Does The Performance Of Microsoft's Surface Laptop Match Its Good Looks?

The first thing that drew me to Microsoft's new Surface Laptop is its striking appearance. Available in rich colors with a luxurious, fabric-covered keyboard, this is a laptop that distinguishes itself from the competition.
But it doesn't make sense to buy a new device based on looks alone. This is a big investment, after all, and you need something that's going to meet all your computing needs. In many ways, the way a laptop looks should just be an afterthought.
With this in mind, I put the Surface Laptop to the test. Ahead, take a closer look at Microsoft's latest product to see if it's the right choice for you.
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Photo: Courtesy of Madeline Buxton.
Hey, Hi, Hello

The Surface Laptop features Windows Hello, which uses facial recognition to log you in more quickly. When setting up the laptop, all you have to do is look at the camera for a few seconds. (There's also a pin you can use as a back-up login method.)

I had one small hiccup with the facial recognition. When I first set up my laptop, I wasn't wearing my glasses. When I tried to login while wearing them, the computer wasn't able to identify me, and I had to enter my pin. However, once I went into "sign-in options" within the laptop's settings and selected "improve recognition," I was able to configure the camera to recognize me whether or not I had my glasses on. After that, I had no problem signing in sans pin.

The most impressive part of Windows Hello is that the lens begins working as soon as I start lifting the 13.5-inch screen. By the time the screen is fully open in front me, my computer has already recognized and logged me in. This is a small thing, but it's a timesaver in the long run and makes the device feel more personalized from the start.
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Photo: Courtesy of Madeline Buxton.
Feeling Good

One of the Surface Laptop's biggest selling points is, as previously noted, its appearance. It not only looks different than other laptops, thanks to two bold new colors (burgundy and cobalt blue), it also feels different. The keyboard, covered in a fabric called alcantara, is incredibly soft, and luxurious to touch. Friends will want to feel up your laptop. If you're looking for a coffee shop conversation starter, this is the device to take with you.

I was initially concerned the surface of the keyboard, nice as it might feel, would get dirty fast. But after a week of typing on it, even when my fingers were sweaty after I coming in from a run, it still looks exactly the same as it did when I first unboxed it. (Microsoft suggests using a soft cloth with a little bit of water if you do get something on the keyboard.)

The keys, which only move 1.5 millimeters, feel smoother and type more quietly than the ones on the MacBook Air that I usually use. When I first started using the trackpad, it was a little too responsive for me — I ended up accidentally opening multiple windows — but lowering the sensitivity within the Settings fixed that problem. You can also buy the wireless Surface Arc Mouse for $79.99, which pairs with the laptop and folds flat when you want to take it on the go.

The Surface Laptop weighs 2.76 pounds, making it slightly lighter than the comparably sized 13-inch MacBook Pro, which weighs 3.02 pounds.
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Photo: Courtesy of Madeline Buxton.
Mark My Words

The Surface Laptop has tablet vibes. In addition to having a touchscreen, you can use Windows Ink drawing tools to mark-up websites, documents, or any other screen you're on. If you want to highlight a headline, just pick a highlighter color and you're good to go. If you need to sign a document, choose the pen and jot down your signature.

While I didn't find myself using the touchscreen very much — the laptop doesn't fold flat like a tablet does — I did use the drawing tools to scribble notes and edit articles.
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Photo: Courtesy of Madeline Buxton.
Online Shopping

In keeping with the tablet feel, you can also download apps directly to the laptop via the Windows Store that's located within the main menu. The store provides an extra level of security — only apps that have been verified are available to download. If you search for an app, such as Netflix, Microsoft will direct you toward the version that's supported in the Store.

If you have an iPhone and subscribe to Apple Music, you'll also soon be able to access iTunes through the Windows Store.
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Photo: Courtesy of Madeline Buxton.
Browse Away

The default browser on the Surface Laptop is Microsoft Edge. It loads pages quickly, and I like that Windows Ink is available to mark up articles onscreen. However, if you prefer another browser you might have a tricky time downloading it. Browsing competitors like Google Chrome and Firefox aren't verified apps on the Microsoft Store, making the process of downloading them feel more complicated than it should.
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Photo: Courtesy of Madeline Buxton.
Power Up

If you constantly worry about your laptop's battery life, the Surface Laptop is for you. The battery life is impressive — after a day of off and on browsing, watching music videos, and playing with Windows Ink, I still had a 55% charge left.

You can change the power mode on your Surface Laptop, similar to how you can switch to low power mode on your iPhone in order to conserve more energy. Simply click the battery icon in the bottom right-hand toolbar and choose from the following options: battery saver mode, recommended mode, better performance mode, or best performance mode (the closer you move to "best battery life," the darker the screen will become).

I also never heard the computer's fan come on once, even when I had multiple websites up and running and a show on Netflix streaming in the background.
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Photo: Courtesy of Madeline Buxton.
Final Take

I stand by my initial take on the Surface Laptop — it is a designer laptop that feels far better than any I've ever used. Plus, this is luxury that comes at $999 compared to $1,499 for the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The biggest distinction between the Surface Laptop and the MacBook Pro is the level of interactivity. If you're someone who wants to be hands on with the device, touching and drawing on the screen, the Surface Laptop is the right choice for you.

The tricky decision then, is whether you go for the more traditional platinum or graphite gold, or branch out and pick burgundy or cobalt blue. The struggle is real.