Microsoft’s Surface event: What to expect and what not to expect
We’re now just weeks away from the launch of Windows 11, and we’re just days away from Microsoft’s next big Surface launch. If you’re a fan of the company’s hardware, it’s bound to be an exciting day that’s full of surprises.
So beware, there are spoilers ahead. We’ve got some ideas about what we’re going to see on September 22. In fact, we pretty much know which products are going to be announced.
Surface Book 4
When Windows 10 launched and Microsoft has a hardware launch alongside it, the Surface Book was a hero device. That’s going to be the case with the Windows 11 hardware launch. Surface Book 4 is getting a proper redesign, and it’s going to be a lot better.
The display isn’t going to be detachable anymore. In fact, it’s possible that the product might be called Surface Book Studio or Surface Laptop Studio instead, since the form factor will be more similar to the Surface Studio. It’s a design that’s been used by OEMs before, such as with HP’s Elite Folio. It allows you to use the device as a clamshell, and then pop out the screen and fold it as a tablet.
This opens up a lot of possibilities for Surface Book, as the old design had a lot of issues. For one thing, the existing lineup is very top-heavy, making it hard to use on your lap. The reason for that is because things like the CPU, one of the two batteries, the memory, and the storage all had to be in the display so it could still work when it was removed. With the new design, the display won’t be removed, so those components could be in the base.
Another benefit to keeping components in the base is that it could include more powerful CPUs, such as Intel’s 45W H-series. These are traditionally found in laptops for creators, which the Surface Book lineup has historically been billed as, but since the CPU was in the screen, the thermals needed weren’t possible.
Other things that you can expect to see are a larger 14-inch screen that might have a 120Hz refresh rate. In fact, Dynamic Refresh Rate might be a theme here. It’s also going to have dual USB Type-C ports, and Microsoft is still clinging to one Surface Connect port.
Surface Pro 8
The Surface Pro 8 is another product that we’re expecting to be redesigned, although not in such a major way as the Surface Book. First of all, it’s going to get a spec bump to Intel’s 11th-gen processors, which we’ve already seen in the Surface Pro 7+. The last time Microsoft used the same processors in two generations of the Surface Pro was with Surface Pro 2 and 3, and that third-generation model was the first full redesign of the Windows tablet, setting the template for the device we still see today.
We’re expecting the front of the device to look more like the Surface Pro X, meaning that it will have smaller bezels and a larger, 13-inch 3:2 display. The Surface Pro 7+ has a 12.3-inch display, which is the same as it’s been since the Surface Pro 4. The top bezel will still likely be bigger, but that’s OK since the Redmond firm is pretty much the only OEM that’s been using 1080p webcams since 2014.
It will also have removable storage, just like we saw in the Surface Pro 7+. This is meant for businesses with sensitive data, so they can destroy it when they recycle the PC. It’s also going to get features like wake on touch and wake on approach, things that other OEMs have been highlighting over the past year. That will be another reason for additional sensors in the top bezel.
Finally, one report says that the Surface Pro 8 will have Thunderbolt in at least one configuration, so we’ll see about that.
Surface Pro X
It sounds like there’s going to be a new Surface Pro X at the event, although it’s mostly going to be internal changes. This is one of the more confusing rumors because Qualcomm hasn’t announced its Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 yet. As we know, Microsoft’s SQ1 and SQ2 are basically overclocked Snapdragon 8cx processors.
It’s possible that the SQ3 could just arrive ahead of the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, or it’s possible that the new Surface Pro X will still have an SQ2. It sounds like there’s going to be a Wi-Fi only model though, something that we’re seeing more and more with Windows on ARM devices.
Surface Go 3
The Surface Go 3 isn’t going to be a big change. In fact, it’s one of very few Surface products that got physical changes on its second generation, with the screen being enlarged from 10 to 10.5 inches. You can expect the chassis to stay the same, although removable storage is a possibility.
It will get a spec bump though, with options including a Pentium Gold 6500Y and a Core m3-10100Y. Both of these are 14nm processors from the Amber Lake Refresh family, and they should provide a pretty solid boost over the ones in the Surface Go 2.
As for why Microsoft is announcing the Surface Go 3 at this event, that’s unclear. Panos Panay has never unveiled a Surface Go at a product launch, as it’s not a hero product. Perhaps, this will be billed as a smaller tablet that will showcase Windows 11’s new touch optimizations.
Surface Duo 2
The Surface Duo 2 is expected to fix all of the problems with the first one. The first one came with a terrible camera and last-gen specs, so that’s what’s aiming to be fixed.
The dual-screen smartphone is going to have a triple-lens camera with a rather unsightly camera bump. While critics have complained that this won’t allow the handset to be folded totally flat, it’s necessary if you want a decent camera. The Surface Duo 2 is such a thin device, it’s just physics to need more space for a camera that can perform well.
It’s also going to have a Snapdragon 888 chipset, which is the latest from Qualcomm. Indeed, the Surface Duo is a year old, but the Snapdragon 855 under the good is two years old. The Surface Duo 2 will also include 5G connectivity, another key item lacking from the $1,400 original model.
Not the Surface Neo
There are a few things that you should not expect. You definitely won’t see a Surface Laptop 5, as that was recently refreshed and will need Intel 12th-gen processors. Surface Studio is still weirdly MIA, despite the latest model still having Intel seventh-generation CPUs. And notably, you’re not going to hear about the Surface Neo, probably ever.
It’s my understanding that Microsoft has given up on all efforts to build out Windows for supporting dual-screen or foldable devices. That means that the Surface Neo will probably never see the light of day.
The Surface Neo was announced two years ago alongside Windows 10X and the Surface Duo. Windows 10X was billed as a new OS that was built from the ground up for dual-screen PCs, but eventually, Microsoft said it was going to repurpose the OS for single-screen devices. Windows and devices chief Panos Panay said that the plan was to meet customers where they’re at, despite the fact that you’d still need to buy a new PC to get Windows 10X.
He said that Microsoft would revisit dual-screen devices when the time was right, and then shipped Surface Duo anyway, since it ran Android. Windows 10X never shipped, and instead, Microsoft promised to build out some of its features into Windows 11. Those features do not include support for dual-screen devices.
Like I said, it’s my understanding that Microsoft has no intention of firing up that development again. The other, more obvious reason that the Surface Neo won’t ship in the form it was announced in is because Intel’s Lakefield processors are discontinued, so Microsoft would have to use something else. Presumably, there’s an Alder Lake processor that could do it though.
Product roadmaps do change, obviously, and Microsoft could always change its mind in the future about this. Just don’t get your hopes up.
That’s all we know about Microsoft’s Surface event, which will take place on September 22 at 11am ET. What are you hoping to see? Let us know in the comments!