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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Microsoft needs more ambition to rival Apple’s Macs

OPINION: Microsoft has confirmed that it will be holding a Surface showcase next week, as it looks to launch multiple new computing devices. 

The Surface Laptop 5, Surface Pro 9 and Surface Studio 3 are all rumoured for release, with processor refreshes expected for all three. 

But so far, the rumour mill hasn’t indicated that Microsoft will be updating any of the designs. That doesn’t necessarily mean Microsoft won’t be making any alterations, but it’s still nevertheless concerning due to the company’s track record. 

Check the snapshot of the specs of both the first generation Surface Laptop and the Surface Laptop 4 below. They’re almost identical other than the processor, despite the latter launching four years later. 

Surface Laptop 1 (2017)Surface Laptop 4 (2021)
Dimensions31 x 22 x 1.4 cm31 × 22 × 1.45 cm
WeightFrom 1.25 kgFrom 1.27 kg
Screen resolution2256 x 15042256 x 1504
Processor7th Gen Intel Core11th Gen Intel Core /
AMD Ryzen 4000 Series

It’s actually rare for a manufacturer to rely on the same design for so long. Even Apple has made significant changes to the MacBook Air range in that space of time. 

If you check out the table below, which compares the 2017 MacBook Air to this year’s model, you can see clear improvements for every spec. The Air has become thinner and lighter, and has even seen a bump to the screen resolution. 

MacBook Air (2017)MacBook Air (2022)
Dimensions33 x 23 x 1.7 cm30 x 22 x 1.1 cm
WeightFrom 1.35 kgFrom 1.24 kg
Screen resolution1440 x 9002560 x 1664
Processor5th Gen Intel CoreApple M2

And while such specs may look minor on paper, they actually make a significant difference in reality. The new MacBook Air looks far sleeker now, as well as having a narrower bezel to focus attention on the gorgeous screen. It’s easy to see the difference between the 2017 and 2022 MacBook Air models. 

In comparison, the 2017 and 2021 Surface Laptop models look virtually identical. The chunky bezel surrounding the screen looked absolutely fine back in 2017, but it’s now looking severely outdated compared to the competition. Rival laptop manufacturers such as Dell (with the XPS 13) have been busy slimming down the bezel until it is difficult to see, resulting in a gorgeous edge-to-edge screen. 

It is admittedly impressive that Microsoft has been able to use the same design for so long and still generate healthy sales – the first generation of the Surface Laptop was clearly ahead of its time. But I think Microsoft is starting to push its luck if it continues with the same design for much longer. 

This isn’t a problem exclusive to the Surface Laptop range either. New leaks from an FCC report (spotted by Windows Central) indicate that the next model of the Surface Studio (potentially named either Surface Studio 3 or Studio 2+) will share the exact same design as the original desktop that launched as far back as 2016. 

Leaked image of the Surface Studio 3
An early image of the rumoured Surface Studio 3 (Credit: FCC)

And the Surface Pro 8 looks pretty much the same as when the first model launched in 2013, although it did at least see upgrades such as an 120Hz refresh rate and support for Thunderbolt 4

I would be more forgiving on the Surface Laptop and Surface Studio ranges if they at least offered new cutting-edge features. The likes of an OLED screen would go a long way to making the Surface Laptop 5 or Surface Studio 3 feel like a substantial upgrade on their predecessors.

Microsoft doesn’t need to do anything as drastic as developing its own processor (like Apple did with the M1) but it still needs a more appealing feature to make the Surface series stand out again. Let’s hope Microsoft springs a surprise on us next week, as otherwise, it’s only going to slip further behind the likes of Apple.

Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed 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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