With many states living under their Governor’s lockdowns, the economy has certainly suffered and subsequently the market has as well. Microsoft has held back a number of high-end devices this year and opting to release low-cost Surface devices instead for the most part. We still had some interesting Surface devices launch this year like the Surface Laptop Go, Surface Go 2, Surface Book 3, Surface Laptop 3 and the Surface Pro X (SQ2) but devices like Surface Neo and Surface Studio 3 have been delayed, so what do we expect from Microsoft in 2021? Enjoy the rundown below.
Surface Duo 2
It’s no secret that Microsoft’s Duo is a feat of engineering, but the strategy to go from Windows 10X to Android delayed the release and it launched with an almost year-old CPU, the Snapdragon 855 instead of the Snapdragon 865 5G. Surface Duo was always going to start out appealing to only a small number of early adopters but it could see more popularity in 2021 with the second generation Surace Duo. Rumors say the new Surface Duo 2 will come with wireless charging and a better camera, potentially slightly smaller bezels and the possibility for a Graphite color found on the Surface EarBuds.
Microsoft’s Surface Neo was introduced alongside many of devices in this article back in October 2019 but was delayed earlier this year due to some states locking down their states and many companies sending their employees’ home to work remotely or lay them off entirely. 2020 wasn’t good to the Surface Neo, but 2021 could be better as long as the rest of the states open up again. The only way Microsoft will ship the Neo next year is if there is a market for it, because in 2020 there wasn’t. Windows 10X has hit RTM and is being released to OEM’s to flash onto their upcoming devices. In 2021 we will see the Surface Neo’s OS before we get a Neo in hand. This delay could enable further development and see the upcoming SQ3 chip making its way into the Surface Neo instead of an Intel CPU. Windows 10X and ARM are the perfect pairing for a tablet like device like Surface Neo and could be made better with the replacement of Intel with Microsoft SQ3.
Surface Go 3
The was a black Surface Go 2 that was supposedly supposed to ship this year but was cancelled instead and along with the Surface Pro X with SQ2 becoming available with the Platinum finish could signal a move away from black all together. There have been other rumors that since the Surface Neo has been delayed and Windows 10X is now prioritized for single display devices that Surface Go 3 could release with Windows 10X instead of Windows 10. Surface Go 3 is a prime candidate for Qualcomm’s 7c chip or potentially the SQ1 or SQ2 as optional upgrades. Google is rumored to have a Snapdragon 7c-powered Surface-like device running ChromeOS coming in 2021 and Surface Go 3 powered by Snapdragon 7c and running on Windows 10X could be its natural counterpart.
Surface Pro 8
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 will only reportedly come with internal upgrades only. The CPU will be upgraded to 11-gen Intel Core CPU’s and the max RAM will bump up from 16GB to 32GB. The Surface Pro 8 will arrive sometime between January or February.
Surface Pro X 2
Microsoft’s only ARM-powered Surface to date could get some company from ARM-powered Surface Laptops in 2021 but any upgrades coming for the Surface Pro X will likely only be internal, which is okay, since the design is still very new. Microsoft’s SQ2 chip that became available as an option for the Surface Pro X in October 2020 will likely continue to be an optional chip going forward with the SQ1 dropping from availability on the Surface Pro X. The SQ3 paired with 5G will take the top spot as Microsoft’s most powerful chip option and will likely be based on Qualcomm’s work with ARM’s recent Cortex-A78C chips for ARM PC’s. Both the SQ1 and SQ2 are based on Qualcomm’s first and second-gen 8cx chips which in turn are based on the Snapdragon 855 architecture.
