Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3: Which should you buy?

Surface Laptop 4
Surface Laptop 4 (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's latest and greatest Surface Laptop is the Surface Laptop 4. It's what you'll want to choose if you need the best performance possible from the latest processors out of AMD and Intel. Because the Surface Laptop 4 is the newer model, you can expect to pay a small premium compared to the Surface Laptop 3, which is still a great notebook on its own and can be found at a discount.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3: Specifications

Microsoft has officially announced the Surface Laptop 4 so we know exactly how the newer notebook compares to the Surface Laptop 3. Almost matching leaked Surface Laptop 4 specifications, we've put together the below specifications chart to show how the comparison in full.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Surface Laptop 4Surface Laptop 3
Processor11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G711th Gen Intel Core i5-1145G711th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7AMD Ryzen 5 4680UAMD Ryzen 7 4980U10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G710th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7AMD Ryzen 5 3580UAMD Ryzen 7 3780U
Display size13.5 inches15 inchesTouch13.5 inches15 inchesTouch
Display resolution2256 x 1504 (201 PPI)2496 x 1664 (201 PPI)2256 x 1504 (201 PPI)2496 x 1664 (201 PPI)
Aspect ratio3:23:2
GraphicsIntel Iris XeAMD RadeonIntel Iris PlusAMD Radeon
Ports1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack
BiometricsIR cameraIR camera
BatteryWh (13.5-inch), Wh (15-inch)Up to 19 hours70Wh (13.5-inch), 80Wh (15-inch)Up to 11.5 hours
Weight13.5-inch from 2.79lbs (1.27kg)15-inch from 3.40lbs (1.54kg)13.5-inch from lbs (kg)15-inch from lbs (kg)

There are many configurations available, starting with an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 and AMD Ryzen 5 4680U. It's possible to configure up to 32GB of LPDDR4x RAM and 1TB of storage with Intel processors only, but all storage is removable allowing you to install your own NVMe drive.

What's new with the Surface Laptop 4

  • Intel 11th Gen Core processors with Iris Xe Graphics
  • AMD Ryzen 4000 and Radeon Graphics (Surface Edition)
  • Up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB storage (Intel only)
  • No more 128GB option (256GB or higher)
  • Dolby Atmos spatial-audio
  • Ice Blue with Alcantara (13.5-inch Intel only)
  • Up to 70% performance improvement
  • Battery improvements
  • Slightly faster Windows Hello login
  • 15-inch models are only Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7
  • AMD models now have Wi-Fi 6 and LPDDR4x

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3: Design & Display

It'll be difficult to tell the Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Laptop 4 apart unless you know what to look for. Microsoft is using the exact same chassis, making both the Surface Laptop 3 and Laptop 4 look almost identical, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you're a fan of the older all-aluminum design, you'll dig the newer notebook.

The Surface Laptop 3 looks amazing and Microsoft did a solid job with designing such a premium-looking notebook. You'll be able to enjoy the same small bezel experience with stunning displays. The port selection is the same, rocking a single USB-C, USB-A, and a headphone jack. Microsoft chose not to include Thunderbolt 3 or 4.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3: Performance

This is where the major change comes into play. The Surface Laptop 4 comes rocking 11th Gen Intel and AMD Ryzen 4000 series processors. What's more is the AMD processors are available in the 13.5-inch laptop, likewise with the Intel CPUs in the 15-inch, allowing for far more choice. Compared to previously available chips, these offer up to a 70% increase in performance.

Interestingly, Microsoft is not planning to include 12th Gen Intel processors nor will it take Ryzen 5000 series CPUs from AMD. This is a strange move if you'd prefer to choose the very latest from AMD and Intel. The 11th Gen Intel and AMD Ryzen 4000 series processors aren't bad, but they won't be the latest and greatest.

It's not just computing power that has been given a slight bump, but also graphics processing. Intel 11th Gen processors come with Iris Xe graphics, and AMD still offers its excellent integrated Radeon GPUs with the Ryzen 4000 series.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3: Pricing

Microsoft is pricing the Surface Laptop 4 at $999 for the base model, which is the same as the Surface Laptop 3 when it first came out. You can easily find the Surface Laptop 3 for $800 or less right now, making it a better deal if you're on a tighter budget. Still, the additional $200 is worth forking out if you could make use of the additional performance.

Surface Laptop 4 has the latest tech

Going with the current generation of any product is best if you plan on making full use of the hardware available. Like other products, Microsoft's Surface Laptop 4 comes rocking 11th Gen Intel and AMD Ryzen 4000 series processors. The price will be a little higher, but it's well worth it if you need one of the best Microsoft Surface PCs available.

Buy the Surface Laptop 3 for a better deal

Just because the Surface Laptop 3 is from the last generation, this doesn't mean it's a bad purchase. The Surface Laptop 3 is still a very good notebook, coming equipped with 10th Gen Intel processors and plenty of tech to keep you online throughout the day. You may even find one at a steal of a deal.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.