Editorial

Microsoft really needs to refresh the entire Surface lineup

For many consumers, Microsoft's Surface brand of hardware represents the best that Windows has to offer. The problem is that this has rarely been the case, and it leaves many consumers spending a lot of money on something that isn't up to snuff.

If you ask me, it all started with Apple. This is speculation, but it seems to me that from iPhones and Macs, people got the idea that first-party hardware is just always better. After all, if the software and the hardware is designed by the same company, it must be the best overall experience, right?

I hear the same thing about Google's Pixel phones. They have a stock Android experience, so it's "Android the way that Google intended it".

Except Windows is completely different than Android, in the sense that almost every Android handset manufacturer puts a skin on the OS, and very few offer a stock experience. Most premium Windows 10 PCs these days are Signature PCs, meaning that they offer minimal bloatware.

It's true sometimes...

Microsoft's Surface lineup is meant to explore new ideas and form factors for PCs, which can later be imitated by third-party manufacturers. When the original Surface Pro was introduced, it offered something that other PCs didn't, an Intel Core i5-based tablet that could also be used as a laptop.

The Surface Book then offered the opposite of that. Rather than a tablet that could be used as a laptop, it was more of a laptop that could also be used as a tablet.

And then we have the Surface Studio, which is an all-in-one desktop PC that can be adjusted to other form factors. Unlike the Pro, the Book and Studio really haven't been imitated across the board, so if you have a real need for these new form factors, then these PCs might be for you.

But an actual need for this kind of stuff is pretty rare. Other than the form factor itself, you're really not getting what you're paying for.

The processors are dated

All that you have to do to see that the entire Surface lineup needs refreshing is look at the hardware that they offer, and then look at the hardware that's offered from third parties. For example, you won't find any premium PCs from third-party OEMs that don't have eighth-generation Intel processors.

What's important to remember though is that there's a pretty significant jump between Intel's 7th-gen and 8th-gen chips. For years, the company focused on efficiency in new processors, so when the new Surface Pro had 7th-gen chips compared to the Pro 4's 6th-gen processors, it wasn't that big of a deal. But where previous generation U-series processors were dual-core, the latest generation is quad-core, so there's a serious bump in performance.

In the case of the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, we can give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. There's no doubt that these PCs need a refresh, of course, but while some 8th-gen U-series processors came out last fall, the ones that those devices use weren't announced until earlier this month.

You see, the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are among few premium portable PCs that use Intel Iris Plus graphics, at least in the Core i7 models. The previously announced chips only had UHD Graphics 620. This doesn't change the fact that Microsoft is selling portable PCs with dual-core processors at a premium while their competitors are offering quad-core options.

The Surface Studio is in much worse shape though, with its sixth-generation HQ-series processors. Not only is the chip two generations old, but it's made for laptops. Indeed, the HQ-series is what you'll find in gaming laptops and mobile workstations, so they're powerful, for mobile chips.

Intel's new H-series processors are hexa-core, where the sixth-generation 'Skylake' ones were quad-core, and there's even overclockable Core i9 options now. You can actually buy a laptop right now that's more powerful than the Surface Studio, a desktop PC.

But why even use an H-series processor again? The new Intel desktop processors are even more powerful than that, and they're also hexa-core.

The Surface Studio also has an old, mobile GPU. GPU options in the Studio are an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M or a GTX 980M, which offer 2GB and 4GB GDDR5, respectively. Surely, if you spend $4,199 (the price of the top-end Surface Studio), you'd think you'd get at least an Nvidia GTX 10xx GPU.

And that's the whole point. While the Surface Pro and Laptop start at $799, the top-end models of each cost $2,699. The Surface Studio starts at $2,999.

I don't want to get too deep into the Surface Hub, since it's aimed at a different market, but even that includes fourth-generation 'Haswell' processors and starts at the price of a couple of Surface Studios.

Let's not forget about Thunderbolt 3

You've heard about Thunderbolt 3, right? No? Well, I'm glad you asked then. Thunderbolt 3 comes in the form of USB Type-C, but where a regular USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port can handle data transfer speeds of 5Gbps and 3.1 Gen 2 can handle 10Gbps, Thunderbolt 3 can transfer data at 40Gbps. Not only that, but you can use it for powering your device, and you can connect up to two 4K monitors to a single port.

So where can you find a PC with this magical port? Look at you, asking the good questions. Thunderbolt 3 is available on pretty much any premium PC on the market, except anything called Surface. In fact, the first and only Surface device to include USB Type-C at all is the Surface Book 2, and even that's just USB 3.1 Gen 1.

Microsoft has avoided USB Type-C in general for a long time. One of the problems is that not all cables and chargers are equal, and using the wrong one might fry your PC. Of course, this is something that every other OEM has worked out already.

Another issue is that Microsoft tried a standard charging method once before, with the Surface 3. That PC used micro-USB for charging, and people ended up trying to use their phone charger, complaining that it took to long to charge.

And finally, Microsoft has built a range of accessories, such as its Surface Dock, around the proprietary Surface Connect port. Surface Connect is also based on USB 3.1 Gen 1, so it's capped at 5Gbps, meaning that if Microsoft ever wants to build a Surface Connect Dock with Thunderbolt 3, it simply can't.

