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Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: What’s new?

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft unveiled the long-rumored Surface Laptop 4 this week, and as expected it packs a bunch of updated components into a svelte chassis that’s remarkably similar to the Surface Laptop 3.

While there are no groundbreaking revisions when you compare the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3, the new Surface Laptop does promise upgraded performance, better battery life, and more configuration options than its predecessor.

That last bit is especially nice because, as you may remember, the Surface Laptop 3 could be configured to sport either an AMD or an Intel processor, with one key limitation: customers could only opt for AMD in the 15-inch model, meaning if you wanted the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 you were limited to Intel chips.

That might not have been an issue, depending on your proclivity for AMD over Intel. If you look back at our Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch, AMD) review and compare it to our Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch, Intel) review, you’ll see that we lauded the Intel model for its speedier performance.

That may not be the case for the Surface Laptop 4, which is why we’re looking forward to putting them through its paces once we get our hands on review units. Regardless, AMD fans may rejoice in the fact that Microsoft now offers customers the option of either AMD or Intel chips in all models of the Surface Laptop 4.

So what else is new? Read on to find out everything you need to know!

 Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: Specs 

Surface Laptop 4 (13.5-inch)Surface Laptop 4 (15-inch)Surface Laptop 3 (13.5-inch)Surface Laptop 3 (15-inch)
Starting price$999$1299$769$899
Display (resolution)13.5-inch (2256 x 1504)15-inch (2496 x 1664)13.5-inch (2256 x 1504)15-inch (2496 x 1664)
CPU11th Gen Intel Core i5, Core i7, AMD Ryzen 5 4680U, AMD Ryzen 7 4980U11th Gen Intel Core i7, AMD Ryzen 7 4980U10th Gen Intel Core i5, Core i7AMD Ryzen 5 3580U, Ryzen 7 3780U | Business: 10th Gen Intel Core i5, Core i7
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Memory8GB, 16GB, 32GB LPDDR4X @ 3733MHz8GB, 16GB, 32GB LPDDR4X @ 3733MHz (Intel) or DDR4 @ 2400MHz (AMD)8GB, 16GB8GB, 16GB, 32GB
WebcamWindows Hello face authentication camera, 720p HD camera (f/2.0)Windows Hello face authentication camera, 720p HD camera (f/2.0)Windows Hello face authentication camera, 720p HD camera (f/2.0)Windows Hello face authentication camera, 720p HD camera (f/2.0)
Battery lifeUp to 19 hours on AMD Ryzen 5, Up to 17 hours on Intel Core i5Up to 17.5 hours on AMD Ryzen 7, Up to 16.5 hours on Intel Core i79:17 (tested) 11.5 hours (claimed)9:32 (Intel, tested), 8:00 (AMD, tested), 11.5 hours (claimed)
Size12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches13.4 x 9.6 x 0.58 inches12.1 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches13.4 x 9.6 x 0.6 inches
WeightPlatinum and Ice Blue Alcantara 2.79 lbs, Matte Black and Sandstone metal 2.84 lbsPlatinum and Matte Black metal 3.4 lbs2.8 pounds3.4 pounds
ColorsPlatinum, Ice Blue (Alcantara version only), Matte Black, Sandstone (metal version only)Matte Black, PlatinumCobalt Blue, Matte Black, Platinum, SandstoneMatte Black, Platinum
Ports1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect Port1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect Port1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, headphone jack, Surface Connect port1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, headphone jack, Surface Connect port

 Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: Price and value 

The new Surface Laptop 4 will cost you at least a grand, as the entry-level 13.5-inch model has an MSRP of $999.99. 

That matches the starting price of the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 (though it's currently on sale to $769), making this a fairly straightforward comparison. If you have the cash to spend, you may as well get the latest model; if you’re looking to save some money and value the Surface Laptop’s design more than what’s inside, consider hunting around for a deal on last year’s model.  

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: Surface Laptop 4 in both sizes

(Image credit: Microsoft)

  Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: Design

While you may notice some minor cosmetic differences, by and large the new Surface Laptop looks pretty much like the old Surface Laptop. That’s not a bad thing; in our reviews we consistently praised the Surface Laptop 3 for its slim, ergonomic chassis and comfortable keyboard. We would have liked to see a more radical redesign of the hardware, but it looks like we’ll have to keep waiting.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: The Surface Laptop 3 looks a lot like the Surface Laptop 4

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Notably, Microsoft added a new Ice Blue finish option to the Surface Laptop’s extant lineup of exterior options (Cobalt Blue, Matte Black, Platinum, and Sandstone, if you’re curious). Ice Blue was already available as an option elsewhere in the Surface family of devices, and in our Surface Laptop Go review we noted that the chill, metallic blue hue gave the device an extra touch of elegance and class.

We would have liked to see Microsoft figure out how to achieve significantly narrower bezels on the Surface Laptop 4 compared to its predecessor, but sadly that doesn’t appear to be the case. However, we’re pleased to see that the company managed to incorporate some Dolby Atmos Omnisonic speakers into the design of its latest Surface Laptop, and we’re eager to hear how they sound in person.

Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: Processors 

The new Surface Laptop 4 can be configured with either an Intel 11th Gen (Core i5 and i7) or a AMD Ryzen Microsoft Surface Edition processor (4000 series) octo-core CPU, depending on your processor proclivities. 

That’s an improvement across the board over last year’s models, but it is somewhat disappointing to see that Microsoft couldn’t find a way to incorporate the latest AMD Ryzen Mobile 5000 series chips. 

In fairness, the Ryzen 5000 chips for laptops just debuted this year, and Microsoft likely had to lock in its configuration options early enough that the Ryzen 4000 mobile chips made sense.

Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: Performance

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: Battery life 

Improved battery life is a big selling point of the new Surface Laptop 4, with Microsoft claiming it has the longest battery life of any Surface product yet.

The official claim is that a new Surface Laptop 4 can last as long as 19 hours on a single battery charge, though of course you’ll get less than that right off the bat if you’re playing games or doing other high-intensity computing.

By comparison, the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 models we reviewed were sold with a promised battery life of up to 11.5 hours; however, in our testing we found the AMD variant lasted about 8.5 hours and the Intel unit pulled off a solid 9.5 hours in our web surfing-based battery tests.

Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: Multiple Surface Laptop 4 models

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Surface Laptop 4 vs Surface Laptop 3: Outlook 

The Surface Laptop 4 is a straightforward evolution of the Surface Laptop line, and that's probably good news for anyone who's been considering purchasing one of these light and elegant notebooks.

That said, we were hoping for more of a revolution in terms of design, and the absence of the latest and greatest in components (specifically, the lack of an AMD 5000 series CPU and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity) is a little disheartening. 

We're eager to spend some quality time putting the new Surface Laptop 4 to the test, so stay tuned for our hands-on impressions and full review.

Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice. Got a hot tip? Get in touch via alex.wawro@futurenet.com.