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Should you buy Microsoft's Surface Pro or Surface Laptop?

Microsoft is calling the Surface Pro "the most versatile laptop," which is kind of odd considering it just a few weeks ago announced an actual laptop. The Surface Pro line has come a long way since its inception, to the point where I can see why someone would consider the Surface Pro over an actual laptop, even if they were looking for a more traditionally laptop-like device.

So, if you're in the market for a new laptop, should you get the Surface Pro or Surface Laptop? Here are some things you should consider.

Meet the new Surface Pro

Surface Pro or Surface Laptop?

It really comes down to the form factor you prefer, because that's ultimately the big difference between the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop. If you'd much rather a tablet that can also be a laptop, then the Surface Pro is what you should definitely be going for. However, if you'd rather a laptop form factor that doesn't turn into a tablet, Surface Laptop is your choice of device.

Of course, we understand that for many the choice isn't that simple. Some people don't care about the form factor, but rather the kind of things each device can do. The Surface Pro can arguably do a whole lot more than the Surface Laptop, due to it being more nimble and "transformative." For example, the new Surface Pro has the ability to lay almost completely flat, and it supports the Surface Dial, meaning it can be placed on the screen for additional functionality just like on the Surface Studio.

Surface Pen: Everything you need to know

While the Surface Laptop also supports the Surface Pen, it can't lay completely flat and doesn't support the Surface Dial on its screen. So, if your usage scenario evolves heavily around the Pen and creating, then the Surface Pro is the better choice. If, however, your work flow includes more writing or video editing, perhaps the Surface Laptop is something you should consider over the Surface Pro.

It's about what comes in the box

The Surface Laptop comes bundled with a keyboard and trackpad, because it's a laptop and there's no other alternative. The Surface Pro doesn't come with these things, and the Type Cover is an additional extra that you have to pay for on top of the price you already pay for the Surface Pro. So even though the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are mostly priced the same on Microsoft's website, you're technically getting more for your money if you buy the Surface Laptop.

Best Surface Pro Accessories

Best Surface Pro Accessories

Another Surface Laptop benefit is that it has slightly longer battery life: 14.5 hours over 13.5 hours for the Surface Pro. That's only an hour's difference, but keep in mind the Surface Laptop also has a slightly lower-resolution screen. This is good for battery life, but this may be a drawback for some people. The resolution is 2736 x 1824 at 12.3 inches for the Surface Pro, and 2256 x 1504 at 13.5 inches for the Surface Laptop.

That means the Surface Pro will have a crisper display. It won't be by much, but when compared side by side, it's something you'll notice if you look close enough. Considering the Surface Pro has a slightly smaller display, that might be good or bad news for you, too.

When it comes to specs such as CPU and RAM, they are both the same. The Surface Pro has a slightly lower model available, with an Intel Core m3 CPU and 4GB RAM. But the tier above that matches the Surface Laptop with an Intel Core i5 with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage. This trend remains on the above tiers, with prices matching each spec. The Surface Pro has one additional tier that offers a 1TB option. The Surface Laptop doesn't have such an option.

Here are the full specifications for the new Surface Pro

Finally, the Surface Laptop and Surface Pro come with two different editions of Windows 10. The Laptop, being aimed at students and young adults, comes with a new version of Windows 10, called Windows 10 S, that's locked to the Windows Store. The Surface Pro comes with Windows 10 Pro. The Surface Laptop can also be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro for free until the end of the year, but after that you'll have to pay $49 for the upgrade.

What I'm going for

Factoring in everything listed above, I'm personally choosing the Surface Laptop over the Surface Pro. I love the Surface Pro, but I dislike the 2-in-1 form-factor. I like the idea, but practically, for me at least, it's more cumbersome and annoying. I much prefer being able to open a laptop lid and get to work, compared to having to pop out the kickstand and make sure the Surface Pro won't fall off my lap.

