Microsoft Launch Surface Laptop 4 (2021). What’s New?
A focus on new processors this generation
Microsoft just quietly announced the Surface Laptop 4 joined by a modern update to their peripherals. This year’s an iterative update, seeing little to no change to the hardware, which may be disappointing to some, but bolsters performance by up to 70% faster over the Surface Laptop 3 – claimed by Microsoft. The big difference? Well, considering it’s nearly 2 years that’s not unusual to see, but more notably, it’s the new Intel and more prominent AMD processors we’re seeing this year. Thankfully, Microsoft doubled-down and brought AMD’s Ryzen CPUs to their smaller 13.5″ model, along with a new ice blue colour that replaces the cobalt blue.
It’s more of the same in the fourth generation of Surface Laptops with nothing distinguishable having changed on the hardware front. It retains that thin and light moniker with clean lines, an aluminium chassis and both 13.5″ and 15″ sizes, with a choice of alcantara for the inner material if you pick up the ice blue, or platinum. We get the same pixelsense display with a 201 pixel per inch, 3:2 aspect ratio signature of Surface computing devices, less than 15mm thinness and weighs less than 1.2kg for the 13.5″ (slightly lighter for the alcantara model) and just over 1.5kg for the 15″ version.
The 13.5″ model starts at $999 / £999 and the 15″ from $1299 / £1299. You can outfit the Surface Laptop 4 with a maximum 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD only with an Intel Core i7 (no AMD Ryzen 9 here) and that Iris XE integrated graphics that packs a punch. For this combo, it’ll set you back $2299 and $2399 for the respective sizes. Featuring Omnisonic tuned speakers, the same glass precision trackpad, staged backlight keys with a familiar feel across Surface devices, all in a thin chassis less than 15mm thick. Finally, we see a more fitting performance to go with that thin and light design.
AMD Ryzen & Intel 11th Gen
The biggest change in the Surface Laptop 4 is that they are packing the 1tth generation processors from Intel and a custom-designed iteration of AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series. The chip delays of AMD’s in-demand Ryzen 5000 chips mean Microsoft deemed the extra performance efficiency on the 4680U and 4980U were fit for this generation and an upgrade on the base variants from AMD.
These processors are claimed to offer up t0 70% more performance than it’s predecessor, the Surface Laptop 3, which iss a big claim by Microsoft, although considering the machine is nearly 2 years old, isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem. We also see big gains on the graphical department as Intel kits these ultra-low voltage mobile processors with Iris XE integrated graphics, and AMD Radeon.
There’s no dedicated graphics card here which is expected considering the slim chassis and focus on thinness, so the Iris XE and AMD Radeon will be very welcome to do more graphically-weighted activities like video editing or rendering, although don’t expect too much from these. The Iris XE outfitted with the Core i7 in the higher models outpaces the AMD Radeon so you do get more overall performance, and is your sole option since no Ryzen 9 configuration is present. Remember, these are still integrated graphics nonetheless.
The smaller chip die size of AMD’s Ryzen at 7nm vs the 10nm in Intel means better battery efficiency in the AMD machines, with Microsoft quoting up to 19 hours on the AMD machines using the Ryzen 5, 17.5 hours on the Ryzen 7, while Intel offers up to 17 hours with the Core i5 and 16.5 hours on the Core i7.
Colours and Alcantara
There are a total of 4 colours you can pick up the Surface Laptop 4 in – sandstone, matte black, platinum and the new ice blue. The colours are now more consistent and portray a balanced colour palette across the range, offering a little more personality and expressions while clearly showing greater focus on it’s hardware appeal.
The colours are also limited by SKU, so while you’ll find the more colourful sandstone and ice blue in the Ryzen 5 and Core i5 outfits, you’ll only find the Core i7 and Ryzen 7 in Matte Black or Platinum.
The ice blue replaces cobalt blue on previous Surface devices and type covers, as seen on the Surface Pro, Surface Go and Surface Laptop first and 2nd generation. The ice blue is a lighter, welcoming hue that isn’t as aggressive and aligns to the colour on the Surface Go 2 and Surface Laptop Go.
While Microsoft position the alcantara as a more luxurious material, it doesn’t hold up over time as palm sweat and general use will discolour and fade. I’m coming from experience using the cobalt blue type cover on my Surface Go, so if you’re not a fan of oils affecting the pure alcantara, the aluminium is the better choice, but you’ll have to do without the ice blue. Personally, the aluminium is dope so they just need to offer the Ice Blue in aluminium. Fire.
There’s no thunderbolt port still four generations in and is likely we won’t see it going forward unless Microsoft has a change of heart. If we do, it may premiere in the more powerful Surface Book but time will tell. There’s 1 x USB-A port, 1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) which can also be used to charge the Surface Laptop 4 besides the connect port. Microsoft claim you can get 80% of charge in 1 hour which is pretty good. 3.5mm headphone jack is on the left while you’ll find the connect port on the right. There’s WIFI 6, instant power on, windows hello and Bluetooth 5.0.
It’s available now in US and Canada, with wider markets and regions in Europe and Asia becoming available over the coming weeks. What are your thoughts on the Surface Laptop 4? Sound off in the comments below.
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