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Surface Laptop (2017) vs. Surface Laptop 2: Which should you buy?

The Surface Laptop and Surface Laptop 2 are two excellent clamshell devices from Microsoft. Both are identical in many ways, with the only real differences being on the inside. If you want more power, the Surface Laptop 2 is for you, but if power isn't your main concern, you might be better off saving a few bucks and getting last years Surface Laptop instead.

Surface Laptop 2 vs. Surface Book 2 tech specs

Surface Laptop 2Surface Laptop
Processor8th Gen
Intel Core i5-8250U
Intel Core i7-8650U
7th Gen
Intel Core i5-7200U
Intel Core i7-7660U
RAM8, 16 GB4, 8, 16GB
Storage128, 256, 512 GB
1 TB
128, 256, 512GB
Display size13.5 inches
Touch
13.5 inches
Touch
Display resolution2,256 x 1,504
3:2 aspect ratio
2,256 x 1,504
3:2 aspect ratio
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620Intel HD graphics 620
Intel Iris Graphics 640
PortsUSB-A 3.0
Mini DisplayPort
Surface Connect
3.5 mm audio
USB-A 3.0
Mini DisplayPort
Surface Connect
3.5 mm audio
BiometricsIR camera for Windows HelloIR camera for Windows Hello
BatteryUp to 14.5 hoursUp to 14.5 hours
Dimensions12.13 inches x 8.79 inches x 0.57 inches12.13 inches x 8.78 inches x 0.57 inches
WeightFrom 2.76 poundsFrom 2.76 pounds

Design and features

The Surface Laptop and Surface Laptop 2 are identical in almost every way. There isn't one single feature or design change that you can't find on both, because the Surface Laptop 2 is just a refresh of the original Surface Laptop, meaning nothing has changed on the surface. There is an additional color choice for the Surface Laptop 2 however; it now comes in black.

The black finish is really nice, and looks just like the original Surface RT and Surface Pro did back when they were announced in 2012. It's a callback to Surface's roots, and a subtle one that only fans will recognize. The black finish does give the Surface Laptop 2 a slightly different texture, but it's not something worth buying the Surface Laptop 2 specifically for.

Both displays are identical too, featuring the same 2504x1707 resolution and screen technology. They both feature touchscreens and pen support, and are all-round great displays. Even the port selection, which is limited to just USB-A 3.1 and Mini DisplayPort, are the same across both devices. No USB-C on the Surface Laptop 2, unfortunately. So, which to get is more-or-less entirely down to what's on the inside, unless you really must have it in black.

Performance

Here's where things start to diverge quite a bit. The Surface Laptop, released in mid-2017, is rocking Intel 7th Gen processors, meaning it's technically an older and less capable machine. However, in real-world usage, that's absolutely not the case. The 7th Gen i5 and i7 in the Surface Laptop is more than fine for daily tasks, including web browsing, editing documents in Office, listening to music in Spotify, and even doing a little bit of Photoshop.

There are some benefits to going for the 8th Gen processors found in the Surface Laptop 2 however. For one, there's more power. Unlike the 7th Gen processors, which are dual-core, the 8th Gen processors in the Surface Laptop 2 are quad-core, meaning programs that can take advantage of additional cores will perform faster — it's great for gaming, Photoshop, and video editing.

Battery life and instant-on is also improved on the Surface Laptop 2, lasting a couple more hours than the Surface Laptop did, and also powering on faster from sleep. The original Surface Laptop already had good battery life, and its instant-on capabilities aren't bad at all, but there are slight improvements in this area on the Surface Laptop 2.

In regards to graphics, both feature integrated graphics meaning you won't be getting much out of the graphical processor in either device. The Surface Laptop 2 should squeeze a bit more out of its Intel HD Graphics processor, but not by much. Neither of these devices should be your first choice for gaming or heavy video editing.

Why get the Surface Laptop 2

If you need the extra cores, slightly improved battery life, faster instant-on capabilities, and quieter keyboard, then the Surface Laptop 2 is the best choice for you. It also comes in black, so if that's something on your must-have list, then this is your only option.

Why the original Surface Laptop might be a better pick

The Surface Laptop 2 is a minor upgrade over the original Surface Laptop, meaning you can get 95 percent of what the Surface Laptop 2 offers with the original Surface Laptop, but for a lot less. What's more, the original Surface Laptop has way more configurations, including an Intel Core m3 with 4GB RAM option, great for college students.

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.