Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 AMD powered 15” (review)

8.4

The new Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 comes in 13.5” and 15” with a choice of Microsoft Surface Edition AMD Ryzen processors or 11th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7. Microsoft describes it as an ultra-thin and light clamshell laptop. Good description, and it applies equally to the 13.5” (1.265kg) and 15” (1.542kg) models.

The raison d’être for the Surface Laptop is simple. It is a little less expensive than the Surface Pro 7 hybrid (12.3” from $1249 to $3749) and allows for larger screens and more powerful processors. There is also a Surface Book 3 (detachable 13.5 or 15” from $2649 to $4759) and a lower speced Surface Laptop Go (12.4” from $999).

In Android speak, it is the ‘glass slab’ format that allows maximum value for the best price – although Microsoft is not cheap. We we specifically asked to review the 15” AMD Ryzen 7, 16/512GB, as it should have impressive performance.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 – 15”, Microsoft Surface Edition Ryzen 7 4980U, 16/512GB

  • Website here
  • Price from: $2199. As tested) $2699. The equivalent Intel Core i7 is $2849
  • Warranty: 1 year ACL
  • Country of manufacture: China
  • Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services
  • You can read other GadgetGuy news and reviews here

First impression

Gee, 15” in a 3:2 format screen is impressive. Love the anodised matte black finish, too. The 15” screen has largish bezels dating it somewhat. But the overall size allows for a big, well-spaced keyboard and precision trackpad flanked by a huge deck to rest my weary palms.

It has that Surface look and feel – well, it is precisely the same as the Laptop 3. Well-made with an anodised aluminium chassis and a beautiful 3:2 screen. Warning – at 339.5 x 244 x 14.7 mm, it may not fit your typical notebook slipcover.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Screen

It uses the same 3:2 ratio, 2496×1664, 201ppi, Sharp SHP14B4 IPS screen as the Laptop 3. Microsoft factory calibrated it to almost 100% sRGB (78% DCI-P3 or 62% Abobe RGB) with a Delta E <2 (<4 is good).

It has about 400nits and 1400:1 contrast – insufficient for HDR content. It supports an N-Trig pen. The prime reason to buy any Surface is the 3:2 screen that, compared to 16:9, is better for office productivity. In Excel, it shows seven more rows and four columns and is closer to the ‘A’ series international paper measurements. But it is high time Microsoft got rid of those 10mm+ bezels.

GadgetGuy has no preference for Intel over AMD.

The AMDs are special Microsoft Surface Editions. GeekBench 5 scores (on mains power) give a basic indication of speed (results may vary slightly)

Single CoreMulti-CoreOpen CL
Intel i5-1135G7
Tiger Lake
4.5Ghz Iris Xe
1375516813225
Intel i7-1185G7
Tiger Lake
4.8GHz Iris Xe-LE
1532581217399
AMD Ryzen 5-4680U
Renoir, Vega 7 4GHz GPU
951488711000
AMD Ryzen 7-4980U
Renoir, Vega 8 4.4Ghz GPU
1066 668614776
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Interestingly GeekBench 5 reports this as an AMD Ryzen 7-3780U mobile processor. According to reports, it is the Gen 3 3780U souped up for a Gen 4 Microsoft Surface Editon. Similarly, the 5-4680U is a 5-3580U. In fact, the ‘Renoir’ architecture is now two generations behind the latest AMD ‘Cezanne’ 5XXX series. No matter, it is the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4, and it is plenty powerful.

Measuring CPU throttling in Windows is always an issue. On mains power, it can use 100% of its 4.4GHz turbo peak for a few seconds but tends to settle back to about 3Ghz (average). On battery, it starts at 3.5Ghz and drops off to approximately 3Ghz as well. Temperatures don’t exceed 40°, and fan noise is <45dB around the single under-screen vent. It shows good thermal management.

Looking at the ‘sweet-spot’, I would be sorely tempted to spend the extra $150 for the Intel Core i7-1185G7 for graphics power. The AMD has a 15% raw power advantage.

AMD Radeon Graphics

The Open CL results above don’t necessarily relate to GPU speeds. We ran a series of synthetic benchmarks (and we don’t have Intel comparisons). Tests showed that Intel Tiger Lake and its new Iris Xe LP GPU significantly outperform the AMD. For example, Tomb Raider is 119.6fps versus the i7-1185G7 at 154.6.

Disk – Samsung MZ9LQ512

It is a mini-M.2 2230 PCIe NVMe 3.0 x 4 lane SSD. It will not fit the standard sized M.2 2280. Speed-wise it achieves 2207/1172MBps sequential read and writes – lower than expected for a mid-level SSD. The fastest will be up over 3000MBps. It is also pretty good for random read/writes for larger files. In the absence of a MicroSD slot, you may want to get the largest SSD you can afford. Ditto for memory – get at least 16GB. A 32GB option is available for the Intel i7.

External data transfer speed

It has a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps or 1250MBps), so you can plug in external SSD storage. We tested with (sequential read/write speeds).

  • WD Black P50 1TB external SSD (USB-C 3.2 Gen 2) – 1012/837MBps
  • Samsung T5  2TB external SSD (USB-C 3.1 Gen 1) – 567/195MBps
  • HP x770w 512GB flash drive (USB-A 3.1 Gen 1) – 323/284Mbps
  • Generic USB 3.0 64GB flash drive – 147/84MBps

None of these is capable of recording uncompressed 4K, 3840×2160 that needs around 1500MBps write speeds. The internal drive will handle 4K compressed at about 800MBps.

