Microsoft pitches the Surface Laptop as an ideal companion for students, but when the sleek, stylish MacBook Air rival debuted in June it carried a very student-unfriendly price: $999 for the entry-level Core i5 model. No more. On Friday, the Microsoft Store quietly introduced a new $799 Surface Laptop, as Windows Central first noticed. A cheaper version of the Surface Book 2 also appeared.
The new Surface Laptop includes an Intel Core m3 processor with integrated Intel HD 615 graphics. Its configuration otherwise matches the specs of the Core i5 version, with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, but unlike the other models, you can’t pay to get more memory and storage. The $799 Surface Laptop is one-size-fits-all. Hardware like this will blow through basic productivity tasks, including Microsoft Office work, though you might want to pick up an external hard drive to supplement the miniscule solid-state drive.
We found a lot to like when PCWorld reviewed the Surface Laptop, particularly its luscious display and long-lasting, lightweight portability. Our biggest gripe? The operating system.
The Surface Laptop comes with Windows 10 S preinstalled, an education-focused version of Windows 10 that restricts you to software from the Microsoft Store app. It’ll work fine if all you need is the Edge browser and Office apps, but if you want to use Chrome, Steam, and other traditional desktop programs, you can opt to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. The upgrade costs $49, but if you buy a Surface Laptop, Microsoft will let you make the move for free if you do so by the end of March.
The Core m3 Surface Laptop muscles in on the turf of the 2017 Surface Pro, which also sells a Core m3 version for $799 on the Microsoft Store. The tablet matches the memory and storage capacities of the new Surface Laptop but—crucially—lacks a keyboard and touchpad. Microsoft sells the Surface Pro Signature Type Cover separately for $160.
Microsoft also introduced a $1,199 version of the Surface Book 2, a $300 reduction over the previous entry-level model. The price cut corresponds with a reduction in storage space: The new version starts with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, shrinking the original 256GB SSD baseline.
If you don’t mind expanding your options beyond Microsoft’s hardware offerings, PCWorld’s guide to the best laptops can point you toward worthy alternatives.