Since its introduction in 2012, Microsoft’s Surface lineup has come a long way. The Surface family has seen the addition of a Book, a Laptop, a Studio, and the ultra-portable Go — but the Surface Pro itself has remained relatively visually unchanged.
Though the Surface Pro pioneered the 2-in-1 form factor its design has stayed the same over the last seven years and is now aging by 2019 standards. Here’s what we’re looking to see from the Surface Pro 7, which will undoubtedly end up being Microsoft’s next big thing.
Price and release date
Microsoft typically releases new hardware in the Fall, so a Surface Pro 7 release could come in October 2019 at the earliest. The Surface Pro 6 was most recently announced during an October 2 event, but the Surface Go was announced on July ahead of its eventual August 2 release. That said, Microsoft could announce a Surface Pro 7 around the same time frame, but 2020 could also be an option. In the past, there was almost a two-year gap between the release of the Surface Pro 4 in October 2015 to the Surface Pro (fifth-gen) in June 2017.
As for pricing, the Surface Pro 6 with 128 GB of storage, 8GB of RAM, and the Intel Core i5 processor currently retails for $900. That price still does not include a keyboard or a Surface Pen. It would be nice to see Microsoft bundle in both with the next Surface to help reduce the overall final price, but we don’t expect that to change. Since the cost of laptops and other Windows 10 devices is often offset based on its internal components, so you can expect for starting configurations of the Surface Pro 7 to come in at the same $900 pricing.
Slimmer design, improved kickstand and keyboard
Microsoft has patented several related technologies which could come to the future Surface Pro 7. One of note happens to be for a thinner and redesigned Type Cover with haptic feedback. This patent suggests that the Surface Pro 7 could have slimmer bezels, a lighter profile and a reduced footprint thanks to a circuit board directly that is etched directly into the touchpad of a keyboard. It also hints that the overall height of the next Surface could be reduced. That would come as a big change, as over the past few Surface Pro generations, the Type Cover has gotten larger, picked up a bigger touchpad, and a new Alcantara material for a more premium feel and finish.
A second patent also supports the wild claim that the Surface Pro 7 could come with a reflective touch display. That could mean you’d be able to write on both sides of the device. While not exactly the folding PC that many have been dreaming of, this suggests that you’ll be able to make use of all the available space on the next Surface, including using that rear display as a primary OLED, LCD, or LED screen while it is closed.
There’s also the hope that Microsoft could change the design of the kickstand with the Surface Pro 7. An August 2017 patent shows that Microsoft is considering altering the hinges supporting the kickstand so it could open up and close more easily. That would presumably be accomplished with slight refinements to the shaft, clutch, hinge blade, and belt mechanisms inside the kickstand to allow for different and softer resistance levels. It would come as an improvement over the current Surface Pro 6, where opening the kickstand requires force to pull it out from the side.
Finally, since it is the competition, Microsoft could take some cues from Apple’s iPad Pro and slim down the side bezels on the Surface Pro 7. Though the thick bezels are often cited as a reason for comfort in tablet mode, it has become a bit ugly by 2019 standards. Laptop makers like Dell have proven that a screen could be virtually borderless, and it would be great if Microsoft could follow suit to give consumers a 2-in-1 with more screen and less black space.
Most Windows 10 laptops or tablets come with USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, alongside USB-A. But not the Surface Pro. In Microsoft’s 2-in-1 Surface family, that option is reserved strictly for the Surface Go, the smaller version of the Surface Pro. Microsoft has been resistant to the new technology, and it has become a glaring omission from powerful devices like the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2.
We’re hoping that the Surface Pro 7 changes that and adds one or more USB-C ports. A patent from Microsoft originally filed in May of 2018 suggests just that, showing that Microsoft could be considering a special magnetic USB-C cable for charging. It can be held in place securely, without damage to the device if a consumer happens to trip on the cable and force it out.
Qualcomm processor reports
The latest reports indicate that Microsoft is planning to use Qualcomm Snapdragon processors in upcoming Surface Pros. Specifically, this would be a customized version of the Snapdragon 8cx designed specifically for the Surface Pro line. Microsoft is also looking at AMD chips for its new Surface Laptops, according to the same reports. The primary benefit for moving to Qualcomm would be built-in 5G support. The Surface Pro 6 did get a 5G option, though it launched many months later and added an extra expense for the buyer.
If this report turns out to be true, it would represent an important switch away from Intel processors and toward other options. It’s currently unknown if the Surface Pro 7 would benefit from this move to Qualcomm, or if it would come out with a version of Intel’s mobile-friendly chips, such as the Whiskey Lake or Ice Lake line.
Updated Surface Pen
While not bundled in with the price, the Surface Pen is an essential part of owning a Surface device. It allows you to ink in Microsoft Word documents, draw images in Photoshop and more.
Though its visual design and pressure sensibility levels have changed over the past few years, the Surface Pen still feels like it has untapped potential, despite recent updates. With the Surface Pro 7, it would be nice to see Microsoft deliver on some Surface Pen patents in the past. That includes the ability for the pen to recharge with solar power, a pen clip that can double as a mouse scroll wheel, one with an OLED screen on it, and even a stylus with removable tips.
Which of these new features Microsoft will use — if any — still remains to be seen.
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