Microsoft today announced the next iteration of its Surface laptop, the Surface Laptop 4. It will start at $999 when it goes on sale on April 15. Perhaps its biggest selling point is choice, with options for both 11th Gen Intel Core processors or an 8-core AMD Ryzen (again called the Microsoft Surface Edition).
Both the 13.5-inch and 15-inch version of the Surface Laptop 4 will offer Intel and AMD options. This is a change from the Surface Laptop 3, which offered Intel in the 13.5-incher and AMD in the 15-incher (with the exception of business models).
|Header Cell - Column 0||Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (13.5-inches)||Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (15-inches)|
|CPU||Up to AMD Ryzen Microsoft Surface Edition R5 4680U (8 cores), Up to Intel Core i7-1185G7||Up to AMD Ryzen Microsoft Surface Edition R7 4980U ( 8 cores), Up to Intel Core i7-1185G7|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon RX Graphics or Intel Xe Graphics||AMD Radeon RX Graphics or Intel Xe Graphics|
|RAM||Up to 16GB (AMD), Up to 32GB (Intel), LPDDR4X 3,733 MHz||Up to 16GB (AMD, DDR4, 2,400 MHz), up to 32GB (Intel, LPDDR4, 3,733 MHz)|
|Storage||Up to 256GB (AMD), Up to 1TB (Intel)||Up to 512GB (AMD), Up to 1TB (Intel)|
|Display||13.5-inch PixelSense display, 2256 x 1504, 3:2||15-inch PixelSense display, 2496 x 1664, 3:2|
|Networking||Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0||Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0|
|Starting Price||$999 (AMD), $1,299 (Intel)||$1,299 (AMD), $1,799 (Intel)|
The design of the Surface Laptop 4 is largely unchanged, with a 3:2 touchscreen display with 201 pixels per inch, options for Alcantara fabric or a metal deck. There is, however, one new color, ice blue, which debuted on the Surface Laptop Go last year.
Many of the biggest changes can't be seen. For the first time, Microsoft is offering a 32GB RAM option on the Surface Laptop (with an Intel Core i7 at 1TB of RAM on both sizes). The company is claiming up to 19 hours of battery life on the smaller device with an AMD Ryzen 5 or 17 hours with a Core i7. On the bigger size, it's suggesting up to 17.5 hours with an AMD Ryzen 7 and 16.5 hours with Intel Core i7. Microsoft is also claiming a 70% performance increase, though it doesn't say with which processor.
The new AMD Ryzen Microsoft Surface Edition chips are based on Ryzen 4000 and Zen 2, rather than Ryzen 5000 and Zen 3, which is just rolling onto the market. We understand Microsoft's chips are somewhat customized, including frequencies similar to the newer chips. But these new processors should, in theory, lead to increased stability and battery life.
While Microsoft is being more flexible on allowing both Intel and AMD options on both size machines, you won't find them with identical specs when it comes to RAM and storage. The 13.5-inch laptop will offer Ryzen 5 with 8GB or 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, while the Intel 11th Gen Core process range will include a Core i5/8GB RAM/512GB SSD option to start, as well as both Core i5 and Core i7 models with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage and a maxxed out version with a Core i7, 32GB of RAM and 1TB storage drive. The Ryzzen versions only come in platinum, while all but the top-end Intel model also include ice blue, sandstone and black.
On the 15-inch model, you can get a Ryzen 7 with 8GB of RAM and either 256GB or 512GB of storage, or an R7 with 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. For intel, You can choose between an Intel Core i7 with either 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage or 32GB of memory and 1TB of storage. These only come in platinum and black.
Commercial models will add more configurations for businesses, including a 13.5-inch model with 512GB of storage and a Ryzen processor. Overall, there are a lot of configurations, so hopefully people are able to find what they want. But there are definitely more options on the Intel side of the Surface fence.
The port situation is largely the same as last year, including USB Type-A, USB Type-C, a headphone jack and the Surface Connect port. Microsoft still isn't going with Thunderbolt, and will be using USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 on both the Intel and AMD models. The replaceable SSD is back, though Microsoft continues to state that it isn't user serviceable, and that it should only be removed by authorized technicians.
It's been a long wait for the Surface Laptop 4. The Surface Laptop 3 was introduced at an event in October 2019 and went on sale that November. Last year, Microsoft revealed the cheaper, smaller Surface Laptop Go but didn't update the flagship clamshell. We'll go hands on with the Surface Laptop 4, so let's hope the wait was worth it.
Microsoft is also revealing a slew of accessories designed for virtual work. They include the $299.99 Surface Headphones 2+ for Business, which is certified for Microsoft Teams with a dongle, shipping this month; Microsoft Modern USB and wireless headsets ($49.99 and $99.99, respectively, releasing in June); the Microsoft Modern USB-C Speaker ($99.99, releasing in June); and the Microsoft Modern webcam, a $69.99 camera with 1080p video, HDR and a 78-degree field of view that will go on sale in June.
But now, everyone loves the Ryzen processors, so why give the Intel-based Surface 4 laptops the edge when it comes to RAM and disk? Surely there isn’t a technical reason for the difference. The sceptic in me smells preferential treatment in favor of Intel.