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5 things the rumored Surface tablet will need to beat the iPad

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Microsoft is rumored to be working on a brand new entry in its long-neglected Surface line of convertible tablets that we’re cautiously excited for. Although the original Surface range got off to a rocky start, by its third iteration it had built up a good head of steam and we quite liked it. While we’ve been enamored with Surface products that have been released since then, a return to cost-effective tablet computing holds some exciting potential for the range.

The only problem is, we have no idea what the new Surface tablet will be like. What we do know though, is what we want it to be like. Here are some things we want to see with the new Surface tablet.

A full Windows 10 experience

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

One of the weakest elements of the Surface and Surface 2 was that they ran the much-maligned Windows RT — a cut-down version of Windows 8. That, combined with hardware choices at the time meant that full Windows applications weren’t generally available on the first two generations of the Surface tablet.

While it’s certainly possible that Microsoft could introduce a new Surface tablet with Windows 10 S or something from its rumored internal Core OS ventures, what we really want to see is a fully fledged version of Windows 10. That would give us access to all of the Windows-based applications we want, without being restricted to approved applications in the Microsoft Store.

A decent display

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017
Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

Considering the rumored Surface resurgence will be going after the Apple iPad audience, whatever display the Surface comes with will need to be at least 10-inches diagonally. Ideally, a little more than that, though 10-inches would suffice. The first generation Surface tablet was marred by a poor resolution display and though the Surface 2 and Surface 3 improved that to 1080p, a new generation Surface would need to go beyond that.

Considering its prevalence in other tablet designs, a resolution of 2,560 × 1,600 would be ideal for a new-generation Surface and could give it the detail needed to compete with the likes of Apple’s iPad.

Some powerful performance

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Any new Surface would need to function as both a decent tablet and a serviceable laptop as and when required, so a decently powerful processor would be a must. The only question is, what processor would that be? The Surface 3 had a great offering in the Atom x7-Z8700, but Intel has only released one other Atom CPU since then  — the Z8750 – and that was released two years ago.

Recent rumors suggested that the new Surface would include an Intel CPU, but that leaves us with precious few options. There’s always the Gemini Lake Celeron N4000, but its power draw is three times that of the Atom chip used in the Surface 3. Perhaps the best option to hope for would be a Qualcomm chip. Its Snapdragon SoCs have been proven capable of running Windows 10 S in laptops like the HP Envy X2, so why not a Surface tablet?

Speaking of performance, some extra memory wouldn’t hurt either. As much as the Surface 3 improved on its predecessors, the base model still only offered 2GB of memory, with a 4GB upgrade for the more expensive configurations. Considering the problems that have sent memory prices soaring over the past year, we don’t hold out much hope of masses of memory in a reasonably priced Surface, but 4GB as standard seems like a necessity in 2018.

Pen power

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017
Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

At its rumored $400 price point, the new Surface tablet will have a lot of competition, especially for artists who want a portable graphics tablet. That’s why whatever Microsoft does, it needs to make sure the Surface has full support for its ever-evolving Surface Pen.

Make it an optional extra like Google does with its Chromebooks if needs be, but Pen support is a must.

An aggressive price

Microsoft Surface 3 hero
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Surface products tend to be premium devices, but even Apple has dramatically reduced the price of its iPads recently. The rumored price of this Surface tablet is currently $400, which is cheap, but not quite as low as Apple’s $330 iPad.

While the Surface might be a bit more capable of a tablet, it’s going to face an uphill battle against the beloved iPad at its current price. Microsoft will need an aggressive price structure if it hopes to compete with the iPad.

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Jon Martindale
Jon Martindale is the Evergreen Coordinator for Computing, overseeing a team of writers addressing all the latest how to…
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