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Ctrl+Alt+Del: Microsoft needs to show it still cares about Surface hardware

OPINION: There is so much to like about the design of Surface devices and that’s why it is so frustrating that Microsoft keeps scoring own goals when it comes to keeping the hardware up to date. At the Surface event next week, Microsoft needs to show it still cares about design innovation and not just have AI fest.

Now, I want to make clear that I don’t think Surface devices need to be on the cutting edge in every department to make them excellent devices worth your consideration.

The impressive Surface Laptop Go 2 has shown Microsoft can make hardware with a last-generation processor and middling display specifications that are still a top-tier device. But, this only adds to the frustration of how it neglects some other devices. It is, frankly, wild that the Surface Laptop 5 is almost identical to the first-generation model, sporting bezels that are just stunningly chunky for a device launched in 2022.

It really seems like a case of rest on your laurels, especially when it comes to the Surface Laptop 5. However, we aren’t rumoured to be getting a Surface Laptop 6 at next week’s event, so the much-needed update there will not be coming.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
Surface Laptop Go

What we are expecting is a new Surface Laptop Go 3, Surface Go 4 and Surface Laptop Studio 2. But, the outlook isn’t great, with it looking like Microsoft may only be offering a specification bump to all these devices. More laurels are being rested on. Again, this frustration is born of the excellent initial design of these devices, so it has been a blessing and a curse. But, when Microsoft has rivals to keep up with, especially up against stunningly good M-series MacBook machines, it can’t afford to keep doing this.

Unfortunately, based on rumours and Microsoft’s track record, it is looking like this will be just another mildly iterative Surface event. What’s even worse is that it is being billed as a “Surface and AI” event so, instead of giving consumers boosted hardware, we might be getting hit with the tech world’s latest buzzwords – Google I/O was a showcase of how not to sell AI to regular consumers. Don’t get me wrong, AI can provide great features but companies often don’t do a great job of making clear how AI will benefit users day-to-day. Nvidia is a strong example, with its DLSS technology offering clear user benefits.

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Microsoft didn’t do a bad job with this while promoting the Surface Pro 9 (5G), with its Qualcomm chip that offered enhanced AI features. It came with background blur, automatic eye contact and Voice Focus. Those are some easy-to-understand features. I hope Microsoft goes down this road next week, hopefully dodging the urge to pepper us with buzzwords.

The Surface Pro 9 in some grass

So, what would it take for Microsoft to nail its next set of Surface devices? I’m not asking for a design revolution even though many Surface devices could do with a hefty reimaging. Microsoft could just do with shaking things up more often than it does, even on a small scale, to sell customers on why it is worth buying the latest model, apart from just nabbing the latest processor. With the Surface Go 4 or Surface Laptop Studio 2, I’d love to hear that Microsoft has made this or that small change to design based on user feedback.

For example, the Surface Go 3 couldn’t match the quality of the iPad’s display – a processor bump wouldn’t solve this – and, the Surface Laptop Studio didn’t offer the colour accuracy you’d expect from a machine aimed at designers – a processor bump wouldn’t solve this. I’m sorry, Microsoft, but your devices weren’t perfect the first time around and you need to strive to make them better with each iteration.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.

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