These are the best Microsoft Surface PCs in 2021
Ever since the inception of Microsoft’s Surface line of products, they were meant to be showcase devices. Like Google’s Nexus (and now Pixel) family, Surface devices are supposed to show other companies what can and should be done with a Windows PC. The original Surface Pro arguably kicked the convertible market into gear. In the years since, the line has expanded to all kinds of devices, but in many ways, that idea is still true. Microsoft makes Surface devices in different kinds of form factors and price points, and they’re all great PCs. If you’re looking to buy a new PC, we’ve rounded up the best Surface devices you can get for different use cases.
Microsoft is very selective with the devices it makes, and what that means is that each one of them is very specifically made to target a certain audience. There aren’t a ton of Surface devices at any given time, but that also makes it easier to choose because you can tell what fits your needs the best. Without further ado, here are the best Microsoft Surface PCs you can buy right now.
Navigate this article:
- Best overall: Surface Laptop Studio
- Best tablet: Surface Pro 8
- Best clamshell: Surface Laptop 4
- Best ARM tablet: Surface Pro X
- Best for business: Surface Pro 7+
- Best budget tablet: Surface Go 3
- Best budget clamshell: Surface Laptop Go
Best overall: Surface Laptop Studio
The Surface laptop Studio is hands-down my favorite Surface device ever, and frankly speaking, it’s probably the best you can find right now. This is the most powerful Surface PC yet, and it comes in a unique form factor that’s simply great.
But let’s talk performance first. The Surface Laptop Studio comes with Intel Core processors, as most Surface PCs do, but unlike the others, this one is using H35-series CPUs. These are CPUs with 35W of power, and they come with four cores, eight threads, and up to 4.8GHz clock speeds. Because of that higher power rating, they can boost higher and maintain those speeds for longer than a 15W processor would. In addition to that, the Surface Laptop Studio comes with an optional NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, giving you an extra kick for graphics-intensive tasks like video and photo editing or gaming. You can also get this laptop with up to 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD, so it has the guts to power your day-to-day workloads for a long time.
The display on the Surface laptop Studio is great, too. It’s a 14.4-inch panel, and like every other Surface device, it has a 3:2 aspect ratio. Microsoft has been using this format for a while, and that taller screen means you get more vertical space for text and other UI elements that might usually require you to scroll. It’s a very sharp screen, too, at 2400 x 1600 resolution, and it’s the first Surface device with a 120Hz refresh rate, which makes everything from animations to traditions look much smoother. It also supports Dolby Vision, touch, and active pens, including tactile signals in the Surface Slim Pen 2, which mimic the feel of a pen on paper.
Moving up to the webcam, we’re looking at a 1080p camera, and that’s better than most of the cameras we see in other laptops. For Surface, it’s a fairly standard feature, and most of them actually have better cameras, but compared to other brands, this is still great. The camera supports Windows Hello facial recognition, too, something you’ll find in most Surface devices.
What truly makes the Surface Laptop Studio stand out is its design and form factor, and it single-handedly makes this my favorite Surface device yet. The Surface Laptop Studio is kind of a convertible, but instead of having a 360-degree hinge the display rotates around, it has two hinges, one for opening the lid, and another for rotating the display itself. This lets you pull the screen closer to you to cover the keyboard, which is great for watching content, or you can go all the way and make the screen cover the entire base of the laptop so you can use it as a tablet. This is more convenient than a typical convertible, since you don’t have to lift the entire laptop to rotate the screen around, and you can easily go into tablet mode any time you want.
Aesthetically, the Surface Laptop Studio looks very much like a Surface device. It comes in the signature platinum color, and it’s made of aluminum, though it has very flat edges compared to other Surface devices. It starts at 3.87lbs in weight, so it’s a bit heavier than other Surface devices, but you can still carry it around. It’s also less than 19mm thin, which is pretty good for a laptop with a dedicated GPU.
As for ports, the Surface Laptop Studio is one of the first – and currently one of two – Surface devices to include Thunderbolt support. You get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, plus a Surface Connect port for charging or using a Surface Dock. There’s also a headphone jack, but that’s about it. Surface devices always have a limited port selection, but the fact that Thunderbolt is here makes this one of the best Surface devices in terms of connectivity. With a Thunderbolt dock, you can connect just about any peripheral you might want.
It’s the most expensive Surface device, but the Surface Laptop Studio is easily my top recommendation for a Surface device if you can afford it. It’s powerful, it has a great screen, and my favorite form factor of any Surface. You can read our Surface Laptop Studio review if you’d like to learn more about it.
