Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
"Microsoft's Surface Laptop 4 is by far the best in the range thanks to the huge performance improvements."
AMD chips are widely used in configurations
Thinnest 15-inch laptop
Great typing experience
Long lasting battery life
Older AMD chips will degrade performance
Thick bezels, bad webcam
Well, Microsoft did it. It finally fixed the Surface Laptop 4.
The previous model was plagued by poor performance and a lack of solid configurations to choose from. This was difficult to recommend, especially for the 15-inch model.
With the Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft fixed these issues, thanks in part to the incredible performance and battery life of some new AMD processors. I looked at the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4, which had an eight-core Ryzen 7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. That added up to $ 1,800, which ultimately feels like a reasonable price for what the Surface Laptop 4 has to offer.
There are a lot of things that you should love about the design of the Surface Laptop – even in 2021. All of these things are still intact on the Surface Laptop 4, which means that the case remains relatively unchanged.
At just 0.58 inches for the 15-inch model, it's still remarkably thin than ever. This thinness is really noticeable in the palm rests, which are barely lifted from the table. This is especially true if you are used to thicker laptops in this category, e.g. E.g. the Dell XPS 15 (0.71 inch thick) or the MacBook Pro 16 inch (0.64 inch thick).
Of course, these laptops have a larger chassis to support the extra performance that you can configure. Since the Surface Laptop 4 doesn't support discrete graphics or 45-watt processors, Microsoft can work extremely thinly. It's still an accomplishment, however – the similarly configured LG Gram 16, for example, is still 0.66 inches thick. This makes the Surface Laptop 4 the slimmest 15-inch laptop you can buy.
The tiny stature of the chassis makes the build quality all the more impressive. You won't find the bend or bend that is common on laptops that thin. The lid is rigid, the hinge opens with one finger and it doesn't wobble too much either. It's a superbly made device worthy of the Surface brand.
I also like what the ultra-thin design does to make the screen stand out. The Surface Laptop 4 is one of the few 15-inch laptops that offers a 3: 2 screen – and it's great. The bezels are bigger than I'd like, but in the 15-inch form factor, they're less outrageous.
The ports include USB-C 3.1, USB-A, a headphone jack and the magnetized Surface Connect. Microsoft continues to ignore the existence of Thunderbolt 4, which means that the USB-C port isn't as fast as it is on other laptops. The docking capabilities of the Surface Connect port are great, although everything is proprietary.
The new components make the Surface Laptop 4 what it is. It now comes with a wide range of Intel and AMD processors. AMD's Ryzen processors debuted in the Surface Laptop 3, but were a year behind with Ryzen 3000 chips. Performance was disappointing, especially when compared to a large 15-inch laptop. It made it very difficult to compete with competitors like the XPS 15 or the MacBook Pro 16-inch. Microsoft's first hug from AMD didn't go over so well.
The Surface Laptop 4 addresses this issue in two important ways. First, Ryzen processors will be available in both 13.5-inch and 15-inch sizes. The smaller size is limited to the six-core Ryzen 5, while the 15-inch model only offers the eight-core Ryzen 7. These additional cores offer the Surface Laptop 4 great performance potential, especially with the 15-inch model Microsoft and AMD need all the performance they need.
The Surface Laptop 4 is pretty powerful thanks to this Ryzen processor.
These are still a year back, although they use Ryzen 4000 processors. It feels a little more forgivable given the current drought in chip shipments. More importantly, AMD achieved its biggest performance leap in the generation with Ryzen 4000, so the Surface Laptop 4 benefits from these advantages.
And that has definitely proven itself in my tests. These four additional cores mean huge improvements in multi-core performance. That was evident in benchmarks like Geekbench and Cinebench. In everything that just depends on the CPU, like the video encoding in Handbrake, the Surface Laptop 4 is pretty powerful thanks to this Ryzen processor. It also performed reasonably well in the photo editing test in PCMark 10, which makes it a reasonably decent option for photographers, and I couldn't have said that about the previous model.
|Geekbench (single / multi)||Cinebench R23 (single / multi)||PCMark 10||3DMark Time Spy|
|Surface laptop 4 15||1016/6658||1137/5881||4849||1177|
|LG gram 16||1573/5454||1394/4137||4827||1390|
|Lenovo Yoga 9i 15 (Core i7-10750H)||1532/5415||1141/6400||4800||3487|
|MacBook Air (M1)||1727/7585||1479/6680||n / A||n / A|
|Asus ZenBook 13 OLED (Ryzen 7 5800U)||1423/6758||1171/7824||6034||1342|
|Surface laptop 3 15||900/3056||722/2407||n / A||835|
Based on my tests, the Surface Laptop 4's thinness is still holding it back. Less thickness means less space for airflow. Outside of the Surface Book line, this applies to all Surface products. But because of its size, many potential buyers could be fooled into thinking this is a serious workstation. This is certainly not the case – there will always be tasks that the Surface Laptop 4 is not designed for, such as: B. Video editing.
