Microsoft has released an update for its clamshell Surface line, the Surface Laptop 4. The main change you'll notice on the outside is a new color option, the "Ice Blue" end. I spent a few hours admiring the new color, which has a unique light blue hue that I haven't seen on many other laptops, and that compliments a variety of color options available to date such as black, silver, and sandstone.
However, the real star of the show in this update is the new AMD Ryzen processor, which is included in both the 13.5-inch and 15-inch models.
Ryzen CPUs were first introduced with Surface hardware in the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 last year, but they used the older Ryzen 3000 processors. They were still limited to just four cores, which meant they didn't provide a meaningful update on the Intel alternative option. So it was pretty weak for a 15-inch laptop.
More importantly, it was also exclusive to the 15-inch model.
The Surface Laptop 4 offers up to 8-core Ryzen 4000 chips. Microsoft continues to advertise these Ryzen processors of the "Surface Edition" and underlines the closer partnership between AMD and Microsoft in the implementation. This time it is also available for the 13.5-inch model.
The $ 1,000 base 13.5-inch model includes the Ryzen 5 4680U with six cores, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. In addition to the significant increase in performance, this means an improvement in storage capacity compared to the 128 GB SSD option of the previous year. We can all be glad that there is no longer a low storage option.
Currently, the Surface Laptop 4 is the only Surface device that uses AMD chips. Microsoft's Surface range includes a variety of processor options, regardless of whether it's the standard Intel chips in the Surface Pro and Surface Book 3, the ARM chips in the Surface Pro X, or the AMD option. Of course, Microsoft will continue to offer an 11th generation Intel Tiger Lake model, which is still limited to just four cores.
Microsoft says it will offer a careful mix of processor options for both sizes, as well as consumer and commercial offerings. To avoid confusion, Microsoft does not offer identical configurations with AMD and Intel processors and instead guides the buyer to the right option based on price and performance requirements.
This corresponds to the standard of the 13.5-inch model, but severely limits the attractiveness of the 15-inch model, which rivals big hits like the Dell XPS 15, the Razer Blade 15, the HP Specter x360 15 and many others got to. All of these other laptops also feature discrete graphics courtesy of Nvidia that the Surface Laptop 4 lacks.
This is partly because of how thin and light the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4 is. It's only 0.58 inches thick and weighs only 3.4 pounds.
The processor change also offers the Surface Laptop 4 an improvement in battery life. According to Microsoft, the Surface Laptop 4 can ideally last up to 19 hours on a single charge. This number can vary, but is eight hours longer than the Surface Laptop 3 entitlement.
The Surface Laptop 4 also retains its high-resolution 3: 2 PixelSense display. Both sizes are 201 ppi (pixels per inch) with resolutions of 2256 x 1504 (13.5-inch model) or 2496 x 1664 (15-inch model). The Surface Laptop was one of the pioneers of the 3: 2 aspect ratio in clamshell devices. In the past year, however, many manufacturers followed this example and switched from 16: 9 to 16:10 or 3: 2. Of course, all versions and configurations of the Surface Laptop 4 have touchscreens.
One area that has not been updated, however, is the webcam. This would have been a fantastic time to upgrade the built-in camera to 1080p resolution, but the Surface Laptop 4 is unfortunately still stuck at 720p. It's a shame, especially since both the Surface Pro and Surface Book offer a higher resolution video conferencing experience.
Microsoft said changes to the webcam resulted in improved performance in low light conditions.
The Surface Laptop 4 is available now through Best Buy and Microsoft.com, starting in the United States, Canada, and Japan. Orders will be dispatched on April 15th. Microsoft even has a solid deal for those who buy before April 15th, bundled up in a pair of Surface Earbuds.