Best tablet: Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Launched alongside the Surface Laptop Studio, the Surface Pro 8 is another one of Microsoft’s best devices yet. It’s the first major evolution of the Surface Pro lineup in many years, and it’s a great tablet all around.
In terms of performance, the Surface Pro 8 comes with Intel’s 11th-generation processors, up to a Core i7-1185G7. This is a four-core, eight-thread processor with boost speeds up to 4.8GHz, and it’s one of the fastest processors you’ll find in a thin and light laptop or tablet. It also includes Intel Iris Xe graphics, which so you can feasibly run some slightly more graphics-intensive apps. You can also configure the Surface Pro 8 with up to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, so you have all the performance you need and plenty of storage for files, too.
The Surface Pro 8 also has the best display we’ve seen yet in the Surface Pro family. Microsoft finally increased the display size to 13 inches, and with that, the resolution increased to 2880 x 1920, making this one of the sharpest displays on any Surface device. Not only that, it also comes with a 120Hz refresh rate like the Surface Laptop Studio, plus support for Dolby Vision and tactile signals with the Surface Slim Pen 2, which are only supported on these two devices. Because of the bigger screen, the bezels are now smaller, too.
Turning to the webcam, the Surface Pro 8 comes with a 5MP front-facing camera with 1080p video, and it’s one of the best cameras of any Windows device. Surface Pro devices have always had great cameras, and this is no exception. Of course, Windows Hello facial recognition is also here. Additionally, the rear of the Surface Pro 8 has another camera, and this one is a 10MP sensor with support for 4K video – a notable upgrade from the 8MP/1080p camera on the Surface Pro 7.
Design-wise, the Surface Pro 8 takes most of its cues from the Surface Pro X, which launches in 2019. It has smaller bezels around the screen and now the edges of the device are curved instead of flat, so it’s a bit more comfortable to hold. However, the Surface Pro 8 is thicker than the Pro X – measuring 9.3mm – and it weighs a bit more too – 1.96lbs. These rounded edges also mean you can no longer snap the Surface Pen on the side, and instead, you’re meant to a Surface Slim Pen 2 with the new Surface Pro Signature Keyboard. Adding both of these accessories does make the device a bit thicker and heavier, but it’s still very portable.
As for ports, the Surface Pro 8 is the only other Surface device to include Thunderbolt 4 support, featuring two USB-C ports with the technology. You also get a Surface Connect port for charging and docking if you have a Surface Dock already, plus a headphone jack. Once again, the port setup is limited, but the inclusion of Thunderbolt at least means you can connect external GPUs, docks, or Thunderbolt displays, which greatly expands your possibilities.
The Surface Pro 8 is undoubtedly the best Surface Pro Microsoft has ever made, and if you want a premium Windows tablet, it doesn’t get much better than this. It does start at a higher price than its predecessors, but it’s also because there’s no longer a model with an Intel Core i3 or 4GB of RAM, so the base configuration is much better. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out our review of the Surface Pro 8.
Best clamshell laptop: Surface Laptop 4
For many users, like students, all they need is a great clamshell laptop without all the bells and whistles. If that’s you, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 is a fantastic choice, featuring a premium but classic design with just enough extras to make for a great experience.
Performance-wise, the Surface Laptop 4 is actually the only Surface device to give you a choice of brand. It comes in both Intel and AMD variants, up to either an Intel Core i7-1185G7 or an AMD Ryzen 7 4980U Microsoft Surface Edition. These are two great processors in their own right. Intel will give you more performance in tasks that only use one or a few cores, as well as better graphics performance with Iris Xe graphics; meanwhile, AMD will get you better multi-core performance and better battery life. Either way, you’re getting great performance out of this laptop. You can also configure it with up to 32GB of RAM (16GB max for AMD models) and a 1TB SSD (512GB max for AMD models), which makes the Intel models more compelling if you want the best of the best, but the AMD configurations are still good enough for most people.
Regarding the display, the Surface Laptop 4 comes in two different sizes, 13.5 and 15 inches, but they’re very similar aside from that. They have the exact same pixel density (201 PPI), so while the 15-inch model has more pixels, both look just as sharp, and the difference in resolution is just to accommodate the different sizes. These are both sharp panels and they look great. You get touch and Surface Pen support with both models, even though a laptop like this may not be the ideal setup to use a pen with. A primary difference between the two sizes is the configurations available for the internals, with the 15-inch model being the only one with AMD Ryzen 7 processors.