Even if form factor wasn't an issue, I'd still go for the Surface Laptop. If I were to buy the Intel Core i5 Surface Pro with 8GB RAM, I'd have to pay an additional sum of money for the Type Cover, which is a requirement if you want to use the Surface Pro as a laptop. With the Surface Laptop, I pay the same price and get the keyboard and trackpad bundled with it, because they are physically attached to the device. You get more for your money going with the Surface Laptop.

I'm also not big on the pen, and would rarely use the Surface Pro as an actual tablet anyway. So I'm definitely all in on the laptop form factor of the Surface Laptop over the 2-in-1 form factor on the Surface Pro.

Your thoughts

We're curious as to which device you'd prefer. Are you Team Surface Pro or Team Surface Laptop? Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

79 Comments
  • Seems like a simple answer. If you want a traditional laptop then get the Laptop. If you'd rather have a tablet that can be used like a laptop then get the Pro.
  • why don't you work at micrsofts advertisement-team? ;)
  • Yeah really. The Surface brand is now just a tired knock off of stupid small changes in hardware like Apple. And it's just as overpriced. People can get a much better experience for ALOT LESS with Acer, HP, Dell or other OEM's.
  • Surface Pro is for pros.  Its Studio mode, 2-in-1 design, back camera, LTE option, 1 TB SSD option make it far more versatile and thus offers better value.  If you plan to use pen for drawing seriously, Studio mode is a must.  If you want a laptop, HP Spectre x360 may be a better choice than Surface Laptop.
  • Define 'pro'?
  • Those who demand maximum versatility and minimum limitation on hardware. With Surface Laptop, I can't even take photos, Skype for back images, 'View Mixed Reality', do serious drawing on either flat Tablet mode or 165-deg Studio mode, connect to LTE or larger SSD storage.  
  • Lennovo Flex 5, check that one out. IT's my next new laptop. 
  • I completely agree and would also go for the Surface Laptop for the same reasons and physical bigger screen. However, I also very much like that for the Surface Pro there will be a LTE option which saves the hassle of using your phone as mobile hotspot.
  • The way straight is pro even with 1tb you can still expand and now with the latest processor why do you want a laptop and the laptop max memory is 512gb which isn't enough for a student like me....pro baby🙌🙌🙌😜😜💥💥💥😍😍😁😁😁
  • You're not a real student if you can afford over 2k on a laptop/tablet 😂😉
  • Unfortunately students are taught the way of the credit card and instant gratification before financial wisdom...
  • Money is not a problem over at my school let me out it this way the poorest student is using core5 700gb can you imagine and you except Surface to be expensive. My school can buy 3 dozen of surface pro 3
  • The Surface Pro 4. More or less the same and way cheaper today.
  • Neither, get something from a company that still gives a crap about their customers. Yes, I am a disgruntled windows mobile user.
  • Get over it. There aren't enough of us (yes us) left that giving a crap about us is economically feasible. They are a company, not a charity after all, unfortunately. I'll still use my Lumia's till they die and make a phone decision then. I still love my Surface too. 
  • I believe the name you are looking for starts with an L and uses a lot of carbon fiber in their cases and steel in the frames. They do weigh a bit more, but for a reason I feel.of course I don't have to run my laptop on battery 15 hours a day so my 6 hour batteries are more than enough, I recharge every couple of days.
  • Pro. I'm a writer, and use the pen fairly frequently. I'm on an SP3, so the extra battery life will be significant. It's a fair bit of cash, but I've decided it's time to bite the bullet again.
  • See what sort of trade-in offers show up. Best Buy often does some reasonable ones, and you can always sell it. Still a great machine.
  • From SP3 it's a pretty decent upgrade in my opinion: better speakers, brighter screen, 2x CPU power, much better battery life.
  • I feel that Microsoft missed a trick by not giving the laptop a 360/yoga type screen.
  • Yea, that might have made my decision a bit tougher.
