Microsoft's Surface Laptop is one of the most underrated notebooks out there, thanks to its crisp and vibrant 12.5-inch display, soft Alcantara deck, comfy keyboard and long battery life. Now the company is introducing a cheaper model.
Starting at $799 (opens in new tab), the entry-level version of the Surface Laptop features a slower Core m3 processor, compared to the Core i5 chip inside the $999 version. You also start with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
Over at the Microsoft store, the comapny describes the target audience of the Core m3 model as ideal for "notetaking, web surfing, email and everyday tasks." That's fine, but you can also get a good Chromebook for much cheaper that's designed to handle those same things.
What a cheaper Chromebook won't provide is the fit and finish of the Surface Laptop. Nor will you find a screen as crisp and colorful in the Chromebook camp, unless you're willing to spend $999 for the Google Pixelbook.
But what about other Windows laptops? At least in terms of specs, the $799 Surface Laptop is overpriced compared to systems like the Asus ZenBook UX330UA. That ultraportable starts at $749 and gives you a more powerful 8th-gen Core i5 CPU, as well as double the RAM and storage at 8GB and 256GB.
To be fair, the Asus doesn't pack a touchscreen, and it's panel is not as vibrant as the one on the Surface Laptop.
In terms of battery life, the Core i5 Surface Laptop we tested lasted 9 hours and 2 minutes on our web surfing battery test, while the ZenBook UX330UA was in the same ballpark at 8:59. However, a Core m3-powered Surface Laptop should last longer on a charge.
Then there's the operating system. Out of the box, the Surface Laptop runs the limited Windows 10 S, which only lets you download apps from the Windows Store. But you can switch to Windows 10 Pro.
Overall, it's good to see Microsoft offer a cheaper version of the Surface Laptop. But you're going to pay a premium versus other Windows machines. Stay tuned for our full review of this configuration.