Microsoft fall Surface event set for tomorrow September 22nd at 11am ET will see the company reveal the major refresh of the Surface Pro 8 while the SQ3-powered Surface Pro X, Surface Go 3 will only see internal upgrades. Surface Duo 2 will see some welcomed improvements and the all-new Surface Book 4 will see an all-new design. The wild card devices will be an SQ3-powered Surface Laptop, Surface Neo, the long-overdue Surface Studio 3 and maybe a Surface Go X. Check out our roundup below.
Surface Pro 8
Surface Pro 8
The leak alleges Surface Pro X-style, 13-inch PixelSense display with 120Hz refresh rate, two thunderbolt ports and removeable SSDs. The Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 8 will differ externally in one major way, venting. Only one Surface Pro configuration utilizes a fan, the Intel Core i7. Both the Core i3 and i5 variants are fanless but still may need the vent to vent its heat. So, while the image is definitely a Surface Pro X most of the specs may be true. The only spec with a giant-sized question mark over it is Thunderbolt. Microsoft has cited Thunderbolt as a security risk in the past and unless that has actually changed, we don’t expect Microsoft to support it.
It is clear that Microsoft is holding Surface Pro back, but what is not clear is why. Microsoft launched the Surface brand on with Surface RT and Surface Pro, so clearly Microsoft’s aging Surface Pro has had importance over 7-8 generations. Today, the Surface Pro 7+ (the latest Surface Pro) is near indistinguishable from a Surface Pro 5. Both devices were released 3-years apart and share the same chassis design, the same thick display bezels but each generation comes with newer Intel CPUs. So why hasn’t Surface Pro gotten any love? Because of Surface Pro X and the platform it represents…Windows on Arm. When Surface Pro X launched, it had followed two-years of Windows on Arm platform development and many 3rd-party OEM devices. Surface Pro X launched with the sleekest Surface Pro design yet, powerful cameras, a beautiful display, a show stopping pen charging cradle in the keyboard and Microsoft’s first-ever self-branded Arm CPU running Windows 10 on Arm. Surface Pro 7 was unveiled before Surface Pro X at the same event and for good reason, Microsoft was going to hold Surface Pro back, so that Surface Pro X and by extension Windows on Arm could grow. So, three years down the road now, will Microsoft finally deliver the Surface Pro 8 everyone has been waiting for or let the upcoming 3rd-generation Surface Pro X lead the Surface Pro category from now on?
Surface Pro X (SQ3)
Surface Pro X is not only Microsoft’s ARM-platform flagship but it is also Microsoft’s flagship for the Windows 11 on Arm platform. Unfortunately, the second-generation Surface Pro X was not that exciting, a slightly overclocked SQ1 that was named SQ2, the addition of the Platinum finish and additional keyboard colors and no 5G connectivity was all we really got. There is a lot of hopes riding on a 3rd-generation Surface Pro X, powered by the upcoming SQ3-based Snapdragon 8cx Gen3. Now that Windows 11 on Arm includes x64 legacy app support, all the next Surface Pro X needs is more power and the upcoming SQ3 looks like it will deliver.
SQ3-powered Surface Laptop
When Apple launched their M1-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, they virtually decimated their competition with the sheer performance the M1 chips produced. Both Microsoft and Qualcomm want to go toe-to-toe with Apple’s M1 by launching a true M1 MacBook Killer. Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 8cx Gen3 might be what we needed all along. Recent benchmarks point to a big improvement for Windows on Arm but not exactly the M1 MacBook Killer we are waiting for. One thing is for sure though, the ARMs Race is heating up.
Surface Go 3
The base model Surface Go 3 featured an Intel Pentium 6500Y and a high-end model. The base model features a new fanless Intel dual-core Amber Lake Y-Series chip that runs at 1.1-3.4 GHz. The base model Surface Go 3 with the Pentium Gold 6500Y scores 62% higher than the Surface Go 2 in the single core test and 47% higher than the Surface Go 2 in a multi-core test. The high-end model features a quad-core Intel Core i3-10100Y that runs at 1.3-3.9GHz. What all this amounts to is a significant performance jump for the Surface Go 3.
