Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 5 continues Microsoft’s tradition of providing a general all-around productivity laptop, though there’s one pronounced change for this generation: Microsoft has settled on a 12th-gen “Alder Lake” Core chip from Intel—and that’s it.
The Surface Laptop 5 won’t offer us the chance to directly compare Intel’s latest Core against AMD’s latest Ryzen processor, as was demonstrated in our Surface Laptop 4 review. But it will still offer you a choice—between a 13.5-inch display and a larger, 15-inch version. Inside, you’ll find the same processors used on the new Surface Pro 9: a choice between the Core i5-1235U and Core i7-1255U, with a faster i5-1245U and i7-1265U reserved for commercial versions.
Preorders for the Surface Laptop 5 begin today. Prices will range from $999.99 to $1,699.99 for the 13.5-inch consumer version, and $1,299.99 to $2,399.99 for the 15-inch version. They’ll ship October 25. Commercial versions will be about $100 more expensive, probably due to the inclusion of Windows 11 Pro. All told, that’s the same price range that Microsoft offered for the Surface Laptop 4, meaning that inflation, surprisingly, won’t play a role.
A key addition for the Surface Laptop 5 is Thunderbolt 4. Yes, Microsoft retained the legacy Surface Connect port for charging, but now you have the option of connecting to a Thunderbolt dock or Microsoft’s new Audio Dock. Either way, the Surface Laptop 5’s expansion capabilities increase tremendously because of it.
Only commercial customers will have the choice between Windows 10 and Windows 11; consumers will receive a Surface Laptop 5 preloaded with Windows 11, the first time Microsoft has shipped a Laptop with its latest OS.
Other than that, the differences are minimal: The Surface Laptop 5 weighs just a smidge more (2.80 versus 2.79 pounds for the 13.5-inch version; 3.44 versus 3.40 pounds for the 15-inch version) and the screens now support Dolby Vision IQ, an HDR technology. The 15-inch Surface Laptop 5, however, has less (!) battery life than the 13.5-inch version, though a slight bump up from the Surface Laptop 4. Memory and storage options remain the same, other than a jump from LPDDR4X to LPDDR5X memory. The 3.5mm audio jack remains, though Microsoft removed it from the Surface Pro 9.
Users also have a new color option: Sage, in addition to the existing Matte Black and Sandstone. Remember, too, that the Surface Laptop 4 and 5 also offer you the option of an Alcantara fabric coating instead of a metal chassis, in a Platinum color. Every single Surface Laptop 5 is part of Intel’s Evo platform.
Like most of the other modern Surfaces, several parts are replaceable by a trained Microsoft technician, including the SSD, display enclosure, motherboard, battery, and the thermal module. The Surface Laptop 5 will ship with a 60W power plug, and will continue to be Microsoft Pen compatible.
Remember, Intel’s Alder Lake architecture makes a jump to a mix of performance and efficiency cores, so that 12th-gen mobile Core performance jumped up quite significantly from the prior generation. Microsoft characterized the Surface Laptop 5 as “50 percent mor powerful” than its predecessor, the Surface Laptop 4. How Microsoft tuned these 12th-gen Core chips and how well they’ll fare against their mainstream competition will have to wait for our own tests.