Above the display is the camera, and the Surface Laptop 4 is one of the few Surface devices that uses a 720p camera, which is unfortunate. While it’s not the worst webcam out there, this is certainly a downside compared to the great cameras of other Surface devices. On the bright side, Windows Hello facial recognition is still here.
The Surface Laptop 4 has the most “standard” design among Surface devices, as it’s just a clamshell laptop, and it was one of the first to use aluminum instead of magnesium. However, it still stands out because it comes in four different colors (the 15-inch model only has two), and it does something cool with the keyboard deck, and that’s using an Alcantara cover on some of the 13.5-inch models. Alcantara is a type of soft fabric that makes your hands feel more comfortable while typing, and you can get it with the Platinum or Ice Blue versions of the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 4. The remaining models are all metal. In terms of portability, the Surface Laptop 4 weighs 2.79lbs for the 13.5-inch Alcantara models, 2.84lbs for the all-metal versions, and 3.4lbs for the larger 15-inch versions. It’s also 14.5mm thin for the 13.5-inch model and 14.7mm for the 15-inch model.
For ports, the Surface laptop 4 includes one USB Type-C, one USB Type-A, a Surface Connect port for charging and docking, and a headphone jack. This laptop doesn’t support Thunderbolt, so you’ll need a Surface Dock or USB-C hub to connect external displays and other peripherals, but they won’t have the same bandwidth as Thunderbolt provides. You do get an USB Type-A port, though, which is an advantage over most other Surface devices if you have a peripheral that requires it.
All in all, the Surface Laptop 4 is a great premium laptop with a thin and light design, high-end processors, and some extra features like touch support and Windows Hello that make it that much better. It doesn’t have Thunderbolt support, but if you’re a student or occasional user, that’s probably not something you need.
Best ARM tablet: Microsoft Surface Pro X
The Surface Pro 8 may be leading the charge in terms of Microsoft’s Intel-based tablets, but if you want an ARM-based PC, the Surface Pro X is still your best choice. It’s also your only choice within Microsoft’s lineup, but that doesn’t mean this is a bad device by any means.
The Surface Pro X is powered by the Microsoft SQ1 or SQ2, with the latter being slightly more powerful. Both of these are slightly more powerful versions of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx and 8cx Gen 2, respectively, and those are the top-tier ARM processors we currently have for Windows on ARM – until the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 arrives sometime in the next few months.
These are two octa-core processors with four performance cores and four efficient cores, enabling features like always-on connectivity and instant wake from sleep without a huge impact on battery life. Both processors also offer solid performance, though they have aged a bit and aren’t on par with modern Intel or AMD processors. Still, they should give you a good enough experience for day-to-day use. Aside from the processor, you can configure the Surface Pro X with up to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
The display on the Surface Pro X is a 13-inch panel, similar to the Surface Pro 8, and it has the same resolution, too – 2880 x 1920. However, it’s not as good in some ways. There’s no 120Hz refresh rate here, and you also don’t get Dolby Vision support or tactile signals with the Surface Slim Pen 2. These are all brand-new features in the Surface Pro 8, and since the Surface Pro X doesn’t have a successor yet, it’s still lacking them. Still, this is a very sharp display and it looks great even without the bells and whistles the Pro 8 offers.
Above the display, the Surface Pro X is packing a 5MP webcam with 1080p video, and you get a 10MP camera on the back with 4K video, too. This is nearly identical between the two tablets, though the Surface Pro X includes an AI-powered feature called eye contact, which adjusts the position of your eyes to make it feel like you’re making eye contact with others during a video call. Of course, Windows Hello facial recognition is also included here.
Design-wise, the Surface Pro X is the thinnest device in Microsoft’s lineup, and of the lightest, too. It measures just 7.3mm thin and it weighs 1.7lbs, making this one of the easiest devices to carry around anywhere. This is essentially a thinner Surface Pro 8 in terms of design, and it uses the same keyboard connector and pen storage, too.
As for ports, the Surface Pro X packs two USB Type-C connections and a Surface Connect port, and that’s it. Because of how thin the device is, there’s no space for a USB Type-A port or even a headphone jack. The USB Type-C ports also don’t support Thunderbolt 4, so if you have wired accessories, there’s a good chance you’re going to need some adapters. One thing that the Surface Pro X has is optional support for LTE, which lets you stay connected to the internet from anywhere, even without Wi-Fi.
