Whether the student in your life is back in the classroom or still learning remotely, having a good laptop for school work is as important as ever. $249 Surface Laptop SE The latest attempt to deliver just that, Microsoft’s flagship notebook is bundled into a more compact, affordable, streamlined package designed for K-8 students to pick up with ease.
Laptop SE works a lot right, it has a good enough display, decent performance and student-friendly version Windows 11 In a compact design ideal for the daily commute to class. But due to its limited availability and narrow focus as a device for teachers to purchase for their classrooms, it’s not an ideal choice for someone who wants to do homework and jump in some after-school digital hangouts.
Wondering if Surface Laptop SE is good for the student in your life? We worked on it for a week. Here are our thoughts.
what we like
Compact and lightweight design
“Wow, that thing is cool.” That was the first thing I thought of when opening the case for the Surface Laptop SE, a more compact and basic version of Microsoft’s premium Surface Laptop series. The all-white notebook’s design is simple and elegant, and it feels sturdy for a mostly plastic machine. I especially love how lightweight this 11-inch laptop is at just 2.45 pounds – perfect for tossing a bag on the way to school or quickly transporting between rooms when it’s time to do homework. And although the keyboard is not satisfactorily fast as the more expensive one Surface Laptop 4Finally, I felt comfortable typing on it for hours at a time.
I don’t usually praise a laptop for having just two ports, but the Surface Laptop SE has the connections just right for most young students. You get a USB-C port (ideal for modern accessories and storage drives), and a USB-A port to connect to the vast majority of mice, keyboards, and webcams you might have around your home or classroom. Most premium laptops have abandoned USB-A long ago, but it’s a handy port for older accessories, and it’s especially useful on a school laptop. There’s also a headphone jack for jumping into a Zoom class or watching a presentation with minimal distraction.
Screen, speakers and performance are good enough
The Surface Laptop SE’s 11.6-inch LCD screen won’t wow anyone with its low-resolution 1366 x 768 – especially with those huge bezels – but it’s more than serviceable given the laptop’s purpose and price. An 8K nature video looked decently detailed on Microsoft’s small screen, and the oranges and greens of various wildlife and foliage were vibrant enough. The SE laptop’s bottom-facing stereo speakers were adequate, pumping out audio that wasn’t too loud, but was clear enough to allow me to enjoy my daily music playlist or hear my colleagues during a video call.
The same can be said about the performance of the SE laptop, which is perfectly fine for a machine built for light schoolwork. The SE’s Intel Celeron N4120 processor isn’t designed to handle heavy multitasking or extensive video editing, and even during basic use, I noticed some sluggishness and stutter when jumping between Google Chrome tabs or switching apps in multitasking mode. But the SE laptop was pretty reliable for my daily routine of typing in Google Docs, checking email and sending Slack messages, and those looking for something to do homework or navigate distance learning sessions should be fine.
Windows 11 SE has its benefits
Surface Laptop SE runs Windows 11 SE, a simplified version of Windows 11 designed to eliminate distractions while still being easy to use for younger students. For example, the Windows Start menu only shows up to four recommended apps at once, so you don’t tire students out with choice. Many apps open in full screen by default to give students the best viewing experience possible, and since not all kids are experts at multitasking (and also because the SE laptop screen is small), Windows Snap just lets you split the screen between up to two apps at same time. My Microsoft Student Laptop review unit came preloaded with Microsoft Office essentials like Word and PowerPoint as well as a few extras like Minecraft: Education Edition and Zoom, all of which seem useful for younger users who log into class every day.
Windows 11 SE is definitely not the operating system of me – Due to the strict permissions set up on my unit, I was unable to download third party apps I use daily including Slack, Spotify and Discord (although I was able to use these services on a web browser). While this is inconvenient to me, it makes perfect sense for a teacher (or parent) who wants to limit what their students can download to reduce distractions – and to keep younger users safe from potentially inappropriate or harmful content.