Surface Duo 2
Surface Duo 2 will feature the Snapdragon 888, at least 8GB of RAM and possibly up to 12GB, more storage options, 5G and slightly small bezels within the existing chassis. It will feature a large triple camera module on its back which will improve the camera performance, but keep the device from fully closing. Below is a concept by Jonas Deahnert based on recently leaked photos.
Surface Go X
Surface Go is perhaps one of the most fun Surface devices to use, it is small, lightweight and perfect for media consumption like iPad devices are. The one thing holding it back however is its CPU. Nearly a year ago now, we heard rumors of Surface Go X being unveiled last year, but the economies of some states were suppressed by the lockdowns, so like Surface Neo Microsoft may have decided to delay its release. The performance and efficiency that comes with Arm CPUs like Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 are profound and perfect for light computing tasks where most of the time you are in the browser or watching videos on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video. Snapdragon 7c devices from OEMs like the Samsung Galaxy Book Go start at $349 for a traditional laptop, just imagine what just a tablet could cost, $329? Now that Windows 11 features x64 legacy app emulation, there is really no reason not to bring Snapdragon 7c or a custom variant to Surface Go.
Surface Studio 3
Perhaps the Surface most in need of an update is Surface Studio. Surface Studio 2 is powered by 7-generation Intel Core CPUs and Windows 11 documentation now says that Windows 11 will support it. Perhaps, Microsoft will finally release Surface Studio 3 with Intel’s latest CPUs.
After announcing Surface Neo in the fall of 2019, Microsoft postponed the device’s launch indefinitely and just this last week we got word of the Intel CPU powering Surface Neo would be discontinued. So where does that leave Surface Neo? Surface Neo will return this fall will two major differences, it will be powered by Microsoft’s upcoming SQ3 and will run Windows 11 instead of Windows 10X. Windows 11 on Arm now includes 64-bit and 32-bit legacy app support right out of the box and so now there is no reason Microsoft can’t put its most efficient CPU in Surface Neo and expand its dual screen product portfolio.
Windows 11 runs even smoother on Arm and performance gains can be seen in recent benchmarks. Microsoft invested a lot of time and money into Surface Neo, not to mention it is Panos Panay’s baby, its inception reaches back to the Courier days. With Panos Panay being the head of hardware and Windows, the device has a heavy hitter in its corner.
Surface Book 4
Neither the current Surface Laptop 4 or Surface Book 3 live up to the Pro-level performance of its competitors like Dell’s XPS series or Apple’s current Intel-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro and others.
The Surface Laptop 4 is more of a high-powered MacBook Air and the Surface Book 3 is more of a low powered Dell XPS. The design of the current Surface Book 3 currently has too many constraints that do not allow for a higher power and frankly a much hotter CPU inside of the detachable tablet that serves as the display for the device. Last year we made the case that Surface Book 4 should be completely reimagined and shortly after an Industrial Designer delivered with a concept that combined the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop into one innovative pro-level laptop design that had the internet screaming at their screens “take my money now.”
Ryan Smalley, a Designer from Seattle created the perfect re-design for Surface Book 4 last year. This is the guy that introduced the famous Surface Note concept from a few years ago, that was posted all over the web years before the Surface Duo was unveiled. Back in August, Smalley posted an update to his original Surface Book 4 design that is decidedly more Surface Laptop looking. We think the big reveal will feature it in laptop mode first and then will pop forward into studio mode.
The Surface Book 4 design favors the laptop over the detachable tablet while still enabling digital sketching. This would enable Microsoft to get a 45W Intel Core i7 processor in there for sure. The appearance is still very Surface looking, combining the base of the current Surface Laptop and the display only connected by the Surface Pro-like kickstand. Will we see this design for Surface Book 4 this fall? Many other industry journalists seem to think so.
What Surface devices are you most excited about for Microsoft’s Surface hardware event tomorrow? Let us know in the comments below.