Review: Microsoft's Surface Laptop 4 provides all-day performance with minor flaws

Whether you buy this laptop will come down to your operating system preference.
Microsoft's Surface Laptop 4 is fantastic, without being perfect Photo credit: Newshub

The Surface Laptop 4 is a lightweight, portable addition to Microsoft's hardware stable.

Boasting an impressive battery life claim, colour options which scream Apple more than the Seattle-based software giant, and Dolby Atmos 7 sound, is this laptop the solution to your home and business needs?

I've been using the Surface Laptop 4 for over a week now and here are my thoughts.

The good

Hello, Windows Hello! The last Microsoft device I reviewed, the Surface Go, had a front-facing camera but you couldn't log on using your face. Thankfully, the best non-password solution out there, in my opinion, is present here – and it's ridiculously quick.

The laptop sparks into life instantly and, before you even register the camera light, you're logged in and ready to go. Begone fingerprint scanners, the dodgy uncle of login options!

This is an impressive start given I'm reviewing one of the versions at the lower end of the range, the 13.5-inch, 11th generation Intel i5, with 8GB RAM (RRP $2299).

The screen is also a thing of beauty – and I appreciated the maximum 2256x1504 resolution, something that other similar-sized devices don't always offer. Everything you see is sharp, from the text as I type this to streaming television and movies on Netflix. And the touch functionality (which I never use) works as expected, with no obvious delay.

David Attenborough's Our Planet looked and sounded fantastic as I lay in my bed and the black and green combinations in The Matrix were as good as I'd expect. Were some colours slightly washed out in some scenes? Perhaps, but not to the point where I felt it impacted my watching.

The screen sparks into life quickly and if you use Windows Hello you'll be logged in before you know it.
The screen sparks into life quickly and if you use Windows Hello you'll be logged in before you know it. Photo credit: Newshub

And talking of sound, the under-keyboard Dolby Atmos 7 speakers add a real depth of sound as it bounces off the screen. I decided to take a trip back to my headbanging days and blast Ozzy Osbourne's 'Crazy Train' and the clarity was impressive, even at lower volumes. I cranked it up and the keys were vibrating as I typed.

My only doubt over the sound is how much I'll actually use it – your mileage may differ. I'm either using my laptop plugged in to an external monitor with sound built in or wearing headphones so not sure how important that sound really is to prospective purchasers.

Regardless, it sounded much better – and at lower volumes – than other machines playing the same song in a direct comparison.

Battery life is another huge plus point with the Surface Laptop 4. I used it over multiple days – writing a bit here and there, watching videos, Skype calls and just leaving it around open and never managed to drain the battery substantially.

There's no question it'll get you through an entire working day without needing plugged in.

Last but certainly not least in the pro-column is the tremendous keyboard, the best in the business, I believe. I touch type and, anecdotally, have found myself typing quicker and with less errors on Surface keyboards than any other I use regularly.

The Alcantara keyboard feels good, but can you keep it clean?
The Alcantara keyboard feels good, but can you keep it clean? Photo credit: Newshub

And, unlike the Surface Go, I didn't have issues with the thumb striking the touchpad, causing random window switches. The only potential downside? The Alcantara finish on my review model.

The fabric has been used on removable Surface Pro keyboards for a long time now but this is the first I've seen it on a fixed laptop keyboard.

It's nice to the touch - but, based on previous use, I'm not convinced it's going to stay pristine for long. Especially with someone as clumsy as me dropping food and drink on it. I'm much more comfortable with the standard metallic finish.

The bad

While I've been pretty impressed by the Surface Laptop 4 there are some things about it that just don't stand up to the level I expect.

The front-facing camera that does such a great job for logging in isn't as impressive on video calls, a much more important part of our days in this COVID world. I connected with someone on the same network to try and minimise the impact of connection speed but it still didn't look that impressive on screen.

Audio was fine and I could be heard clearly but a better camera must be on the agenda for the next generation.

As an Apple fan, I've been told before that I might focus a bit too much on look over functionality so perhaps I'm being a little harsh by complaining about the black bezel around the screen – but even so, it's big.

While the footprint isn't excessive, Microsoft could cut out more weight and overall size by significantly reducing the ugliness around the otherwise impressive screen.

And what's with the lack of ports, Microsoft? A single USB-A, a single USB-C and a headphone port occupying the left hand side seems a little stingy. 

Why so stingy with the ports at the side of the Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft?
Why so stingy with the ports at the side of the Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft? Photo credit: Newshub

The other thing to really bother me was the heat emanating from the bottom of the Surface Laptop 4 when I was trying to play games. It didn't happen with other multi-tasking, but as soon as I fired up Steam and GoG and tried to play a couple of games – Elder Scrolls V: Skryim and Witcher 3 – the fan started and the bottom got hot. Quickly.

Sure, this isn't a gaming laptop and the Iris Xe integrated graphics won't touch new games – but I was hoping that some older games wouldn't push it quite so hard.

The heat was enough for me to ditch the laptop and head back to my desktop. Srangely, the plastic bottom of the much cheaper Surface Go was much more enjoyable to use.


The Surface Laptop 4 is an excellent overall option from Microsoft and at a price that doesn't rule out consumers and won't unduly worry businesses. The battery life is excellent and the beautiful screen (bezel aside) and great sound makes this an affordable and worthy all-round device.

The range starts at $1749 for the 13.5-inch AMD Ryzen 5 processor version with 8GB RAM and 256GB hard drive, up to $4599 for the Intel i7 with 32GB RAM and 1TB hard drive.

Whether you buy this laptop will come down to your operating system preference.
Whether you buy this laptop will come down to your operating system preference. Photo credit: Newshub

Ultimately, the decision to purchase the Surface Laptop 4 is likely to come down to what ecosystem you're most invested in.

I recently purchased one of the new Apple M1 MacBook Airs and, while I love it, there are some Surface features – the keyboard and Windows Hello – that would improve it substantially. But I'm not sure those are enough to convert hardcore fans.

If I was supplied this for work, I'd be delighted. If anyone I know needs a new Windows laptop for work and home, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this. Just consider whether you really want an Alcantara finish to your keyboard, though.

Newshub was supplied a Surface Laptop 4 for this review.