Microsoft Surface Pro Vs. Surface Laptop: Which Is Best For College? [Opinion]

The Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are for college students

Microsoft has just released their new 2017 Surface Pro and the Surface Laptop. Both have received good reviews. Digital Trends gave the new Surface Pro four-and-a-half stars, calling it the best 2-in-1 available. TechRadar gave the Surface Laptop four stars, and they claim that the device combines a thin and light design with powerful components.

It’s almost back-to-school time, and you can bet a lot of college kids will be purchasing one of these. Which one is the best when specifically concerning college students? Let’s take a look while comparing the Microsoft Surface models that have an Intel Core i5 (Kaby Lake) processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Both devices cost $1,299 in this configuration, but the Surface Pro doesn’t come with a keyboard (the Type Cover costs at least $130 extra).

Build and Design

The Surface Pro is one of the best-built hybrid devices on the market. It has a 12.3-inch screen, a versatile kickstand, and is relatively light at 1.75 pounds (2.41 pounds with the Type Cover). The matte silver/platinum-colored magnesium alloy back has become a staple for the Surface Pro.

The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop is perhaps the best-looking laptop on the market. It’s sort of a mixture between the Surface Pro and the Surface Laptop. The keyboard (just like the new signature Type Cover of the Surface Pro) is made of Alcantara and makes typing on the device feel soothing.

Surface Pro vs. Surface Laptop


The 12.3-inch screen on the Surface Pro is still the best out of any Microsoft device, and that’s because of the 2,736 × 1,824 pixel resolution (277 pixels-per-inch) screen. Though many have said the screen is the same as the one on the Surface Pro 4, this simply isn’t true; the new screen has slightly more vivid colors and a slightly higher contrast ratio.

The 13.5-inch screen on the Surface Laptop feels like somewhat of a missed opportunity. It looks colorful and bright, but only has a 2,560 x 1,440 screen resolution (201 pixels-per-inch). This would have been okay three years ago, but it is underwhelming for now. One wonders why they kept the screen resolution lower than their smaller Surface Pro.


The 7th Generation Intel Core i5 processor on the new Surface Pro runs slightly faster than the 6th generation version did on the Surface Pro 4, and this is most noticeable when using processor-heavy programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or Cyberlink’s PowerDirector.

The Surface Laptop and Surface Pro perform well

The performance on the Surface Laptop with the same specs is practically indistinguishable from the Surface Pro, but web pages on the Surface Laptop sometimes took slightly longer to load under the same circumstances. Using the new Microsoft Pen on the Surface Pro revealed straighter lines than it did on the Surface Laptop. However, although the Surface Pen works well on both devices, it is mostly designed for the Surface Pro rather than the Laptop.

It’s important to note that neither of these laptops are the best for gaming as they are not designed to be gaming laptops. They do play less graphic-intensive games very well, and most students will be satisfied. But the hard-core gamers might want to look elsewhere.


Both are great for video playback, but the Surface Pro’s higher resolution screen and more refined speakers make the Surface Laptop inferior, even though it is larger. One is able to turn the volume higher on the Surface Pro without getting any distortion.

The Surface Pro offers a 1080p HD front-camera, while the one on the Surface Laptop is only 720p. Both work very well, but the one on the Surface Laptop is outdated. The Pro also offers an 8MP rear camera, while the Surface Laptop doesn’t offer any camera. It’s doubtful, however, that one who is buying a laptop cares about a rear camera.

Battery Life

Both devices offer great battery life, but the Surface Laptop has the better of the two. Power users who deal with graphics and video editing and run many apps at once will get about seven hours of use with the new Surface Pro. Most users should be able to get at least eight or nine hours of use.

However, the Surface Laptop has a larger battery, and Microsoft claims up to 14 hours of use. Power users should be able to get at least eight hours of juice, while most other users will get 10 hours, even if they are running Windows 10 Pro.

Windows 10

The Surface Pro 10 comes with Windows 10 Professional installed. One just needs to upgrade to the latest version. For some mysterious reason, Microsoft has only included Windows 10 S with the new Surface Laptop.

Actually, it’s not that mysterious; Microsoft thinks this simplified version of Windows 10, which one can only run apps from the Microsoft Store on, is easier for schools and businesses. However, it’s more frustrating than easy, but one can currently upgrade to the latest version of Windows 10 Professional for free. After the end of the year, Microsoft will charge $50.


While the cost for the Surface Pro is higher once you add in the expense of a Type Cover, it is a better device for college students. The Surface Laptop is certainly the best looking of the two, and it may provide a slightly better typing experience.

However, the fact that you can take handwritten notes far more easily on the Surface Pro when it is used as a tablet is more of an asset for college students. The Surface Pro is also smaller and will fit into backpacks better, even though it has the same power as the Surface Laptop. The battle isn’t even close; the 2017 Microsoft Surface Pro is the clear winner.

[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]