Microsoft returns this year with its new Surface Laptop 4. While the changes from the previous edition are discreet, the Redmond firm is still looking to offer the ultimate Windows 10 ultra-portable. Successful bet ?
In the Surface family, we ask for the Surface Laptop. This ultra-portable adopts a very classic format (unlike other products in the range) and seeks to provide the purest Windows 10 experience possible. The Surface Laptop 4, freshly announced by Microsoft, is now in our hands.
Compared to the Surface Laptop 3, this new iteration brings few changes. Design level, we are staying on familiar ground, since we have almost the same machine. It is at the component level that you have to look to find something new. We find there Intel processors of 11e generation (Tiger Lake) with an Xe eGPU, or an ADM Ryzen 5 4680 processor. 13.5 inch or 15 inch screen format.
Before we begin, let us specify that Microsoft lent us a 13.5 inch model featuring an Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor with 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD.
Pricing and availability
The Surface Laptop 4 is available on the Microsoft site. Of course, you can choose your configuration. The most affordable 13.5-inch model comes equipped with a Ryzen 5 processor with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. It is displayed at 1129 euros. Prices, again for the 13.5-inch model, can go up to 1849 euros for the Alcantara finish (Intel Core i7 and 16 GB of RAM, i.e. our model) and 2,549 euros for the metal version (Intel Core i7, 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB of SSD).
The 15-inch version will, for its part, from 1,449 euros to 2,699 euros according to the configurations.
A classic and engaging technical sheet
As we said, our Surface Laptop 4 model is equipped an Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor (Tiger Lake) supported by 16 GB of RAM. We also find a 512 GB SSD M2. On the screen side, we have a 13.5-inch touchscreen IPS LCD panel with a definition of 2 256 x 1504 pixels (3: 2 format). Regarding autonomy, Microsoft promises up to 17 hours without recharging. Finally, for connectivity, the Laptop 4 is classic with two USB Type-A ports (one on the charger), a USB Type-C port, a 3.5 mm jack port and a Surface Connect port. dedicated to recharging.
In short, a computer that is not surprising with its technical sheet, but which still promises a lot in terms of comfort. It remains to be seen if he turns out to be interesting in everyday life.
A simple design, but devilishly effective
As with the Surface Laptop 3, we have a simple frame that goes to the essentials, without forgetting to be chic. Here Microsoft is using magnesium, which has several advantages. The first is to be very pleasant to the touch and to give a chic side to the device. This material is also extremely strong in addition to being relatively light. Note that the PC is available in several colors: platinum (our version), ice blue, black and sand. All rely on chic and discretion. Microsoft fully assumes to sell a premium product at a high price.
On the scale, Surface Laptop 4 weighs 1,248 kg. Considering its 13.5-inch size, that’s okay, but we’re still a long way from a product that relies on its lightness. It should be noted that the weight of the machine is extremely well balanced, which is ideal for working on the knees, for example, but also for constantly moving it, as can sometimes be the case in a workplace. There is no risk of being surprised by a possible imbalance by holding it by a wedge.
The rear cover is also sober. We have a flat surface (no pun intended) with the silver Windows logo enthroned in the center. Whether the computer is open or closed, we don’t notice the vents. However, such a brushed metal facade may have some flaws, such as a tendency to scratch or mark easily. We therefore advise all the same to obtain protection so you don’t leave the Surface Laptop 4 as is in a bag. The grid is for its part located in the hinge and takes the form of a long, very discreet strip running its entire length. An ideal position for heat management, we will see below.
In terms of strength, the Surface Laptop 4 doesn’t disappoint. The metal frame won’t bend or crack under your fingers, even with some pressure. The other side of the coin: the unibody shell cannot be opened, even with a precision screwdriver. Impossible then to add storage by oneself. The config you buy is the one you will keep until the end. The price to pay for sobriety.
This sobriety is also found on the lower part, also spared by any grid or embellishment (apart from stickers). Four pads are located at each corner and ensure optimum stability when the product is placed on a slippery surface, such as a glass table. No risk of your Surface sliding off while you’re at work.
When opening the PC (up to 130 degrees maximum), the first thing you notice is this alcantara surface on the inner part surrounding the keyboard. It should be noted that not all models are equipped with it, Microsoft leaving the choice of a more classic metal shell if you want. This fabric finish is reminiscent of the Surface Pro’s detachable keyboard. Touch, he is very agreeable and it has the added advantage of not bending under pressure, since the Alcantara actually covers a thin sheet of metal. Best of all, this makes the computer very original in today’s landscape. Of course, the coating is not all good. One can for example fear a material which stains easily or sensitive to snags.
The keyboard itself is a real pleasure to use. The keys have a perfect stroke and ideal resistance under the fingers. It has four-level white backlighting, very convenient for working in the dark.
We still note the chassis which bends slightly with each press, but in use, it is actually not too annoying during the writing phases. Of course, 13-inch ultra-portable requires, we do not have a numeric keypad. No fingerprint sensor either, since Microsoft still offers facial recognition through Windows Hello, extremely effective that it becomes almost invisible. It is also very good in terms of security. Finally, the various commands are included in the F keys and are activated by pressing Fn. The trackpad is also an example to follow. Very large, it responds to the finger and the eye in addition to being pleasant to use. A real pleasure.
Once closed, the PC is only 14.5mm thick at its maximum. On its bevelled edges, we find a USB Type-A 3.0 port and a UBS Type-C port in addition to the usual 3.5mm jack port. On the charger we have an additional USB Type-A port. A good idea long exploited by Microsoft and which is making a big comeback here.
For food, we have again the right to the famous Surface Connect, charger very painful to use. Indeed, the slightest manipulation of the PC while it is charging risks unplugging it, the connector being weakly magnetized to the port. We no longer count the times the plug pulled out just because we moved the computer a few inches. Annoying.
