The Surface is Microsoft’s line of tablets, laptops, and PCs. With names like Surface Pro, Go, Laptop, Laptop Go, Duo, and Studio they aren’t easy to decipher. We’ve tested them all to help you figure out which one to get. These are just some of the many Surface devices that Microsoft offers, often at competitive prices versus the competition. The Surface Pro 4 is an Editors’ Choice winner for two-in-one computers, while the Surface Book is our top pick for high-end laptops because of its exquisite design and stunning performance. Both are excellent choices if you want a powerful PC, while the Surface 3 is our top pick for budget 2-in-1s. Of course, you might also consider other Microsoft products, like smartphones and tablets—Windows 10, in general, is behind only iOS and Android when it comes to mobile operating systems. The Surface product family includes three different categories of devices: Laptops, 2-in-1 tablets/hybrids, and all-in-ones (AIO).
While the current Surface lineup is pretty different from previous models, it’s simpler than it seems. The current Surface Pro, for example, eschews the classic Surface design for one more like a laptop, but it’s still called a “Pro” device by Microsoft. Instead, Microsoft has downsized its Surface Pro tablets into two separate hybrid lines: The Surface Go and the Surface Book 2. Beyond its newest gadgets, Microsoft is hoping to take over the computing universe one word at a time. “Go” means smaller and less expensive, while “Pro” means larger and more capable for higher-end buyers. But the wordplay doesn’t stop there. Microsoft refers to the Surface family as a “device family.” The Go moniker is as much a reference to size as it is about price. The Pro, meanwhile, combines a legacy of portable computing for business with the old notion of a tablet-like PC running Windows–the latter of which still remains a priority for Microsoft even as it promotes its latest and fastest Surface PCs.
The Surface family has grown again with the introduction of two new additions — the Surface Laptop Go and the Surface Studio. Here’s what you need to know about both. Microsoft’s Surface laptops have been evolving for years, but those releases tend to come in two-year spurts. The other models worth considering include the Surface Go and Surface Laptop, as well as other, lower-cost models. They have different sizes and prices, but they share the same basic DNA: a Windows 10 operating system you can run from a solid-state drive or limited-storage spinning hard drive (which will be slower), and an app for hooking up your console to watch movies and play games. The Surface family of devices comes in a variety of colors and configurations, giving you choices to suit your moods and needs. The latest devices make the thinnest and lightest Surface yet—the Surface Laptop and Surface Pro. You can even choose a detachable screen for a powerful tablet with a full PC experience. And with a few clicks, an intelligent digital assistant is at your service. Choose from the best from Microsoft.
The Surface Tablets: The Original 2-in-1 Detachables
The Surface tablets blend the best of Microsoft’s operating system with touch-screen technology and flexible hinge designs. The lead product in the family is the Surface Pro 4, which has a 12.3-inch screen and its own detachable keyboard: it has a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of solid-state disk storage. The original 2-in-1 detachable tablet from Microsoft combining a touch screen and a physical keyboard. It comes with fast processors for faster app opening, which is just an added bonus on top of the office software already preloaded onto it. In some instances, this tablet may even work as a laptop without its keyboard as an extra screen for presentations or as a writing pad.
With the Surface Pro 8, Microsoft has set out to make it easier for you to get stuff done. Previous editions of the Surface Pro were luxury detachable hybrids that never enjoyed widespread adoption. With its eighth-gen model, Microsoft downplayed the tablet’s tablets and first tried to business users. Since then, Microsoft built new markets for the Surface Pro 8 by introducing optional stylus pens and speedy Thunderbolt 3 ports. The Surface Pro’s signature physical feature is an integrated kickstand with a fully adjustable hinge. It allows you to recline the screen through 165 degrees of range, from standing at attention to nearly flat. It’s also a showcase for the new Windows 11 operating system and works with a new, larger stylus, the Slim Pen 2.
The Surface Pro 8 is a marvel of industrial design. A tablet computer with a full PC operating system (Windows 10), the versatility of its design means you can get work done anywhere you can get an Internet connection. A new, smaller size and form factor provides more comfort and mobility than ever before. The long-awaited Surface Pen receives upgrades that make it twice as sensitive and more precise than before, especially in low light. Also, the keyboard is adjustable and the touchscreen has been improved so pen input feels even smoother—making it possible to keep your pen in your hand when working on documents or taking notes in OneNote. Now in its third generation, the Surface Go 3 is one of the best budget Windows tablets available. However, its smaller screen and less-capable Intel processor mean it’s more suited to people who prioritize portability and cost savings, and it’s not a true laptop replacement.
The new Surface Pro takes some cues from the Surface Laptop, including the same sturdy, tight-knit magnesium body. Under the hood, Microsoft swapped out the less-efficient seventh-generation Intel Core chips, which were disappointing at best on the Surface Book 2 and Surface Laptop, for eight-generation equivalents that help boost performance and battery life. It also stashed a larger battery into this sleek tablet to address long-standing complaints about power life on previous Surfaces.
The Surface Laptop Family: Most Powerful Surfaces
The Surface Laptop 4 is the most powerful Surface laptop ever made, with up to an Intel 8th Gen quad-core processor and the ability to easily run full Windows programs. But it’s also optimized for Windows 10 S Mode which means it has all the security and performance benefits of Windows 10 S without the unnecessary software bloat. Welcome to the Surface family.
The Surface Laptop 4 is available in either 13-inch or 15-inch screen sizes, and like many of the Surface tablets, it comes in multiple color options.
The Surface Laptop 4 is also rather expensive, and like the Surface Pro 8, a decent high-end configuration will be well north of $1,200. So as with the Surface Go tablet, Microsoft also takes some of the best parts of the Surface Laptop experience and distills them into a smaller, cheaper package: the Surface Laptop Go. This device has a smaller 12-inch screen and lacks powerful AMD processor options, but it also comes with a far more palatable starting price of just $549 and ideal configurations in the $800 range.
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The Surface Book: A Laptop-Tablet Hybrid
The Surface Book rocks a unique detachable design that transforms from a tablet into a laptop and back, with a keyboard that never needs to be charged. Its 13.5-inch display is bright and colorful and comes with an optional graphics processor that allows you to play the latest PC games at high resolutions. The battery lasts for close to 20 hours per charge, so you can enjoy those games as long as you want. The Surface Book takes a different approach to the design of a laptop, in that it has a 13.5″ touchscreen display that detaches from the keyboard base, so you get both a tablet and a clamshell-style 2-in-1 laptop. Its magnesium body is light, strong, and durable, and the optional dedicated graphics card makes it great for gaming, design, and media creation.
Whether you’re a student or a creative professional, the Surface Book 3 is a category-defying hybrid laptop-tablet with features that can enhance your digital life. Its detachable display works as a standalone touchscreen tablet when you’re on the go, and its 13.5-inch touchscreen display has a high resolution of 3000 x 2000. You can even increase its performance with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card inside. But while it’s still for sale, it could be an essential tool for those who can afford it and realize its full potential.