By Jon Fingas
Microsoft is holding its customary fall Surface event on October 12th, and this year's presentation may be more jam-packed than most. Rumors have swirled of not just new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop models, but a long-overdue Surface Studio refresh and even a mini desktop. But how likely are those to pan out? We'll give you an idea of what to expect.
Surface Pro 9
It almost wouldn’t be a Microsoft hardware event without a new tablet, and the Surface Pro 9 could be one of the more important updates to the lineup in recent memory. Windows Centralsources claim the new model will merge the ARM-based Surface Pro X into the regular Pro family. If so, you’ll have your choice of processor architectures without having to switch form factors — a first for the Pro series.
You might get a significant speed boost, whichever chip sits inside. Those same sources believe Intel-based Surface Pro 9 models will use 12th-generation Core i5 and i7 U-series processors (considerably faster than the Pro 8’s 11th-gen parts), while ARM versions will reportedly come with the SQ3, a custom variant of the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. Microsoft may stick with the maximum 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage from before, although cellular models will apparently support 5G.
Just don’t expect much to change on the outside. Sources say the Surface Pro 9 will largely resemble its predecessor, complete with a 13-inch 120Hz display, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a front 5-megapixel camera, a rear 10MP cam and support for the Slim Pen 2. This may be an iterative design, but we liked the Pro 8 last year. It’s just a question of whether or not the pricing is reasonable. WinFutureclaims Europeans may pay the equivalent of $1,300 for a Core i5 version with 256GB of storage, but that might not reflect American pricing.
Surface Laptop 5
Microsoft hasn’t touched the Surface Laptop since spring 2021, so it’s due for a refresh. Thankfully, one appears to be in the pipeline. Both Windows Central and WinFuture insiders claim a Surface Laptop 5 is in the works with some modest but meaningful improvements.
The 13.5- and 15-inch portables would ship with 12th-gen Core i5 and i7 processors that would represent tangible upgrades over earlier chips. However, the most notable change may be what you don’t get — WinFuture says there won’t be any AMD Ryzen-powered variants of the Surface Laptop 5. The machine may offer Thunderbolt 4 support for the first time, though.
Like its tablet counterpart, the Surface Laptop 5’s design might be virtually unchanged. Leakers don’t anticipate cosmetic updates apart from a possible sage green color option borrowed from the Laptop Go 2. That won’t be a problem if you like Microsoft’s minimalist aesthetics, but it may be disappointing if you wanted an eye-catching notebook like the XPS 13 Plus or MacBook Air M2 — especially considering the rumored $1,200 asking price in Europe.
Surface Studio 3
To say Microsoft has neglected the Surface Studio would be an understatement. The most recent version of the all-in-one desktop was released in 2018, and its specifications are woefully behind the times. Windows Central recently offered some hope, though, as it hears a Surface Studio 3 is finally on the way.
The new PC will supposedly use the familiar (but still clever) chassis from the first two Studios, including its signature tilting, stylus-friendly 28-inch display. Microsoft will instead focus on the internals, upgrading to an 11th-gen Core i7 CPU (sorry, no 12th-gen here) with Thunderbolt 4 ports. There may be an improved webcam, too, along with Dolby Vision HDR visuals and Dolby Atmos audio.
You might have to deal with some conspicuous omissions. The Surface Studio 3 may ditch the SD card slot, and there could be just one configuration with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. As with its ancestors, the revised computer could be aimed squarely at creative pros who want a pen-friendly display and are willing to pay for the privilege. There’s no leaked pricing as of this writing, but with specs like those it’s certain to be expensive.
Wildcards: A mini PC and Surface accessories
These events sometimes include leftfield introductions (who would have predicted the Surface Laptop Studio?), but you may need to tone down your expectations this year. The biggest treat may be the release of the previously-teased Project Volterra, a compact desktop aimed at developers building ARM-native Windows apps with AI features. So, it won’t be the Surface equivalent to the Mac mini, then.
Accessories may be the only other highlights. Windows Central’s Zac Bowden recently shared images of what he says are updated Surface Keyboard and Surface Pen models that could come with the Surface Studio 3 in addition to selling separately. A Surface Mouse revision may be available, too. Bowden further suggested that you could see a “premium” speaker as well as a Teams-oriented remote, but there’s little else known about them.
We wouldn’t count on other Surface computers or mobile devices. There haven’t been murmurs of a Surface Duo 3 phone, and Microsoft put the Surface Neo on ice in 2020. It’s also hard to imagine a Surface Go revision, for that matter. Barring surprises, this event appears focused on core Surface devices and not much else.