Overall, the Surface Laptop 4 isn’t reinventing the wheel. However, it offers a quality design and like its predecessor, this is an example to follow in many ways. In everyday life, it is a real pleasure to use, both for its transportability and its comfort. Microsoft wanted to create the benchmark ultra-portable and we are not far from it.
A perfectly calibrated screen
Microsoft has always been able to do it with screens and the Surface Laptop 4 is no exception to the rule. It is equipped with a 13.5-inch IPS LCD panel and a resolution of 2,256 x 1,504 pixels. As usual, the Redmond company opted for the 3: 2 format. Ideal for working, this ratio is above all designed for office automation, less for entertainment. For example, not all games adapt to this strange resolution and you will have to accept having large black bands at the top and bottom of some videos.
There are several things to note about this screen. First of all, it’s tactile, which on a typical laptop-sized terminal is a little bit unnecessary. Secondly, its edges remain prominent, exceeding the centimeter, which leads us to a screen / facade ratio of around 80%. Compared to other laptops on the market which pass almost all 90%, this is a bit tight. It has a classic 60Hz refresh rate, which is absolutely no shock on an ultra-portable.
We ran a probe over the slab to see what it was worth. Without surprise, the calibration is almost perfect. The (dynamic) contrast can go up to 2100: 1, which is excellent for this type of screen. We note a color temperature of 6400K, very close to the 6500K of the video standard. This means that on a white display, the screen does not look red or blue. Respect for colors is also there with an average Delta E of 2.5 (below 3 being excellent). The maximum brightness is 415 cd / m², which is good for a PC and sufficient for working outdoors.
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Note that these measures were taken in “Enhanced” mode, but that Windows also offers an sRGB color profile. Here, the contrast is lower (1400: 1, which is good, but not incredible) in favor of an even greater respect for colors. The average Delta E is indeed 1.6. Ultimately, this is the mode that should be chosen when processing photos. But on all profiles, the sizing is excellent and the choice of one over the other will only be in minute detail.
As for the sound, the Surface Laptop 4 is doing very well. The speakers are placed in the hinge between the screen and the keyboard. Thus, the sound gives the impression of coming straight out of the picture, which makes it very natural to listen to. In itself, it is controlled and offers a certain power while avoiding too much distortion at high volume. Only the stereo would have deserved a little more care, but nothing too serious.
Microsoft leaves the choice between Intel and AMD
We said it above, Microsoft leaves the choice as to the processor used in the machine. A practice that has been going on since the Surface Laptop 3 was released in 2019. We therefore find a Laptop 4 with an AMD Ryzen 5 4350U processor or an Intel processor, either the Core i5-1135G7 or the Core i7-1185G7, all low consumption and engraved in 10 nm. Our test model is equipped with the Intel Core i7. The user also has the choice of 8 or 16 GB of RAM as well as between 256 and 512 GB of memory.
Just testing the Core-i7 to judge the quality of the entire Surface Laptop doesn’t make much sense. However, we can say that after a benchmark session, the SoC integrated into the PC keeps its promises and brings results in line with our expectations: it is powerful for its format and will prove sufficient for somewhat advanced office automation, like video editing or photo editing. We will also note a regular rate which does not weaken over time, stalling at 1.5 GHz in full work. The same goes for the GPU. A very good thing, given that some laptops tend to see this rate drop after too long use in order to regulate the temperature of the chassis.
On Intel models we find a Intel Iris Xe eGPU. If we are obviously far from the performance of classic graphics cards, such as RTX, we still have a chip that provides a small appreciable power for those who need it, such as for video editing. It is possible to use it for more trivial things, like video games. Who doesn’t like to start a game between two work sessions?
We could run Fortnite at 60 fps without worry with the graphics set to medium. Same observation on Overwatch (even in “High” at 45 frames per second), Diablo 3 or even Mass Effect Legendary Edition. Note, however, that this will not be enough to smoothly run much more greedy titles, such as Death Stranding or Battlefield V, for example (which are unplayable even with the graphics at a minimum). The Laptop 4 just isn’t made for that, the Intel Xe has its limits. It is not part of this category of PC wanting to combine portability and graphics power like the Zephyrus G14 from Asus.
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When strained, the Surface Laptop 4 has the annoying tendency to blow with a shrill, unpleasant noise to the ear. We measured peaks at 50 decibels in-game or on Handbrake, which is huge. Of course, the cases where the PC will go so far are very rare, but it should all the same be noted, especially since the processor remains at an acceptable temperature, that is to say 71 degrees. In fact, it is therefore possible to play energy-efficient games on your Surface Laptop 4, but you have to put on a headset. But in most cases the fans make a hiss which does not exceed 38 decibels. This means you won’t hear them unless you are in an extremely quiet room. We can therefore say that Microsoft has done a good job in this segment.
Lastly, the ventilation grilles are placed in the hinge, positioned so that the hot air either expelled via the back of the PC, which shows great care in terms of design. Here again, we feel that everything has been thought out above all for the comfort of the user. No unpleasant breath on the hands or on the screen.
Surface Laptops have always been examples of battery life and don’t get caught up in the suspense: this is also the case for this version. When playing video with auto-brightness, we passed eight hours before the PC ran out of battery. In fact, this means that in office automation, you can easily last a whole day by leaving the charger at home.
The charger, in fact, is not really a burden. Rectangle of 9 by 5 centimeters (with a wire 3 meters long), it weighs only 300 grams and can therefore easily find its place in a bag. Plus, the presence of a USB Type-A port on the power supply provides yet another reason to take it with either. So it could almost be perfect if it weren’t for this story of Surface Connect getting a little too easily removed.