Which one should you get?

Microsoft introduced both the Surface Pro 9 and the Surface Laptop 5 at an event on October 12th, 2022, and they’re both very premium devices. They come with the latest processors from Intel, Thunderbolt 4 support, and more. They’re both great laptops in their own right, and you might find yourself wanting to choose between them. We’re here to help with that.

While they’re both great laptops, the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Laptop 5 are radically different in more ways than one. You can tell just by looking at them, because they have a different form factor altogether. But the differences go a bit deeper than that, too. Let’s take a closer look.

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Surface Pro 9 vs Surface Laptop 5: Specs

Surface Pro 9 Surface Laptop 5
Operating system
  • Windows 11 Home (Consumer)
  • Windows 11 Pro (Business)
  • Windows 10 Pro (Business, Wi-Fi only)
  • Windows 11 Home (Consumer)
  • Windows 11 Pro (Business)
  • Windows 10 Pro (Business)
CPU
  • Wi-Fi
    • Consumer
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i5-1235U
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i7-1255U
    • Business
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i5-1245U
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i7-1265U
  • 5G
    • Microsoft SQ3 processor
      • Neural Processing Unit (NPU)
  • 13.5-inch
    • Consumer
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i5-1235U
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i7-1255U
    • Business
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i5-1245U
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i7-1265U
  • 15-inch:
    • Consumer
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i7-1255U
    • Business
      • 12th-generation Intel Core i7-1265U
Graphics
  • Wi-Fi
  • 5G
    • Microsoft SQ3 Adreno 8cx Gen 3
Display
  • 13-inch PixelSense Flow display, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2880 x 1920, 267 PPI, up to 120Hz Dynamic Refresh Rate, 1200:1 contrast ratio, touch
  • Color profiles: sRGB and Vivid
  • Auto Color Management supported, Dolby Vision IQ (Wi-Fi only)
  • 13.5-inch
    • 13.5-inch PixelSense display, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2256 x 1504, 201 PPI, touch
    • Dolby Vision IQ
  • 15-inch
    • 15-inch PixelSense display, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2496 x 1664, 201 PPI, touch
    • Dolby Vision IQ
Storage
  • Wi-Fi
    • 128GB
    • 256GB
    • 512GB
    • 1TB SSD
  • 5G
RAM
  • Wi-Fi:
    • 8GB LPDDR5
    • 16GB LPDDR5
    • 32GB LPDDR5
  • 5G:
  • 8GB LPDDR5x
  • 16GB LPDDR5x
  • 32GB LPDDR5x
Battery
  • Wi-Fi: Up to 15.5 hours of typical device usage
  • 5G: Up to 19 hours of typical device usage
  • 13.5-inch: Up to 19 hours of typical device usage
  • 15-inch: Up to 18 hours of typical device usage
Ports
  • Wi-Fi model: 2 x Thunderbolt 4 / USB 4 (USB Type-C)
  • 5G model: 2 x USB-C 3.2
  • 1 x Surface Connect port
  • 1 x Surface Keyboard port
  • 5G model: nano-SIM slot
  • 1 x Thunderbolt 4 / USB4 (Type-C) port
  • 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Surface Connect port
Audio
  • Dual 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Dual far-field mics with Voice Clarity
    • 5G model: Windows Studio Effects (Voice Focus)
  • Omnisonic speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Dual far-field Studio Mics
Camera
  • Front-facing 1080p full HD camera
  • Rear-facing 10MP autofocus camera with 1080p and 4K video
    • 5G model: Windows Studio Effects (Portrait Blur, Automatic Framing, Eye Contact)
  • Front-facing 720p HD camera
Windows Hello
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 6E 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • 5G model: mmWave 5G (select markets), sub-6GHz 5G
  • Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth 5.1
Color
  • Wi-Fi
    • Platinum
    • Graphite
    • Sapphire
    • Forest
  • 5G
  • 13.5-inch
    • Platinum with Alcantara
    • Matte Black (metal)
    • Sage (metal)
    • Sandstone (metal)
  • 15-inch
    • Platinum (metal)
    • Matte Black (metal)
Size (WxDxH) 287.02 × 208.28 × 9.4 mm (11.3 × 8.2 × 0.37 inches)
  • 13.5-inch: 308 x 223 x 14.5 mm (12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 in)
  • 15-inch: 340 x 244 x 14.7 mm (13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58 in)
Weight  Wi-Fi: 1.94lbs (879 grams)
5G (sub-6GHz): 1.84lbs (878 grams)
5G (mmWave): 1.95lbs (883 grams)
13.5-inch (Alcantara): 2.8lbs (1.272 kg)
13.5-inch (metal): 2.86lbs (1.297 kg)
15-inch: 3.44lbs (1.56 kg)
Starting price $999.99 (Wi-Fi) / $1,299.99 (5G) $999.99

Performance: The Surface Pro 9 comes with an Arm option

Looking at the spec sheet above, you can see that, for the most part, the Surface Pro 9 and the Surface Laptop 5 have similar components. Both come with 12th-generation Intel Core processors form the U15 series, and so performance shouldn’t be too far off. There is something to watch out for here, which is thermals. The Surface Pro 9 is a very thin device, so cooling can be more difficult and you might face thermal throttling more so than with the Surface Laptop 5.

