Microsoft Surface: Which One Is Right For You?

A look at all the Surface versions to help you decide

The Microsoft Surface lineup of touchscreen computers was introduced in 2012, launched initially to set new standards for other Windows PC manufacturers. Today, the company has seven diverse product lines that aim to address different user needs within the premium device category.

Notable has been Microsoft's vision to introduce different form factors of machines that they view may pave the way for the future of personal computing. Different designs within the Surface family include hybrid tablets, 2–in–1 notebooks, all–in–one convertible desktops, and more traditional clamshell laptops.

With many differentiating features, not only in the way of specifications but also how we use the devices in our day-to-day lives, Microsoft’s Surface lineup has many choices. As we move forward into the future, our view of the PC may be transformed, but what form factor is best for your needs?

Surface Laptop 3

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
  • Display: 13.5-in 2256x1504 resolution, or 15-in 2496x1664 resolution
  • Processor: Intel Quad-core 10th Generation Core i5 or Core i7 CPU; or AMD Ryzen 5 or 7
  • Memory: 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM (Intel); or 8 GB, 16 GB, or 32 GB (AMD)
  • Storage: 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB SSD
  • Graphics: Iris Plus 950 (Intel); or Radeon Vega 9 (AMD)
  • Battery: Up to 11.5 hours; fast charging
  • Weight: 2.89–3.4 pounds
  • Release date: October 2019

Surface Laptop 3 is twice as fast as previous versions of the device and is available in two sizes depending on your use case. However, even with a large screen and powerful processor, you can charge the Surface Laptop 3 to near completion in an hour, making it ideal for trips and last-minute heavy use right up until you have to unplug it.

With a USB-C and USB-A port, your mix of devices can plug into your laptop with no hassle. It's not the heaviest or the lightest generation of Microsoft Surface devices, so it's perfect for mobile and stationary work.

Notable Features:

  • Comfort: The Surface Laptop 3 has a trackpad that's 20 percent larger than previous versions, making it easier to use it longer.
  • Performance: Has the latest Intel Core processor for better speed and performance, but you can still charge the Surface Laptop 3 up to 80 percent in an hour.
  • Color choices: New Sandstone color but also Matte Black, Cobalt Blue, and Platinum.
  • Data safety: The SSD is completely removable, so you can keep your information safe by storing the drive elsewhere when needed.

Surface Pro 7

Microsoft Surface Pro 7
  • Display: 12.3-in 2736x1824 resolution
  • Processor: Intel Dual-core 10th Generation Core i3, Quad-core 10th Generation Core i5, or Quad-core 10th Generation Core i7 processor
  • Memory: 4 GB, 8 GB, or 16 GB of RAM
  • Storage: 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB SSD
  • Graphics: Intel UHD (i3) or Iris Plus (i5, i7)
  • Battery: Up to 10.5 hours
  • Weight: 1.7–1.73 pounds
  • Release date: October 2019

Surface Pro 7 is ideal if you're into 2-in-1 devices. You get the benefit of a mobile tablet with the security and robust nature of a full laptop, all in one device. It boasts a performance of over two times that of older generations and displays anything you need on a beautiful 12.3-in PixelSense display.

The Surface Pro 7 can be customized to your liking, with various colors for the Signature Type Cover, Surface Arc Mouse, and Surface Pen.

Notable Features:

  • Device ports: Lots of options for all your devices, including USB-A, USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, Mini display port, Surface Connect, MicroSDXC card reader, Surface Type Cover Port, and Surface Dial compatibility.
  • All-day battery life: Use it through a full workday on a single charge, and boost it to 100 percent in less than a couple of hours.
  • Windows Hello: Authenticate with your face using the front-facing 5MP camera. It also comes with 1080p full HD video and an 8MP rear-facing autofocus camera.
  • Wireless connectivity: Works with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

Surface Pro X

Microsoft Surface Pro X
  • Display: 13-in 2880x1920 resolution @ 267 PPI
  • Processor: Microsoft SQ1
  • Memory: 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM
  • Storage: 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB SSD
  • Graphics: Adreno 685 GPU or 690 GPU
  • Battery: Up to 13 hours
  • Weight: 1.70 pounds
  • Release date: October 2019

If sleek is what you're after, you can't go wrong with the Surface Pro X. This 2-in-1 is Microsoft's thinnest Surface device, yet it still manages to have a 13-in, edge-to-edge PixelSense display.