Only IT administrators can download apps on the Surface Laptop SE, and the laptop is designed for automatic out-of-hours updates via Microsoft’s Intune for Education. It’s also built for easy repair, with a bottom plate that you can take off to swap components after removing a few screws with a screwdriver. So while the SE Laptop isn’t designed for regular personal use, teachers looking for something they can easily manage for their students might find plenty to like in the Microsoft Student Laptop.
What we didn’t like
Battery life and webcam aren’t great
I wasn’t expecting a great webcam from a $249 laptop (okay, even cameras on some $1,000 models are bad), but given how prevalent distance learning is, I need to call the SE laptop’s little shooter accurate 1 megapixel. While I got a video call without any complaints, the photos I took on my Microsoft laptop were very pixelated and exploding. It’ll get the job done for basic check-ins, but if you or your student wants to appear as clear as possible during virtual sessions, you’re better off connecting one of our picks to Best webcams.
Microsoft promises up to 16 hours of battery life on the Surface Laptop SE, but the notebook was less than that in my testing. This affordable laptop was dispensed with after about 6 hours of typical workday use, which involved jumping between a few dozen Chrome tabs and navigating a 30-minute video call, the latter apparently being too hard on the system battery. This might be enough to get younger students through an entire school day, but for everyone else I’d recommend keeping a charger on hand when you’re on the road.
This is not your typical cheap laptop
The Surface Laptop SE and its unique Windows operating system are perfect for a controlled classroom setting, but it’s definitely not a laptop you’d buy off the shelf for a child. In fact, you can’t – the only way to purchase this laptop is to contact a Microsoft education professional or contact Microsoft authorized distributor Find out how many units you will need for your school.
Those who want something that can be easily purchased for an individual and used for school work and personal playtime are better off with a Chromebook like Lenovo Chromebook Duet Or a full Windows device like Surface Go 3. Even better, both devices act as tablets for drawing and taking notes.
If you are in a very specific niche, then Surface Laptop SE Aimed at Teachers looking for an affordable range of notebooks for their classrooms There’s a lot to like about this unique student-focused notebook. Display, performance, and keyboard are good enough for K-8 students, and they offer a simplified version of Windows 11 that has full, uncompromised versions of apps like Word and PowerPoint (instead of the web-based versions you’ll have to use on a Chromebook) .
But unless you’re buying in bulk for a company, the Surface Laptop SE isn’t for you, and there are plenty of less-than-$300 options for those who want to buy their students in their lifetime a reliable multi-purpose work and gaming machine. If you’re great at using mainly Google services and Android apps, $299 Lenovo Chromebook Duet It is one of the best Chromebooks we tested. And if you’re willing to pay more for a full, unrestricted Windows experience with better battery life and better camera quality, $399 Surface Go 3 It will serve you better.
How does it compare to other cheap laptops we tested
|an offer||11.6 inch 1366 x 768 LCD||10.5 Inch Touch Screen 1920 x 1280 Pixels Sense||10.1 inch touch screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels|
|Healer||Intel Celeron N4020 / N4120||Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y Processor / Intel Core i3-10100 &||MediaTek Helio P60T|
|memory||4 GB / 8 GB||4 GB / 8 GB||4GB|
|storage||64 GB / 128 GB||64 GB / 128 GB||64 GB|
|ports||USB-C, USB-A and headphone jack||USB-C, MicroSDXC card reader, Surface Connect, headphone jack||USB-C . port|
|Dimensions||11.17 x 7.6 x 0.7 inches, 2.45 lbs||9.65 x 6.9 x 0.33 inches 1.2 pounds||9.64 x 6.66 x 0.71 inches, 2.03 lbs|
|Programming||Windows 11 SE||Windows 11 Home (S mode)||Chrome OS|
|Webcam||1 Megapixel 720p||5 MP 1080p front camera with Windows Hello; 8-megapixel rear camera||2 megapixel front camera; 8-megapixel rear camera|