Here Comes Surface Laptop 4

Posted on April 7, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 40 Comments

All signs are pointing to a virtual Surface event sometime soon, and now Microsoft’s support website notes the existence of Surface Laptop 4. Which has not yet been formally announced.

The support pages were first spotted by Walking Cat on Twitter, as is so often the case, and they’re just placeholders for now. But they confirm that Surface Laptop 4 will come in both Intel and AMD variants, just like Surface Laptop 3. Rumors suggest that the AMD processors will be previous-generation Ryzen 4000 series chipsets, in keeping with the Surface team’s inability to embrace modern technology. But the Intel variants will presumably use 11th-generation Core processors.

Also expected for Surface Laptop 4 are 13.5- and 15-inch display variants, Iris Plus Graphics 950 on the Intel versions (meaning that they will not be Evo-class PCs); 8, 16, or 32 GB of RAM; 128, 256, 512 GB to 1 TB PCIe/NVMe-based SSDs; and the same port selection we see today: One USB-A port, one USB-C port, and one Surface Connect port.

Put simply, this should be a minor upgrade with the same form factors as before and slightly updated internals.

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Comments (40)

40 responses to “Here Comes Surface Laptop 4”

  1. kshsystems

    It seams that Microsoft is placing a high value on the surface connect port. My preference would be to remove this legacy port and add a thunderbolt USB C port instead.

    Are large corporations still demanding surface connect? or is this just a Microsoft issue?

    • dspeterson

      In reply to kshsystems:

      I'm assuming theres probably a desire to keep investment in existing chargers, docks, etc but yeah at some point they're going to have to rip off that bandaid, or make a backwards compatible version that also adds in Thunderbolt or something.

    • Scsekaran

      In reply to kshsystems:

      Surface connect port is Proprietary but not legacy. It supports most of the protocols supported by Thunderbolt.

      It will be ideal to have both surface connect port and Thunderbolt 4 but that's probably not possible due to limitations in PCI-E. I wonder Surface connect port and USB 4 can co-exist in the future hardware.

      I prefer Surface connect port over USB-C port for charging and docking due to magnetic attachment to prevent accidental damage, better dock and sturdy connection. All the current Microsoft hardware has USB-C ports for charging and data anyway

    • will

      In reply to kshsystems:

      I am fine with the Surface Connect port, but they should bump the bandwidth to TB3 or USB4 speeds. Continue to support backwards compatible devices, but the new v2 or v3 of the port would be a major upgrade.

      Sort of like what HDMI has done, same connector just upgraded internals and speeds.

      • digiguy

        In reply to will:

        Same, Surface Connect has the advantage of being magnetic, and if you have pets or children this is a big deal (and maybe even if you don't). They should just add TB4, so we have best of both worlds...

    • pbeiler1

      In reply to kshsystems:

      The Surface Connect Port benefits us. Our company has standardized on the Surface Pro and Surface Book. Staff moves around easily between workstations and conference rooms. The Surface Dock at every workspace handles it all (monitor, cat6, power, etc). Each person has bluetooth mice and keyboards, as wanted, easily moving those with them.

      • garethb

        In reply to pbeiler1:

        All features that most of the rest of the business world is using thunderbolt (or USB-C) for.

        I don't see why they don't have both for a few iterations, before probably deprecating the Surface Connect. That way business get to wring more value out of the older tech, but still allow movement to something more standard (and pickup enterprises who are already full of TB/USB-C docks).

        We've been using Dell laptops that had both USB-C and barrel jack for power for 4-5 years, and only in the latest models are the barrel jacks disappearing.

      • wright_is

        In reply to pbeiler1:
        The Surface Connect Port benefits us. Our company has standardized on the Surface Pro and Surface Book. Staff moves around easily between workstations and conference rooms. The Surface Dock at every workspace handles it all (monitor, cat6, power, etc).

        We are the same, except we have standardised on "a laptop under 1,200€ and USB-C port". IT and the users have some latitude (no pun intended) to tailor the laptop to specific needs and to what is currently available.

        With a standard USB-C dock on each desk and in meeting rooms, it is irrelevant what laptop the user has, as long as it is less than 5 years old, and isn't a Surface (a couple of newer model excepted)...

    • pesos

      In reply to kshsystems:

      I love having both on my SP X. Flexibility is good. As others have pointed out, being able to use the magnetic connector at home with kids running around is great and can save many accidents. Being able to use my dual usb-c travel adapter while on the go is also great - it can power my SP X and Magsafe Duo simultaneously - really cuts down on what I have to haul (the magnetic adapters are a heavy PITA to travel with, and not having to carry an additional apple brick is great too). Been meaning to pick up a usb-c to surface connect cable (or adapter) to really have the best of both worlds when on the road.