Admittedly, the Surface Pro X has some notable shortcomings that have become more apparent with the recent launch of the Surface Pro 8, but this is still one of the very best Windows on ARM devices you can buy. It’s got solid performance, an ultra-light design, and premium specs all around.
Best for business: Surface Pro 7+
If you’re looking for a new device for your business, the Surface Pro 7+ is still your best choice for now. It doesn’t have the modern design of the Surface Pro 8, but it may still be the best choice for you for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is support for LTE, which the Surface Pro 8 doesn’t have yet. If your work relies heavily on staying connected to the internet from anywhere, the Surface Pro 7+ is still the best option, at least for now. An LTE-capable variant of the Surface Pro 8 is coming in early 2022. Another reason you might want the Surface Pro 7+ instead is its design and ports. The Surface Pro 8 uses a new keyboard connector, so if you’ve been using older Surface devices for a while and you want to upgrade, you may also need to buy a new keyboard for it. If you want to keep using your old Type Covers, you can get the Surface Pro 7+ instead, which will work with the same accessories.
Aside from that, the Surface Pro 7+ is worse in some ways, but in others, it’s not far off from the Surface Pro 8, and in some ways it might even be better. For example, the Surface Pro 7+ also packs Intel Tiger Lake processors like the Surface Pro 8, so in terms of performance, you’re going to get a solid experience, too. It can also be configured with up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage, just like the Pro 8. However, it should be noted that if you add LTE connectivity, you’ll be limited to an Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage.
The display is one of the most obvious differences, being a smaller 12.3-inch panel. It has the exact same pixel density as the Surface Pro 8, but since the screen is smaller, the resolution is lower (2736 x 1864). Still, it’s a very sharp display and it looks great. It does miss out on some features like 120Hz refresh rate, Dolby Vision, and textile signals for the Surface Slim Pen 2, but those shouldn’t be essential.
What’s not as different is the front-facing camera, which is still a 5MP sensor with 1080p video, and of course, Windows Hello facial recognition. Over on the back, there’s an 8MP camera, also capable of 1080p video, which isn’t as good as the Surface Pro 8.
Design-wise, the Surface Pro 7+ has the more classic Surface design, with flat edges and a magnesium build. The flat edges let you snap the classic Surface Pen on the side of the tablet, just as previous Surface Pro models did. It’s also thinner than the Surface Pro 8, measuring just 8.5mm, and thanks to the magnesium chassis, it’s lighter, too, starting at 1.7lbs.
As for the ports, the Surface Pro 7+ has one USB Type-C port, one USB Type-A, a Surface Connect port, a headphone jack, and either a nano SIM or microSD card slot, depending on whether you opt to get LTE or not. There’s no Thunderbolt support in this model – another advantage for the Surface Pro 8 – but the inclusion of USB Type-A is welcome if you have peripherals that still use it.
We’d say the Surface Pro 8 is the better device in general, but the Surface Pro 7+ is still here to cater to specific needs. If you need LTE or the classic keyboard connector so you can streamline your business’s upgrades, it’s still a great choice.
Best budget tablet: Microsoft Surface Go 3
The Surface line is known for its premium devices, but Microsoft has been catering to the budget market for a few years, too. The Surface Go 3 is the latest result of those efforts, and it’s naturally the best one yet. It delivers the basic performance for day-to-day use and some features you won’t really find in other devices at this price.
Performance is indeed one of the areas where the Surface Go 3 may falter, but it’s not necessarily bad. The base model is powered by an Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y processor, and you can upgrade to an Intel Core i3-10100Y, and while these won’t blow your mind, they’re a noticeable upgrade over the previous generation. If you’re just browsing the web and writing up a document every now and then, this is certainly usable. The base model of the Surface Go 3 also includes 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage, which is enough for it to run Windows 11, but this is where we’d recommend upgrading to the 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD, as that will hugely improve your overall experience. Of course, it’s more expensive, but if you can afford it, it’s definitely recommended.
To compensate for the less impressive performance, Microsoft packed the Surface Go 3 with a solid display. This is a 10.5-inch panel, and just like other Surface devices, it has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which you won’t find on any other devices at this price. It’s also quite sharp at Full HD+ (1920 x 1280), something else you won’t find on many Windows devices at this price. Of course, since it’s a tablet, touch and Surface Pen support is also included.
The upsides continue as we move onto the webcam. The Surface Go 3 uses a 5MP front-facing camera with 1080p video, just like the more expensive Surface Pro models. Not only that, it also includes an 8MP camera on the back, which is similar to Surface Pro models prior to the Pro 8. Even Windows Hello facial recognition is included, all impressive stuff for a device that starts at $399.