While Microsoft has cited this third reason as one of the main reasons it hasn't been able to move to Thunderbolt 3, it's just not true. Many OEMs have went the route of including Thunderbolt 3 and their old proprietary charging system, so the user had the choice of the new standard, or charging via old legacy cables that they had lying around.

The only PC that would actually require some real engineering work to add Thunderbolt 3 is the Surface Book lineup. With Surface Book, all of the ports for the PC are in the base, but the CPU, storage, and RAM are all in the display. Since the base is connected to the display via Surface Connect, it can't handle the data transfer that would come in through the Thunderbolt 3 port.

Conclusion

The entire point here is that Microsoft is charging premium prices for PCs that really aren't premium. The Surface Book 2 is the only one in the lineup with the latest chips, and none of them have Thunderbolt 3.

Some might say that they don't need the power of a quad-core processor, or that they don't need Thunderbolt 3, but would you really want to pay thousands of dollars on a PC that doesn't have the latest hardware? After all, every single one of Microsoft's competitors/partners is using all of this stuff already, and doing some really cool things.

Ultimately, what you're really paying for in the high price of a Surface is the form factor. As mentioned earlier, the form factors of the Surface Book and Surface Studio haven't been widely imitated by OEMs yet, although Dell did just announce some convertible all-in-ones recently.

But there are tons of competitors for the Surface Pro. The tablet that can be used as a laptop has become very popular across the board from virtually every OEM that exists. And of course, the Surface Laptop is just a laptop, so you can get one of those anywhere. In other words, despite their premium price, the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop are offering nothing that its competitors aren't, and they're actually offering less.

Microsoft needs to refresh the entire lineup sooner rather than later, even though the Pro and Laptop were only launched last June. The Surface Book would logically be the last one to be refreshed, since it already contains a modern Intel chip, and it needs more engineering to add Thunderbolt 3.

Hopefully, Microsoft will introduce a Surface Studio with a real desktop processor this year, and we'll get refreshed models of the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop with eighth-gen processors and Thunderbolt 3. There's just no reason for it to be this way.

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"Dated processors..."

Yeah... Microsoft was the very first OEM out of the gate on Skylake with the SP4 / SB, and look how that worked out.

There is a reason that Apple doesn't refresh it's Mac products reflexively on an annual basis, and that it sometimes waits a considerable time before adopting the newer generation of Intel processors. Delivering a "premium experience" is not always about having the latest/greatest/fastest; it's about reliability, smoothness, and excellence.

Microsoft still has a ways to go to match Apple, IMO, but calling them out for taking a conservative approach to adopting the latest from Intel is probably not the answer.

"Dated processors..."

Yeah... Microsoft was the very first OEM out of the gate on Skylake with the SP4 / SB, and look how that worked out.

There is a reason that Apple doesn't refresh it's Mac products reflexively on an annual basis, and that it sometimes waits a considerable time before adopting the newer generation of Intel processors. Delivering a "premium experience" is not always about having the latest/greatest/fastest; it's about reliability, smoothness, and excellence.

Microsoft still has a ways to go to match Apple, IMO, but calling them out for taking a conservative approach to adopting the latest from Intel is probably not the answer.

I can agree with that sentiment.

Components not holding up is what has me skeptical about buying more in the future for our company. If reviews prove better, I'll take a look at them again.

"Dated processors..."

Yeah... Microsoft was the very first OEM out of the gate on Skylake with the SP4 / SB, and look how that worked out.

There is a reason that Apple doesn't refresh it's Mac products reflexively on an annual basis, and that it sometimes waits a considerable time before adopting the newer generation of Intel processors. Delivering a "premium experience" is not always about having the latest/greatest/fastest; it's about reliability, smoothness, and excellence.

Microsoft still has a ways to go to match Apple, IMO, but calling them out for taking a conservative approach to adopting the latest from Intel is probably not the answer.

Yes, Microsoft was one of the first out of the gate with Skylake. To be first with Kaby Lake R, they'd have had to refresh these last August. The article wasn't about being first at all. It's about being last, and how there's no reason at all to buy a Surface when every other OEM is offering something better.

With how close MS work with Intel, I'm sure they had knowledge of the new line of chips that were just announced not too long ago that would fit perfectly into the Surface Line.

What would be better than a i9 desktop chip for the Surface Studio and the new i9 mobile chip for the Laptop/Book 3? Either way we'll probably get some refreshes this year, but regardless of what hardware they go with, they'll always charge more than the OEMs, that's a part of the business plan/model.

With how close MS work with Intel, I'm sure they had knowledge of the new line of chips that were just announced not too long ago that would fit perfectly into the Surface Line.

What would be better than a i9 desktop chip for the Surface Studio and the new i9 mobile chip for the Laptop/Book 3? Either way we'll probably get some refreshes this year, but regardless of what hardware they go with, they'll always charge more than the OEMs, that's a part of the business plan/model.

I wouldn't mind seeing the new hexa-core H-series chips in Book 3. I think they're better off sticking with U-series in the Laptop though. It's an ultrabook, and it's not meant to be the powerhouse that Book is meant to be.

I'm confident that Microsoft will get the hardware upgrade right. Yes, more power, thinner devices, more pixels, more memory, newest ports... That's all part of the standard " as time goes on" story. But frankly, I'm still fine with my SP4's hardware. What bothers me more about my device are the following things:

- It is a device that gets every now and then stuck in sleep mode.