  • Tablets have LTE and GPS builtin. LTE not availible, yet, we will see. Still no Windows tablet device with GPS. I complained about this when the SP3 came out. I have two of them. I seldom use the SP3 as tablet, why bother as the keyboard fits in the bag. Pop the keyboard off, if it is in the way. IPad will still win as a tablet, form factor and features and I still hate having to use it. I will not buy either, for $700, I got MSI I7 gaming machine with 17" screen.
  • My LTE capable Surface 3 has GPS. A little research shows that it actually works if you leave WiFi turned on. It does not need to be connected to WiFi or a data service, the radio(s) just need to be on. Probably a function of the chip set the GPS receiver is on. 
  • I don't know the specs of the Surface 3 but that sounds like WPS (WiFi Positioning System) which only works when there are WiFi base stations to position from (it doesn't need to connect to them but it does need to be able to see them). It's usually used to supplement GPS when indoors or other areas with poor GPS signal. It's not a replacement for GPS and won't work out of suburban areas (i.e. in areas where there are no WiFi signals). It's also possible to position from mobile network towers in a similar way, again where there is signal available.
  • I want 8" surface tablet + Surface laptop + surface phone. I know two of those don't exist but..
  • Sure the new surface products are gorgeous. But Microsoft has this weird habit of excluding certain parts of globe. I see the surface pro 4 in my country. But still no surface book. As long as Microsoft keeps up this kind of behavior most people can't get these machines even if they wanted. 
  • I'm definitely going to go with the surface laptop since i already have the Pro 4, but the new Pro has Surface Dial integration which i love
  • the maing point is: tablets are getting down on market, so Microsoft is repositioning its devices as Laptop-ishes... I would go with the 2-in-1, because I like to sofa-browsing.
  • "Torn between Microsoft's new Surface Pro and new Surface Laptop?" Nope, not even a little. Surface Pro for me. 
  • Couple of other differences missed in this article that could be important for some: No rear camera for Laptop. Can be useful when using Skype and you want to show something. Or to record meeting/class. Front camera is only 720p compared to 5mp for Pro No MicroSD slot on Laptop. Can be useful to extend cheaply disk space "internally" without external USB drive Windows 10 free upgrade for Laptop will disappear eventually so then you need to add that cost Future LTE option on Pro only
  • I surprised these were missed out of the review as they seem to be pretty key features.
  • Wait what? The laptop doesn't have microsd? Did not know this! Pro it is!
  • I would always go for the Pro. I have surface pro 4 and enjoy it every single day. As student i believe there is nothing better available. being able to annotate pdfs is awesome! at home I simply dock it to a 24'' Monitor and can work with a bigger screen. I even watch netflix or youtube on the couch with keyboard detached. to put it simple: I could not live without this versatility anymore. the only one downside is probably that it is not that good with lapability...
  • One other obvious thing not mentioned is screen size. The Laptop has 1.2" larger screen which can be either pro/con depending on your needs.
  • Yep. Was mentioned.
  • working in data centers or networking on the go the pro is best solution over a laptop.   Coming from some one that has had to lug a laptop around and try to use  standing for over 15 yrs.   
  • Both. Lol....
  • I've got a laptop I'm happy with (Dell Latitude 7440). It's a tablet I'm after so I'd go for the Pro. I've watched the Surface range and been increasingly impressed but no mobile broadband has been a deal breaker for me. If the new Pro's LTE card has built-in GPS then that's the clincher.
  • I really want to see what your (WC's) battery burn down looks like before I fall too much for either.  Really hoping for real-world 9+ hours.  I am most interested in if either one has a physical structure that works better for heat dissipation or throttling than the other.  In a vacuum, I like the Surface Laptop better.  In a world where I can carry around a very stout all-day-battery-lived tablet at 1.7lbs (or with a keyboard at 2.4lbs), that's kind of hard to not swing at that pitch.
