The Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 was thought to be coming in October. But as the fal came and went and we’re in the midst of December there’s no sign of Microsoft’s Windows 10 take on the MacBook Air.
However, there have been a few leaks around the Surface Laptop 4, mostly ones that have included leaked benchmarks suggesting the laptop will come with Intel Tiger Lake CPUs, the latest laptop-grade processors from the major chip maker. And other leaks have suggested that the Surface Laptop 4 won’t come with a refreshed design though we’re hoping those rumors end up being false, as the design of the Surface Laptop could do with being moved along.
If it were up to us, we’d see the Surface Laptop 4 come with a new display with narrower bezels, a larger trackpad, and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, as well as some form of boosted graphics. But that may be wishful thinking, so read on to find out what we’ve heard so far about the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 and what we hope Microsoft will do next with its 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’d have predicted it would be launch towards the end of last September or October; this turns out to have not happened.
A new Bluetooth certification for a Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 would indicate that a new Redmond-designed machine is on its way. But the certification also hints that the Surface Laptop models in question could simply be refreshed versions of the Surface Laptop 3 with the latest Intel Tiger Lake chips. These machines could be some form of Surface Laptop 3+ rather than the Surface Laptop 4.
Regardless it looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer for a Surface Laptop 4, if it is indeed coming.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 price
Given Microsoft hasn’t even addressed the existence of the Surface Laptop 4, it’s no surprise that there’s no word on pricing for the company’s predicted next laptop. So you’ll have to treat this section as a placeholder until there are more leaks and news around pricing.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate. The Surface Laptop 4 is likely to follow the same pricing cadence of the Surface Laptop 3.
The Surface Laptop 3 started at a reasonable $999 for a Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space. But when it’s fully-equipped with a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a healthy 1TB of storage, it comes in at a hefty $2,400. Microsoft often has offers and sales that see the price fo the Surface Laptop 3 drop by a hundred dollars or so.
As such, we’d expect the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 also sit in the same price range, only offering improved Intel chips. If Microsoft manages to put in a discreet GPU then the price could jump, but we expect such a feature to be left for the 15-inch model.
Speaking of which, 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
One of the biggest changes the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is set to get takes place under its chassis. Microsoft is almost certainly going to equip the ultraportable with Intel’s newly revealed Tiger Lake processors.
These will likely come in the more powerful quad-core, eighth-thread Core i5 and Core i7 variants. These promise a hike in single-core and multi-core clock speeds, as well as improvements in efficacy. But the most interesting part is the addition of Intel’s Iris Xe graphics.
The integrated graphics accelerator is set to deliver two times the performance of the Iris Plus GPUs the Ice Lake generation chips in the Surface Laptop 3 came with. With 96 execution units compared to 64 EUs, the Tiger Lake chips are promising 1080p gaming at decent frame rates in modern games.
Now that doesn’t mean they will replace gaming laptops. But the Tiger Lake chips should allow the Surface Laptop 4 to at least deliver a bit of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive action while on a dull commute. And for content creators, the extra GPU power should help with video and photo editing on the go.
A recent 3DMark 11 performance benchmark leak shows what is thought to be a Surface Laptop 4 with a 2.7GHz Tiger Lake U-series Core chip undergoing testing. It delivered a physics score of 8,412 and a graphics score of 5,540. That puts it just a little under the AMD Radeon 7 4800U, which is tentatively impressive as that chip is likely to find its way into the larger 15-inch Surface Laptop 4. And the performance the Tiger Lake chip seems to have delivered utterly trounced the performance of the MacBook Air 2020, the main rival to the Surface Laptop machines.
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.
A new 3DMark benchmark leak has shown that the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 is expected to have an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor. The processor was listed in the benchmark as having six cores and running from 2.4GHz to 3.99GHz, which tracks with the specification AMD has for its APU (accelerated processing unit), meaning this chip looks like its an off-the-shelf processor rather than a custom one made in partnership with Microsoft. But that could just be what the chip is labelled as in the benchmark.
As the chip in the benchmark is an APU, it also comes with AMD’s Radeon graphics. The GPU wasn’t mentioned by name but it has a 1,500MHz core clock speed and a memory speed of 1,333MHz. We know from AMD’s specifications for the Ryzen 5 4500U that this chip comes with six graphics cores.
As the Ryzen 5 4500U uses the latest Zen 2 architecture, we can expect it to easily outperform the older Ryzen chips found in the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3. That should mean better performance in gaming and creative tasks. Whether the chip will just be for a 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 or if it will also come to the 13-inch model wasn’t clear.
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
If it were up to us the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 would get a rather thorough redesign. After all the current Surface Laptop design has been with us for three years, and while it’s not exactly long in the tooth, it’s getting on a bit.
We’d really like to see the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 trim down the bezels that surround the current Surface Laptop 3’s PixelSense display, creating something akin to the InfinityEdge display found on the Dell XPS 13 and Dell XPS 15 2020. Opting for narrower bezels would allow Microsoft to put a larger display into the 13-inch and 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 machines without increasing their footprint; more screen real-estate without a larger laptop gets the thumbs up from us.
However, the leaks so far don’t suggest that the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 will get a huge redesign. But there’s a good chance that Microsoft will evolve the design a bit, hopefully adding in Thunderbolt 3 support for the USB-C port, which was oddly missing in the Surface Laptop 3. A little more in the way of connectivity such as an extra USB-C port would be nice, but we won’t cross our fingers too tightly as Microsoft is likely to keep the port selection to a minimum in keeping with the Surface lineup’s clean aesthetic.
The Surface Connector is expected to remain a future in the Surface Laptop 4, as are the Alcantara and bare aluminium finishes. But we wouldn’t be surprised to see some new colors added into the mix, as well as the potential for the Alcantara finish to come to the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4
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.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 outlook
Microsoft hasn’t hinted that the Surface Laptop 4 is coming anytime soon and it looks like we may even have to wait until the second quarter of 2021.
But that means there’s potentially more scope for Microsoft to refine its ultraportable. We’d much rather wait and see a laptop that has slimmer bezels, USB-C with Thunderbolt support, and a few other refinements. The Microsoft Surface Duo has shown the engineers at Redmond can get creative with their product design, so we’re hoping that the Surface Laptop 4 gets a dose of that attention.
And as an outside bet, we’d be curious to see whether Microsoft makes a laptop with an ARM-based chip, say a new Snapdragon system-on-a-chip configured for Windows 10. That would be doing something similar to what it did with the Surface Pro X and what Apple is doing with the Apple Silicon MacBook Air. Time will tell, but we’re hoping to see Microsoft bring its A-game to the Surface Laptop 4.