- It has a 'tablet UI' on which one still can't efficiently handle many important tasks without an attached keyboard. I frequently experience that either the touch keyboard doesn't reliably pop up or it covers important parts of the UI, the touch keyboard pops up when it shouldn't or stuff cannot (easily) be done with touch input (e.g., all the legacy win settings).

To sum up: Sure, Microsoft has to update the hardware specifications for the next generation of Surface devices. But there is a much bigger backlog regarding firmware/driver/OS and UI experience.

- It has a 'tablet UI' on which one still can't efficiently handle many important tasks without an attached keyboard. I frequently experience that either the touch keyboard doesn't reliably pop up or it covers important parts of the UI, the touch keyboard pops up when it shouldn't or stuff cannot (easily) be done with touch input (e.g., all the legacy win settings).

This x100. This is the only reason I have my typecover in 100% of the time. There are too many apps where the keyboard covers the typing space and you can't see if what you're typing is coming out correctly (discord specifically).

Well, Rich, should we be surprised? I am not. With Microsoft's track record, I would never pay what they're charging for their "premium brand." You never know when it will get the axe. It's not a gambling game I want to play.

Well, Rich, should we be surprised? I am not. With Microsoft's track record, I would never pay what they're charging for their "premium brand." You never know when it will get the axe. It's not a gambling game I want to play.

At least the Surface Pro lineup has received lots of care.

Retrench the Surface division.
Microsoft doesn't need to "compete with OEMs"

Heck, there doesn't need to be three OEMs.

Cloud First, Mobile First!

Meh. While I think that the next Surface releases must have at least one Thunderbolt 3 connector, I do not think that Microsoft needs to rush to release their next wave of machines. The Surface Laptop is just now getting to the point that it needs a refresh (it's not even a year old), and Intel only just announced the next wave of CPUs (granted, OEMs are certainly aware earlier). The Surface Book 2 was released last Winter and it's a heavy powerhouse (although it would benefit from 6 core processors, as could the Surface Studio, which is due for an update).

One thing that I think that this article missed is that the Surface Connector excuse is particularly lame because Microsoft has already changed the connector once: the original Surface Pro had a slightly different proprietary connector, which they replaced with the Surface Pro 3 (and later) device's connector (the new one is much better; https://www.windowscentral.com...and-improved-ac-connector). The Surface 3 (not the Pro) had a Mini-USB connector. And the Surface Book has two Surface Connectors inputs: one where the keyboard connects to the screen (when using in tablet format) and one in the traditional spot. They could simply provide an adapter or dongle for the Surface Connector to Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt has higher throughput in every way than the Surface Connector, so it would work minus the fact that I expect it to be a goofy looking dongle.

Microsoft should drop the proprietary port and constantly try to stay under the power requirements of the competitive MacBook Pro so that Surface users can borrow MBP power bricks and third party chargers (like those built for MacBook Pro docks) will inherently work. They should also add more than one Thunderbolt port to the Surface Pro, and at least one to the tablet portion of the Surface Book. I would go as far as dropping the full-sized USB slots like Apple did. It will be dongle city for a little while, but Microsoft could partner with Monoprice to get people cheap dongles unlike Apple (even though Monoprice dongles do work for Apple, most people seem to buy the Apple ones due to not knowing about others or needing them right away).

And, for the record, I own a Surface Connector-based dock. And I still want to see the port disappear. Proprietary ports have no place in modern computing.

Meh. While I think that the next Surface releases must have at least one Thunderbolt 3 connector, I do not think that Microsoft needs to rush to release their next wave of machines. The Surface Laptop is just now getting to the point that it needs a refresh (it's not even a year old), and Intel only just announced the next wave of CPUs (granted, OEMs are certainly aware earlier). The Surface Book 2 was released last Winter and it's a heavy powerhouse (although it would benefit from 6 core processors, as could the Surface Studio, which is due for an update).

One thing that I think that this article missed is that the Surface Connector excuse is particularly lame because Microsoft has already changed the connector once: the original Surface Pro had a slightly different proprietary connector, which they replaced with the Surface Pro 3 (and later) device's connector (the new one is much better; https://www.windowscentral.com...nd-improved-ac-connector)." rel="external nofollow">https://www.windowscentral.com...and-improved-ac-connector). The Surface 3 (not the Pro) had a Mini-USB connector. And the Surface Book has two Surface Connectors inputs: one where the keyboard connects to the screen (when using in tablet format) and one in the traditional spot. They could simply provide an adapter or dongle for the Surface Connector to Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt has higher throughput in every way than the Surface Connector, so it would work minus the fact that I expect it to be a goofy looking dongle.

Microsoft should drop the proprietary port and constantly try to stay under the power requirements of the competitive MacBook Pro so that Surface users can borrow MBP power bricks and third party chargers (like those built for MacBook Pro docks) will inherently work. They should also add more than one Thunderbolt port to the Surface Pro, and at least one to the tablet portion of the Surface Book. I would go as far as dropping the full-sized USB slots like Apple did. It will be dongle city for a little while, but Microsoft could partner with Monoprice to get people cheap dongles unlike Apple (even though Monoprice dongles do work for Apple, most people seem to buy the Apple ones due to not knowing about others or needing them right away).

And, for the record, I own a Surface Connector-based dock. And I still want to see the port disappear. Proprietary ports have no place in modern computing.

