Microsoft Surface Laptop 2017 Review Roundup: What Critics Think
The Surface Laptop is a notebook that’s bound to turns heads. Starting at $999, this 2.7-pound system sports a soft-touch Alcantara fabric deck, and it comes in four sleek colors.
Overall, critics are quite positive on the Surface Laptop, but there are also some drawbacks. Here’s a quick summary of our review, plus other reviews from around the web.
When you look at the landscape of ultraportable laptops, there’s a race to be the thinnest on the block, but we’re starting to see diminishing returns as a result of that quest. The Surface Laptop stands out with a design that dares to be different, and it pays off.
Score: 4 stars out of 5
Laptop’s editor in chief Mark Spoonauer gave the Surface Laptop a try and found much of value in it’s minimalistic and compact design. He noted “that you don't have to sacrifice a full-size USB port for the sake of thinness.” The Surface Laptop also earned high marks for its Alcantara deck, excellent keyboard and above-average battery life (it lasted 9 hours and 9 minutes in our web surfing test) and impressive sound system.
However, the Surface Laptop does not come without shortcomings, including sluggish SSD performance compared to competing ultraportables, and a lack of a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support. It’s also a good thing that you can upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for free, as the former “forces you to use Bing as your default search provider. You also can't download the Chrome browser.”
The Surface Laptop is sleek and elegant, but it’s just a laptop. And unlike prior Surface systems, it’s not striving to carve out a new category or push system design in a new direction.
Score: None given
Ars Technica’s Peter Bright doesn’t shy away from expressing his apathy regarding the Surface Laptop’s price tag and specs. “Everything is soldered onto the motherboard, so what you buy is what you're going to be living with for the duration,” Bright said he’s displeased about the Surface Laptop’s lacking color range for the $999, $1,599 and $2,199 configurations.
Beyond that, Ars took issue with plastic inserts on either side of the ports, which they found mars the Surface’s “impeccable styling.” Ars also had gripes about the missing USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 support, along with its lack of 10-gigabit-per-second generation. On the positive side, Ars was happy to see matching Arc mice available in three colors (but sold separately), a warm fabric keyboard tray, crisp screen and overall design.
While it doesn’t necessarily stand out in a crowded field, the Surface Laptop has a great design and is a solid, travel-friendly clamshell PC.
Score: 4 stars out of 5
Dan Ackerman at CNET focused on how the Surface Laptop stands alongside top performers in its premium category, “It may be traditional, but it's also a very nice-looking laptop -- thin for its screen size, and lighter than a 13-inch MacBook Pro.” Like other reviews, CNET highlighted the Surface Laptop’s unique and sleek design, as well as its high-performing specs.
Aside from what the Surface Laptop does well, CNET noted the 2256 x 1504 resolution display and 3:2 aspect ratio aren’t ideal when watching movies and TV shows, but are helpful when reading long text documents or organizing files. Although the Surface Laptop is compatible with other accessories like the Surface Pen and Surface Dial, it does not fold back 360 degrees or detach, which makes for an awkward drawing interface.
What matters is that Microsoft has built a computer that doesn’t overextend itself with any gimmicks. Finally.
Score: 8.8 stars out of 10
The Verge's Dieter Bohn says “Setting aside the colors and the fabric, Microsoft fundamentally made conservative decisions with the [Surface Laptop’s] design,” which means buyers don’t have to think through complex trade-offs when browsing through laptops. Although the Alcantara interior isn’t the most conservative decision, it’s less gimmicky than the Surface Pro and Surface Book, which are essentially tablets with kickstands and detachable screens.
A similar drawback The Verge found with the Surface Laptop like other critics is that it runs the restrictive Windows 10 S, which lets you download apps only through the Windows Store for security purposes, but leaves out third-party apps that users try to install.
The team in Redmond didn’t concern itself with the way things will be in 2025- which ports users will want, what kind of device they’ll use, how they’ll feel about bezels. Instead, Microsoft built a laptop optimized for 2017.
Score: 8 stars out of 10
David Pierce at Wired compared the Surface Laptop to Apple’s new Macbook Air, saying it might not be futuristic but it’s “damn good” for what users want now. Wired says the Surface Laptop measures up to other Windows laptops in its price range in terms of specs. Like other reviewers, the fabric lined interior impressively wipes off stains and is nice to look at and touch. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, Pierce wrote that the Surface Laptop is lighter, faster and uses USB 3.0 drives that’ll work with virtually all printers, cameras and external hardware.
As mentioned in other reviews, Windows 10 S leaves much to be desired, but might encourage developers to create apps compatible with Windows OS. However, Surface Laptop owners can bypass this issue by upgrading to Windows Pro. Additionally, the lack of a 180-degree fold-back hinge makes it difficult to use the Surface Pen.
Photo credit: Laptop Mag
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