The large screen, coupled with the massive battery life, full LTE support, and lightweight design, makes this is a true mobile laptop that works well for anyone. You can write emails, play games, compose documents, video chat, or whatever else you want, at home, work, and on the go.

Although 1 TB isn't a storage option with this Surface device, 128 GB is enough for most people, and gamers and other heavy users can enjoy the 512 GB option.

Notable Features:

  • Mobile access: Take work or play with you wherever you go with LTE connectivity.
  • Sensor technology: Includes an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer.
  • Custom processor: The Qualcomm/Microsoft custom-built CPU delivers enough power to support dual 4K video over USB-C.

Microsoft Surface Book 3

Microsoft Surface Book 3

Sinchen Lin

  • Display: 13.5 in 3000x2000 @ 267 PPI or 15 in 3240x2160 @ 260 PPI
  • Processor: Intel 7th Generation Core i5 or Intel 8th Generation Core i7 CPU
  • Memory: 8, 16, or 32 GB of RAM
  • Storage: 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB SSD, or 2 TB PCIe SSD
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650, or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
  • Battery: Up to 15 hours
  • Weight: 3.38 pounds (13-inch model) or 4.2 pounds (15-inch model)
  • Release date: May 2020

The Microsoft Surface Book lineup has focused on the 2–in–1 detachable notebook form factor. What appears to be a typical 13.5-inch or 15-inch notebook is instantly transformed with the click of a button, allowing the screen of the device to be pulled off and used as a tablet. Users can also take advantage of docking the tablet into the keyboard in reverse position to take advantage of a longer battery life of up to 15 hours.

The Surface Book is Microsoft's heaviest portable device at 4.2 pounds for the larger 15-inch variation with the keyboard attachment. Coming into play with the most powerful internal specifications of any of the Surface products, the Surface Book 3 is ideal for those who either prefer the more typical laptop form factor with an option to break away a tablet, or those who will need to take advantage of the system's processing capabilities and VR capable Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 or 1560 graphics processors.

Notable Features:

  • Surface Pen support: Both systems fully support the use of the Microsoft Surface Pen, allowing for 4096 levels of pressure and 1024 levels of tilt detection.
  • Ports: 1 USB–C port, 2 USB–A ports, full–size SDXC card reader, 3.5mm headset jack, 2 Surface Connectors.
  • Windows Hello: Sign in to your PC with a glance of your face thanks to the units' front-facing 5.0 MP 1080p camera. The unit also sports an 8.0 MP 1080p rear-facing camera with autofocus.
  • Detachable dock: Easily switch between a notebook computer and a tablet with Microsoft's patented hinge solution.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

A student using a Microsoft Surface laptop

Microsoft Corporation

  • Display: 13.5 in 2256x1504 @ 201 PPI or 15 in 2496x1664 @ 201 PPI
  • Processor: Intel 10th Generation Core i5 or Core i7 CPU, AMD Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7
  • Memory: 8 GB, or 16 GB of RAM
  • Storage: 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB SSD
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Plus, AMD Radeon Vega 9, or RX Vega 11
  • Battery: Up to 11.5 hours
  • Weight: 2.79, 2.84, or 3.40 pounds
  • Release date: October 2019

The Microsoft Surface Laptop will be the most familiar design choice to consumers as it is merely a standard clamshell notebook design. You won't find a detachable display or removable keyboard on this model. Designed to be ultra-light and portable, the unit achieves its goal with an overall weight of only 2.79 pounds and an impressive 11.5–hour battery.

Comparing the Microsoft Surface lineup, the laptop is an excellent choice for college students or other individuals who prefer the more conventional laptop design and don't use a stylus in their work. With a selection of processors, storage devices, and memory allotments, the thin and light laptop can handle much thrown its way. However, graphics-heavy applications may fall short due to the system only offering integrated Intel graphics.

