Saturday, March 2, 2024

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5: Everything we know so far


Microsoft’s flagship Surface Laptop lineup last got a big boost at the end of the year 2021 with the most powerful Surface to date: The Surface Laptop Studio. Then, before that, there was the Surface Laptop 4 in April. Now that we’re in a new year, it’s time to look ahead to its true predecessor: The Surface Laptop 5.

The Surface Laptop 5 is one of the most anticipated laptops of 2022, but there hasn’t yet been any official talk about the said device at Microsoft. Yet, we do have a wishlist of things we hope to see, and a recap of all the rumors in one spot.

Price and release date

Surface Laptop devices usually come out in the fall, but Microsoft has had a bit of a weird release schedule. The original Surface Laptop came out in June 2017, followed by the Surface Laptop 2 in October 2018. The Surface Laptop 3 and Laptop 4, meanwhile, came in October 2019 and April 2021, respectively.

Due to the strains of the pandemic, it is much more common now to see Surface devices released in the fall. According to Windows Central’s Zac Bowden, the second half of 2022 could be a better option for a Surface Laptop 5 release.

As far as pricing goes, there are multiple options that we are expecting, mainly judging from past releases. There are a couple of versions of the Surface Laptop 5 that can come to market: AMD, Intel versions — both in.13-inch and 15-inch versions — Alcantara, and metal versions.

The AMD version of the 13-inch Surface Laptop is usually slightly cheaper than the Intel version, and Alcantara versions are cheaper than metal versions. We think this might be the case again.

Pricing on the AMD 13-inch Laptop 4 started at $900, so we expect more of the same again for a Surface Laptop 5. As for the 15-inch AMD, it could also come in around $1,300. 13-inch Intel models could come in at $1,200, with the 15-inch at a couple of hundred dollars more.

Design — slimmer bezels

Besides a switch to a metal keyboard deck option, the main design of the Surface Laptop has been unchanged since the initial version back in 2017. On the other side of things, Microsoft finally slimmed down the bezels on the Surface Pro 8 in 2021. Though there’s no indication that it’s in the works, we hope this also applies to the Surface Laptop 5.

We say that because slim-bezel laptops are becoming much more common now. The trend was set by the Dell XPS 13, meaning the bezels on the Laptop lineup are dated. Even the Surface Laptop Studio has thicker bezels compared to other laptops like Apple’s MacBook Pro. Smaller bezels and more screen real estate will be much appreciated, helping boost productivity.

We’d also be interested to see if Microsoft could come up with a new pen storage mechanism for Laptop 5. On the Laptop Studio, the Slim Pen 2 houses under the lip of the device. This would be cool to see on a regular Surface Laptop, but it might take a lot of engineering due to the charging mechanics.

Display — 120 Hz screen

Both of the Surface devices released by Microsoft at the end of 2021 featured 120 Hz displays. The Surface Laptop Studio and Surface Pro 8 benefit from the technology, making web browsing feel much more fluent.

The Surface Laptop, though, has been stuck with 60Hz panels. Considering the high-end pricing, 120Hz would make the Laptop 5 a lot more viable. 60Hz panels are just fine for basic things, but as we said when we reviewed the Surface Pro 8, Windows 11 has a lot of great animations, and a 120Hz screen would bring that all to life.

Ports — Thunderbolt 4

Another feature that we hope could trickle down to the Intel version of the Surface Laptop 5 from the rest of the Surface lineup is Thunderbolt 4 ports. These are on the Surface Pro 8 and the Surface Laptop Studio and would be a modern addition to the Surface Laptop 5 as well.

Surface Laptop devices are usually used by students who might often game or do other media-heavy tasks. Thunderbolt 4 benefits these folks because it allows for faster data transfers with USB drives, as well as support for external GPUs. Considering the fact that the Surface Laptop Studio is Microsoft’s newest laptop with a dedicated GPU, bringing external GPU support to the Surface Laptop 5 with Thunderbolt 4 could open it up to an entire level of new power.

Of course, Thunderbolt is an Intel thing, so don’t expect to find it on AMD models.

Performance — Intel 12th Gen or AMD 6000 Series

It’s been rumored by Windows Central that the Surface Laptop 5 could come with Intel’s and AMD’s latest processors. That should be a welcome change. The Surface Laptop 4 shipped with the year behind custom-tuned AMD Ryzen 4000 series processors but did come with Intel’s then-latest 11th generation processors. Now, it’s looking as though the Surface Laptop 5 could finally have better performance.

On the AMD front, the new Ryzen 6000 processors offer a lot of performance boost. The processors sport the Zen 3+ core design based on TSMC’s 6nm process. It has RDNA 2 onboard graphics, DDR5 and LPDDR5 memory, and support for Wi-Fi 6e and USB 4 technologies. These new processors sport up to a 30% increase in CPU performance and have an onboard GPU that can outperform even low-end Nvidia MX450 graphics. That’s a lot of power.

Over on the Intel side, the new 12th generation mobile processors promised enthusiast-level performance in thin and light laptops. The most interesting of the new processors are the H-series, which run at 45 watts. These are usually for gaming laptops, so it is unknown if these chips will be in the Laptop 5. The P-series chips are more likely. These run at 28 watts and combine P-cores and E-cores to boost multithreaded performance. Again, that’s a promising performance boost.

Webcams, repairability, and more

With the pandemic forcing people to depend on webcams and microphones more, we do hope that the Surface Laptop 5 comes with improved cameras and microphones. Particularly, we’re looking to see if the webcams are 1080p or FHD. The Laptop 4 had a 720p webcam, but Microsoft has shown it can bump the webcam quality on its devices. The Laptop Studio and Pro 8 both have 1080p webcams and studio microphones.

Though doubtful, it’d be interesting to see if Microsoft might want to opt for an ARM-powered chip in the Surface Laptop 5. Windows 11 made some massive gains with app emulation for devices with ARM-based chips. Microsoft’s partner, Qualcomm, also made some under-the-chip improvements with the next-gen Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 SoC. It’s more than likely that Microsoft’s next-gen ARM processor could be based on this and in the Surface Pro X instead (which is the flagship ARM-based device), but it can’t stop us from dreaming.

What about repairability? The Surface Laptop 3 introduced a replaceable SSD, and it also made its way to the Surface Laptop 4. With Microsoft showcasing how the education-first Surface Laptop SE is super repairable — and modular — we hope the Surface Laptop 5 can be more of the same. Replaceable SSD, RAM, and ease of access to critical parts like the motherboard and critical system components would be awesome — especially at a time when Dell and other companies are looking into it.

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