Microsoft tends to update their Surface lineup on an irregular schedule, not necessarily following the updated CPUs that are generally announced on a mostly annual cadence. Today Microsoft is announcing an updated Surface Laptop, dubbed the Surface Laptop 4, and brings the hardware up to date, somewhat at least. Also, with the explosion in video conferencing as a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the company is also announcing a slew of accessories to improve the Microsoft Teams experience.

Surface Laptop 4: Intel Tiger Lake and Custom AMD Processors

Microsoft’s update schedule often means their products linger in the market with specifications that are no longer current. Perhaps no product has felt that more than the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, especially the AMD version, which launched in late 2019. Based on AMD’s Picasso platform at the time, the AMD Ryzen Surface Edition processor suffered from poor battery life – an issue which AMD resolved with the launch of their Ryzen 4000 series “Renoir” processors just a few months later.

Today, Microsoft is rectifying this, but not going quite as far as you would expect for a device launching in April 2021. Once again, Microsoft will be launching both Intel and AMD powered versions of the Surface Laptop 4, and again, the AMD models will feature a custom Ryzen processor. However, despite AMD releasing their Ryzen 5000 series “Cezanne” lineup, the Surface Laptop 4 will feature the older Renoir platform. As disappointing as this is, Renoir was a very capable platform, with great performance, and great battery life. Perhaps the Surface Laptop 4 refresh was supposed to come in late 2020, but was delayed by Covid, but regardless, even with the Ryzen 4000 series powering it, the Surface Laptop 4 should be a big improvement over the Surface Laptop 3.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
  13.5-Inch 15-Inch
Processor Intel Core i5-1035G7

Intel Core i5-1145G7

Intel Core i7-1185G7

AMD Ryzen 5 4680U

AMD Ryzen 7 4980U
Intel Core i7-1185G7

AMD Ryzen 7 4980U
Memory 8GB/16GB/32GB LPDDR4X-3733MHz
Graphics Intel: Intel Iris Xe Grahics
AMD: AMD Ryzen Microsoft Surface Edition Radeon Graphics
Display 13.5" 2256x1504 3:2 PixelSense
Touch and Pen support
Individually calibrated panels
15" 2496x1664 3:2 PixelSense
Touch and Pen support
Individually calibrated panels
Storage 256 GB, 512 GB PCIe NVMe
Removable Drive
Networking Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax
Bluetooth 5.0
Audio Omnisonic Speakers
Dolby Audio 9
Battery Up to 19 hours on AMD Ryzen 5
Up to 17 hours on Intel Core i5
Up to 17.5 hours on AMD Ryzen 5
Up to 16.5 hours on Intel Core i5
Right Side Surface Connect Port
Left Side USB Type-A
USB Type-C
Headset Jack
Dimensions 308 x 223 x 14.51 mm (12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches) 339.5 x 244 x 14.69 mm (13.4 x 9.6 x 0.57 inches)
Weight Fabric: 1.26kg
Metal: 1.29kg
1.54kg
Camera Front: 720p Camera and Windows Hello support
Dual far-field Studio Mics
Extras Surface Pen and Dial (sold separately)
TPM 2.0
Pricing Starting at $999 USD Starting at $1099 USD

Perhaps disappointingly for AMD fans, customers who opt for the Intel-based Surface Laptop 4 will not have to suffer such indignities. Surface Laptop 4 will ship with the latest Intel Tiger Lake platform, which brings slightly updated CPU cores, and much more powerful Intel Xe graphics, on Intel’s 10 nm process.

Also good news is that Microsoft has drastically expanded the lineup in terms of choice, with both the 13.5-inch, and the 15-inch models both available with AMD or Intel options, whereas the AMD version was only available in the 15-inch for Surface Laptop 3, and the Intel Ice Lake was only available as the “Business” edition. For the Surface Laptop 4, there is plenty of choice.

Additional choices are now available in terms of color too, with Microsoft adding an Ice Blue option to the existing Platinum, Matte Black, and Sandstone options. One of the most unique aspects of the original Surface Laptop was the Alcantara keyboard deck, and Microsoft has kept that as an option for the 13.5-inch model in either Platinum or Ice Blue.

