The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 will need to pull something special out of the bag if it's to become a member of our best laptops lineup. ANd that will require it to really build upon the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, which is a solid ultraportable but is now looking al little dated when compared to some of the latest ultraportable laptops.
The original Surface Laptop made its debut nearly three years ago where it was praised for effectively being an ultraportable laptop that channelled a lot of what made the original MacBook Air a much-loved laptop, only with modernised features and some neat design touches like an Alcantara-covered keyboard deck. Originally aimed at students, the Surface Laptop gained critical acclaim for its minimal design, a lack of bloatware on the software side, and a fantastic keyboard.
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The Surface Laptop effectively nailed the recipe for what makes a great Windows 10 ultraportable. So much so, that the Surface Laptop 2 was but a minor upgrade over it. Last year the Surface Laptop 3 arrived and sightly mixed things up a little with a bare aluminium finish, a USB-C port instead of a mini DisplayPort, and it introduced a 15-inch model into the lineup with a custom AMD processor.
However, as the Surface Laptop enters its fourth generation, it’s arguably time for a re-design. And that’s what we’re hoping from the Surface Laptop 4, which is likely on its way towards the second half of 2020. We don’t know a great deal about the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 yet, but we’ve heard rumors and we have a few things we’d like Microsoft to add to its next laptop.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 release date
There have been no murmurs of when a Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is due, but going by the past few Surface Laptop releases, we predict it’ll be launched towards the end of September or October.
The Surface Laptop 3 was revealed at the start of October 2019 and the Surface Laptop 2 was released in October 2018. So it would make sense for Microsoft to reveal the Surface Laptop 4 around the same time this year. It would also mean the laptop will likely hit the same release windows for Intel’s new laptop chips, which the Surface Laptop 4 will almost certainly have.
The only potential fly in the ointment is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted many supply chains. This could lead to the Surface Laptop 4 getting delayed by several months or potentially until the start of 2021.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 price
Pricing for the Surface Laptop 4 is open to speculation at the moment, but it’s very likely it’ll follow suit with the Surface Laptop 3. The 13-inch Surface Laptop 3 starts at $999 for the base model: an Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. On the high-end, there's a wallet-emptying $2,400 model with a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage. The sweet spot specification for the laptop — a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage — comes in at $1,300.
So we’d expect a 13-inch Surface Laptop 4 to follow suit, perhaps with the entry-level model getting a higher base storage of 256GB without an increased price tag.
As for the 15-inch model, the larger Surface Laptop 3 starts at $1,200 for an AMD Ryzen 5 3580U chip partnered with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. A fully specced out 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 with a Ryzen 7 3780U, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD costs $2,800. Again, we’d expect a 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 to follow its predecessor’s pricing.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 specs
It’s under the hood where the Surface Laptop 4 is set to get interesting. And that’s thanks to new chips expected from Intel and improved laptop-grade chips from AMD.
Intel is due to have its Tiger Lake mobile Core processors out in the second half of 2020, which are not only due to boost the speed and efficiency of Intel mobile chips but also bring in Intel’s new Xe graphics tech. The current 10th Gen Core CPUs from Intel feature it’s Iris Plus graphics, which represented a decent hike in pixel-pushing power over the previous generation’s Intel UHD graphics.
But Tiger Lake chips with integrated Xe graphics acceleration are expected to deliver around double the performance of Iris Plus; at least that’s what an Intel representative told us to expect at a mobile chips showcase last year. That should deliver a noticeable boost in performance for the Surface Laptop 4 over its predecessor, meaning it could handle more demanding gaming and content creation than the Surface Laptop 3. Just don’t expect it to be a proper gaming laptop or mobile workstation.
A recent leak showed a Surface Laptop 4 with a 2.7GHz Intel Tiger Lake-U processor delivering 3DMark 11 performance that trounced the latest Apple MacBook Air 2020.
For the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft could either stick with Intel’s processors or it could keep its larger laptop equipped with an AMD chip. The last pair of Ryzen chips in the Surface Laptop 3 used Intel’s Zen+ architecture, which means they didn’t tap into the faster performance and efficiency of the 7-nanometre Zen 2 architecture that AMD has for its Ryzen 4000-series of mobile processors.
So if Microsoft sticks with Ryzen CPUs for the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4, we’d expect them to be chips from the Ryzen 4000-series or perhaps custom version of the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 from AMD’s laptop processor lineup. We’d also expect the integrated Vega GPUs found in the previous AMD chips to either be upgraded or tap into the Navi GPU architecture of AMD’s latest Radeon graphics cards.
We found the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3’s overall performance to be a little wanting, with the 13-inch model beating it in a lot of performance tests. So we’re hoping Microsoft has learned from that with the Surface Laptop 4, and that it’ll use the latest and greatest slices of silicon from AMD if it decides to go that route.
As for memory and storage, we predict both versions of the Surface Laptop 4 will stick mostly with the options presented for the Surface Laptop 3. RAM is likely to start at 8GB and go up to 32GB; much more would be overkill in a slim and light laptop. And given how games and video files are increasingly larger due to high-fidelity assets, we wouldn’t be surprised to see 256GB of storage become the base option for the Surface Laptop 4, topping out at 1TB on the high-end models with the option to upgrade the SSD further down the line.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 design
We don’t expect the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 to have a design that’s a radical departure from its predecessors. And there are no rumours or leaks to point towards a drastic redesign either.
But the Surface Laptop 4 should bring in some more design tweaks compared to the minor changes made from the first Surface laptop to the current models, if Microsoft is to keep its laptop competitive with rival ultraportables. The biggest change we hope to see is for Microsoft to draw inspiration from the 2020 Dell XPS 13 and trim down the bezels of its PixelSense display.
While the PixelSense display in pretty much every Surface device to date has been full of punchy colours and contrast, the noticeable bezels on the Surface Laptop 3 make it look a little dated when compared to other laptops that have put their screen bezels on a severe diet. If Microsoft can trim the bezels down on both the 13-inch and 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 models, then it could fit in larger displays without increasing the laptop’s overall dimensions.
We expect the Surface Laptop 4 to continue to make use of the slim aluminium chassis of previous generations, but perhaps this time adding in a Thunderbolt 3-enabled USB-C port, which was a strange omission in the Surface Laptop 3. While such a port could support charging, we doubt Microsoft will get rid of its Surface Connector power port for the Surface Laptop 4, unless it decided to replace it with an additional USB-C port, though we won’t hold our breath for that, or indeed any extra I/O.
We also expect Microsoft to keep the bare aluminium and Alcantara finishes for the Surface Laptop 4, possibly extending the latter finish to the 15-inch model. And while the color options for the Surface Laptop 3 are extensive, we’d not be surprised to see Microsoft add in another color option or two into the mix.
As the keyboard of all three generations of Surface Laptop has been met with critical acclaim, we expect the Surface Laptop 4 to also have a stellar keyboard with the tactile feedback and 1.3mm travel sported by the Surface Laptop 3.
The speakers that fire up through the keyboard deck is a neat feature on the Surface Laptop 3, but there’s scope for Microsoft to put in top-mounted speakers either side of the Surface Laptop 4 keyboard to challenge the excellent MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 16-inch speakers. However, such a design might detract from the clean aesthetic of Microsoft’s laptop.
We expect the Surface Laptop 4 to come with some clever engineering under its chassis, likely expanding on how the SSD can be easily swapped in the Surface Laptop 3. And improved cooling could enable the Surface Laptop 4 to extract the most performance out of its new chips.
In short, the Surface Laptop 4 is likely to be a decent evolution to the current laptop, with some solid design tweaks and a specs boost to make it one of the most compelling laptops in 2020.