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
Senior Editor

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