Surface Pro vs Surface Laptop: Which Should You Buy?

Microsoft have made it even more difficult to choose which Surface product to buy with the release of the revised Surface Pro and the new Surface Laptop. Which one do you buy? Which one is better? Surface Pro. Surface Laptop. Surface Pro. Surface Laptop. The mental back-and-forth is real. We’ve put together this nifty guide to help you decide which one is the right one for you.

Gizmodo Editor Campbell has taken an in-depth look at both devices previously and declared that the latest Surface Pro is the best tablet-laptop hybrid device that you can buy in Australia. He also reviewed the Surface Laptop and really loved it. Like don’t-let-them-take-this-from-me loved it. But in a metaphoric battle to the death, which device will emerge bloodied and victorious? Well, that’s an interesting question.

Out of the box, the differences are obvious. The Surface Pro is a 2-in-1 tablet that you can attach a keyboard to, whereas the Surface Laptop is a, well, it’s a laptop. Overall, the cosmetic differences aren’t readily apparent, though you can tell that the Laptop has a slightly bigger form factor and larger screen. You’ll also notice that the Surface Pro has both a front-facing and rear-facing camera capable of 1080p video, but the Surface Laptop only contains the former and is only capable of 720p.

But how do they differ internally?

The Basics

Screen Size 12.3″ 13.5″
Resolution 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI) 2256 x 1504 (201 PPI)
Processor Intel Core m3-7Y30, i5-7300U or i7-7660U Intel Core i5-7200U or i7-7660U
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
RAM 4GB, 8GB, 16GB 4GB, 8GB, 16GB
Battery 13.5 hours of video playback 14.5 hours of video playback
OS Windows 10 Pro Windows 10 S*

*you can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro before December 31st, 2017 for free

Overall, the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are similarly-powered devices that aim to take advantage of different markets. The Laptop is clearly designed to go head-to-head with the MacBook Air and is aimed at students and light users, whereas the Pro is more attractive to users that want the versatility of an exceptional laptop that is actually a tablet. From a portability point of view both devices are exceptionally light, the Surface Pro coming in between 768g and 784g without a Type Cover and the Laptop weighing in at about 1.25kg. Of course, once you add the Type Cover, the two devices are so similar in weight that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference unless you worked off a scale.

Unfortunately, both devices are rather limited in their connectivity. They come with one USB 3.0 Port, one mini-DisplayPort, the SurfaceConnect port and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. However, the Pro does also have an additional microSD card reader that the Laptop does not.

The most obvious differences on paper are the Pro’s superior resolution and pixels-per-inch which provides a crisp, clear image. Honestly though, because both the Pro and the Laptop have such wonderful displays you’re really not going to be found wanting either way unless you’re buying a device particularly for art or design purposes. It’s also worth noting that some users have experienced extreme backlight bleed when using the Surface Pro, but no similar issues have been reported with the Laptop.

On the other hand, it appears that the Surface Laptop has as a significantly slower write speed than the Surface Pro. I asked Microsoft Support about this online and was told “they haven’t received any feedback on this issue.” However, even a cursory glance of the Reddit forum dedicated to Surface products reveals that some users have noticed significantly lower write speeds.

What Am I Paying?

Intel Core m3, 128GB, 4GB RAM N/A $1199
Intel Core i5, 128GB, 4GB RAM Intel Core i5, 128GB, 4GB RAM $1499
Intel Core i5, 256GB, 8GB RAM Intel Core i5, 256GB, 8GB RAM $1999
Intel Core i7, 256GB, 8GB RAM Intel Core i7, 256GB, 8GB RAM $2499
Intel Core i7, 512GB, 16GB RAM Intel Core i7, 512GB, 16GB RAM $3299
Intel Core i7, 1TB, 16GB RAM N/A $3999

The pricing structure for both devices is identical but the Surface Pro has two extra models that the Surface Laptop doesn’t – one that comes in at an entry-level price and then the high-end unit, with 1TB of storage space, which comes in at a high-end $3999. However, with the Surface Pro, unless you intend to use it purely as a tablet, you’re going to need to tack on an extra $199.95 to get yourself a Surface Pro Type Cover. If you want a Signature Type Cover – the one made from the far more comfortable and elegant Alcantara fabric then that’ll set you back $249.95.

If you are looking to purchase the Surface Pro because you’re particularly into graphic design or drawing on your screen then you’ll likely want the new Surface Pen too. Unfortunately this new iteration of the Surface Pro does not include it out of the box. So you’ll be shelling out an additional $139.95 for that functionality, too. And I haven’t even mentioned the Surface Dial, a hockey puck-shaped device that sits on your screen and allows for fine control of a wide array of shortcuts and tools that artists will find incredibly useful such as brush thickness and vector rotation. If that sounds like something that you’re interested in, then you’ll be throwing down an extra $99.99 for a Dial, too.

A quick recap puts the Surface Pro, with Surface Pen and Surface Pro Type Cover, at an extra $339.90 or $439.89 if you’re looking for the Dial as well. Do you have an Office subscription? If not, you’re going to want to grab that too, no doubt. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro doesn’t come with a free year subscription to Office 365 like the Surface Laptop does so factoring that price in as well? Things really start to add up on the Surface Pro.


The Surface Pro is excellent for those that love the power of touch. The PixelSense panel is one of the most responsive you can buy and just feels perfectly designed for use with the Surface Pen. In fact, there’s no better Surface device if you’re going to be drawing or writing on the screen regularly. On the other hand, I’ve been using the Surface Laptop for over a month and I’ve only used the touchscreen once. Accidentally. Because I spat something on there while I was talking. It’s nice to have the functionality present, it’s just that for the most part, it goes unused.

Both devices are equipped with Windows Hello, a feature I never thought I’d care about until I actively started using it. Opening up the Surface Laptop and watching it immediately unlock as it recognises my face is convenient but I must admit that I do confuse it regularly by constantly changing my hats and beanies. Speaking of opening the Laptop, it’s a small thing, but the ability to lift the screen with one finger and get straight into work just feels good and makes you realise there’s a little fiddling that has to occur whenever you open the Surface Pro and set up at a desk.

For other uses, like watching Netflix or YouTube, there are obvious advantages to going with the Surface Pro. If your using your device primarily as a means to consume content, then I would steer clear of the Laptop which is more of a workhorse. A beautiful, ergonomic workhorse but a workhorse all the same. Though it does have the better audio of the two, it just doesn’t have the same level of versatility if you want to get into bed and watch a few eps of Rick and Morty. Considering the way we use our connected devices these days, this is something you should take into account when making your decision.

Just Tell Me Which One I Should Buy!

It comes down to functionality for your specific purpose. You have to look at the Surface Pro as a tablet – a very, very good tablet –
and if that’s a more appealing design for your needs then the Pro is for you. But if you really want me to make a decision for you, I’d go with the Surface Laptop. There’s a lot less ‘thinking’ involved in this purchase: You get an an amazingly lightweight, sleek and functional device straight out of the box without having to shell out extra dollars for the (necessary) extras. It’s wonderfully designed, a joy to look at and the Alcantara finish on the wrist rest is resilient, durable and feels good to type on (I use it for nine hours a day with zero complaints).

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