Which Microsoft Surface to Buy or Avoid in 2024

It comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite processor, but you can save a little money and go with the Snapdragon X Plus (the 15-inch model only comes with the Elite). I tested the Elite, and performance was smooth no matter how many windows, tabs, and apps I had open. This isn’t a machine for graphics-intensive tasks like video editing or gaming, but it’s perfectly capable of powering through all the usual tasks most people do on a laptop.

It’s worth noting that this is an ARM-based processor, meaning that traditional Windows apps built for the Intel x86 architecture will require native ARM versions that are truly optimized for the system. There are already plenty of native ARM apps, including Microsoft’s own suite of apps, Google Chrome, Spotify, and Zoom. If you use more specialized Windows apps, check to see if there’s an ARM version or if it works with Microsoft’s Prism translation layer, which allows these non-native apps to run.

Native apps work fine for the most part, although I did run into a glitch with Zoom where I could only join meetings via a direct link. Non-native apps like Telegram and Slack didn’t give me any issues either. One of the benefits of an ARM processor is battery life, and it’s great on the Surface Laptop. After about six to seven hours, at 50 percent brightness, I still had 20 to 30 percent left.

The AI ​​features aren’t as innovative as Microsoft claims. I found it difficult to incorporate any of them into my daily workflow. Cocreator (which uses AI to create enhanced images of your drawings) struggled to match the prompts I typed and was difficult to use without a stylus; Live Captions, which provides instant, real-time translations over video and audio calls and movies, was mostly accurate but struggled to keep up with rapid-fire dialog; Eye Contact, an AI-powered camera feature through Windows Studio Effects, didn’t work at all and instead made my pupils look weird. The actual feature is Recalluses large language models to help find everything you’ve seen or done on your PC with a search query, but it’s been delayed due to major privacy issues.

You shouldn’t buy this laptop for any of those AI features. It’s a solid machine if you’re looking for a lightweight, reliable Windows PC with good battery life. It can be expensive, though—the base model 13-inch Surface Laptop with Snapdragon X Elite (with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage) starts at $1,400, and the highest configuration (with Snapdragon X Elite, 64GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage) out to 2,400 dollarsIf you don’t need that much power, the $1,000 model with the Snapdragon X Plus chip (along with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage) should be enough for most people.

Specs to look for: 13-inch, Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD

Best 2 in 1 Laptops

Surface Pro (11th Edition) (6/10, WIRED Rating) has the original Surface design. This 13-inch 2-in-1 tablet and laptop hybrid comes with a built-in kickstand, though the keyboard is still a separate purchase. You get the same two USB-C connectors as before, along with Microsoft’s Surface Connect charging port. It’s still awkward to use on your lap, but on a desk, Flex Keyboard is a great (and expensive) upgrade—you can use the keyboard and Surface separately, so you can space out your setup a bit.

It comes with a 12MP front-facing camera with Windows Studio Effects, along with a 10MP rear camera. WIRED contributor Chris Null encountered issues with the trackpad, which frequently stopped working when the laptop woke up from sleep. Removing and reattaching the keyboard from the screen helped, as did using the touchscreen to select fields for input, but hopefully a software update will fix this.


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