Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (13.5in) review: An almost-great business machine

Minor niggles here and there, but overall, an efficient and stylish business companion

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 on a desk
(Image: © Future)

IT Pro Verdict


  • +

    Comfortable typing experience

  • +

    Snappy processor

  • +

    Elegant design


  • -

    Lack of ports

  • -

    Poor webcam

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is a rather traditional business device within the Surface range. It isn't an all-rounder like the Surface Pro 9 and it isn't an expansive PC like the Studio 2+ – it is the runt of the litter in that regard. However, it is, arguably, the device that should have wider business appeal. It is both portable and powerful, and, unlike the Pro 9, it actually comes with a keyboard.

Also, unlike the Surface Pro 9, businesses can only get the Surface Laptop 5 with an Intel chip – there is no AMD option – but it does now come with a Thunderbolt 4-enabled port.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review: Design

The design on the Surface Laptop 5 hasn't changed – seemingly ever – but we at IT Pro see that as a good thing. It's an elegant all-aluminium affair, with a minimalistic design, as seen with the barely-there Windows logo on the lid and the keyboard's smart, professional look. As notebooks go, it is one of the more stylish ones around, particularly in black (as is our review unit), but you can also grab it in something snazzier such as Platinum Alacantara, Sandstone, and a new greenish colour that's dubbed 'Sage' though the majority of it appears to be grey.

It's a bit of backpack buddy at just 1.2kg, you'll barely notice you have it in your rucksack or holdall. Carrying it from meeting room to desk and vice versa is effortless, and that includes even holding it open with one hand while walking (though IT Pro does not recommend you do this).

However, the charging port – despite being magnetised – is more fiddly than it really needs to be. The slight downward curve of the side of the chassis makes it hard to plug in one-handed, or even without lifting the device up a little. If Apple can be forced to add USB-C chargers to iPhones then we feel the same should happen to Microsoft and its Surface range.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review: Display

There is a 13.5in touchscreen display on the Surface Laptop 5, and while it is as good as they come, the touchscreen element isn't all that useful. We didn't receive a stylus with our review unit so reasons to actually use the screen in that way were limited. Much like the Huawei MateBook X Pro, the chassis doesn't fold into a tablet mode and you can't have it stand like a tent, so the keyboard and trackpad take precedence and you simply forget it's got that capability altogether.

The 2256 x 1504 display itself, however, is very good. To begin with, it hit a peak brightness of 411cd/m2 which is useful in combating sunny conditions, especially with its glossy finish and the annoying reflections it can occasionally catch.

For colour accuracy, we found the 'RGB' setting was best with a 95.6% sRGB colour gamut score (108.4% for volume). The alternative is the 'Enhanced' setting but that only produces 93.1% for coverage and 103.9% volume. Neither, however, could offer up a very good Adobe score, with 69% being the best it could muster, so it isn't something we would recommend for photographers or image editing.

The MacBook Pro and the Huawei MateBook X Pro are that little bit more vivid across the board. Though in daily use we found the Surface Laptop 5 screen to be rather fine. It wasn't perfect, particularly when editing pictures, but it offered a consistent experience and strong colour performance. Our biggest issue with the display is actually structural as it has wider bezels than we are used to.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review: Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard on the Surface Laptop 5 is rather flat, much like a MacBook's, and some may not like the lack of travel as you can definitely feel it clunk on the base as you type. But the keys are highly responsive, so it suits the more gentle tapper. We found it to be satisfying and quiet and with plenty of room to rest the palms of our hands.

The extra room comes from the little trackpad which is just 4.5 x 3in. Despite being on the smaller side, it still offers a decent range of motion for the cursor and the left and right click actions were also effortless.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review: Specs and performance

The Surface Laptop 5 model we received sports an Intel Core i7-1255U processor with 16GB of RAM and also 512GB of SSD. It could have had an AMD CPU, but it didn't and that isn't a significant issue. Well, for us at least. We mainly use Google Docs, Slack, and the odd bit of Adobe here and there, so hardly intensive stuff, but it handles all that with ease.

