Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Laptop 4: Which one should you get?

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Laptop 4: Which one should you get?

Microsoft’s Surface family of PCs has typically featured some of the best laptops you can buy. Most of them feature high-end specs and premium designs that make them compelling options. On top of that, they’re usually designed to take advantage of different Windows features. Recently, Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro 8, and as such, we’re comparing it to the Surface Laptop 4 to help you decide which one to get.

While these two laptops have radically different designs, they actually share a lot in terms of their internals. They’re both powered by Intel Tiger Lake processors, and they have similar configurations. However, there are some notable differences, and they might make the difference between choosing one or the other.

Surface Pro 8 vs Surface Laptop 4: Specs

Let’s start by taking a look at the specs list for both of these devices. This will bring out some similarities but also some important differences between the two.

Surface Pro 8Surface Laptop 4
Processor
  • Intel Core i3-1115G4 (up to 4.1GHz, 2-core) (commercial customers only)
  • Intel Core i5-1135G7 (up 4.2GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1185G7 (up to 4.9GHz, 4-core)
13.5-inch:

  • Intel Core i5-1135G7 (up to 4.2GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1185G7 (up to 4.9GHz, 4-core)
  • AMD Ryzen 5 4680U Microsoft Surface Edition (up to 4GHz, 6-core)

15-inch

  • Intel Core i7-1185G7 (up to 4.9GHz, 4-core)
  • AMD Ryzen 7 4980U Microsoft Surface Edition (up to 4.4GHz, 8-core)
Graphics
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • AMD Radeon Graphics
RAM
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 32GB
Storage
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
Display
  • 13-inch PixelSense Flow (2880 x 1920) display, up to 120Hz refresh rate, touch
  • 15 inch PixelSense (2496 x 1664), touch
Audio
  • 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Omnisonic stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
Webcam
  • 5MP, 1080p front-facing webcam
  • 10MP, 4K/1080p rear-facing camera
  • 720p HD webcam
Biometric authentication
  • Windows Hello IR camera
  • Windows Hello IR camera
Battery
  • Up to 16 hours of battery life (unspecified capacity)
13.5-inch:

  • Intel processor: Up to 17 hours of battery life
  • AMD processor: Up to 19 hours of battery life

15 inch:

  • Intel processor: Up to 16.5 hours of use
  • AMD processor: Up to 17.5 hours of use
Ports
  • 2 Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C) ports
  • Surface Connect port
  • 3,5mm headphone jack
  • 1 Surface Connect port
  • 1 USB Type-A (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • 1 USB Type-C (3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.1
  • Optional: LTE (Qualcomm Snapdragon X20)
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.0
Colors
  • Platinum
  • Graphite
13.5-inch:

  • Platinum (Alcantara)
  • Ice Blue (Alcantara)
  • Sandstone (Metal
  • Matte Black (Metal)

15-inch:

  • Platinum (Metal)
  • Matte Black (Metal)
Size (WxDxH)11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 in (287.02 x 208.28 x 9.4 mm)
  • 13.5-inch: 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 in (308 x 223 x 14.5 mm)
  • 15-inch: 13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58 in (339.5 x 244 x 14.7 mm)
Weight
  • 1.96 lbs (889 grams)
  • 3.4 lbs (1.54kg)
Starting price$1,099.99 (consumer models with Intel Core i5)$1,299.99

Performance: They have a lot in common

If it wasn’t made apparent by the specs list above, the Surface Pro 8 and the Surface Laptop 4 share a good portion of their internals. For starters, both have Intel Tiger Lake processors, specifically 15W models. And, outside of the Core i3 model for commercial versions of the Pro 8, they’re the exact same processors. However, the Surface Laptop 4 does come in an AMD-based version, and some may prefer that.

Surface Laptop 4 with keyboard removed

Surface Laptop 4 internals

In terms of single-core performance, the Intel Core processors are better, but AMD-based models fare better in multi-core workloads, since they have more cores. AMD processors also offer better battery life, but that comes at a significant cost in performance when the device is unplugged.

It’s all a balancing act, and up to your priorities. Both devices will offer more than enough performance for everyday tasks, be it browsing the web, working on documents, or both. For reference, here’s a comparison of the GeekBench scores for all these processors:

Intel Core i5-1135G7 (average)AMD Ryzen 5 4680UIntel Core i7-1185G7 (average)AMD Ryzen 7 4980U
GeekBench scores (single/multi-core)1,256 / 4,2051,015 / 5,4281,418 / 4,8541,124 / 6,572

Regardless of processor, the Surface Laptop 4 promises better battery life, and that’s likely thanks to the larger chassis, which can accommodate a bigger battery.

Aside from that, the two devices are almost identical. They both can have up to 1TB of storage and 32GB of RAM, though it’s worth noting the base configuration of the Surface Laptop 4 already has 256GB of storage, while you have to pay an extra $100 for that with the Surface Pro 8.

Display: The Surface Pro 8 has a 120Hz refresh rate

One of the biggest changes the Surface Pro 8 brought to the table – and one of its biggest advantages – is the 120Hz refresh rate for the display. Alongside the Surface Laptop Studio, it’s one of the first Surface devices to include this feature, since most Surface PCs still have a 60Hz display. A higher refresh rate means animations, transitions, scrolling, and inking will all feel smoother than ever. Of course, that comes at the cost of battery life if the refresh rate is always turned up to 120Hz. Additionally, the Surface Pro 8 also supports Dolby Vision.