I tested the Surface Laptop 4 in PugetBench for Premiere Pro, which tests everything from 4K playback to video encoding. It's sad to say, but the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 pales in comparison to the M1 MacBook Air. It's not even close – and that's a far cheaper laptop. The graphics are the culprit here, which can speed up the tasks in Premiere significantly.
It is possible to play games, but it is not pretty.
To be fair, the Radeon graphics are a massive improvement over the Vega 9 graphics I tested in the Surface Laptop 3. It ran over 30% faster in 3DMark Time Spy. If Microsoft had chosen Ryzen 5000, the graphics performance would have been a better match for Intel models.
Due to the lack of a graphics card, the Surface Laptop 4 really isn't something you want to play on. I've tried Civilization VI and Fortnite and the results have been poor. You don't want to play a full resolution game, but if you set the Civilization VI settings to Medium, you can get some playable frame rates. I wouldn't care about a game like Fortnite. I had to lower the pixel resolution to 1620 x 1080p and the 3D resolution to 70% to get 60 frames per second (fps). It is possible to play, but it is not pretty.
Aside from performance, battery life is the most important advancement Microsoft has made with the Surface Laptop 4. Microsoft claims that this configuration gives you 17.5 hours, but I've never achieved that much. However, I got 13.5 hours in my test that went through a series of websites until the battery ran out.
That's really impressive, especially for a laptop this size. It's nearly four hours longer than the last iteration – which puts it in the league of laptops like the LG Gram 16 and many other laptops with 1080p screens.
This could be the first Surface product to exceed my battery life expectations, which is a good sign for Microsoft. This is the only case where the lack of a number of performance-hungry components is beneficial.
According to Microsoft, you can do a few more hours with the 13.5-inch AMD model, while the Intel models take about an hour less.
Display and speakers
The Surface Laptop 4 offers a beautiful resolution of 2256 x 1504 pixels that is sharp, bright (378 nits) and color accurate. I guess Microsoft only sells one resolution per size so you don't have to choose between a 1080p and a 4K model, both of which have flaws. This is the MacBook approach, and it ensures that you get a sharp screen by all means.
I should note that the color saturation cannot quite keep up with that of the competition, which in turn strengthens the target audience for this laptop, which is not a creative professional. The screen hits 97% of the sRGB color space, but only 73% of the AdobeRGB. Microsoft offers an sRGB color mode that is included in the display settings, but has not improved the color saturation.
The speakers are located under the keyboard where they point up. I prefer this position across from the bottom of the case, but the sound isn't as clear as laptops, which instead position them next to the keyboard, such as a laptop computer. B. Dell XPS 15 and MacBook Pro. The sound itself has a fuller audio profile than many other laptops, even with a slight hint of bass. This time around, the addition of Dolby Atmos adds the much-needed stereo separation that gives the Surface Laptop 4 a decent music and show experience.
Keyboard and touchpad
The Surface Laptop 4 has an excellent keyboard and touchpad. It's roomy and the keys have a long travel of 1.3mm. This makes for a very comfortable typing experience. The keys have a very even and even white background lighting, but only three levels of brightness.
I also have a lot of good things to say about the glass touchpad, which tracks smoothly and has plenty of room for multi-finger gestures. The palm rejection is great too, which is why I wish Microsoft had used a bigger touchpad for the 15-inch model. It would fill in the empty palm rest space better, as we've seen on many other laptops lately.
The laptop does not have a fingerprint reader but relies solely on the IR camera for secure logins. I like laptops to offer both, but Windows Hello is lightning fast on the Surface Laptop 4.
The webcam could have used an update, however. It's only 720p, which is unfortunately still the standard specification on laptops. We're seeing some new laptops transitioning to 1080p in 2021, and I would have liked Microsoft to have been at the forefront of this trend to help people work from home.
The Surface Laptop 4 isn't perfect. The case could still be updated, and I wish Microsoft had used Ryzen 5000. But both the 13.5- and 15-inch laptops are now much better work laptops because of the improved performance and battery life. The Surface Laptop 4 has gone around the corner.
Are there alternatives?
The LG Gram 16 takes a similar approach to a large, ultra-thin laptop that isn't geared towards content creators.
It's hard not to recommend the Dell XPS 15, which has built-in or discrete graphics options. You'll also find a few cheaper options than the Surface Laptop 4, but they don't have a sharp 3: 2 screen.
How long it will take?
The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 should last at least four or five years, as long as you don't get jealous when the case is inevitably redesigned.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The changes Microsoft made to this design in its fourth iteration make it a great option.