  • Even the anti-Microsoft sites, when doing their battery tests on the recent Microsoft devices in real-world use scenarios have rated the Microsoft battery better than what Microsoft claims while Apple laptops get worse than what Apple claims. There will never be a perfect number, perfect real-world case since every body's real world use will be different. One person may be browsing the web, watching some videos, while I am building applications with dev tools - those will result in very different numbers. But Microsoft has not been making wild claims about their battery.
  • nohone, I think we are on the same page.  But note that's a recent phenomema where in year's past, it was the Macs that were outperforming their estimates and the early Surface Pros (and most other Win machines) were well under delivering.  For the Microsoft space, I don't recall until the Surface Book that I started seeing "better than reported" numbers.  And that's a great thing.  I'd just love it if it continues with these latest devices.   But to your greater point about battery life being dependent on the usage, I am 100% in agreement.  I don't trust any exact number outside of the context of what the machine was being asked to do.  I usually have an IDE up and some semblance of code being run in addition to normally some other browsing.  But then I take a break and watch Netflix for an hour.  And then web browse for an hour or so.  And reading sites like this all the while.  No way I expect that anyone will run that exact combination of things to give me an expected battery life.  However, if Daniel (or Zac) test it out and say it gets barely 7 hours or 12 hours 11 minutes, I can compare that to the other ratings they have given over time and that helps me formulate an idea of what I'll get out of it.  E.g. if they say numbers that approximate a 2017 Samsung Notebook 9 15" rather than a Surface Pro 2, I'll be a happy guy.
  • why is the site so poorly written, and aimed at the lowest common denominator of reader.
  • To get it down to your level.
  • Ars Technica is your friend.  If you want stuff aimed at your Grandma, then hang around here. 
  • now with laptop & tablet bans. when will they build a mini laptops or mini surface pro? You don't really need a humongous screen! mini laptop for ultra mobility, and when you get to work, home, or hotel, you can just plug it into a giant TV screen. for me, either one is fine, but I need one under 6 " to avoid the device ban!
  • Regulation can change quickly.
  • The Surface Laptop isn't worth it.
  • It's rather simple, the Pro is more versatile and useful. It no doubt wins for me. But if your one of those people that insists on awkwardly keeping a laptop on your lap and looking down at it, or just want the traditional clamshell then the laptop.
  • I don't understand how anyone can "dislike the 2-in-1 form factor". But that's your choice. I ditched my laptop after I got the SP3 and I'll never go back.  Not being able to remove the keyboard is just unthinkable to me now.  I use my SP3 as much w/o the keyboard as with.  So, I WILL be getting the new SP.  The Surface Laptop didn't spark any interest in me at all, and I recommend people completely ignore it, opting for the SP.
  • For me it's a difficult decission. I prefer Laptop screen size, but I want a cheap way to increase storage. At the end I'm very happy with my SP3, maybe I will wait until surface book will be upgraded
  • For me it's a difficult decission. I prefer Laptop screen size, but I want a cheap way to increase storage. At the end I'm very happy with my SP3, maybe I will wait until surface book will be upgraded
  • I have to say that Panos P. is a good presenter. See the Shanghai presentation of the Surface Pro at https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/24/15686730/microsoft-surface-pro-china-... .
  • Nice thing about the Surface Pro line: * You can buy the machine anywhere
    * Then, buy the keyboard so that you get the right keys.
    As an example, buy the Surface Pro in USA, and the keyboard in Spain :-). And if you are multilingual, buy another keyboard in, e.g., Germany. The possibility to change keyboard is an advantage of the Surface Pro over the Surface laptop, at least for me.
  • Neither. I want a new Surface Book!!!!!!!!!
  • Surface Pro baby!!!
  • I want to move and draw so a laptop doesn't work for me, hence personal preference. 
  • Pro for me because of versatility and pen use, though if money were no object I'd buy the Book (not the Laptop) since I prefer the larger screen.