The new ARM Cortex-A78C chip is purpose built for the next-generation of ARM-powered PC’s with support for up to 8 big CPU core clusters for a more “homogenous multi big core computing”. The Cortex-A78 architecture is expected to be part of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 875 and Samsung Exynos 1080 smartphones SoCs. With the inclusion of 8 Big CPU Cores, the ARM Cortex-A78C will be compatible with the new Mali-G78 GPU. The A78C is specifically designed to offer eight cores worth of “big” CPU performance, with either 256KB or 512KB of L2 cache per-core and up to 8MB of L3 cache for all the CPUs to share. L1 cache size could be 32KBor 64KB for each of the instruction and data caches. The L3 cache reportedly supports up to 60GB/s of sustained bandwidth. This should directly translate to increased performance.
Surface Laptop Go 2
Although Surface Laptop Go just arrived in October, we could see internal hardware upgrades to the CPU with some 11-gen Intel Core Processors and possibly the addition of backlit keys. We also recently made the case for the Surface Laptop Go to run on Microsoft’s current SQ2 and/or the next SQ ARM chip, the SQ3 to better compete with Apple’s although niche, in regards to platform market share, but technically superior M1-powered MacBook laptops. As is the case with Surface Go 3, Microsoft could opt to ship Surface Laptop Go 2 with Windows 10X powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c, SQ1 or SQ2 options.
Surface Laptop 4
Surface Laptop 4 will follow the Surface Pro 8 trend and only see upgrades to the internal hardware with 11-Gen Intel CPU’s with Xe Graphics and AMD Ryzen Microsoft Edition chips with Integrated Radeon GPU’s. The AMD Ryzen chips will now be available in the 13.5-inch model for the first time and Ice Blue will replace Cobalt Blue. We can expect to see the new Surface Laptop 4 in April. We also recently made the case for the Surface Laptop to run on Microsoft’s current SQ2 and/or the next SQ ARM chip, the SQ3 to better compete with Apple’s although niche; in regards to platform market share, but technically superior M1-powered MacBook laptops.
Surface Laptop Pro
There are those in tech journalism that have opined on the possibility of a Surface Laptop Pro in development. There seems to be no evidence to support such a notion but a more powerful Surface Laptop option would be welcome. Surface Laptop fit oddly in the market from day one, is it the counterpart to Apple’s MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. it is more powerful than previous MacBook Air laptops but don’t quite stack up against Apple’s MacBook Pro series in terms of sheer CPU power. The potential addition of a ‘Pro’ model would change that, at least against the non M1-powered MacBook Pro laptops at least. If Microsoft did have plans for a Surface Laptop Pro with a discrete GPU and more powerful CPU options it would likely still sell well, but where does that leave Microsoft’s top tier/most powerful Surface, Surface Book 3?
Microsoft will likely not release a Surface Laptop Pro and will instead redesign the Surface Book 4.
Surface Book 4
The internet has been discussing the Surface Book 3’s lack of CPU power compared to its similarly priced counterparts in the market like Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro and other PC’s like Dell’s XPS 13/15 and HP’s Spectre series. We wrote about this subject earlier this year then shortly after we reported that Ryan Smalley an Industrial Designer at a design consultancy called Modality churned out a concept of the Surface Book 4 based on his own experience with his Surface Book 2. You can read the post on Behance where he describes why he made the design choices that he did. Aside from that, the purported numbers of users that detach the tablet from the keyboard base is extremely low and seems like an unnecessary feature given the limit the detachable tablet’s thermal constraints puts on the CPU selection. We are hoping that Panos Panay has reached out to Ryan Smalley at Modality to either contract with Modality or hire him directly to work on future Surface products like the next Surface Book.
Surface Studio 3
The Surface Studio 2 has not seen an upgrade in over two years, which makes it the most overdue Surface to receive at least internal upgrades. The 8th-gen Intel Core CPU was already outdated by the time it was released. The Surface Studio 3 was reportedly ready to ship this year but the lockdown imposed by some states affected the economy in a negative way and Microsoft could be holding the 3rd-gen Surface Studio back for a release in 2021. There have been rumors even before the Surface Studio was released about a Surface display and recent rumors about a modular Surface Studio that enables the insertion of a Compute module into the base of the display. This modular system would enable the device to then function with the other Surface devices as well as function as an all-in-one PC.