The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 15-Inch Review: Refreshing Ryzenby Brett Howse on May 6, 2021 8:00 AM EST
When the Surface Laptop was first announced, it was a remarkably interesting design. Microsoft continued to advocate for their 3:2 aspect ratio displays, and the Surface Laptop was the first notebook to offer that aspect ratio in modern times. In addition, the design team outfitted the Surface Laptop, which at the time was only offered as a 13.5-inch size, with an Alcantara keyboard deck which was unique in the space.
Microsoft then refreshed the Surface Laptop, and added a larger 15-inch model as an option, as well as offering models with and without the Alcantara keyboard deck, at least in the 13.5-inch lineup. The 15-inch has never offered the fabric option. Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Book, which is made out of a magnesium alloy, the Surface Laptop has always been made out of aluminum. The advantage here for the Surface Laptop is that it is less expensive, and the aluminum finish allows for anodized finishes in a variety of color options. For 2021, the Surface Laptop 4 13.5-inch is available in Platinum, Ice Blue, Matte Black, and Sandstone, while the larger 15-inch model is just available in Platinum and Matte Black. The review unit is the black version, and it looks amazing, but be warned, it is more difficult to keep clean than the platinum model.
Two things can be true at once, and it is both fair to say that the Surface Laptop 4 is a well-designed, attractive notebook, and that it is in need of a bit of a facelift. Microsoft has not altered the overall design since the original Surface Laptop shipped, other than to add a larger model, so the Surface Laptop 4 still has rather large display bezels compared to recent designs from other manufacturers. The 3:2 display aspect ratio is still a win, but it is no longer unique to the segment, with other players now offering taller displays as well. The rest of the Surface lineup all features one cool trick, but the Surface Laptop 4 is just a laptop. There is no 360° hinge, no detachable display. But, not everyone wants that, and as a pure laptop, the Laptop 4 can surpass the other designs in areas like weight, and usability in the traditional laptop mode.
Microsoft has always offered a great keyboard in the Surface Laptop line, and this continues with the 4th generation, offering 1.3 mm of key travel, a logical key placement, easy to use function keys, and three levels of backlighting. The trackpad is also about as good as you can get in the PC space, and the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 offers a large trackpad without going so crazy on the width that it interferes with using the keyboard. As someone who likes the Alcantara, it is a bit of a shame that they do not offer it at all on the 15-inch models. The anodized aluminum feels good, but almost all notebooks in this segment offer the same anodized finish, so the fabric did offer something unique.
While the port selection is not robust, the Surface Laptop 4 does offer enough for most people, with a single USB Type-A port on the right, alongside a Type-C port. If you need additional expansion, Microsoft does offer a Surface Dock which connects over the Surface Connect charging port. Sadly, Microsoft has refused to support any form of Thunderbolt on any Surface devices, meaning the USB Type-C port is USB-only, but it does include native DisplayPort, as well as charging. Microsoft offers some Type-C video and audio adapters as well, if you need to connect to something other than DisplayPort.
Overall, the design does work well, even if it is looking a bit familiar. The Surface Laptop 4 offers a premium feel, and at 1.5 kg / 3.4 lbs, this 15-inch notebook is lightweight as well. Microsoft hasn’t updated the design in a few generations, but still, several years in, the Surface Laptop 4 is still a good-looking notebook.
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Cliff34 - Friday, May 7, 2021 - linkBt mouse connection is not reliable.
evilspoons - Friday, May 7, 2021 - linkI've been using a Bluetooth LE mouse (Microsoft 3600) with my Surface Pro 3 for years now. It's as reliable as any device that needs a separate receiver and I don't have to worry about breaking the damn thing off in a laptop bag.
mrochester - Saturday, May 8, 2021 - linkTry a Logitech bluetooth mouse. MX Anywhere 3, MX Master 3 I'd highly recommend.
s.yu - Sunday, May 9, 2021 - linkSame here, beware Logitech's battery scam but there's nothing wrong with the reception. It might suffer the BT power-save bug but AFAIK that's not mouse-specific but laptop-specific. The workaround is to turn BT power save off or if that doesn't work, one of those BT scanners that pings the mouse every few seconds.
The Garden Variety - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - link"no external optical drives"
Are you for real?
TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - linknot everyone is a silicon valley darling. Many people still have movies or photos or optical media. Sure you could make the argument that those people likely are not the primary surface market, but "most people" are not the surface market, and "most people" is what's being discussed, not people who gladly use no external devices with their $1500 computer.
Would it have really killed them to have another type A port? Even $200 chromebooks can maanage that.
The Garden Variety - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - linkYou're falling into the typical Anadtech commenter fallacy. If they had two USB-C ports, you'd ask for USB-A ports. If they have one USB-A port, you ask for two. If they had two USB-A ports, you'd find something else to bitch about. User-upgradable memory. A bigger battery. A brighter screen. A different screen ratio. Who knows; who cares! It's all fallacious, feature-itis by this tiny little very loud segment of the computer-using population that wants everything to still be floor-standing desktop towers and all sorts of other why-can't-things-just-stay-the-same-isms.
It has one USB port. And I guarantee you not one person who buys one will care that it only has one, nor would it cause so much as a single additional sale if it had two. People don't make decisions that way, any more so than when people go buy a car do they look at torque curves. It's *fucking* mental how myopic you people can be and how what you find important doesn't represent even the tiniest sliver of importance to computer manufacturers anymore.
But not to worry. I'm sure there will be a smartphone review posted soon, that way you can get back to bitching about removable batteries.
Reflex - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - linkThis right here. It's pretty easy to see what consumer demand looks like at a given price point. Go look at what the popular models are and recognize that whatever assumptions you have about your personal use case may not be what the market is requiring.
All sorts of stuff I want on a given bit of hardware that isn't commonly there. It's okay, I adapt. The market does not exist exclusively for me.
alexvoda - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - linkWell, with regards to ports, if you are offering less to the user than the chipset offers you and you don't have a good reason for that, you are just cheaping out on the customers.
This is part of the reason Surface devices suck from some POV. If the CPU gives you Thuderbolt for free (Intel versions), than as a user I expect you to give me Thunderbolt ports because it only costs you the traces on the board and the ports themselves. Microsoft has been very very late in adopting Thunderbolt for some reason (I know the latest versions do have Thunderbolt).
Rookierookie - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - linkOf course people who buy it won't care, the people who care won't buy it. I certainly won't buy a laptop with just one USB-A port.