  • One important advantage of the Pro over the Laptop, and all other current Surface devices, which was not mentioned here, is "faster inking," that is, inking with lower latency time. This feature is provided by the new pen and what MS calls a “Pixelsense Accelerator chip," which is installed only in the Pro ... for now. For more details, visit Thurrott.com, and read: "New Surface Pro Offers a Faster Inking Experience." PS - Can I provide links to competitive sites ? :)
  • I'm waiting for Windows on ARM.
  • Why, specifically?
  • Another consideration: I use the Dock with the SP4 ... and that means external monitor, drive, and the Ergonomic Surface Keyboard / Mouse combo. I toss on the type cover when on the go. It's nice to have the SP4 "out of the way" which is harder when contending with the keyboard of the notebook.
  • That's actually a really good point that I hadn't considered.  My SP2 spends well over 50% of it's awake life in the Surface Dock and it doesn't need a keyboard attached (unless I am charging the power type cover).  And you are indeed right that it does take up far less room as I usually have it just inches (like 2") from the back of my keyboard.  I spend most of my time looking at the two screens (27 & 23) behind & above it but I do run stuff like Netflix down on the SP screen itself for white noise.  With the Surface Laptop, that indeed goes away and it (the 13.5" screen) would have to sit at least 10" further back than a Surface Pro would.  I need to add that to my calculation as it really doesn't spend "that" much time on my lap, on the coffee table compared to how it rides on the desk.  Cool food for thought there....
  • I'm definately in the SURFACE PRO camp. I love using the pen. I currently own a SURFACE 3 (A terrific device in it's own right), so a SURFACE PRO would be a significant upgrade for me. I use it alot for work.  As well as it's fun using it to play pictionary with the family while projecting the screen onto our big screen TV..  The Drawing aspects are real enticing to me.  There's a lot to like about both options.  I prefer extra mobility as I already have a solid HP Laptop I can use when I need the extra juice.
  • I have a personal/home Surface Pro 3 and a work Surface Pro 4. I definitely plan to upgrade my SP3 to the new i7 with LTE SP when it comes out. Fortunately I already upgraded my SP3 with the SP4 type-cover with fingerprint sensor, so I'll just pop that off and use it on my new Surface Pro, and put the old Gen 1 type cover back on the SP3 when I sell it (or put it in my bedroom, haven't decided!). the Surface Pro form factor has worked perfectly for me the last 3+ years and I'll never go back to a traditional laptop. Don't plan on upgrading my pen, already bought the SP4 pen as an upgrade to my SP3 and it works perfectly fine for what I do with it (notes in OneNote, webclipping, etc.). I'll be interested to see if Adobe Premiere or other video editing software ends up supporting the Dial - if it does, I'll probably get one of those. 
  • As a happy owner of Surface 3, I'm all in on the 2-in-1 form factor. So, a Pro for me. I really like its versatility.
  • Personal Choice is the Pro.  I Have come to enjoy the versatility of inking everything.  I love the ink keyboard except for office and its anoying bug.  I also prefer The smaller foot print.   I keep reeading how everyone thinks the laptop should flip like a yoga but i get why Microsoft chose the non flip version.  it could possibly encroach on the pro sales, and honestly i hate feeling the keys when you flip the board backwards.   Microsoft should of made the laptop smaller and added a rear facing camera with micro card support.  It would of been a better deal.
  • You can extend the storage on the Surface pro
  • The only thing Surface Pro competes to directly is iPad Pro. The choice depends on what drawing apps fit better and, to a lesser extent, on what other apps aka ecosystem are preffered. In all other cases the choice is based on what else is available. And what else is available depends on what kind of a person the buyer is. This makes direct device vs device comparison obsolete. A tablet person is likely to prefer Laptop because a zero compromise tabet must be already present. A desktop person is more likely to go for Pro.
  • Not true. The SFP compares to all portable devices. It's everything, and it does all well. For me it's a no brainer, and I hav everything from small portables to huge multimonitor gaming riggs and workstations.