I think eventually they should kill Surface Connect. It's not one or the other though. HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more all used solutions for a time where they included the legacy port and Thunderbolt 3. That way, you could use the new technology, or any legacy peripherals/chargers that you had lying around. It would seem that this year is all about killing off those legacy charging ports though.

Meh. While I think that the next Surface releases must have at least one Thunderbolt 3 connector, I do not think that Microsoft needs to rush to release their next wave of machines. The Surface Laptop is just now getting to the point that it needs a refresh (it's not even a year old), and Intel only just announced the next wave of CPUs (granted, OEMs are certainly aware earlier). The Surface Book 2 was released last Winter and it's a heavy powerhouse (although it would benefit from 6 core processors, as could the Surface Studio, which is due for an update).

One thing that I think that this article missed is that the Surface Connector excuse is particularly lame because Microsoft has already changed the connector once: the original Surface Pro had a slightly different proprietary connector, which they replaced with the Surface Pro 3 (and later) device's connector (the new one is much better; https://www.windowscentral.com...nd-improved-ac-connector)." rel="external nofollow">https://www.windowscentral.com...and-improved-ac-connector). The Surface 3 (not the Pro) had a Mini-USB connector. And the Surface Book has two Surface Connectors inputs: one where the keyboard connects to the screen (when using in tablet format) and one in the traditional spot. They could simply provide an adapter or dongle for the Surface Connector to Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt has higher throughput in every way than the Surface Connector, so it would work minus the fact that I expect it to be a goofy looking dongle.

Microsoft should drop the proprietary port and constantly try to stay under the power requirements of the competitive MacBook Pro so that Surface users can borrow MBP power bricks and third party chargers (like those built for MacBook Pro docks) will inherently work. They should also add more than one Thunderbolt port to the Surface Pro, and at least one to the tablet portion of the Surface Book. I would go as far as dropping the full-sized USB slots like Apple did. It will be dongle city for a little while, but Microsoft could partner with Monoprice to get people cheap dongles unlike Apple (even though Monoprice dongles do work for Apple, most people seem to buy the Apple ones due to not knowing about others or needing them right away).

And, for the record, I own a Surface Connector-based dock. And I still want to see the port disappear. Proprietary ports have no place in modern computing.

I think eventually they should kill Surface Connect. It's not one or the other though. HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more all used solutions for a time where they included the legacy port and Thunderbolt 3. That way, you could use the new technology, or any legacy peripherals/chargers that you had lying around. It would seem that this year is all about killing off those legacy charging ports though.

I have not owned my own MacBook Pro for years, but even the ones that my work gets are replacements for the older models. I never hang onto the old model (even when they're personal laptops) because I either sell it or give it to a family member / friend.

I did have an old MacBook Pro dock for work, which a change to the MacBook Pro design made defunct and work was not too worried about it. They got the tax depreciation out of it, which is all that matters to business.

All of that said, I certainly wouldn't see it as a negative if they managed to support the Surface Connect for an extra generation as they transitioned to Thunderbolt, but I also wouldn't care if they skipped that step.

Microsoft has done their Surface produce line announcements in the June and October timeframe. Seeing that it's mid-April it's likely we'll see refreshes in one of those months.

I lost all my faith in this line of products. Used to love my Surface Pro 2, 3 and 4. But once my Pro 4 got the dreaded flicker issue, and Microsoft's response being I have to pay 450 USD if I want to get it replaced, when it is clearly a hardware problem since 1000s of users are having the same issue, (most of them heavy users like myself), Microsoft is never getting another cent from me on their hardware. That Surface Pro 4 and my Xbox One X are certainly the last Microsoft hardware I'll ever own.

I lost all my faith in this line of products. Used to love my Surface Pro 2, 3 and 4. But once my Pro 4 got the dreaded flicker issue, and Microsoft's response being I have to pay 450 USD if I want to get it replaced, when it is clearly a hardware problem since 1000s of users are having the same issue, (most of them heavy users like myself), Microsoft is never getting another cent from me on their hardware. That Surface Pro 4 and my Xbox One X are certainly the last Microsoft hardware I'll ever own.

Don't you like your Xbox One X? £440 for that power? It's really excellent that one, isn't it?

I lost all my faith in this line of products. Used to love my Surface Pro 2, 3 and 4. But once my Pro 4 got the dreaded flicker issue, and Microsoft's response being I have to pay 450 USD if I want to get it replaced, when it is clearly a hardware problem since 1000s of users are having the same issue, (most of them heavy users like myself), Microsoft is never getting another cent from me on their hardware. That Surface Pro 4 and my Xbox One X are certainly the last Microsoft hardware I'll ever own.

Don't you like your Xbox One X? £440 for that power? It's really excellent that one, isn't it?

Yeah I do like it, but unfortunately I don't trust the brand anymore after what's happened with my Surface Pro 4 and the responses I have gotten from Microsoft team. I know that if something happens to my Xbox One X, even if it is widespread and all signs point to a hardware flaw, it will remain ignored just as they are doing with this Surface Pro 4 issue.

Also never had an issue with my Surface Pro 2 or Surface Pro 3 or original Xbox One for that matter, but it takes on really bad experience to permanently taint a brand.