For the more stressful stuff, we use an in-house benchmark that puts the CPU through more difficult tasks. The Surface Laptop 5 produced an overall compute score of 222 which compares well to the likes of the Dell XPS 15 (272) and the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s (135), both of which are considerably more expensive.

Going into specific usage, in GeekBench 5 the Surface Laptop 5 showcased single-threaded performance scores of 1,108 and multi-threaded scores of 6,444. The former is slightly more impressive, matching the XPS 15. But, nevertheless, it is a perfectly capable machine.

We did notice some straining as it churned through the initial setup, but nothing excessive or loud and it didn't make a sound through the most intensive tests. For our modest workload, it is perfectly capable, but we suspect it can also handle the bigger jobs.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review: Battery

Under our looped video test, where a video file is played on repeat, with the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2, the Surface Laptop 5 lasted 9hrs 42mins – which is a fairly good result. Dell's XPS 15 barely made it past 7hrs and the Huawei MateBook X Pro died after 8hrs.

In real-life the machine lasts and lasts; we managed a full work day – including travel to and from the office – and it still offered more than 15% battery life just before bedtime. Without a particularly high refresh rate on the display and our moderately intensive workload, we could quite easily work sans charger. Our tests are purposely intensive so despite the scores not seemingly immediately, in actual everyday use it's great.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review: Ports and features

There is a lot to love about the Surface Laptop 5, particularly its Windows 11 OS which looks great and is oh-so-simple to navigate. There's no fingerprint sensor on the keyboard but Windows Hello facial recognition is just wonderfully efficient, despite its low-quality 720p webcam which is a little grainy in video meetings.

Port-wise, Microsoft took a step forward, only to take two steps back. We finally see the Thunderbolt 4 make its way to the Surface Laptop, but it serves as the only USB-C port. There's also a distinct lack of other connection options; all you have is a USB-A and a headphone jack.

There's no cubbyhole for a stylus either. As mentioned above, we, unfortunately, didn't receive a pen with our review unit, so we can't say how good or bad that is, though the touchscreen is very responsive and silky smooth. Without a stylus, there are few reasons on offer to actually use the touchscreen which is possibly why MacBooks never have them.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 review: Price

As business hardware goes, the Surface Laptop 5 has a long list of good points – and a few minor niggles – but it is the price that gives it appeal. It starts at just $999.99 (£833 exc VAT) and that almost makes it feel like a great deal considering its build quality and processing power. 

The AMD model might pull focus here, and there will be Surface Laptop 4 users that feel it looks largely the same. The awful webcam and chunky bezels are also off-putting. Indeed, it could be a lot better in places. But laptops that are better than the Surface Laptop 5 are more expensive – Lenovo ThinkPads, MacBooks, and even Huawei MateBooks, they're all closer to $2,000.

Although the Surface Laptop 5 lacks a little sparkle, Microsoft has created a competent business machine.


Is the Surface Pro 5 a good laptop?

As far as Windows laptops are concerned, the Surface Laptop 5 is one of the best ultraportables on the market. It packs a lot of power and display quality into a relatively smart and light build and its keypad is on of the best we've had the pleasure of using.

Is Surface 5 better than 4?

It is hard to really say the Surface Laptop 5 is better than the 4, mainly because they are so similar – the 5 isn't really much of an upgrade and they look almost like-of-like. 

Are surface laptops worth it?

If your business is after dependable Windows laptops, then the Surface Laptop 5 should be considered. It's cheaper than the Dell XPS 15, but still boasts great power and a sharp display. 

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 Specifications

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Processor12th Gen Intel Core i7-1265U
Graphics adapterIntel Iris Xe Graphics
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Screen size13.5in
Screen resolution2256 x 1504
Screen typePixelSense
Touch screen10-point touchscreen
Memory card slotNo
3.5mm audio jackYes
Graphics output1 x Thunderbolt USB-C, 1 x USB-A 3.1
Other ports1 x Surface Connect port
SpeakersOmnisonic® Speakers with Dolby® Atmos™4
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6
Operating systemWindows 11 Home
Dimensions (WHD)223mm x 14.5mm x 308mm
Weight 1.2kg
Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.