Surface Book 4: Release date, everything we know, and everything we’re hoping for

Surface Book 4: Release date, everything we know, and everything we’re hoping for

Since Microsoft introduced the Surface Book in 2015, the product has only been refreshed twice. As of now, it’s been almost a year and a half since the Surface Book 3 was introduced, so it’s time to start talking about the Surface Book 4.

The product is known for being a laptop with a detachable display. While the Surface Pro has always been a tablet you could attach a keyboard to, the Surface Book has been a laptop that allows you to remove the display. The laptop base not only provided a better keyboard with more stability, but it was a place where Microsoft could include a dedicated GPU and an extra battery.

It hasn’t really taken off in the way that Microsoft hoped. Surface is supposed to be aspirational hardware, so the goal is that companies make their own versions of it, like they do with the Surface Pro. There aren’t any Surface Book clones on the market. Instead, most companies opt for convertibles with 360-degree hinges.

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Surface Book 4 release date: When is it coming out?

We’re expecting the Surface Book 4 will be announced on September 22. With Windows 11 coming in the same timeframe, there’s going to be a launch with some hero hardware. Alongside a Surface Pro 8, we’ll likely see a redesigned Surface Book 4.

You might recall the first Surface Book was actually hero hardware for Windows 10. At an event where the Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, Microsoft Band 2, Lumia 950, Lumia 950 XL, and Lumia 550 were all announced, Surface chief Panos Panay seemed at his finest when he showed off the Surface Book.

After the success of the Surface Pro, many were calling for Microsoft to make a proper laptop. Panay unveiled such a laptop, showing a sizzle video at the event. After the video and a breakdown of some of the specs, he said he was so excited about it, he was going to play the video again. If you were in the crowd, you were probably wondering why we had to watch this video again. But the second time around, there was a surprise at the end. The screen popped off, showing a tablet that can be used with a pen.

Surface Book wasn’t just a Windows 10 hero device. It was the Windows 10 hero device. I expect the same for Windows 11, and that’s all set to happen this fall.

Surface Book 4: What we’re expecting

Typically, the third generation of a Surface product is when it comes into maturity, as we’ve seen from the Pro and the Laptop. But from the Surface Book to the Surface Book 3, the biggest changes have been CPU and GPU spec bumps. With the Surface Book 2, the more powerful 15-inch model was added, and with the Surface Book 3, the Mini DisplayPort was swapped out for a USB Type-C port.

A complete redesign

Previously, when we talked about a Surface Book redesign, the most common idea people came up with was Microsoft would finally close the infamous hinge gap in the product. It seems like the Surface Book 4 is going to go well beyond that though, even to the point where the screen won’t be detachable. That’s right; the thing that made the Surface Book the Surface Book might be going away.

Rear view of Surface Book 2 13 and 15

It seems like it’s going to be more along the lines of an HP Elite Folio or HP Spectre Folio. The idea is it works just like a regular laptop, but you can pull the screen forward to use it at different angles, or it can lie flat as a tablet. Indeed, it’s a radical redesign, an admission the detachable form factor didn’t work, and that the convertible form factor other OEMs have been using is the solution.

It solves a lot of problems though. With the current Surface Book 3 design, all of the guts of the PC need to be in the display. That includes the CPU, storage, memory, one of the two batteries, and more. All the base includes is the GPU and another battery, so the Surface Book 3 is actually pretty top-heavy. This new design should allow Microsoft to keep all of those components in the base.

A bigger display

Along with the new design, reports show it’s actually going to have a 14 inch display, rather than the 13.5 inch screen we’ve seen on Surface Book since the beginning. That size even made its way to the Surface Laptop. Of course, the 14 inch screen will still have a 3:2 aspect ratio.

Presumably, the bigger screen means the Surface Book 4 will have smaller bezels, something that would be welcome across the whole lineup. Indeed, given how long it’s been since any meaningful design changes were made, much of the Surface lineup looks like it was released in 2015, because that’s when it was designed. Hopefully, this product will have similar dimensions, just with a bigger screen.

A spec bump

This shouldn’t be particularly surprising, but the Surface Book 4 will come with a spec bump. Every generation of the Surface Book so far has included an upgrade in both the CPU and the GPU.

