TL;DR: Microsoft's latest Surface Laptop refresh doesn't bring anything new in terms of design, connectivity, but that's probably not going to bother people looking for a simple Windows laptop. Internals have been upgraded with Ryzen Pro 4000 series and Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake-U mobile processors, which offer better performance and battery life.
Microsoft today announced the Surface Laptop 4, continuing the tradition of incremental improvements in what is the company's basic Windows laptop with a touchscreen. Design-wise, there are no noticeable differences when compared to the Surface Laptop 3 which launched more than a year ago, as both the 13.5-inch and 15-inch models look virtually identical to their predecessors.
With the Surface Laptop 3, the company introduced an AMD Ryzen-powered option for the 15-inch variant, and now you can also have that with the 13.5-inch model. However, these are not powered by AMD's latest Zen 3 mobile CPUs, instead you'll be getting a Ryzen 5 4680U with the 13.5-inch model and a Ryzen 7 4980U with the 15-inch variant.
Going the AMD route will be between $100 and $300 cheaper, but if you're more of an Intel fan, you also get a bit more choice for the processor in the 13.5-inch version. Not only that, but Microsoft is only offering 32 GB of RAM and 1TB of PCIe SSD storage in models equipped with an Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake-U CPU. The 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 4 can be equipped with either a Core i5-1135G7 or a Core i7-1085G7, while the 15-inch version comes with a Core i7-1185G7 CPU.
Microsoft says the processor upgrades offer up to 70 percent more performance compared to the Surface Laptop 3. And while the Xe-LP iGPU in the Intel-powered variants is by no means capable of running games like Cyberpunk 2077, it shouldn't have a problem running other titles like Overwatch, Valorant, and Dota 2 at 1080p with a locked 60 frames per second using medium to high details.
Battery life for the AMD models is rated at up to 17.5 hours on the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 and up to 19 hours for the 13.5-inch model. The Intel-powered variants are rated for up to 16.5 hours and 17 hours, respectively. One could only wonder what the battery life would be like with a custom Arm-based chip, which Microsoft is said to be cooking up in its research labs. Thankfully, we have Apple's M1 SoC for that.
Elsewhere, the Surface Laptop 4 sports the same 3:2 PixelSense touchscreen display, the same 720p webcam with support for Windows Hello authentication, one USB-C port, one USB-A port, a headphone jack, and the proprietary Microsoft Surface Connect port for charging and the much-needed Surface Dock. There's no support for Thunderbolt, which means eGPUs are still out of the question. At least the M.2 SSD is replaceable, something that's becoming exceedingly rare in laptops.
If you're looking to buy a Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft will start shipping them on April 15 in the US, Canada, and Japan, with the list of countries set to grow in the coming weeks. For those of you in the US that order through Microsoft's online store or through Best Buy before April 15, you'll also get a free pair of Surface Earbuds.
Pricing starts at $999 for the 13.5-inch base model, which is powered by a Ryzen 5 4860U, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. The 15-inch variant starts at $1,299 for a Ryzen 7 4980U with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. Both can be configured with up to 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage, but expect to pay $1,699 for the privilege.
The Intel-based 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 4 starts at $1,199 if configured with the Core i5-1135G7, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage. The 15-inch variant starts at $1,499 and is equipped with the more powerful Core i7-1185G7. Both can be upgraded to 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage, which will set you back $2,299 and $2,399, respectively.