Ports – not a lot

  • USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps port that can support ALT DP ([email protected] external monitor) and some peripherals via a suitable dongle
  • USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 5Gbps
  • 3.5mm combo audio
  • Microsoft connect surface ribbon

Microsoft stubbornly refuses to embrace Thunderbolt 3 or 4 (40Gbps/5000MBps) or, in this case, USB-C 4.0 (20-40Gbps), which would open this up to use with a plethora of excellent docks. But you can use it with the latest Plugable Thunderbolt 3/USB-C docks with 60W or greater upstream charge. These use the new Intel Titan Ridge Chipset. Our tests supported dual [email protected] and a variety of ports.

Microsoft has the Surface Dock 2 that it claims can support dual [email protected] and power the Surface Laptop 4. Sorry but we doubt the claim, its is more likely dual [email protected]

Power

It has a 46Wh battery (considered relatively small) and comes with a 15V/4A/60W ribbon charger. It also has a USB-A 5V/1A/5W port, so it is called a 65W charger. As mentioned, it also has a USB-C supporting ALT DP and upstream charging. Interestingly according to our Plugable VAMETER, it is USB-C PD 3.0 compatible, so you can use any 60W or higher charger, and it negotiates what it needs. It is always hard to give battery life figures for Windows as it depends so much on settings- best battery or best performance. All tests at 200 nits (half brightness)

  • General web surfing, Wi-Fi – 11 hours
  • Office use – 11 hours
  • 1080p movie – 14 hours
  • Maximum battery life 100” Load – 3.5 hours
  • GFX Manhattan battery test: 236 minutes (3.93hrs) 708 frames
  • GFX T-Rex battery test: 606 minutes (10 hours) and 767 frames
  • Charge time 0-50% – 40 minutes
  • Charge time – 0-100% – 2.5 hours

These times are better than expected for a small battery, but it still has single work-day battery life. Note that the Intel CPUs are Project Evo certified and deliver even better battery life.

Comms

It has the Intel AX200 160MHz Wi-Fi 6 AX 2×2 MU-MIMO adapter capable of 2400Mbps with our Netgear RAX200 AX1000 reference router. Now this card supports full-duplex, so you get 2400Mbps both ways instead of half-duplex in AC routers. It is fast and holds the signal out to nearly 20m at 865/865Mbps. It is far better than the Laptop 3. Bluetooth 5.2 LE is the latest standard and good for about 40 metres distance. It is fully compatible with earlier BT standard.

Sound

Microsoft calls the dual up-firing mid-mounted speakers Omnisonic with Dolby Atmos support. BTW that only means it can decode Dolby Atmos to the two speakers. The sound stage is slightly wider than the keyboard.

The problem is that 2.0 speakers, especially placed where they are, hidden under the keyboard, are just not capable of any real fidelity. There is no mid or high bass, poor low-mid (100-200Hz), and a fairly steep climb to 400Hz, where it is flat to about 10kHz. It has a mid-centric sound signature, more for clear voice than music. Maximum volume is content dependent, around 80dB – reasonably typical.

Keyboard/trackpad/camera

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

It is not bad for a typist with 1.3mm of travel, 40g actuation and very well-spaced keys. The oversized trackpad is perfect and can move the mouse from top right to bottom left in one swipe. The 720p camera has no privacy shutter. It supports Windows Hello, but it is long overdue for an update to 1080p.

Options

Surface Pen (4096 pressure levels) $139.95
 Surface Dock (add two monitors, 4 USB-3.0 ports, etc.) $299.95
A variety of adapters and accessories – check here

Serviceability

While it is easy to remove the base (four Torx screws), there are not many user-serviceable things inside (service manual for both Laptop 3 and 4 here). The M2.2230 SSD is relatively hard to find, and a 1TB will set you back twice the cost of an M2.2280 – over $500. The ram is soldered to the motherboard. But you can replace the motherboard, keyboard (whole deck), speakers, fan, battery and screen. This is far better than the Macbook.

You can see the teardown here.

GadgetGuy’s take

Our job is to tell it as it is. The 15” Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 AMD is a capable and competent 3:2 screen format laptop. You can’t go wrong with the AMD, but for $150 more, the Intel i7 is really the sweet spot.

But it is well past its use-by date, especially with Intel Project EVO notebooks slaying it for battery life, connectivity and performance. If Microsoft had relented and added Thunderbolt 3 or 4 or USB-4 (that this CPU supports), it would rate far higher. As it is, it rates precisely the same as the Surface Laptop 3 (review here) – an unremarkable 8.4/10.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 AMD powered 15”
The 15” Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 AMD is a capable and competent 3:2 screen format laptop. You can’t go wrong with the AMD, but for $150 more, the Intel i7 is really the sweet spot.
Features
8
Value for money
8
Performance
8
Ease of use
9
Design
9
Positives
Good battery life
Buy becuase you want a 3:2 ratio screen
AMD performance is more productivity-oriented
Its a Microsoft Surface - what more do you need to know?
Negatives
No Thunerbolt 3 or 4 or USB-C 4.0
Soldered non-expandable ram
Thick bezels are so yesterday
Just a tech update to the Laptop 3 – no innovation and past its use-by date
8.4