The design of the Surface Go 3 is closer to the classic Surface Pro design, with its magnesium build and the flat edges designed to accommodate the Surface Pen on the left side. However, being the smallest of the Surface devices, the Surface Go 3 is also the lightest, weighing just 1.2lbs without the optional keyboard and pen. It’s also fairly thin at 8.3mm, and overall, it’s the most portable device in the Surface family. You can truly take this anywhere, even if you add the Surface Go Type Cover.
For ports, the Surface Go 3 suffers from many of the same problems other Surface devices do. You get one USB Type-C port, a Surface Connect port, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. When you think of it as a tablet, this is a fairly generous supply of ports, but for a PC, you’re probably going to need some adapters if you want to connect an external monitor or a peripheral that uses USB Type-A.
At this price, sacrifices are inevitable, but the Surface Go 3 focuses on areas that you might not always think about but are just as, if not more important than performance. A Full HD+ display, two great cameras, and Windows Hello facial recognition are practically unheard of at this price. And if you spring for the 8GB/128GB models, you’ll still have solid performance for basic day-to-day use. We reviewed the Surface Go 3 if you’re interested in learning more.
Best budget laptop: Surface Laptop Go
If you’re the kind of user who does prefer to value performance in your budget laptops, and you just want a classic laptop, then the Surface Laptop Go might just be for you. Microsoft didn’t completely give on the classic premium features of Surface, but it did make some cuts to make room for a more powerful processor.
That processor is an Intel Core i5-1035G1, a quad-core, eight-thread processor that can boost up to 3.6GHz. That’s going to give you solid performance for day-to-day tasks, and while it’s not the newest hardware around anymore, it’s still good enough for most web browsing and school workloads. It’s definitely well ahead of anything in the Surface Go 3, and unless you’re trying to use it for gaming or video rendering, it’s going to be fine. Again, the base configuration comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage, and if you care about performance, then upgrading to 8GB of RAM and the 128GB SSD is mandatory.
The display on the Surface Laptop Go keeps the typical 3:2 aspect ratio of Surface devices, but it has the lowest resolution out of any Surface It’s a 1535 x 1024 panel, and considering the screen is 12.4 inches in size, that’s not too bad. It’s not as sharp as the Surface Go 3, but Microsoft always does with its clamshell laptops compared to its tablets, and it’s because those screens will be further away from you, so you won’t see the individual pixels easily. You do get support for touch, but not the Surface Pen, which is one of the corners cut to get to this lower price. We’d argue that’s not a huge loss considering this isn’t a tablet.
What is a bigger loss is the webcam, which is only 720p resolution on the Surface Laptop Go. That’s similar to the more expensive Surface Laptop 4, but here, you don’t get Windows Hello facial recognition, and this is the only Surface PC that doesn’t have it. In fact, the base model has no Windows Hello support at all, but if you upgrade to a configuration with 8GB of RAM, a fingerprint sensor is also included to make logging in easier.
Design-wise, the Surface Laptop Go uses a combination of aluminum and a resin made of polycarbonate and glass fiber, but it still looks and feels like a Surface laptop. The Surface Laptop Go is 15.69mm thick and weighs 2.45lbs, so it’s still very portable and you can easily take it to school for a day. It also comes in three different colors, which is good if you want something a bit more unique to you, but unlike the more expensive Surface Laptop 4, there’s no Alcantara cover here.
As for ports, it’s once again a familiar story. There’s one USB Type-C port, one USB Type-A, a Surface Connect port, and a headphone jack. That should cover most basic needs; you can connect a basic peripheral with the Type-A port and use a USB-C hub or a Surface Dock for more expansion. It’s not ideal, but it’s in line with other Surface PCs.
All in all, the Surface Laptop Go is a good value proposition if you want something that’s affordable but still decently fast, with some bonus features along the way. You get a tall 3:2 screen with touch support, which isn’t that common at this price, and the selection of ports could be worse.
These are the best Surface devices you can get right now. The Microsoft Surface family does a great job of covering a variety of use cases without being too confusing. We chose the Surface Laptop Studio as the best overall laptop because it’s got pretty much everything you could ask for. Great performance, including the ability to run some games, a premium and classy build, a fantastic display, and most importantly (to me, at least) the coolest form factor of any Surface. But that is an expensive device, and you may not need everything it offers, so there are some other great Surface devices in other categories, too.