I lost all my faith in this line of products. Used to love my Surface Pro 2, 3 and 4. But once my Pro 4 got the dreaded flicker issue, and Microsoft's response being I have to pay 450 USD if I want to get it replaced, when it is clearly a hardware problem since 1000s of users are having the same issue, (most of them heavy users like myself), Microsoft is never getting another cent from me on their hardware. That Surface Pro 4 and my Xbox One X are certainly the last Microsoft hardware I'll ever own.

Yep, same issue here

The only thing I would like to see is more options in the Surface Pro lineup. The 12" model is too small for me, I would love the 15" model but don't want a Surface book. I currently carry a 15" 2016 Macbook Pro with me to work, along with a pile of dongles and a small mechanical keyboard because the built-in one is such a bag of ######. I would love to just carry a 15" tablet PC with a good kickstand as the laptop portion is entirely useless for me.

The only thing I would like to see is more options in the Surface Pro lineup. The 12" model is too small for me, I would love the 15" model but don't want a Surface book. I currently carry a 15" 2016 Macbook Pro with me to work, along with a pile of dongles and a small mechanical keyboard because the built-in one is such a bag of ######. I would love to just carry a 15" tablet PC with a good kickstand as the laptop portion is entirely useless for me.

Agreed, that would be awesome

I agree so much with this article. I'm looking for a new laptop and am willing to spend whatever it takes to get a device that meets my needs. HP and Dell have more exciting devices right now than Surface. And I really wanted a Surface. But lacking processors and updated ports makes me reconsider. It's not just a price point issue; it's a feature/hardware availability issue.

I guess Microsoft deliberately decided not to include Thunderbolt 3 without providing a valid reason in the entire surface lineup that cost up to $3000 and it's a huge disappointment that deemed unacceptable for a company that design the hardware and software for a considerable amount of time! Since Microsoft is making a surface studio so why not make an effort by creating additional accessories like the surface monitor? It's the sole reason why you are unlikely to get a better product due to the laziness of employee in charge of product development at Microsoft.

I guess Microsoft deliberately decided not to include Thunderbolt 3 without providing a valid reason in the entire surface lineup that cost up to $3000 and it's a huge disappointment that deemed unacceptable for a company that design the hardware and software for a considerable amount of time! Since Microsoft is making a surface studio so why not make an effort by creating additional accessories like the surface monitor? It's the sole reason why you are unlikely to get a better product due to the laziness of employee in charge of product development at Microsoft.

Thunderbolt was not always built into the Intel CPU (it used to require an additional controller to be added to the motherboard), thus it would require an additional chip. Prior to Thunderbolt 3, I had personally asked the head of MS Hardware why there was no Thunderbolt support and his answer was that it required extra hardware, but they were already at the physical space limits of their design.

Also, prior to Intel opening the ability for AMD and ARM to include Thunderbolt into their respective chips (non-exclusive and royalty-free license), tethering themselves to Intel was probably seen as a business mistake. As the Surface Book 2 is the only Surface device released since Intel's announcement, and it was absolutely finished or in the final stages of hardware design, there has been no real opportunity for Microsoft to explore a future where Thunderbolt is no longer Intel-only.

We shall see with whatever Surface device gets the next update.

I guess Microsoft deliberately decided not to include Thunderbolt 3 without providing a valid reason in the entire surface lineup that cost up to $3000 and it's a huge disappointment that deemed unacceptable for a company that design the hardware and software for a considerable amount of time! Since Microsoft is making a surface studio so why not make an effort by creating additional accessories like the surface monitor? It's the sole reason why you are unlikely to get a better product due to the laziness of employee in charge of product development at Microsoft.

Thunderbolt was not always built into the Intel CPU (it used to require an additional controller to be added to the motherboard), thus it would require an additional chip. Prior to Thunderbolt 3, I had personally asked the head of MS Hardware why there was no Thunderbolt support and his answer was that it required extra hardware, but they were already at the physical space limits of their design.

Also, prior to Intel opening the ability for AMD and ARM to include Thunderbolt into their respective chips (non-exclusive and royalty-free license), tethering themselves to Intel was probably seen as a business mistake. As the Surface Book 2 is the only Surface device released since Intel's announcement, and it was absolutely finished or in the final stages of hardware design, there has been no real opportunity for Microsoft to explore a future where Thunderbolt is no longer Intel-only.

We shall see with whatever Surface device gets the next update.

You may be interested in this relevant article: https://www.extremetech.com/co...itions-boost-adoption-sales .

Microsoft does not really want to be in hardware.
They just want to showcase how they would like Windows hardware to be.

So they do something that - at the first glance - is very good
and at closer inspection lacks certain things and features.
That's by design.

Microsoft also choses to make their hardware expensive.
That way they give a lot of room for margin for the industry.
They want to be out-competed - by other companies making Windows hardware.

Microsoft does not want their Surface stuff to be the can-get-any-better hardware
- that would discourage the regular PC industry and paint it in a corner.

So like so many others things with Microsoft - their hardware efforts are half-hearted.
They are not fully comitted.

-

Microsoft does not really want to be in hardware.
They just want to showcase how they would like Windows hardware to be.

So they do something that - at the first glance - is very good
and at closer inspection lacks certain things and features.
That's by design.

Microsoft also choses to make their hardware expensive.
That way they give a lot of room for margin for the industry.
They want to be out-competed - by other companies making Windows hardware.