    • wright_is

      In reply to kshsystems:

      All the big corporate manufacturers went through this process about 4 - 5 years ago. They stopped using their proprietary docks and all switched to USB-C or Thunderbolt.

      We are 100% USB-C with new laptops now (with a few Thunderbolt enabled docks kicking around, but all new ones are USB-C, because they are "good enought" for gigabit Ethernet and dual monitor support and every new laptop has at least USB-C.

      We have a room full of old Lenovo and Dell docks, which are being collected as the old laptops are slowly being replaced. The best thing about this is that we aren't restricted to one manufacturer or model, which was really lucky last year, as we had to get what was available, so not just ThinkPad T and Dell Latitudes, but Vostros, IdeaPads, ThinkPad Ls etc. all of which have USB-C. We no longer have to have one of each type of dock in the meeting rooms, we just have a generic USB-C dock on the table for the presenter, although they don't see much use at the moment. Likewise, we only need to keep USB-C docks in stock, in case one breaks or to roll out to new users.

      Why Microsoft doesn't go USB-C (with Thunderbolt, maybe) plus the legacy port is crazy, USB-C is faster and Thunderbolt faster yet again, and it is standard across the industry.

    • Paul Thurrott

      I think what they place a high value on is a consistency across generations that's demanded by their business customers. But this has hamstrung Surface, sadly.
    • faustxd9

      In reply to kshsystems:

      This might be simplistic thinking but can't MS create a Surface Connect to USB C dongle to allow those companies with Surface Port the flexibility to keep their investment and the rest of us can move on.

  2. helix2301

    the pages are now saying 404 Microsoft pulled them

  3. michael_babiuk

    Why the prohibition against equipping Surface products with USB 4 or Thunderbolt 3 ports? Please don’t tell me that it is because of a security concern with Windows 10. (As we all know, Apple and a few other PC manufactures have no such prohibition against using this technology.)

    I am REALLY curious about this decision made by Microsoft engineering.

  4. rob_segal

    No Intel Evo on Surface Laptop 4 would be a strange choice. I can understand if the entry level model wasn't Intel Evo, but if they make the i7 models not Evo, that would be weird. Not a big deal because of choice, but still, very odd. The HP Spectre 14 is a really strong competitor for Surface Laptop now.

  5. bleduc

    Didn't Microsoft get burned by going with the latest and greatest (SkyLake)? :)

    • Paul Thurrott

      So is the lesson that they'll always get burned by going with modern technology? Or that they need to improve and do a better job? Regardless, what they learned was to always use yesteryear's technology. And that makes Surface less interesting and less desirable to enthusiasts. I'm not sure businesses care.
  6. aelaan

    Them bezels though..... And really... still a 128Gb SSD? Just more of the same... blah

    • wright_is

      In reply to aelaan:

      128GB is fine for many business users. Our desktops are 4GB/128GB or 4GB/256GB (mainly because we can't get desktops with 128GB SSDs any more) and our laptops are 8GB/128GB or 8GB/256GB mainly because you can't get a 4GB laptop (thank goodness). But our users aren't allowed to store files locally, everything business related has to be stored on the servers and no private data is allowed on work PCs.

      I only use local storage for temporary files.

      After over 2 years of use, my work laptop still has 152GB from 237GB free.

  7. rbgaynor

    "Bringing You Yesterday's Technology...At Tomorrow's Prices." TM

  8. curtisspendlove

    The good news is that they seem to have nailed the “let’s be Apple for the PC playbook”. :)

  9. brettscoast

    Underwhelming to say the least. Why Microsoft doesn't embrace the latest hardware for these premium devices is quite bewildering. Minor upgrade indeed.

  10. rycott

    Let's be real. They are probably Ryzen 4000 series because AMD can't supply enough of the new stuff to anyone.

  11. melinau

    Very disappointing- hardly a "Premium" offering and the failure to embrace the latest AMD chips is ridiculous. What is the point of MS competing (technology-wise) in the "mediocre & dull" areas of the laptop marketplace?

  12. jessed

    I bought the Surface Laptop 1. It was great to use but the quality was appalling. The battery expanded and dislodged the keyboard within a year. Then I wasted several hours trying to get support from Microsoft, to no success whatsoever.

    My conclusion: if you don't mind paying a premium for a device which is only built to last a year, then the Surface range might work for you, and they feel great to use. But if you expect quality hardware or customer support, a real computer manufacturer (eg Asus or Toshiba) are probably a better option.

