Best Microsoft Surface: Which Models to Buy or Avoid (Holiday 2021)

It’s small and svelte, with clean lines and a nice solid feel—something that’s rare at this price. The top is aluminum, and the bottom is polycarbonate resin, which is stiffer and stronger than your typical laptop plastic. It feels like a $1,000 laptop, but it does make some compromises to keep the price so low. The biggest is the subpar screen, which is not even HD (1080p) resolution. That means text can appear slightly pixelated.

Still, if you like the portability of the Surface Go hybrid but want the more traditional clamshell design, the Surface Laptop Go is an excellent option. There are three configurations available, all using the same Intel Core i5 chip, but varying in RAM and SSD size. The middle option is the best value, offering 8 gigabytes of RAM and a 128-gigabyte SSD. The low-end model is $550, but it only has 4 gigabytes of RAM, which won’t get you far these days.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD

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Surface Pro 7

 

Photograph: Microsoft

  • Surface Pro 7 ($800 with Type Cover): While 2019 Pro 7 remains a solid 2-in-1 choice. It’s slightly less powerful, but it does have better life and will likely be on sale this holiday season. If you can score a good deal, this one is worth considering.
  • Surface Go 2 ($650, Intel Core m3 with Type Cover): The Go 2 was a fun little machine and, like the Pro 7, got better battery life than its successor. That said, the battery life is about the only thing it has going for it versus the newer model, unless you can find it on sale.
  • Surface Book 3: There may still be a few of these out there, but Microsoft has discontinued the Surface Book. The Surface Laptop Studio covers the same ground.
  • Older Surfaces: We do not recommend paying much of anything for Surface laptops or 2-in-1s older than these.

Things That May Annoy You

Microsoft has made Surface devices for nearly a decade now, but there are still imperfections that may impact your enjoyment. The first annoyances begin when you add a device to your cart and order it. If you’re grabbing a Surface hoping to use the famous, fabulous Surface Pen with it, you’ll need to buy it separately. In years past, the Surface Pro and the Surface Book included the Pen, but that’s no longer the case.

Ports are another mixed bag for Surface devices. You’ll find USB-C ports throughout the Surface line, and the newest versions support Thunderbolt 4. Despite the USB-C ports, Microsoft stuck with its magnetic Surface Connect charger. (Confusingly, you can charge with USB-C too.) This may not be a bad thing, but it feels strange with the Thunderbolt support there as well.

For most Surfaces, now is a good time to buy. Microsoft released the Surface Pro 8, Surface Go 3, and Surface Laptop Studio in October 2021. The Surface Laptop 4 came out in May 2021, while the Surface Laptop Go arrived in October 2020.

Look Into Surface All Access and Microsoft Complete

If you’re short on cash but still want to pick up a Surface, check out the Surface All Access program. You can buy a new Surface on an installment plan, for as little as $25 per month, and get Office 365 for the entire two years you’re paying off your device. Surface Pro and Go owners also get a Type Cover out of the deal. You’ll need to submit an application.

If you’re rough on your gadgets, get the Microsoft Complete extended warranty. Starting at $149, it gives you additional warranty coverage, plus two accidental damage claims with a $49 deductible. Given how much a Surface costs, it’s worth the peace of mind to add this protection to your new device.


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