After recent leaks suggested an imminent arrival, Microsoft has officially launched the latest entry in its line of Surface PCs: the Surface Laptop 4.
The new laptop starts at $999 and will be available to purchase in the US, Canada, and Japan as of today, with shipping beginning on April 15. Microsoft says more markets will follow in the “coming weeks.” In the US, those who buy the Surface Laptop 4 through Microsoft or Best Buy before April 15 will get a pair of Surface Earbuds headphones bundled in at no extra cost.
As for the device itself, the Surface Laptop 4 is more of a refinement than a reinvention of the previous Surface Laptop 3, which launched in late 2019. That laptop’s build quality was generally well-regarded, and the design here is more or less identical to before.
There are still two models, one with a 13.5-inch touch display and one with a 15-inch touch display. Both have a pixel density of 201 pixels per inch and a taller-than-usual 3:2 aspect ratio that’s well suited for reading webpages and documents. The weight (about 2.8 lbs for the 13.5-inch model, about 3.4 lbs for the 15-inch model) and dimensions (12.1×8.8×0.57 inches for the 13.5-inch model, 13.4×9.6×0.58 inches for the 15-inch model) are unchanged.
Each SKU is made from aluminum, save for a version of the 13.5-inch model that coats the keyboard deck in Alcantara fabric. There are a variety of color options available, including a new “Ice Blue” finish. The device still has a glass trackpad and a backlit keyboard with 1.3 mm of key travel, which should remain comfortable.
In terms of connectivity, the Surface Laptop 4 doesn’t change Microsoft’s long-held aversion to Thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports, so there’s still no option for connecting an external GPU. Instead, the selection is similar to that of the Surface Laptop 3: one USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port, a USB-A port, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect port.
Similarly, the front-facing webcam remains limited to a 720p resolution. There’s still no fingerprint reader, but the front-facing camera still supports Windows Hello sign-ins through facial recognition. Dual far-field microphones remain built-in, and there’s technically support for Dolby Atmos audio now, though we wouldn’t expect especially powerful surround sound from most laptop speakers. Both the 13.5- and 15-inch models support Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.
AMD or Intel
The Surface Laptop 4’s biggest updates are internal. The Surface Laptop 3 introduced AMD chips to the Surface lineup in the form of lightly customized “Microsoft Surface Edition” versions of Ryzen 3000 series mobile processors. These were only available in the 15-inch model, however. The smaller and less expensive 13.5-inch variant only featured Intel processors, which have generally lagged behind AMD in terms of price-to-performance ratio in recent years.
With the Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft is offering AMD and Intel chips in both 13.5- and 15-inch models. The new catch is that the AMD-based models have Microsoft Surface Edition variants of last-gen Ryzen 4000 APUs based on the Zen 2 architecture, not the latest and greatest Ryzen 5000 series mobile processors.
Specifically, Microsoft says the 13.5-inch model uses a 6-core Ryzen 5 4680U with Radeon RX Graphics, while the 15-inch model uses an 8-core Ryzen 7 4980U with Radeon Graphics. The company will also sell a 13.5-inch model equipped with the latter APU, but only in commercial channels. Microsoft did not specify exactly how it has updated the chips but said its tweaks primarily focus on optimizing battery life for this form factor.
The options are a bit more up to date in the Intel-based models, which come with 11th-gen Tiger Lake mobile chips. The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 4 is available with a 4-core/8-thread Core i5-1135G7 or 4-core/8-thread Core i7-1185G7, while the 15-inch model comes equipped with the latter. All of these use Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics. (A laptop with this form factor is not designed for gaming, to be clear.) Another 13.5-inch model with a quad-core Core i5-1145G7 will be available for commercial users.
In general, Microsoft claims the chip upgrades will result in “up to 70 percent faster” performance than that of the Surface Laptop 3, with particularly improved multitasking capabilities. That will likely vary by model, though; we’ll have to put the device through its paces and compare it to competing devices before declaring how much that’s worth.
It’s worth noting that Microsoft will offer Surface Laptop 4 configurations with up to 32GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage, too, The former is twice as high as the maximum on the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3. (The SSD is now removable, but as with the Surface Pro 7+, Microsoft says that feature is more for technicians than everyday users.) Only the Intel models will reach that ceiling, however; the AMD-based models will instead top out at 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Microsoft says a 13.5-inch Ryzen 5 configuration with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD won’t be available until roughly two months after the notebook’s launch, either.
Here’s a breakdown of the available SKUs and their respective price points:
- AMD Ryzen 5 4680U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD: $999
- AMD Ryzen 5 4680U, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD: $1,199
- Intel Core i5-1135G7, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,299
- Intel Core i5-1135G7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,499
- Intel Core i7-1185G7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,699
- Intel Core i7-1185G7, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD: $2,299
- AMD Ryzen 7 4980U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD: $1,299
- AMD Ryzen 7 4980U, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,499
- AMD Ryzen 7 4980U, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,699
- Intel Core i7-1185G7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD: $1,799
- Intel Core i7-1185G7, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD: $2,399
Battery upgrades and other accessories
As noted above, the other core upgrade Microsoft is touting is improved battery life. The 13.5-inch Ryzen 5 models are advertised to reach up to 19 hours of runtime with average use, while the other SKUs are said to get between 16.5 and 17.5 hours of life. Again, it’s best to take these claims with a grain of salt until the device is out in the wild. But for reference, the company promised up to 11.5 hours of battery life with the Surface Laptop 3, so there should be at least some improvement. Otherwise, the new laptop will utilize the same 65 W power supply as before.
Aside from the Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft is also rolling out a handful of new productivity-focused accessories, including a variant of its noise-canceling Surface Headphones 2 optimized for Microsoft Teams; wireless and USB chat headsets; a small USB-C speaker aimed at conference calls; and a 1080p webcam. The headphones will be available to business and education channels today, while the other accessories will begin shipping in June.
Listing image by Microsoft