Angled view of the Surface Pro 9 with its Signature Keyboard and Surface Slim Pen 2, surrounded by pink flowers

What’s really different, however, is the Surface Pro 9 with 5G. Microsoft has merged the Surface Pro X into the Pro 9 family, which means it now comes with an optional Arm-based processor, the Microsoft SQ3. This is a chip based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, and while it promises quite a big leap in performance over its predecessor, it does lag behind the Intel models overall. Here’s how they compare in the Geekbench 5 benchmark:

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3
(see test)
Intel Core i5-1235U
(see test)
Intel Core i7-1255U
(HP Spectre x360 13.5)
Geekbench 5 (single-core/multi-core) 1,113 / 5,815 1,602 / 5,819 1,682 / 7,534

Note that these scores are illustrative, and they’re not measured on the Surface Pro 9 or Laptop 5 specifically, but they do provide some guidance for what you can expect from these processors. It’s apparent that Intel processors, especially the Core i7, can be significantly faster. However, since both the Pro 9 and Laptop 5 have the option for Intel, this isn’t necessarily an advantage either way. Also, benchmark scores aren’t the end-all-be-all of performance measurements, and in real life, the Arm processor is going to have to deal with things like emulation for some apps, because most apps are still designed for Intel or AMD processors. That can slow down performance on the Arm-based models, too.

Someone touching a Surface Laptop 5 screen

On the graphics side, the same logic applies, and neither of these devices is going to be a gaming rig by itself since they only have integrated graphics. However, the Intel-powered models do support external GPUs, so that’s another potential downside for the Arm model.

The Surface pro 9 with 5G is limited to 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM.

The flip side to this performance story is battery life, and Microsoft promises significantly better battery life on the Surface Pro 9 with 5G compared to Wi-Fi model (19 hours vs 15.5 hours). The Surface Pro 9 with 5G is actually on par with the Surface Laptop 5 in terms of battery life, which is great news considering the other factors like the display and the thinner design.

As for RAM and storage, the devices aren’t too far off from each other. Both the Surface Pro 9 and the Laptop 5 max out with 1TB of storage and 32GB of RAM, but the Surface Pro 9 with 5G is more limited, with a maximum 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM. It also uses older LPDDR4x RAM, though that’s not necessarily a huge disadvantage. An advantage for the Surface Laptop 5 is that the lowest storage tier is 256GB, double what you get with the Pro 9 in the base model.

Display: The Surface Pro 9 has a sharper and smoother screen

The really big differences start to become apparent when we look at the display. In this regard, the Surface Pro 9 is much more impressive, with its 13-inch display coming in at a very sharp 2880 x 1920 resolution. Plus, it has a 120Hz refresh rate that dynamically adjusts depending on what you’re doing, so things look smoother during motions and animations, but you still save battery when that’s not necessary. Another benefit of this model is that the screen is designed for use with the Surface Slim Pen 2, including support for Tactile signals, or haptic feedback.

Surface Laptop 5 on top of stacked rocks

On the other hand, the Surface Laptop 5 comes with either a 13.5- or a 15-inch display, which have different resolutions but the same pixel density. The smaller model has a resolution of 2256 x 1504, and the larger goes up to 2496 x 1664, but both have 201 pixels per inch. That means this display is not as sharp as the Surface Pro 9, and it also doesn’t support the faster 120Hz refresh rate or Tactile signals on the Surface Slim Pen 2.

Both laptops do have support for Dolby Vision IQ (on the Intel models), but the Surface Pro 9 also supports Auto Color Management on the Intel variants. The Pro 9 also has a few different color profiles to suit specific needs.

A woman using a Surface Pro 9 to make a video call

The wins for the Surface Pro 9 continue in the webcam department. The Surface Laptop 5 is still using a 720p camera for calls, while the Pro 9 has a 1080p front-facing camera (even though previous models actually had a 5MP sensor). The Surface Pro 9 also has a 10MP camera on the back that can record 4K video, so it’s even more versatile. And if you choose the 5G model, it also supports Windows Studio Effects like auto framing thanks to the power of AI. Both devices do support Windows Hello facial recognition, though.

