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Surface Laptop 5 hands-on: A bare minimum update in 2023

The key improvements are Thunderbolt 4, 12th-gen Intel CPUs, and a new sage green color option.

Microsoft today unveiled the updated Surface Laptop 5, which will continue to be offered in 13.5- and 15-inch variants. Also, the new laptops will include 3:2 touchscreens with brushed metal displays. Actually, the Surface Laptop 5 is essentially unchanged from its predecessor with the exception of new 12th-generation Intel CPUs and a single Thunderbolt 4 connection. I have to question whether Microsoft is even attempting given the improvements its rivals are making.

Do not misunderstand me; better performance is a wonderful thing. And I anticipate the Surface Laptop 5 to be a reliable device. But, the Surface Laptop 4 was also rather impressive. With Dolby Vision IQ compatibility, you still have a high-res PixelSense touch screen but it also has some automatic color adjustment built in. Another new color option is sage green, which looks good but has also seen on the Surface Laptop Go 2.

There aren’t many new specifications or features, really. And that’s incredibly irritating since it seems like Microsoft could fix a lot of low-hanging problems to make its mainstream laptop line a much stronger competitor for devices like the XPS 15 or a ThinkPad counterpart.

First off, the main webcam is still 720p, which is just not acceptable on a high-end laptop in 2022 even when you get an IR camera for Windows Hello. The aforementioned Thunderbolt 4 connection and a standard USB 3.1 (not even 3.2) Type-A socket are the only USB ports you receive overall. Well, that’s OK for a cheap system, but there should be better connectivity, especially on the 15-inch model. What about a reader for SD cards or something? Fortunately, Microsoft has decided to maintain the extra 5-watt USB-A charging port on the Surface Laptop’s power brick, which can be useful if you suddenly need to charge your phone.

Surface Laptop 5 hands-on

In addition, this year’s model is only offered in Intel-based variants, unlike the Surface Laptop 4. It’s unfortunate that there is no AMD version. And while I don’t mind the 13.5-inch model only having integrated graphics, I really wish Microsoft had created at least one 15-inch model with a discrete GPU. It’s not even necessary to have a powerful graphics card, such an RTX 3080. It would be good to use a 3060 or even a 3050 Ti. I truly don’t believe I’m asking for too much. After all, Microsoft offered an optional 3050 Ti GPU on the somewhat smaller but thicker Surface Laptop Studio from a year ago. One of the Surface Laptop’s more intriguing features, to be honest 5 are the brand-new for 2022 wallpapers for Windows 11, which were created to coordinate with the external hue of the system.

But more importantly, it’s a little depressing to watch Microsoft merely going through the motions after seeing Dell introduce a new member to the XPS 13 family and all the modifications Apple is making to the MacBook Air and Pro lines. I know Microsoft can do better because it is the business that essentially created the modern detachable 2-in-1.