  13. djross95

    " keeping with the Surface team’s inability to embrace modern technology", lol!! Geez, what a disappointing upgrade. Not even a Project Evo laptop? What has MS been doing for the last year?

  14. bluvg

    "previous-generation Ryzen 4000 series chipsets, in keeping with the Surface team’s inability to embrace modern technology"

    And maybe inability to obtain them?

    • wright_is

      In reply to bluvg:

      More likely Microsoft's lead-times to get new kit to market, plus being out-of-step with the release of new chipsets. They seem to have a much longer development cycle than traditional manufacturers, which can release laptops with the new chips on "day 1".

    • Paul Thurrott

      That's a new problem. Microsoft has been doing this for years.
  15. michael_jones

    My problem may be unique, but I went through both a Surface Pro 7 and a try at Laptop 3 for work from home, and in the end neither worked for me. This was largely for the same reason, tough the Laptop 3 had one other strike against it after I got it. Anyhow, I tried desperately to make the Pro 7 work the way I needed it to for work from home including trying both Dock 1 and Dock 2, but the TDP of the processor, since it has integrated graphics, is just not good enough to dual 2k screens plus the built in display and then running any number of tabs in Edge, Outook, and then Zoom or Teams. The machine would routinely heat soak and throttle and become sluggish. I tried it with the Laptop 3, which are the exact same processors just with more head room and therefore a higher TDP, and ultimately they ran into the same problem, it just took longer to get there. The Laptop 3 also has a lower resolution camera which I had hoped would be better than it was, but honestly in Zoom meetings it was super fuzzy and not clear. So I ended up giving up on a portable (I could probably use a gaming laptop, but ouch or maybe Surface Book 3 but, double ouch). So I ended up settling on a NUC Extreme Pro for about the same money with far more expandability (even in the small footprint) and have never looked back.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to Michael_Jones:

      I had the same problems you describe on top of others with SP3. After two pens, two keyboards, one Surface Dock, one Surface Mouse, one service, over $2200 spent on it and a year of trying ... I’ve given up.

      4 versions later, 6 years later what you describe sound familiar ...

      • michael_jones

        In reply to nbplopes:

        Living in Orlando, we used to have 2 Microsoft stores. So getting service was easy and great and frankly made the Surface worth it. Now that MS is out of the store business, I honestly don't know if they are worth the premium as it's back to 'ship it to us and we'll see where we stand' and boom, your without a laptop for several days.

    • Daishi

      In reply to Michael_Jones:

      That’s weird. Where I work the standard setup for most people’s desks is a Surface Pro and two 1920:1200 displays running off the dock. There must be hundreds of examples of that setup in the building, many of them running much more complex software than a browser or Teams, and I have never once heard of anyone complaining that they got heat throttled.

      • michael_jones

        In reply to Daishi:

        Dunno, but I tried them both and they both did exactly the same thing with Team, Office (usually Outlook and at least 1 desktop app, 2 instances of Edge with multiple tabs open (Slack, JIRA, etc. for work, Outlook, Discord, Feedly, etc. for home), and Zoom. While the processor never reported issues per say, I found from some research that Microsoft (like many others it turns out) uses a different location for measuring thermals and managing cooling that the TDP of the processor. Anyhow, about 2 to 3 hours into my day the machine would consistently slow, drop frames in Zoom or just get super sluggish. A good portion of that I blame on Zoom honestly because they are taking in HD video but who know how efficient they are. I tried to no use background blur or any of that stuff and it never seemed to help. My wife uses her SP7 a lot and her fan runs pretty consistently as well when she watching video, etc.

    • prebengh

      In reply to Michael_Jones:

      I think the problem with the low resolution camera is that all thin laptops only have space for camera modules with low resolution. For better cameras they would have to be placed in the base like some Dell and Huawei laptops have done it previously, and that is definitely not ideal either.

      • samp

        In reply to Prebengh:

        Smartphones have cinema quality cameras in a thin space. Its possible, just expensive.

      • michael_jones

        In reply to Prebengh:

        The low resolution camera was in the Laptop 3. It's only a 720p camera, where the one in SP7 is (and has been for several generations) a 1080p camera. If they can put it in the SP7, then they can get it into a Laptop 3. It's just there for cutting costs based on the target market IMHO.

  16. mclark2112

    We standardized on MS Surface products a couple years ago at work, and bought about 40 more for the pandemic. They have been solid performers, and the staff loves them.

    For home I use a 2016 MacBook Pro, and would never buy anything else. Not in a hurry to get an M series, but will in a couple years when this starts showing its age, which shouldn't be for a couple more years.