If you're wondering what's up with the Surface Book 4, you're not alone — it's been over a year since the release of Microsoft's versatile Surface Book 3 laptop/tablet hybrid, and many are speculating that a successor could be right around around the corner. If all the speculation pans out, it might even be one of the best Windows laptops we see all year.
However, Microsoft has so far remained tight-lipped about its plans for the Surface Book line. While it's very likely we'll see the release of a Surface Book 3 follow-up, it may not be called the Surface Book 4 — and if the rumors prove true, it might not look like the Surface Book you're used to, as patent filings by Microsoft hint at a hinged design (seen in a fan's concept render, above) which might help it function better as a creative tool.
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However, until we hear otherwise we're going to go ahead and refer to it as the Surface Book 4, for simplicity's sake. Here's what we know so far about Microsoft's next Surface Book.
Microsoft Surface Book 4 release date speculation
In the absence of any official announcements about the next Surface Book or its release date, the best we can do right now is make an educated guess about when it might debut.
The Surface Book 3 was released in May of 2020, three years after the November 2017 launch of the Surface Book 2. If Microsoft holds to that cadence, we may not see a new Surface Book until 2022 or 2023.
However, the Surface Book is one of Microsoft's flagship products, and the company has its big Windows 11 release coming up in the fall of 2021. Microsoft has a habit of releasing new flagship hardware in tandem with a new Windows release, and given that the Windows 11 beta has been available to early adopters for some time, Microsoft will almost certainly want to give the formal Windows 11 launch some extra oomph by unveiling new hardware.
That could be a new Surface Book, or it could be the long-rumored Surface Pro 8 laptop, or it could be something completely unexpected — we'll just have to wait and see.
Microsoft Surface Book 4 potential redesign
Microsoft's Surface Book laptops have one big standout feature: their touchscreens are detachable, so you can pop off the screen whenever you'd prefer to use it as a tablet instead of a laptop. However, according to Windows Central, the Surface Book 4 is tipped for a radical redesign that could spell the end for the detachable screen.
Based on a patent filed by Microsoft in 2021, the speculation is that the next Surface Book will ditch the detachable screen in favor of a hinge mechanism that allows the screen to be either laid flat or raised up at different angles and supported via a built-in stand. Designer David Breyer took to Twitter to post some concept renders of what the Surface Book 4 might look like, based on Microsoft's patent details, and they make the idea of a hinged Surface Book 4 look pretty exciting.
If this sounds familiar, it's because it's very similar to how the Surface Studio's hinged display stand lets you pull the screen towards you like a drawing board, or rotate it down until it's almost completely flat for easier drawing on with the Surface Pen.
If the next Surface Book ends up sporting one of these patented hinge mechanisms, it may be a little more unwieldy to use as a tablet, since you can't detach the keyboard — but it could be a much more portable and effective device for creative types. Plus, it could be more powerful since it wouldn't have to squeeze all the critical components (including the CPU) into the screen itself.
Microsoft Surface Book 4 rumored specs
While there's no official word yet on the specs of the next Surface Book, the folks at Windows Central claim to have heard from some trusted sources that it will sport a powerful mobile Nvidia RTX GPU, which would give the device some real graphical muscle.
If it does in fact arrive sporting a hinged design rather than a detachable screen, it will likely also have an improved hexacore or octacore CPU, rather than the less powerful U-series quadcore CPUs the Surface Book 3 had to use in order to squeeze them into the screen itself.
Windows Central also claims the next Surface Book will have a larger trackpad than its predecessors, and speculates that it could have a screen around 14 inches in size with a high dynamic refresh rate.
Microsoft Surface Book 4 features we want to see
As cool as the Surface Books are with their detachable screens and sleek, modern designs, we've always been a bit put off by their high price and relatively middling performance. Now that Microsoft appears to be working on a potentially huge redesign, there are a few features we'd love to see in the next Surface Book.
Better performance and battery life: As much as we appreciated the Surface Book 3's versatility, the truth is that in tablet form it delivered middling performance and battery life for a remarkably high price. If Microsoft sells the next Surface Book in a similar $1,600 - $2,200 price range, it should at least offer comparable performance as similarly-priced 2-in-1 laptops like the Lenovo Yoga 9i or HP Spectre x360.
OLED display option: OLED panels are becoming more and more common on laptops, and they make a big difference, delivering remarkable contrast ratios and deep, inky blacks. We'd like to see Microsoft offer an OLED panel option on the next Surface Book, as we've grown accustomed to the striking OLED touchscreens on laptops like the Dell XPS 13 OLED and Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 (which technically has an AMOLED display).
Thunderbolt 4 ports: It may seem like a small detail, but the lack of Thunderbolt 3 ports on the Surface Book 3 helped hamstring it. With only a single USB-C port and two USB-A ports, the Surface Book 3 wasn't well-suited for professionals who might want to output to a 4K monitor. If the next Surface Book is indeed designed as a hinged, folding laptop/tablet hybrid with creative professionals in mind, it will need to sport some high-speed Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports so artists and designers can see their work on a big 4K display.
Thinner bezels: It's a small thing, but the fact is that the bigger the bezels are on a display, the harder it is to get immersed in whatever you're watching or working on. The InfinityEdge design of Dell's XPS laptops has shown us how much of a difference super-thin bezels can make when you're using a laptop daily, and we'd love to see Microsoft take a page from Dell's book by trimming down the bezels for the next Surface Book.