Microsoft does not want their Surface stuff to be the can-get-any-better hardware
- that would discourage the regular PC industry and paint it in a corner.

So like so many others things with Microsoft - their hardware efforts are half-hearted.
They are not fully comitted.

-

If Microsoft isn't trying to be competitive, then it should kill off Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, because those form factors are well covered by the rest of the industry.

Microsoft does not really want to be in hardware.
They just want to showcase how they would like Windows hardware to be.

So they do something that - at the first glance - is very good
and at closer inspection lacks certain things and features.
That's by design.

Microsoft also choses to make their hardware expensive.
That way they give a lot of room for margin for the industry.
They want to be out-competed - by other companies making Windows hardware.

Microsoft does not want their Surface stuff to be the can-get-any-better hardware
- that would discourage the regular PC industry and paint it in a corner.

So like so many others things with Microsoft - their hardware efforts are half-hearted.
They are not fully comitted.

-

While they don't want to be deep into hardware, MS has always done hardware. The Surface Laptop was done because people wanted such a device. Pricing is exactly as you say, they're not trying to compete with the OEMs head on, they're more competing with Apple which is why, just like Apple, they offer you stuff for high prices that isn't updated often.

While I agree that the Surface is done to give OEMs a good idea of what they should do, but at the same time MS likes to make money, and since the successful release of the Pro 3, the Surface has been profitable. Why stop making devices that make you money?

Microsoft does not really want to be in hardware.
They just want to showcase how they would like Windows hardware to be.

So they do something that - at the first glance - is very good
and at closer inspection lacks certain things and features.
That's by design.

Microsoft also choses to make their hardware expensive.
That way they give a lot of room for margin for the industry.
They want to be out-competed - by other companies making Windows hardware.

Microsoft does not want their Surface stuff to be the can-get-any-better hardware
- that would discourage the regular PC industry and paint it in a corner.

So like so many others things with Microsoft - their hardware efforts are half-hearted.
They are not fully comitted.

-

While they don't want to be deep into hardware, MS has always done hardware. The Surface Laptop was done because people wanted such a device. Pricing is exactly as you say, they're not trying to compete with the OEMs head on, they're more competing with Apple which is why, just like Apple, they offer you stuff for high prices that isn't updated often.

While I agree that the Surface is done to give OEMs a good idea of what they should do, but at the same time MS likes to make money, and since the successful release of the Pro 3, the Surface has been profitable. Why stop making devices that make you money?

Not saying that they should stop making money.

Guess they are looking for a good balance that serves two objectives.

My explanation that we'll never see the perfect Surface we ever wanted ... they can't allow themselves to be too perfect.

Microsoft does not really want to be in hardware.
They just want to showcase how they would like Windows hardware to be.

So they do something that - at the first glance - is very good
and at closer inspection lacks certain things and features.
That's by design.

Microsoft also choses to make their hardware expensive.
That way they give a lot of room for margin for the industry.
They want to be out-competed - by other companies making Windows hardware.

Microsoft does not want their Surface stuff to be the can-get-any-better hardware
- that would discourage the regular PC industry and paint it in a corner.

So like so many others things with Microsoft - their hardware efforts are half-hearted.
They are not fully comitted.

-

If Microsoft isn't trying to be competitive, then it should kill off Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, because those form factors are well covered by the rest of the industry.

Well, they need to be competitive - up to a point.

They need to strike a delicate balance - my guess.

Microsoft does not really want to be in hardware.
They just want to showcase how they would like Windows hardware to be.

So they do something that - at the first glance - is very good
and at closer inspection lacks certain things and features.
That's by design.

Microsoft also choses to make their hardware expensive.
That way they give a lot of room for margin for the industry.
They want to be out-competed - by other companies making Windows hardware.

Microsoft does not want their Surface stuff to be the can-get-any-better hardware
- that would discourage the regular PC industry and paint it in a corner.

So like so many others things with Microsoft - their hardware efforts are half-hearted.
They are not fully comitted.

-

I don’t think there’s a person or company out there that wouldn’t mass produce something if they knew it’d be abundantly profitable. In the case of Microsoft, they don’t want another billion dollar write down due to poor reception. Microsoft has never carried any significant popularity like other consumer companies, and most likely never will.

The i5 and i7 U intel just released are 28W processors, so no suitable for surface pro and surface laptop.

I don't quite get the obsession over 'latest and greatest at all times'. Thunderbolt 3? I guess. but do people actually care about the exact CPU model? Nowadays, when any performance gains are only noticeable in a very narrow spectrum of usage scenarios...

Quite frankly, I work in software development, I occasionally use Illustrator and InDesign, I play casual games on occasion... all of this on a i5 Surface Pro 2 with 8 GB RAM. You read that right. Had it not been for the diminishing battery capacity, I wouldn't even be thinking about an upgrade, since the machine is still more than adequate for everything I need to do.

I can appreciate that a limited number of people edit video, work with HD 3D graphics or want to play GPU-intensive games, but I'd say the vast majority doesn't really feel the need for an upgrade, much less between a 7th-gen and a 7½-gen chip.

I don't quite get the obsession over 'latest and greatest at all times'. Thunderbolt 3? I guess. but do people actually care about the exact CPU model? Nowadays, when any performance gains are only noticeable in a very narrow spectrum of usage scenarios...

