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Microsoft needs to step up its game to keep up with Apple

Microsoft has announced that it will be holding a new event later this month, with new devices such as the Surface Pro 8, Surface Go 3 and Surface Book 4 all touted to make an appearance. 

But after looking at Microsoft’s recent hardware history, I’m struggling to get enthusiastic about any new reveals. The company has arguably become complacent in recent years with very underwhelming laptop upgrades and a reluctance to refresh its designs to keep up with modern standards. 

Sure, we’ve had the outstanding budget-friendly Surface Laptop Go recently, and are still waiting for the innovative Surface Neo to land, but otherwise, there hasn’t been any other Surface laptop that’s caught my attention in the past three years. 

Surface Neo
Surface Neo

Don’t get me wrong, the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, Surface Book and Surface Studio ranges are all fantastic, previously proving to be some of the very best devices in their respective categories. But in 2021, these products have been left to stagnate, with outdated designs and specs seeing Microsoft fall behind competitors such as Apple.

The iMac 2021 is far more swish than the Surface Studio 2, the MacBook Air M1 is leaps-and-bounds ahead of the Surface Laptop 4 and I’d always recommend people purchase an iPad over the Surface Go 2. Apple only looks to be getting stronger when it comes to laptops too, with the company rumoured to be giving most of its Macs major redesigns as well as increased performances thanks to Apple Silicon

If Microsoft wants to seriously compete with Apple, then it’s going to have to step up its game. I appreciate that Microsoft is unlikely to introduce its own chips like Apple given its strong ties with Intel and AMD, but there’s plenty of room for improvement elsewhere. 

The Surface Laptop is crying out for a design update, with its thick screen bezel looking old hat when compared to the Dell XPS 13. In contrast, Dell has done a great job of keeping its laptops fresh, recently adding an OLED panel to boost the screen quality – this is exactly the kind of thing that Microsoft should be doing with its Surface devices. 

And then there’s the Surface Go 2. Its greatest drawback is the fact you don’t get the advertised Type Cover bundled in the box, making it far more costly than it initially seems. Rival brands such as Lenovo have been more generous by providing a clip-on keyboard in the box for the Chromebook Duet, making it a far better option in my eyes. 

Alternatively, Microsoft could introduce a new feature that would make it a better option than Apple’s iPad. Maybe an AMOLED display, a faster processor or even optional gaming accessories to make it an ideal partner for Xbox Game Pass. It just needs that standout feature to get people excited.

If rumours are to be believed, Microsoft is heading in the right direction. A patent has hinted at the possibility of the Surface Book 4 getting a revamped hinge and an Nvidia RTX GPU, while rumours indicate the Surface Pro 8 could see a new design akin to the sleek Surface Pro X. Those are the kind of upgrades I can get onboard with, offering far more than the default generational processor upgrade that Microsoft typically relies on. 

Microsoft Surface Book 4 renders
Concept design of the rumoured Surface Book 4 (Credit: David Breyer)

It also feels like perfect timing for Microsoft to go big with its hardware, with Windows 11 right around the corner and the likes of Xbox Game Pass growing traction. Get the hardware revisions right, and Microsoft could easily muscle back into the competition with the likes of Apple and Dell. 

But I have to say, I’m not optimistic. I’ve been disappointed by Microsoft too many times recently when it comes to laptops, as the company is seemingly content to rely on the massive pulling power of the Surface brand instead of pushing the envelope. If the company continues on this trajectory, then it’s very likely that people will start to realise they can find better value elsewhere, especially with the resurgence of the MacBook. 

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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