Technology

Notebook Microsoft Surface 5: disappointment, but success

Microsoft’s Surface line of laptops is a direct competitor to the MacBook line. Both lines of computers are made by the developers of their operating systems, use high-quality components and have a solid aluminum chassis.

Notebook Microsoft Surface 5

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As such, we can expect both ranges to aim for high specs in terms of performance and functionality. It’s hard to argue with the fact that Apple has done quite well with the latest MacBook Pros. Microsoft, however, seems to be lazier. And it looks like it’s starting to get in the way of the Surface line.

Even the precision-machined chassis and incredible performance couldn’t get me to ignore overly wide edges. And nothing forgives the mediocre quality of its webcam for a device in this price range. It’s a shame, because the system as a whole is excellent.

Functions

  • CPU: 12th generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7
  • Screen : 13.5″ 2256 x 1504 pixel touchscreen
  • Memory : 8GB or 16GB DDR5 RAM
  • Storage : Removable 256 GB or 512 GB SSD
  • Webcam: 720p
  • Battery: up to 18 hours of use
  • Connection: WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1
  • Ports: 1 USB-C 4.0/Thunderbolt 4, 1 USB-A 3.1, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1 Surface Connect
  • Height and weight : 340 x 244 x 14 mm, 1560 g

And the build quality?

Microsoft Surface 5 laptop with lid closed

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

If you want the short answer: this is the best Windows laptop you can buy.

If you want a longer answer: Microsoft has managed to create a clean, minimalist computer that no one but Apple seems to be able to emulate. From the slightly reflective Windows logo to the machined chassis, the Surface laptop can match or beat any MacBook or Windows-based laptop.

Even aspects you barely notice, such as the built-in vents, show a noticeable level of attention to detail.

Air vents on a Microsoft Surface 5 laptop

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

Note on materials: my test sample was an all-aluminum model. Microsoft also offers configurations with Alcantara on the keyboard. If you hate the feel of cold metal on your wrists, this might be a great option. But before buying, I would advise you to think about how this material will withstand your operation.

Functions and connectivity

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 Ports

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

The port selection on the Surface Laptop 5 is to be expected. This is a good thing. The company acknowledges that many USB-A devices still exist, which is why it includes a USB-A port. In addition, it has a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4 support, which means you can connect a range of peripherals (storage, power, displays, etc.) to it. Something that will satisfy everyone, even if the connectivity options are not very great.

Microsoft could have added USB ports instead of the Surface Connect port. This connector, which hasn’t changed much since the first Surface, is the only one on the right side of the laptop. I have two problems with this port.

First, I’m not a fan of proprietary connectors. This port does a good job of connecting Surface-brand docks, but USB-C can work just as well, being much more versatile.

The Surface Laptop 5 charger is included.

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

Secondly, I’ve seen Surface chargers like the one that came with this laptop fail more often than chargers from other manufacturers. Not only do the tiny contacts seem prone to corrosion, but the magnets that hold the fin in place lose strength over time. Fortunately, there is a second way to charge, which we will discuss below.

USB-A port on Surface Laptop 5 charger

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

The charger itself has retained a very practical feature: the USB-A port. This is useful for charging just about anything you want. However, I would have preferred an additional USB-C port or two instead of the Surface Connect port. This is just the first of the legacy components we’re going to talk about here.

Surface Laptop 5 display

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

Let’s also talk about screen edges. These black spaces around the stove are practically non-existent on modern smartphones, and almost all manufacturers of laptops, monitors and TVs have reduced them to a minimum. Not Microsoft.

The 2256 x 1504 display looks very good, is bright enough for outdoor use, and boasts impeccable pixel density and color reproduction. But all this is overshadowed by the ledges that surround it. Maybe I’m being too picky about this. But if you look at the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16, you will see screens with minimal bezels.

Surface Laptop 5 webcam from Microsoft

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

In the center of the top border is Microsoft’s worst solution for this laptop: its webcam. Windows Hello support is good, but 720p resolution is worse.

Sample Screenshot of Surface Laptop 5 Webcam Performance

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

A Microsoft spokesperson said in a recent presentation that the company’s customers have always been pleased with the quality of 720 pixels and that Windows 11’s built-in software processing improves camera performance. Statements that can be doubted.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 webcam performance example

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

This webcam would be acceptable on a cheap computer, but it’s not available on a model that even has a base configuration of €1,279 (the configuration I’m testing is €2,049). What would have been forgivable a few years ago is unforgivable today when many users spend several hours a week on Zoom or video conferencing.

Performance and battery life

Surface Laptop 5 keyboard and trackpad

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

Back to the much more positive aspect of the Surface: performance. The model I tested has a Core i7 processor, 16GB of DDR5 RAM, and a 512GB SSD, making the Surface Laptop 5 a powerful engine. It devoured my heaviest Photoshop tasks, handled a huge number of Chrome tabs, and streamed videos. Best of all, it was consistently quiet and never overheated. Uncomfortably hot palm rests are one of my favorite bugs, but this model doesn’t have them.

Battery statistics window for Surface Laptop 5

Image: Michael Gariffo/ZDNET.

The passive power consumption of the Surface Laptop 5 in sleep mode is one of the lowest I’ve seen on a Windows laptop.

One annoying feature I ran into was the reluctance of Windows 11 or Surface Laptop 5 to provide battery life estimates. Statistics that usually appear instantly were simply absent here. So I had to measure battery life the old fashioned way. The result is an average of about 10-14 hours with mixed use. This includes things like video/audio streaming, web browsing, content writing, and other routine tasks of a typical work day.

In a pinch, I drained the battery in about seven hours trying to run the worst possible scenarios and was able to get the 18 hours promised by Microsoft at the sacrifice of screen brightness, volume, and performance.

All in all, I wouldn’t mind leaving the charger at home and working with this laptop all day if I charged it at night. If you need to recharge the animal, and you left the charger at home, all is not lost. The included USB-C port can also charge the Surface Laptop 5. The standard 65W charger I tested took the device from near zero to full in about two hours.

Conclusion

If you think that I had high requirements for this test, you are right. After all, this is the flagship laptop from the company that created Windows. While his resourcefulness and ability to optimize his own operating system manifested itself in such aspects as consistently excellent build quality and computer performance, he was unable to meet the modern needs of the base, such as a decent webcam and a modern screen design.

If you never video conference or don’t mind wasted screen space, this is the best Windows laptop available today. Even if these things bother you a bit, I recommend pitting them against the outstanding performance, build, and aesthetics that the computer offers. The Surface Laptop 5 is disappointing, but close to being the number one Windows laptop.

Alternatives

The ThinkPad Z16 has the same efficiency and build quality, but has a few extra creative features. It also has much thinner bezels and similar performance, although its webcam is also disappointing.

The Acer Swift Edge can’t match the build quality of the Surface Laptop 5. However, it does offer a larger 4K OLED display and equivalent performance for a few dollars less.

The latest addition to the Dell XPS 13 lineup appears to be from a more distant era. It features the same precise design and build quality, but uses every millimeter of its body for a screen or keyboard. It also includes identical configuration options but will cost more for the same features.

Source: .com

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