I understand, especially since you feel that you don't need it. I, on the other hand, am one of those "with the obsession" , and is because of price and cost of the device.

Whenever I buy a machine, I'm expecting it to last for years. Except for some video cards, the components of a PC never go down. If I can get a computer with components that are 10-15% faster at the same price than the previous one, that means I'm getting a better bang for my bucks and I'll have a better future-proof device, that I won't need to replace in the near future.

Gen 8 hit the market like, 2 weeks ago? Deadset, give them a chance.

It doesn't matter how old the insides are, if it performs and performs well, what's the issue.

20 years ago when a new release of Windows always needed new cpu and more hard disk, i will agree with article like this.

But with Windows 10 and uwp apps not even touching the thermal ceiling of 4-5th gen core i7, i cannot agree with this article. Microsoft Office 365 also don't benefit from a faster cpu at all.

Thunderbolt 3, don't use it. USB type-c, what's wrong with USB type-a 3.x?

Even with demanding programs, the bottleneck is usually ram and ssd so moving to pcie/m.2 or motherboard soldered nvm will yield higher performance than a cpu upgrade.

For movie encoding, gpu encoding is the norm since cpu is super slow. I grant you the fact the Surface Studio is underpowered but Surface Book when compared to Lenovo Helix is not.

I don't need the fastest cpu, i need something that works and feel good to touch and looks good in a presentation but also melts away when the show starts, not showy like the HP Envy with gold trimmings.

But that's just me.

edited to avoid grammar police.

Ok, there is a lot of things that are subjectively important in this article, and also a lot of missing details as well when it comes down to specifics that is often overlooked.

Couple of examples...
The Surface Pro i5 is fanless, and unlike the Acert Aspire Switch 12, it does it while avoiding thermal limits.

The same thing on the Surface Pro m3 - (even the Pro 4) - sure it is just another m3 - but it was the fastest m3 because again, it didn't have the wattage or thermal issues that every other m3 tablet/2-in-1/notebook did.

If you look back as the last couple of years, the Surface Pro 4 with the m3 processor in most cases is faster than m5 and m7 devices, because of power requirements and thermal handling. You can run games on a Surface Pro m3 - that would be unplayable on similar PCs with the m3/m5/m7 - as the performance dumps on them, sometimes even with active cooling. (Look at the benchmark numbers of 'Surge' performance, and how this drops in the first minute and continues to decline massively in 15 minutes of load.)

These 'details' are important to people that expect the best out of the hardware they are getting, and don't just look at the components without taking in regard to the actual real world performance and usage of those components.

This is the same as me building you an uber PC, but not component optimize and use an under rated fan, etc. You might love the specifications, but be unhappy when a system with half the performance specifications will run circles around it.

This goes even further, as you are citing some 'competitive' devices with the 8th generation CPUs, that are so thermally limited, unless it is a pure multi-core test, they are sometimes under performing the 7th generation.

In this case, I would rather see Microsoft do it right, rather than race to drop a CPU that needs extra thermal needs, and looks good on paper, but is slower than the devices being replaced.

These are things you might should have mentioned with so much focus on the 8th generation of processors.


Almost all of these types of 'Microsoft should' articles also seem to miss a really important aspect of Microsoft, they only stay in hardware space until it is deemed viable and the path forward, and then they let OEMs maintain the space.

When Surface Pro was released, as you state, it was unique, and it has changed the entire computing industry, with the exception of the Mac, but even with Apple, the iPad is more like the Surface too.

If Microsoft doesn't have a 'next' - there is a good chance they will let it fall away. They have already given out 99% of the technology in the Surface products to other OEMs.

Look back at Microsoft hardware, starting with the CPM board for Apple II or the Microsoft Mouse or the Windows Sound System or the Microsoft Keyboard, or the Digital Speaker system or the Feedback gaming controllers, or the HD Life Cams...

They all started out to fix holes in product availability. Some have stayed around, as their technologies change and still are used as a showcase/example of those technology changes. One Microsoft Mouse added the wheel, but the important thing was being able to transfer more data and precision over the PS/2 interface in a standard way, and that is why Microsoft made it.

Thunderbolt 3 - you claim this is the latest technology, and we should have it for the sake of having the latest technology. However, it is already outdated, and you don't seem to mention this aspect. For pure data transfer, Thunderbolt 3 is awesome, but beyond that it quickly becomes worthless.

Follow me here for a second...
Most users see Thunderbolt 3 and they think - expansion - external GPU - future proof.

Just a few years ago, before the Geforce 1080 performance class arrived, 40Gb/5GB transfer was enough for GPUs, even multi-GPU configurations, and PCIe 2.0 was enough, as there was very little difference between it and PCIe 3.0 in real world performance.

That changed a couple of years ago, and now PCIe 2.0 itself is no longer 'enough' to maintain optimal performance for Geforce 1080 class GPU technologies, let alone SMP/Multi-GPU configurations.

This means that EVEN TODAY, Thunderbolt is not enough to handle a single Geforce 1080 externally, especially when the overhead of Thunderbolt that is up to 20% is factored into the performance numbers.

Now with the knowledge that a product like a Surface Book with a Geforce 1060 - if it had Thunderbolt 3 - and using today's Geforce 1080 as an eGPU - there were be virtually NO BENEFIT, as you factor in the overhead and the slower data path.

