a contender for the best laptop PC of the year. Even though it lacks imagination and doesn’t quite look like a major change in design, in many ways the Surface Laptop 4 looks like the culmination of Microsoft’s efforts to create a slim PC that delivers the Surface approach. in the best possible way.
We’re hoping Version 5 shakes things up a bit, in part because a bit of a change would be nice to see. But if you love what Microsoft does with its slim productivity laptops and want to see it at its best, this is an easy recommendation.
Microsoft Surface 4 Laptop
A nice, well-built laptop
Soft Alcantara keyboard section feels good on hands and wrists
Has Type A and Type C ports
Can be charged both from Type-C connector and Surface
Solid battery life (depending on what you’re doing)
Comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed and not Windows 10 S (yay!)
The not so good
An additional Type-C port would have made the difference
Not much design difference