The Surface Laptop 5 is actually worse than the Surface Laptop 4 — here's why

Surface Laptop 5
Surface Laptop 5 (Image credit: Microsoft/Future)

Oh, Microsoft! We want you to win so, so badly, but you're not giving us anything to work with. The Redmond-based tech giant boasted that its new Surface Laptop 5 is "up to 50% faster" than the Surface Laptop 4, but our in-house test results tell a whole different story.

First of all, aside from the new 12th Gen Intel Core processors, the Surface Laptop 5's "upgrade" is stale AF. Sure, it finally has a Thunderbolt 4 port, but come on, the Surface Laptop series should had this I/O option ages ago. Plus, it has a slightly better display resolution and there's a new Sage color for the 13.5-inch variant. Yawn! Forgive me for not breaking out the party poppers for these oh-so-exciting improvements.

Microsoft Surface Event Oct 12, 2022

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (Image credit: Microsoft)

Secondly, I would have overlooked the boring upgrade if the Microsoft Surface line reached a stratus close to laptop nirvana, but it's long overdue for a drastic redesign (those thick bezels are so passé) and a better webcam (I'm so over 720p). To make matters worse, the 15-inch Surface Laptop 5 took a performance hit compared to the AMD-based 15-inch Surface Laptop 4.

Don't believe us? Here's a comparative analysis between our Surface Laptop 5 review unit and last year's Surface Laptop 4 model.

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Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 vs. Surface Laptop 4 comparison specs
Row 0 - Cell 0 Surface Laptop 5Surface Laptop 4
Launch price$1,899$1,699
CPUIntel Core i7-1265UAMD Ryzen 7 4980U
GPUIntel Iris Xe graphicsAMD Radeon graphics
Storage512GB SSD512GB SSD
RAM 16GB of memory16GB of memory
Display15-inch PixelSense Display (2496 x 1664 pixels)15-inch PixelSense Display (2256 x 1504 pixels)
Battery life9 hours and 1 minute12 hours and 4 minutes
Size13.4 x 9.6 x 0.6 inches13.4 x 9.6 x 0.6 inches
Weight3.4 pounds3.4 pounds

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 vs. Surface Laptop 4: performance

We're not expecting the Surface Laptop 5 to be a performance beast or anything. After all, the Intel Core i7-1265U chip is a U-series chip. In other words, it's designed to be an ultra-low powered processor designed for a slim, lightweight chassis. This CPU is just fine to handle most productivity workloads that don't push the envelope too far.

Microsoft Surface Event Oct 12, 2022

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (Image credit: Microsoft)

However, one would think the Surface Laptop 5 would be a better performer than the Surface Laptop 4, but imagine our surprise when we discovered that it's not. According to the Geekbench 5.4 overall performance test, the AMD Ryzen 7 4980U CPU inside the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 achieved a score of 6,748.

The Surface Laptop 5 staggered behind its predecessor with a score of 6,560. In other words, the numbers are telling us that the Surface Laptop 4 is a better performer than the Surface Laptop 4.

It doesn't stop there! 

We also ran the Handbrake video editing benchmark, tasking both laptops with transcoding a 4K video to 1080p. It took the Surface Laptop 5 8 minutes and 53 seconds to complete the task. The Surface Laptop 4, on the other hand, finished at much faster rate of 8 minutes and 21 seconds.

On the HDXPRT 4 test, a benchmark that analyzes how well it handles commercial apps like Photoshop, the Surface Laptop 5 delivered a score of 78. The Surface Laptop 4 crushed its successor with a score of 88. When it comes to editing photos, it took the Surface Laptop 5 only 15 seconds to complete the task. Conversely, the Surface Laptop 4 took just 11 seconds.

Best Laptops 2021: Microsoft Surface 4 (15-inch, AMD)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (Image credit: Future)
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Row 0 - Cell 0 Surface Laptop 5Surface Laptop 4
Geekbench 5.4 (multi-core score)6,5606,748
Video transcoding time8 minutes and 53 seconds8 minutes and 21 seconds
HDXPRT 4 score7888
Photo editing time15 seconds11 seconds

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 vs. Surface Laptop 4: graphics

Both the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 and the Surface Laptop 4 sport integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics.

The new-gen laptop got its small moment of redemption here on our 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark, which determines how well graphics are rendered with complexity and detail. The Surface Laptop 5 notched a score of 4,670 while the Surface Laptop 4 stumbled behind with a score of 3,424.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (15-inch)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The Surface Laptop 4 and 5 aren't gaming laptops by any means, but for kicks and giggles, we decided to test how well the Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm game ran on both machines. Unfortunately for the Surface Laptop 5, which output 33 frames per second, the Surface Laptop 4 had a slight edge with 35 fps.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Surface Laptop 5Surface Laptop 4
3D Mark Fire Strike 4,6703,424
Sid Meier's Civilization IV gaming benchmark33 frames per second35 frames per second

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 vs. Surface Laptop 4: battery life

Battery runtime is one of the most important aspects of a laptop for many consumers. Who wants to be tethered to a charging cable all day? Not I! Unfortunately, you may need to be shackled to one with the Surface Laptop 5.

On the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves surfing the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness until the laptop dies, the Surface Laptop 5 only lasted for 9 hours and 1 minute. The Surface Laptop 4, on the other hand, has a spectacular battery runtime of 12 hours and 4 minutes. That AMD Ryzen 4000-series chip seems rather energy efficient! I can't say the same for the Intel processor.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Surface Laptop 5Surface Laptop 4
Battery life9 hours and 1 minute12 hours and 4 minutes
Row 2 - Cell 0 Row 2 - Cell 1 Row 2 - Cell 2

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 vs. Surface Laptop 4: display

As mentioned, the Surface Laptop 5 got a slight resolution bump compared to the Surface Laptop 4  (2496 x 1664 pixels vs. 2256 x 1504 pixels). Other than that, on paper, the specs are the same: a 15-inch, PixelSense display with a 60Hz screen and a 3:2 aspect ratio. However, according to our testing, one display is certainly better than the other — and it's not the one you're expecting.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Surface Laptop 5 earned a small victory over its predecessor for its brightness (384 nits vs. 334 nits), but truth be told, both scores aren't worth writing home about. Unfortunately, the Surface Laptop 5 only covers 71.6% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, which is less than the Surface Laptop 4's 77.8% coverage.

According to the Delta-E color accuracy test, the Surface Laptop 5 earned a score of 0.25 while the Surface Laptop 4 is slightly more color accurate with a score of 0.23 (closer to 0 is better).

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Surface Laptop 5Surface Laptop 4
Display brightness384 nits334 nits
DCI-P3 color gamut coverage71.6%77.8%
Color accuracy0.250.23

Bottom line

If you want a new 15-inch laptop, you'd be shooting yourself in the foot if you purchased the new Surface Laptop 5 over the AMD-based Surface Laptop 4. Its regression cannot be overlooked.

Right now, you can get the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4, packed with the AMD Ryzen 7 chip, for less than $1,200 on Best Buy (opens in new tab). If you want a similar specced Surface Laptop 5, you'll definitely have to shell out more than that — and it's just not worth it. 

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!