As for audio, the Surface Pro 9 has two 2W speakers flanking the display, while the Surface Laptop 5 uses “omnisonic” speakers, which fire up from under the keyboard to keep a clean look while maintaining great audio quality. Both should offer a solid experience overall, and the same goes for the dual far-field microphones used for calls.

Design: One is a laptop, the other is a tablet

It should go without saying, but the biggest difference between these two devices is really in the form factor, and it’s pretty obvious. The Surface Pro 9 is a tablet with a kickstand, and you can attach the Surface Pro Signature Cover to it to turn it into more of a laptop. Thanks to that, it measures just 9.3mm thick (minus the keyboard) and it’s fairly light, so you can easily carry it around anywhere.

Colorful variations of Surface Pro 9

Surface Pro 9 and Signature Keyboard in all color variants

The Surface Laptop 5, on the other hand, is a full laptop with a keyboard and touchpad built in. While that does make for a thicker (14.5mm for the 13.5-inch model) and heavier machine, it means you get the full experience out of the box. Plus, it’s a bit more comfortable to use on your lap this way. The larger 15-inch model is even heavier, so it may be a bit harder to carry, too.

On a more subjective note, there are also different colors to choose from. Both of them come in Platinum or Black/Graphite, but the other two colors options are quite different. The Surface Pro 9 comes in either Forest or Sapphire, which are fairly intense shades of green and blue, respectively, with matching Alcantara-covered Signature Keyboards available. Sadly, the Arm model is only available in Platinum, but you can get any color keyboard for it.

Surface Laptop 5 in all four colors

The four color options for the Surface Laptop 5 13.5

Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 5 comes in either Sage or Sandstone, and these are softer colors. Sage is a soft, dark green, while Sandstone is somewhat similar to what you might call pink gold. One last thing to note is that the Surface Laptop 5 has an all-metal chassis, except for the 13.5-inch Platinum model, which has the base covered in Alcantara fabric, similar to the Signature Keyboard for the Surface Pro 9.

Ports and connectivity: The Surface Laptop 5 has more variety

Finally, let’s talk ports, as there are a few big differences to point out here. The setup on the Surface Pro 9 is actually fairly limited, featuring two USB Type-C ports and a Surface Connect port. On the Intel models of the Surface Pro 9, the USB Type-C ports support Thunderbolt 4, but on the 5G model, they’re regular USB 3.2 ports, because Thunderbolt is proprietary Intel technology. Neither model has a headphone jack, which is the big sacrifice this year.

Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 5 has a bit more variety. There’s a USB Type-C port supporting Thunderbolt 4, one USB Type-A port, a Surface Connect port, and a headphone jack. Out of the box, the Surface Laptop 5 is a bit more versatile, though you can use the Thunderbolt ports on the Pro 9 to expand that selection of ports, too. Thunderbolt lets you connect all kinds of high-bandwidth peripherals, like docking stations with fast ports, multiple display outputs, and even external GPUs. However, this isn’t possible on the Surface Pro 9 with 5G since it lacks Thunderbolt.

The Surface Pro 9 comes with 5G support if you buy the model with the Microsoft SQ3 processor

Of course, there’s a flip side to that. The Surface Pro 9 comes with 5G support if you buy the model with the Microsoft SQ3 processor, and that means you can stay connected to the internet from wherever you are. For on-the-go productivity, that can be a huge help, and it might just make the Surface Pro 9 your go-to between these two.

Final thoughts

Choosing between these two devices mostly comes down to the form factor. Whether you want a proper laptop or a tablet makes all the difference here, and it’s likely that nothing else matters to you. However, it’s fair to say the Surface Pro 9 has some more interesting technical accomplishments. It has a sharper screen, a higher refresh rate, a better webcam, and it has the 5G model if you want internet connectivity wherever you go.

On the other hand, the Surface Laptop 5 has a few more ports including USB Type-A and a headphone jack, which you might appreciate if you have some legacy peripherals that still use those ports. And the more conventional form factor might work better for some users.

Surface Pro 9 and keyboard on fake grass background

Finally, there’s the matter of price. Yes, these laptops start at the same price, but the starting price for the Surface Pro 9 doesn’t include the keyboard or the Surface Slim Pen 2. You can expect to be spending around $200 for the Surface Signature Keyboard alone, so ultimately, the Surface Laptop 5 can get you a more complete experience for less money. Of course, you may not need the keyboard, depending on your use cases.

If you’ve made your choice, you can buy either of these devices using the links below. Otherwise, maybe check out the best Surface PCs to see what else Microsoft has to offer.

    The Surface Pro 9 is a top-tier Windows tablet with Intel or Qualcomm processors, and it comes in multiple colors for the first time ever.

    The Surface Laptop 5 is a premium laptop with 12th-gen Intel processors. It comes in two sizes and four colors to choose from, and it finally has Thunderbolt 4 support.

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