microsoft surface tablet

Staff, Courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft is best known for making software like Windows and Office, but the company has branched out to hardware with its Surface line of computers and peripherals in recent years. The Surface brand ranges from desktops to laptops to convertibles, like the Surface Pro, which can be used as a tablet and a laptop.

Specs to Consider

If all you’re looking to do is browse the web and create a few Word documents, any Surface computer will do, and you should just pick one based on the price that neatly fits into your budget. But keep in mind that the specifications get more demanding if you’re looking to do gaming or run multiple applications at once.

Microsoft’s Surface lineup runs from tablets to laptops. The Book devices are laptops while the Pro ones are tablets. There’s also the Surface Go 2 which is a small, light tablet. Processor speed matters if you want to do gaming, although note that none of the Surface devices was designed with gaming in mind. If there’s a particular game you want to play, check out the manufacturer’s recommended device specifications before purchasing.

The advantage to buying a Surface computer is that Microsoft, the maker of the Windows operating system, also made the hardware, which isn’t the case with other PC brands.

Screen size is a significant differentiating factor between the Surface models. The Surface Go is a tiny laptop that’s great for writing emails on the go, but the 12.4-inch display may be too small for many users who want to compose long documents or get serious work done. A sweet spot for many people will be a 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 or 4, which offer portability and also enough screen real estate to comfortably view everything from movies to spreadsheets.

How We Picked

I’m a big fan of the Surface line of computers. I own and recommend the Surface Pro 7 convertible tablet. I’ve tried out many variations of these devices and have found them to be handsome devices with excellent build quality. They also lack the unnecessary software that’s sometimes stuffed onto devices from other manufacturers that can slow down systems.

I’m a technology writer with more than two decades of experience as a journalist. I’ve written for publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and The Atlantic.

I often review laptops and other electronics. For this review, I looked at dozens of Surface options for Microsoft and weighed specs and user reviews. I also relied on my own judgement as an owner of several Microsoft Surface products.


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Best Overall

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft
amazon.com

$1,199.00

$928.99 (23% off)

Type: Convertible
Display:
12.3 in. touch screen
Processor:
10th Gen Intel Core i5
Hard Drive:
256GB SSD

I own the Surface Pro 7 and am delighted with its elegant form and high-quality screen. This tablet is a gadget lover’s dream, with a nifty stand that folds out of the back and many great accessories available to customize your experience, including an electronic pen for taking notes and an excellent keyboard that doubles as a cover. My only complaint is that the touchpad on the Surface cover with the keyboard is cramped. Fortunately, you can add an external mouse or trackpad, and Microsoft makes some of the best mice available, including a lineup that matches the design of its Surface products. I particularly recommend the Surface Mobile Mouse.

  • Comes with electronic pen

Best Laptop Replacement

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft
amazon.com

$1,799.00

$1,395.00 (22% off)

Type: Convertible
Display:
13-in. touch screen
Processor:
Microsoft SQ1
Hard Drive:
512GB SSD

The Surface Pro X uses Microsoft’s new SQ1 chip, which is super speedy when working with applications already optimized for it, such as Microsoft Office. But not all programs have been adapted to work with the SQ1, so you may not notice much of a speed bump. The Pro X is a refined version of the significantly cheaper Surface Pro 7 design, with boosted screen and hard drive sizes, but it is slimmer and comes in an attractive black matte finish. Like the Surface Pro 7, the optional keyboard ($125.00 on Amazon) and stylus ($68.99 on Amazon) are must-buys, so add those onto the price tag. 

  • Uses Microsoft’s new, faster SQ1 chip
  • Not all programs have been adapted to work with SQ1

Best for on the Go

Microsoft Surface Duo

Microsoft
amazon.com

$680.58

Type: Tablet
Display:
5.6-in.
Memory:
256 GB

“If one screen is good, two must be better” seems to be the philosophy behind Microsoft’s Surface Duo. This smartphone runs the Android operating system and flips open to give you a nearly full-size tablet (8.1-inch screen) that also can fit into your pocket. One nifty use for the Duo is using the bottom display of the unit as a virtual keyboard. It’s a brilliant design, but keep in mind that not every app is optimized for the dual-screen setup. 

  • Dual screen for larger display or part display/part keyboard
  • Not every app is optimized for dual-screen setup

Most Minimalist

Microsoft Surface Book 3

Microsoft
amazon.com

$1,319.99

Type: Laptop
Display:
13.5-in. touch screen
Processor:
Intel Core i5
Hard Drive:
256GB SSD

The Surface Book 3 is clearly aimed squarely at would-be buyers of Apple’s extremely popular MacBook Air. The two laptops look similar, with their elegant and minimalist designs. One standout feature of the Surface Book 3 is the excellent keyboard, which is among the best I’ve ever tried. The detachable screen lets it function as a slim tablet when you don’t need the keyboard. The Surface Book 3 is a solid choice for Windows users who want a sleek-looking laptop that will handle most tasks and isn’t too expensive. Don’t try gaming on this laptop, though, as it lacks the graphic capabilities to handle most modern games. 

  • Excellent keyboard
  • Detachable screen

Best For Business Travelers

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Microsoft
amazon.com

$3,499.00

Type: Laptop
Display:
13.5-in. touch screen
Processor:
Intel Core i7
Hard Drive:
512GB SSD

The new Surface Laptop 4 is a solid upgrade from the Laptop 3, adding a faster processor and a touch screen. Using a stylus with the Laptop 4 is handy for sketching, annotating documents, and taking notes. Our recommended configuration with this model also doubles the storage space to 512GB from the Laptop 3, giving you plenty of room to store videos and lots of software. This laptop is also a great entertainment option with Omnisonic Speakers backed by immersive Dolby Atmos 7. 

  • Faster processor than the Laptop 3

Best Budget Laptop

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

Microsoft
amazon.com

Type: Laptop
Display:
12.4-in. touch screen
Processor:
Intel Core i5
Hard Drive:
128GB SSD

The Surface Laptop Go is the mini sibling of the Laptop 3 and 4 and comes with limited specifications. The low-end model we recommend works well for light computing tasks such as word processing and web browsing, and the price is extremely reasonable for the build quality. At only 2.4 pounds, the Go is extremely lightweight, but its compact size makes the keyboard a little harder to type on than its big brothers. 

  • Small keyboard hard to type on

Best Entry-Level Device

Microsoft Surface Go 2

Microsoft
amazon.com

$549.99

$467.00 (15% off)

Type: Convertible
Display:
10.5-in. touch screen
Processor:
Intel Pentium Gold 4425Y
Hard Drive:
128GB SSD

For those who want a reasonably priced tablet that runs Windows, the best option is the Go 2, which is a scrunched-up version of the Surface Pro 7 line. I’ve used this model extensively, and it’s a terrific option for watching movies and churning out the occasional document with the optional keyboard. The screen is clear and crisp; however, it’s significantly smaller than the 12.3-inch screen on the Pro 7. The bottom line: Choose the Go 2 for viewing multimedia content, the Pro 7 if you are creating it.

  • Small screen not ideal for creating content

Best for Power Users

Microsoft Surface Studio 2

Microsoft
amazon.com

$4,199.00

Type: Desktop
Display:
28-in.
Processor:
Intel Core i7
Hard Drive:
1TB SSD

This bad boy of the Surface lineup comes with a sky-high price and a striking design. The Studio 2 has a spacious, professional-grade display that also works as a touch screen. That gorgeous display also tilts so you can use it at the perfect angle and even while standing up. This model is aimed at pro users, but it will make an elegant and capable home computer if you’ve got the cash. 

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