Microsoft is claiming up to 19 hours of battery life on the Surface Laptop 4, in 13.5-inch guise and with the AMD Ryzen processor. This is a significant upgrade over the outgoing model, and comes alongside much better performance. Memory is 8 GB to 32 GB, and storage is 256 GB to 1 TB. Microsoft used to be guilty of offering specifications that were too low for even a base model, but 8 GB / 256 GB is a reasonable low-end configuration.

Microsoft pushed back on USB Type-C, and the company still is pushing back on Thunderbolt, even on the Intel-based devices. Thunderbolt 4 brings a lot of standardization, and would have been nice to see, but sadly, the company refuses to support it. One area where they can be commended though is that they are expanding their removable SSD support to the Surface Laptop 4, allowing easier expandability in the future. The drives are, as far as we can tell, still PCIe 3.0 NVMe drives, even though the Intel Tiger Lake model would support PCIe 4.0 storage. We’ll try to get clarification on if the slot supports it or not though.

The Surface Laptop has always offered great build quality, along with the fantastic PixelSense display in the now ubiquitous Surface 3:2 aspect ratio. While there are no major changes to the chassis, the updated internals, coupled with the light weight and good display, bring the Surface Laptop back into the equation.

The Surface Laptop 4 is available for pre-order, starting at $999 for the 13.5-inch, and $1099 for the 15-inch models.

Source: Microsoft

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  • Gc - Tuesday, April 13, 2021 - link

    A year ago Microsoft revealed that it considered the direct memory access capabilities of Thunderbolt ports a security risk, such as during standby or power-on (DMA attack, Thunderspy).

    Maybe the custom AMD chips are primarily to secure a supply chain manufactured in a different factory? In the past, Microsoft has offered Trade-Agreements Act (TAA) Compliant models for people and organizations who prefer to do business with and trust allies with open free-trade economies (and democratically elected governments).

    Security concerns might also be why the custom chips come many months after the mainline chips are released. The Predictive Store Forwarding story last week might be an issue that could lead Microsoft to delay or avoid any chips with it, while they investigate the attack and its workarounds.
    Reply
  • Kishoreshack - Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - link

    How can microsoft be soo disappointing
    Every single time they have launched surface laptops with outdated processors
    Launching Zen 2 parts when the whole industry has moved onto Zen 3 is annoying
    Don't understand when will microsoft learn
    Reply
  • lazybum131 - Thursday, April 15, 2021 - link

    Lots of people upset these aren't Cezanne Zen 3, and no disagreement here. But it's curious that the 4680u and 4980u (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/surface-l... are nearly identically specced as the Lucienne Zen 2 5500u and 5700u:

    5500u - 6-core/12-thread, 2.1GHz base/4.0GHz boost, Vega 7 @ 1800MHz. So the same specs as the 4680u except we don't know the GPU clock for 4680u.

    5700u - 8-core/16-thread, 1.8GHz base/4.3GHz boost, Vega 8 @ 1900MHz. Here the 4980u has a higher base clock of 2.0Ghz and a slightly higher boost of 4.4GHz. Again the MS specs don't list the GPU clockspeed.

    The assumption is the SL4 won't have the memory and efficiency optimizations and improvements that Lucienne get, but is that actually true since these are slightly custom Surface Edition chips? I remember for SL3 either AMD or MS talked about how working together produced improvements that would be shared with other OEMs. Could 4680u and 4980u have improvements to Renoir that actually made it into Lucienne?
    Reply
  • grant3 - Saturday, April 17, 2021 - link

    These clowns must think that just because Apple makes a ton a money by removing headphone jacks, Microsoft can somehow make a ton of money by removing thunderbolt functionality.

    The form factor is beautiful, but it's time to grab a clue on usability Microsoft.
    Reply
  • Hubert Satheesh - Sunday, April 18, 2021 - link

    In the world MS inhabits, time seems to flow backward. So after Zen3, comes Zen 2!! Why can't MS offer the latest and the greatest to its customer? The offering of ports is also meagre. Perhaps the Surface team will realize its folly just like its mobile team, after everyone has left for the apples land. Reply
  • isthisavailable - Sunday, April 18, 2021 - link

    Microsoft did it again! Are they serious? Is it always going to be like this with MS using 1 gen older processors? No USB 4 either.
    Also, what is the actual battery capacity instead of "upto bs hours". Are they still using that weird small form factor SSD?
    Reply

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