  • yes but you dont get the point, now you can have 1 only product and with usb-c/TB3 it can become a gaming rig So surface line is a old gen very confusing line up
  • I must provide one counter example to the idea that the SP competes only with the iPad Pro. I currently use a Surface Pro 3 as my primary home pc (for web surfing, email, light office work, etc.), travel laptop, and (drawing) tablet. I don't own a "pure" tablet. An Android or iOS device can't run all the apps that I use on a regular basis. I love the SP3 kick stand, and prefer going between the keyboard and tablet (drawing) modes on one device. I should note that in my case, at least, "drawing" does not mean art, although in no way do I want to disparage artists! I use the SP3 pen for product development tasks, for example to sketch new UI layouts, or case designs, and occasionally to write equations. I also use it to take hand-written notes. I find the pen is sometimes better than the keyboard to take notes, especially ones that need to include sketches. I find the ergonomics of the SP3, in particular because of its kick stand, are excellent on a conference table, on a desk, or in my lap. FWIW, I've decided to buy the new Surface Pro i5 model, because it offers the fastest pen experience of any device on the market today, is fanless, and is "fairly" low cost. My SP3 will become my backup PC. Or maybe I'll use it to display a tutorial video (kick-stand deployed) while I'm taking notes using my new SP + low-latency pen, lounging in my comfortable chair :)
  • For me it's a no brainer. Lenovo Helix -> SFP1 -> SF3 -> SFP"5". I use the touch and pen all the time, no going back to laptop form factor now. And no touch is out of the question. I'd only be annoyed why nothing happens when I press the display. And I never fear the SF ever falling from my lap, and I have no trouble using it there. Not cumbersome at all...      
  • You should go with Huawei Matebook X, at least has no compromises like alcantara and it has usb-c
  • For traditional laptop I will opt for the book
  • Samsung 9 ext 15 for me, same weight as 13 inch....just need a way to get hold of one in the UK :/
  • A Surface Pro 3 user. But same thing as you said. I use my SP3 as a Laptop and not much as a tablet. (until and unless I am studying the Powerpoint slides). I love the new Surface Pro. But I will go for the Surface Laptop this time. Going to preordered it after watching Daniel Rubino's Review of the Surface Laptop.
  • Went to MS Store in San Fran...
    The Surface Laptop i5 SSD: Toshiba THNSN0256GTYA, TLC Flash, PCIe Gen3x2 NVMe, M.2 1628
    Seq Read: 900 MB/s.........fairly good
    Seq Write: 200 MB/s......Pathetic!!!
  • The Surface Pro offers WAY better value for money. It's overpriced as well but not to the ridiculous heights of the Surface Laptop. And it's much more versatile. For a laptop form factor, there are far superior offerings from HP and Dell. Only silly fanboys who want a Microsoft logo on the laptop will go for a Surface Laptop with that sh*t version of Windows in it.
  • As much as i love my Surface 3, i bought it because i needed a tablet replacement for my old Asus transformer. Personally i prefer Lenovo machines, and i also own a Dell Inspirion 13" 2 in 1. If someone wants a really expensive computer that looks nice, then go with the Surface lineup. If you want High quality at affordable prices w/keyboard, go with the Lenovo Yoga series. Although the Surface Pro or Pro 5 whatever, could be a nice upgrade to my Surface 3. Today i don't need to upgrade, maybe some day in another year or 2, but i'm satisified with my Lenovo Flex 2, and i will soon get a Lenovo Flex 5 a little later this year. This week i just upgraded my AIO with a Lenovo Ideacentre and it is freaking amazing. Then again my old Samsung AIO is a 2012 so it's a big upgrade for me. In 2015 i bought a Gaming rig (Cybertron Hellion) PC. It is the PC that i'm going to be working on upgrading over the years and keep it current. I just bought some extra ram, doubling what i got in there to 32GB DDR3 which will help alot with my gaming needs. Next year i may get a new Graphics card or SSD Drive or something. Anyway my advice is hit up on Lenovo PC's. They aren't too pricy, but not too cheap either. They are built with high grade materials and will serve you better than a Surface Laptop or Surface Pro.