Surface Book 2 partially closed on wooden table

As for which new CPU it will get, that’s not entirely clear. It will almost certainly use another Intel chip, as every Surface Book has. The current generation of Intel CPUs is 11th-gen, although by the time this launches, we’ll probably be at 12th-gen, and indeed, every Surface Book has used every other generation of Intel processors (6th, 8th, and 10th).

Of course, the new design also means the Surface Book 4 could possibly have more powerful, 45W processors like we typically see in devices with dedicated graphics.

The new GPU is a bit easier. With the Surface Book 3, a lot of people were hoping for GeForce RTX graphics, which we didn’t get, although there were Quadro RTX graphics in the business model. With Surface Book 4, it’s likely going to be an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 and 3060 for smaller and larger models, or something in those ranges.

Surface Book 4: The wish list

These are just things we want to see, rather than things we’re expecting.

5G

5G is at the very top of my list, and here’s why. While cellular connectivity is fairly widespread, at least as an option, in 13 inch ultrabooks, it’s actually pretty hard to find in more powerful laptops. It’s a trend I’d love to see change. In fact, I firmly believe that in 2021, everything should seamlessly connect to the internet all the time.

Microsoft has a chance to set the bar here, and isn’t that what Surface is supposed to do?

Thunderbolt 4

Microsoft has made excuse after excuse about why it doesn’t use Thunderbolt, and before that, it made excuses for why it didn’t use USB Type-C. It’s time. A Surface Book 3 is probably the most expensive premium laptop on the market that doesn’t use Thunderbolt. This is something that should happen.

Side view of Surface Book 2

Thunderbolt 4 is a powerful technology, offering data speeds of 40Gbps. You can also use it to connect two 4K displays, one 8K display, or an external GPU.

While Microsoft introduced USB Type-C with the Surface Book 3, it never went beyond USB 3.2 Gen 2, which supports 10Gbps speeds. Its proprietary Surface Connect port is also USB 3.2 Gen 2, so Thunderbolt would outshine it; however, I would also love to see Microsoft ditch Surface Connect completely.

I know it’s trying to maintain compatibility for businesses, and I know the Redmond firm loves legacy compatibility, but it’s not necessary. But here’s the thing. Microsoft is king when it comes to legacy software, but not when it comes to hardware. HP, Lenovo, Dell, and more have all phased out their proprietary chargers, at least in their premium products.

Lappability

The ability to use a Surface on your lap has almost become a meme amongst the Microsoft community. After all, when Surface tablets were introduced, the biggest problem with using them as a laptop was you couldn’t use them on your lap. The Surface Book was supposed to fix this, but it really didn’t.

Being it’s still so top-heavy, I find myself holding the machine down with my palms. That’s even with the latest model, the Surface Book 3.

Hopefully, the new design can fix this. As it stands right now, the only Surface devices that are ‘lappable’ – a word Microsoft made up – are the Surface Laptop 3 and 4.

An OLED display

I review a lot of laptops, so when it’s time for me to make a wish list about a product and what features it should have, it’s easy for me to look at the rest of the market and find things other companies are doing. If you look at something like an HP Spectre x360 14, you can see there’s already a laptop with a 3:2 OLED display. That’s exactly what I want to see from Microsoft here.

Surface Book 2 on wooden bench

OLED screens have darker blacks and more vibrant colors. They just make for a more pleasant and visually appealing experience. I wish they had taken off more than they have, but many laptop-makers are using them, at least as an option. You can find OLED screens in machines made by Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Razer, and more — but not Microsoft.

A high refresh rate screen

This is something that’s been popular for a long time in gaming laptops, and frankly, it should be mainstream. Both OLED and a high refresh rate are a lot to ask for, but then again, that’s what wish lists are for.

There’s this weird disparity between the PC market and the phone market. You can spend a few hundred dollars on a phone that has a 32MP front camera that can record 1080p 60fps video, or you can spend thousands of dollars on a PC that has a webcam that can record 720p video at 30fps; even the FHD webcams can’t do 60fps. The same thing goes for displays. You can get a phone with a 90Hz or even 120Hz screen for a few hundred dollars. On PCs, that’s considered a gaming feature.

To make matters worse, gaming laptops tend to have high refresh rate screens that make other compromises; it’s about playing the game, not being visually appealing. Let’s start using proper high refresh rate screens on PCs that are also pretty to look at.


This is all we know about the Surface Book 4 for now. We’ll update this page as we learn more. As we get closer to launch, there should be no shortage of leaks and rumors.

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.