The Surface Pro 8 has a higher-resolution 13-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate and Dolby Vision support.

Aside from that, the Surface Pro 8 also has a much sharper display, coming in at a 2880 x 1920 resolution for its 13 inch panel. Despite having a larger display, the Surface Laptop 4 has lower-resolution screens — 2256 x 1504 for the 13.5 inch model, and 2496 x 1664 for the 15 inch version. That’s not to say it’s not sharp enough — of course, this is still a very high-resolution panel. But the Surface Pro 8 can look even better if you have keen eyes.

Close up of Surface Pro 8 screen

Surface Pro 8

As for sound, both laptops have dual stereo speakers, but they’re implemented in different ways. Since it’s a tablet, the Surface Pro 8 has one speaker on each side of the display, facing the user directly. Meanwhile, the Surface laptop 4 hides the speakers under the keyboard, and uses the keyboard holes as a speaker grill to aim sound towards the user. Both should offer a great audio experience, so you can’t go wrong here.

Moving over to the webcams, the Surface Pro 8 is also going to offer a better experience here. The front-facing webcam is a 5MP unit capable of recording video at 1080p, which is already a step up over the Surface Laptop 4. Plus, you get a 10MP camera on the back for taking pictures or recording 4K video. You can also use it to show something off during a call.

Surface Pro 8 rear view

Finally, both devices have dual far-field microphones, so no matter which one you get, you’ll be heard loud and clear during calls.

Design: Tablet or laptop?

Arguably the biggest factor in deciding between the Surface Pro 8 and the Laptop 4 is the form factor. It’s a fairly simply matter of wanting a tablet or a laptop. The Surface Pro 8 is arguably more versatile since you can detach the keyboard (or just not buy one in the first place) and use it as a tablet. Or you can get the keyboard cover and use the kickstand to use it as a laptop.

However, that also means you need to spend extra to get the full experience if you want a keyboard and trackpad. On the other hand, the Surface Laptop 4 is just a clamshell laptop. There isn’t much more you can do with it, but it’s a complete PC experience out of the box.

Surface Laptop 4 angled view

That also plays into portability. The Surface Pro 8 is smaller in just about every dimension, and weighs almost half as much as the Surface Laptop 4. It’s much easier to take the Surface Pro 8 anywhere in a backpack or bag. The Surface Laptop 4 isn’t big per se, but by comparison, the Surface Pro 8 is much more portable, even if you add a keyboard to it.

The Surface Pro 8 finally has Thunderbolt 4 ports, so you can use all kinds of docks and peripherals.

Then there’s the matter of ports, and this is another big win for the Surface Pro 8. The Surface Laptop 4 does have more variety, featuring a USB Type-A port in addition to USB Type-C. But with the Surface Pro 8, you get two Thunderbolt 4/USB Type-C ports, which you can use to connect docks, external monitors, or even external GPUs. If you really want to, you could feasibly use the Surface Pro 8 for gaming thanks to the Thunderbolt ports.

Connectivity: The Surface Pro 8 has optional LTE

As for wireless connectivity, both laptops feature Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth, so your experience won’t be radically different in that regard. You do get Bluetooth 5.1 on the Pro 8 versus Bluetooth 5 on the Laptop 4, but that won’t offer a hugely different experience between the two.

Front view of Surface Pro 8

Where there’s a big difference is mobile connectivity. If you’re someone who’s on the road often and you don’t want to rely on public Wi-Fi (which you shouldn’t), cellular connectivity is very important. You can connect to the internet anywhere there’s a cellular connection, and the Surface Pro 8 gives you that option, but you’ll have to pay extra for it. There’s still no 5G support, but it’s not like LTE is going away anytime soon.

Bottom line

Looking at the comparison points we brought up here, it becomes evident that despite having similar processors and overall performance, the Surface Pro is the better device in many ways. It has a high refresh rate display — and a sharper one, too. It has a more portable design, more powerful ports, and the option to add LTE. It’s truly a great Windows tablet and laptop and one of the best Surface devices Microsoft has made.

But, as with anything, those are things that may not necessarily matter to you. Performance-wise, these two devices are almost the same, and the Surface Laptop 4 also has benefits of its own. You can get a larger display with it, it’s a full laptop experience out of the box, and the battery lasts longer, especially with an AMD processor. It’s not as versatile, but many of us just need a laptop, and the Surface Laptop 4 is a great one at that.

If you’ve made your choice between the two, you can buy your preferred one using the links below. Otherwise, you can check out our list of the best laptops you can buy today to look at other options. All of these PCs are ready for Windows 11, so you don’t have to worry about being left behind.

    Surface Laptop 4 (13.5)
    The Surface Laptop 4 is a premium laptop featuring an all-metal design (with optional Alcantara for the keyboard deck), the latest Intel processors, and a touchscreen. It also comes in four different colors.
    Surface Laptop 4 (15)
    The Surface Laptop 4 is a premium laptop featuring an all-metal design, the latest Intel processors, and a touchscreen. The 15 inch model comes in two different colors.
    Surface Pro 8
    The Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft's flagship tablet, and it comes with an all-new design, a 120Hz display, Thunderbolt 4, and more.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.