So in a couple more years with Thunderbolt 3 - it will not handle the average let alone higher end GPU technologies in an external case.

It is not up to 'current' technology needs, and it is not a future proof feature whatsoever, unless people are going to hook it up to a massive data storage array. And 99% of 'users' are not going to ever do this.

As for 'displays' with Thunderbolt 3 - this is the most credible reason to have it, but with the Microsoft Dock, that advantage disappears. Also considering the displays on the Surface products, it has less appeal for most users, as they are high resolution, bright, and offer accurate colors. The display on the Surface Studio is stunning.

This is why Thunderbolt 3is NOT a must have and it is NOT current technology that 99% of users will use, and it offers no future proofing advantages. This is also why I find it painfully tiring to hear people that should be in the mix and know the numbers screaming about its importance.

Microsoft isn't stupid, if Thunderbolt 3 was truly as important or effective as people want to believe, they would have added it. Ironically, because of articles like this, Microsoft probably will add it, knowing it is just a selling factor and not something that will ever be used.

I could go on with other things in the article, but these are very much what you notice and see in the products, and it doesn't directly reflect the purpose or actual value of the features.

There are some good points in the article, and I usually like your stuff, but the good points are buried under a lot of opinions that have flawed understanding in the features and technologies being pushed and the actual use and effect on users.

When Microsoft decides to fix their flawed Windows-10 Operating System, their hardware will become more attractive. Until then, other hardware manufacturers remain very much in the competition.

When Microsoft decides to fix their flawed Windows-10 Operating System, their hardware will become more attractive. Until then, other hardware manufacturers remain very much in the competition.

What exactly does this have to do with the article, other than the fact that the Surface line runs Windows?

When Microsoft decides to fix their flawed Windows-10 Operating System, their hardware will become more attractive. Until then, other hardware manufacturers remain very much in the competition.

Other hardware manufacturers that sell their products... with the same (for you) flawed Windows 10.

I think Microsoft need to reduce the development (cycle) time. Eventually they will achieve this, considering they are relatively new in this segment... Although personally it is not something which concerns me allot. However, a frequently updated and realistic road-map will be great for making informed purchasing decisions.

Secondly, Microsoft need to keep reviewing the market dynamics and place their product accordingly (specs-vs-price-vise). It does not make sense for a product to have same list price even after a year.

Other than that happy and satisfied Surface Pro user here...

I think Mr Nadella is not interested by the hardware. The Surface line was initiated by Balmer.

Strange because instead of harware he should have developped windows mobile first.

I had a Surface one and I replace it by a HP spectre 360 15', lignter faster ans 1000€ less than the surrface.

May be My Nadelle is in the Azure.....

Personally, I'd like to see a non-Pro Surface make a return, to fill the vacant spot left by the Surface 3. Since Surface is kind of the flagship/showcase device for their OS, I'd like to see an ARM-based Surface running Windows 10 Pro ARM edition . I'd be very interested in one.

I have been very happy with every Surface Pro since SP3. The latest "Surface Pro" (no number) and its fanless design is fantastic.

The Surface Book has been very reliable, but I would prefer a flat-hinge design.

The Surface desktop just needs easily serviced hard drive bays.

I have a Surface Pro 3, which I love and carry with me everywhere. It's five years old and I really want to upgrade it, but... the points in this article are exactly why I don't. The newest models just don't offer a big enough bump in spec or speed.. don't give me more GPU... and cost a lot more.

For example, I really want LTE, but there are only two models with it, both i5 with 620 GPUs. I paid $2000 Canadian for my SP3 i7/8GB/512GB, but the new model closest to what I have is the i5/8GB/256GB/LTE which would cost me $1850, and I'd take a downgrade in CPU, get a relatively small upgrade in GPU and I'd lose half my storage.

The nearest EXACT model is the i7/16GB/512GB model, which costs $2800 and basically gives me a speed bump, a better GPU and double the RAM.

OR... I could buy the Lenovo Flex 5 14" which was $1000, includes a 7th gen i7/8GB/256GB AND a discrete 940MX + Intel 620 and can be upgraded after the fact to 16GB RAM, 512GB M.2 + 2TB SATA HD and still have a touch/pen screen.

Maybe next year Microsoft will put LTE in all their devices.. get the new Intel/AMD chips in there so the GPUs will be beefier (I'm thinking portable WMR systems, so it doesn't have to play the top end games, but at least run Windows Mixed Reality well enough) and get Surface Dial and Pen upgraded a bit more.

Or make the Laptop into a 360 so the pen support is actually useful for something.

Then I'll be happy to get a new one.

Or release Andromeda...

Even more fundamental, MS needs to fix the Windows-10 OS debacle. Then, and only then, MS should even consider venturing into other arenas.

They would have had my business if they released a premium laptop.

The Surface Pro is useless to me and not a form factor I could ever use.

The Surface Book was nearly there, but I don't need the detachable screen, nor the ridiculous price tag. The firmware/driver issues were also inexcusable.

The Surface Laptop was nearly there, but they made it under-powered, over priced, under-specced and chose ridiculous materials (fabric?!!).

All Microsoft had to do was build a premium laptop! Instead we got anything but.

Idiots...

Better internals. Drop the Marvell wifi chip that is causing lots of headaches. Match or exceed the iPad Pro's screen. And focus on manufacturing problems. Update the look also.