Microsoft’s next Surface event is set to be held on September 22. The showcase is bound to be more important than most for the Redmond giant for the simple reason that Windows 11 is launching on October 5. The company needs showcase hardware for its latest OS, and indeed at least four new Windows devices are expected, along with the next Android-based Surface Duo. Here’s how to watch, and some of the rumors surrounding the whole lineup.
What time is the Surface event?
The livestream kicks off at 8AM Pacific time. For convenience, here’s when some other major cities/time zones can tune in:
- Chicago: 10AM
- New York: 11AM
- London: 4PM
- Berlin: 5PM
- Moscow: 6PM
- New Delhi: 8:30PM
- Singapore: 11PM
- Sydney: 1AM
How can I watch the Surface launches?
Surface Pro 8
The Surface Pro 8 is probably the most anticipated Surface product. The Pro 7 dates back to October 2019, and since the series represent the core of the Surface universe, they’re often where Microsoft brings its A-game. According to The Verge, the Pro 8 will move to a bigger display with smaller bezels, making it more competitive with Apple’s iPad Pro as well as other touchscreen PCs. The current Pro 7 has a 12.3-inch panel, that’s still smaller than the 12.9 inches on the top-of-the-line iPad Pro. GSMArena claims that Microsoft is updating to a 13-inch, 120Hz panel, and could start pricing at $800.
The Surface Pro series is where Microsoft brings its A-game.
Microsoft is further rumored to be adding Thunderbolt on at least one Pro 8 model, and possibly dropping USB-A. That would make sense given the power, data, and size advantages of Thunderbolt/USB-C connections. USB-C accessories are also very common in 2021, so few people are liable to be upset.
A rumored feature that would give the Pro 8 an advantage over most tablets — not just the iPad — is support for swappable SSDs. Microsoft is already using these on other Surface PCs like the Laptop 4, so it’s almost inevitable on Pros.
Surface Book 4
The Surface Book 4 could steal the Pro’s thunder this year. Traditionally, the gimmick for the Surface Book has been the ability to detach the display and use it as a low-powered tablet. As part of a radical redesign, though, Windows Central says that the laptop is switching to a mechanism in which the display pulls forward over the keyboard for tablet use.
Like the Pro 8, the Book 4 may adopt refresh rates up to 120Hz, taking advantage of Windows 11’s Dynamic Refresh Rate tech to maintain performance and battery life. The faster response may be useful when drawing with an upgraded Surface Pen, which is allegedly getting haptic feedback (vibration), as well as magnetic charging/attachment similar to the second-generation Apple Pencil.
Surface Go 3
The Surface Go is Microsoft’s budget tablet line, with a smaller 10.5-inch screen and lower performance. While the first half of that equation is expected to remain static, it’s rumored that at least one model will move beyond Pentium Gold or Core M series chips to adopt an Intel Core i3 processor.
Related: Your guide to the best tablets
Microsoft could also ditch configurations with slower eMMC storage and/or 4GB of RAM — archaic specs in a world in which even many phones have over 8GB of RAM.
Surface Pro X
The Arm-based version of the Surface Pro isn’t expected to change much. It should receive a faster processor, and possibly a 120Hz display like other Surface products, but otherwise don’t expect any earth-shattering improvements. The Surface Pro X series hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, partly because Windows on Arm’s performance struggles to justify the range’s high price. Although a growing selection of native Arm apps and 64-bit emulation on Windows 11 might help improve the range’s value proposition. If you don’t use 3D-heavy software, the new Pro X might be a solid tablet.
Surface Duo 2
Another Surface that hasn’t triggered an inferno is the Surface Duo, but the Duo 2 could be poised to change that. It should, for instance, upgrade to a zippy Snapdragon 888 processor, while also gaining expected features like 5G and NFC. The rear camera array is expected to include wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses, further helping it to be more competitive with other high-end Android devices.
There could be other caveats. It’s rumored to be shipping with Android 11, rather than the soon-to-be-released Android 12, and it remains to be seen if enough apps will get support for the Duo’s twin screens to offer a true advantage over single-screen phones.
Microsoft does, at least, seem to be paying attention to minute aspects of design. The Duo 2’s fingerprint sensor is thought to be moving to the power button, while its USB-C port is relocating to the phone’s right side.
Microsoft Surface event 2021: Wildcard predictions
Microsoft did announce new Surface Headphones during its 2020 event, so there’s a chance those could see a refresh to keep up with noise-cancelling cans by Sony and Bose. Less likely but still plausible is a tweaked version of the Surface Earbuds, which could be more appealing if they fix issues like mic quality.
Microsoft has also yet to say when it will deliver promised Android support in Windows 11. A preview of the Amazon Appstore is in the Microsoft Store, but it doesn’t work yet, and Microsoft has confirmed that Android won’t be an option on October 5. The September 22 event could hypothetically be used to announce firm timing, which would make new Surface products all the more attractive.
What do you want to see at Microsoft’s Surface event 2021? Let us know in the comments.