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


The Laptop Studio makes the most sense with an Intel i7 chip, which adds Nvidia’s GeForce RTX discrete graphics card. The price does bump to $2,100 for this configuration, but if you’re planning to edit video or play games the extra graphics power is worth the investment. Every version has the beautiful 14-inch touch display screen with its 120 Hz refresh rate for buttery smooth scrolling. The haptic trackpad is also one of the best touchpads we’ve ever tested.

The one compromise the Surface Laptop Studio makes is weight. While tablet mode is great for taking notes and making sketches, a 4 pound tablet isn’t something you want to hold for long. It works best a tablet on a table top or in your lap.

Specs to look for: Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, Nvidia GeForce RTX


Surface Laptop Go

Photograph: Microsoft

This is a stripped-down, dare I say cute, little laptop that is to the Surface Laptop as the Surface Go 2 is to the Surface Pro. That is, the “Go” moniker means the emphasis is on portability and price, not power. The Surface Laptop Go (7/10, WIRED Recommends) won’t wow you by acing benchmark tests, but it is very portable and stylish. It’s a lot of fun to use, too.

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


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 still 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 is 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 of 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. Microsoft lets you buy a new Surface on an installment plan, for as little as $25 per month, and packs in 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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