Notable Features:

  • Color choices: Available in four colors, including sandstone, platinum, cobalt blue, and matte black.
  • Alcantara: Palm–rest and keyboard surroundings are covered in spill-resistant, soft Alcantara fabric material.
  • Ports: 1 USB-C port, 1 USB–A port, 1 Mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm headset jack, 1 Surface Connector.
  • Windows Hello: Sign in to your PC with a glance of your face, thanks to the unit's front-facing 720p HD camera.

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Remote working using Microsoft Surface Pro with Pen

Microsoft Corporation

  • Display: 13 in2880x1920 @ 267 PPI
  • Processor: Microsoft SQ 1 or 2
  • Memory: 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM
  • Storage: 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB
  • Graphics: Microsoft SQ 1 Adreno 685 or SQ 2 Adreno 690
  • Battery: Up to 15 hours
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Release date: October 2019

The Surface Pro was one of the original devices to kick off Microsoft's lineup of consumer personal computers in 2012. To this day, the company's vision has continued forward with welcomed improvements and tweaks to the overall design. Surface Pro X is effectively a tablet PC that can be supplemented with an external keyboard. Using the built-in kickstand, you can quickly switch between holding a lightweight tablet or sitting at a desk with a full-sized physical keyboard.

Compatible with the Surface Pen, the Microsoft Surface Pro X is an excellent choice for those looking for a full Windows 10 tablet with the ability to jot down notes or conjure up beautiful works of hand-drawn art.

With the ability to pack in a Microsoft SQ 1 or 2, a processor developed with Qualcomm, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SSD, don't let this tablet fool you–it is a full-blown Windows computer ready to perform intense computational tasks.

Notable Features:

  • Ports: 2 USB–C ports, 1 Surface keyboard port, 1 nano-SIM, and a Surface Connector.
  • Windows Hello: Sign in to your PC with a glance of your face thanks to the units' front-facing 5.0 MP 1080p camera. The unit also sports an 8.0 MP 1080p rear-facing camera with autofocus.
  • Type Cover: Microsoft's physical keyboard add–on for the Surface Pro is a much–needed addition for productivity and comes in four signature colors: Poppy Red, Ice Blue, Black, and platinum.
  • Optional cellular: Go mobile with the Surface Pro's optional 4G LTE cellular radio to access an internet connection anywhere you have a cell signal.

Microsoft Surface Studio

Microsoft Surface Studio on desk

Microsoft Corporation

  • Display: 28 in 4500x3000 @ 192 PPI
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 CPU
  • Memory: 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM
  • Storage: 1 TB or 2 TB SSD
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB or 1070 8 GB
  • Weight: 21 pounds
  • Release date: October 2016

While Microsoft had aimed their Surface lineup at mobile computing, they introduced a new desktop addition in 2016. The massive 28 in all–in–one desktop is set upon what Microsoft calls a "Zero Gravity Hinge" and can effortlessly float between being propped up for daily use or laid flat on a desk for use with the Surface Pen.

Wholly aimed at creative professionals, the Surface Studio is aimed at individuals who are looking for the most powerful machine in the Surface lineup with a stunning touchscreen display to match.

The high price tag of the machine doesn't limit the machines on specs with a top-end model featuring an Intel Quad–Core i7 CPU, 32 GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. The Surface Studio offers impressive storage with a 1 or 2 TB SSD.

Out of the box, the Surface Studio includes the unit, as well as a Surface Pen and Surface Keyboard; this is out of line with any other of the machines which do not include the Pen in the box and must be added as a separate purchase.

Notable Features:

  • Ports: 2 USB–C ports, 1 nano-SIM, 1 Surface Connect.
  • Windows Hello: Sign in to your PC with a glance of your face thanks to the units' front-facing 5.0 MP 1080p camera.
  • Surface Dial: On-screen support for the Microsoft Surface Dial accessory, allowing for physical control of the screen.
  • PixelSense display: The true beauty of the machine is the unit's ultra-thin 28-inch display with 10–bit color depth and 13.5 million total pixels surrounded by an aluminum frame.
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