Head-To-Head: Microsoft Surface Laptop Vs. Microsoft Surface Book

The Surface Lineup Grows

Microsoft is not letting up in its quest to be known as a maker of cool computing devices--not just underlying software.

This month, the company debuted a second laptop in its Surface-branded line, the Surface Laptop. There are plenty of differences between the device and the existing laptop in the category -- the Surface Book -- however.

In the following slides, the CRN Test Center lays out how Microsoft's new Surface Laptop compares with the Surface Book on specs and price.

First Things First

Microsoft is going after different audiences with the Surface Laptop and Surface Book — college students with the Surface Laptop and professionals (including creative types) with the Surface Book. In keeping with that focus, the Surface Book runs Windows 10 Pro, while the Surface Laptop runs the new education-focused version of the Windows operating system, Windows 10 S. The big difference is that Windows 10 S will only run apps users can download from the Windows Store, although it's worth noting that Surface Laptop owners will still have the option to pay for an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro if they like.

One other thing to note up front is that there are now two versions of the Surface Book — the original model and the Surface Book with Performance Base (aka the Surface Book i7). The two models on differ on a few specs, however.


Both the Surface Laptop and Surface Book feature touch-screen displays, but the Surface Laptop is a standard notebook rather than a 2-in-1. The Surface Book display, on the other hand, can actually detach from the keyboard to use as a tablet. The two displays are identical in size at 13.5 inches and both use Microsoft's bright and colorful PixelSense technology. However, the Surface Book is higher resolution at 3,000 x 2,000 pixels versus the 2,256 x 1,504 resolution on the Surface Laptop.


While the Surface Book is aimed at power users, it's actually the Surface Laptop that has the faster CPU due to its newness on the market. The Surface Laptop uses the seventh-generation Intel Core processors, Core i5 or Core i7, with the top-level chip being the Core i7-7660U (clock speed of up to 4GHz). The Surface Book also has options for Core i5 or i7, but they're from Intel's sixth generation. The fastest CPU available in the Surface Book is the Core i7-6600U, with a clock speed of up to 3.4GHz.


The Surface Book stands out on graphics, particularly the Surface Book i7, which uses a stand-alone graphics processor. That would be the GeForce GTX 965M, from notable GPU vendor Nvidia. (The original Surface Book also has an optional GeForce discrete GPU.) In comparison, the Surface Laptop uses graphics that are integrated with the CPU — specifically, Intel HD Graphics 620 for the Core i5 model and Iris Plus Graphics 640 for the Core i7 model.

Thickness And Weight

One of the clearest distinguishers with the Surface Laptop is its design — not just its color scheme and Alcantara fabric around its keyboard, but also its portable form factor. The Surface Laptop weighs 2.76 pounds and measures just 0.57 of an inch thick. The Surface Book is not quite as geared toward portability. The original Surface Book weighs in at 3.34 pounds (3.48 pounds for the model with discrete GPU), while the Surface Book i7 has a weight of 3.63 pounds. Meanwhile, both versions of Surface Book measure 0.9 of an inch thick.

Battery Life

In debuting the Surface Laptop this month, and the Surface Book i7 this past fall, Microsoft stressed the strong battery life in both devices. The company promises 14.5 hours of battery life on a charge for the Surface Laptop, an impressive figure for such a thin and light laptop. The Surface Book i7 gets a bit more thanks to its "performance base," at 16 hours, while the original Surface Book promises up to 12 hours of battery life.

Memory And Storage

The Surface Book offers configurations with 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM, while the Surface Laptop has both of those options as well as a configuration with 4 GB of RAM. As for storage, both devices come with PCIe solid-state storage. And, both the Surface Book and Surface Laptop offer four options for the amount of storage included—128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB.

Worth noting: The Surface Book i7 doesn't have a 128-GB configuration. And, at last check, the Surface Laptop didn't actually have a 1-TB model available for pre-order.

Ports And Pens

It's worth mentioning up front what neither laptop has in terms of ports — USB-C. Microsoft is sticking with USB-A in its Surface line. The Surface Laptop includes one USB-A port, while the Surface Book has two. The Surface Book also comes with a full-size SD card reader, which the Surface Laptop is lacking. Beyond that, both laptops have a Mini DisplayPort and two Surface Connect ports (for power and docking).

Both the Surface Laptop and Surface Book have been designed to work well with Microsoft's digital pen, the Surface Pen. But only Surface Book comes with the Surface Pen included; Surface Laptop users will need to pay an extra $60 for the digital pen.

Price And Availability

Pre-orders have begun for the Surface Laptop, although there will be a bit of a wait to get the device. At last check, Microsoft's website said the Surface Laptop will be shipping by June 2017.

Price-conscious shoppers might be inclined to go with the Surface Laptop, which starts at $999 for the model with seventh-gen Intel Core i5, 128 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM. The Surface Book has a starting price of $1,499 for the model with sixth-gen Core i5, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.

Beyond the base level, users have plenty of options for other configurations around processors (CPU and GPU), storage and memory, as mentioned. The Surface Laptop goes up to a price of $2,199 for a model with seventh-gen Core i7, 512 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM. The Surface Book i7 version, meanwhile, tops out at $3,199 (sixth-gen Core i7, 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage).