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Does Surface hardware have a place in the budget space?

Surface Laptop Se Render
Surface Laptop Se Render (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft announced Windows 11 SE this week, a new operating system aimed at education. One of the first devices that will run the new OS is the Surface Laptop SE. Both the laptop and Windows 11 SE are built for the K-8 classroom. The Surface Laptop SE looks to be one of the best laptops for grade school students, but it is the cheapest piece of Surface hardware to date. We'd like to know if you think the Surface brand has a place in the budget space.

Some people view Surface products as premium devices, so having a $249 Surface laptop for education may seem a bit out of place. Quite a few pieces of Surface hardware are in the high-end of their respective categories, at least in terms of pricing. The Surface Pro 8, Surface Laptop 4, and Surface Studio 2 all carry high price tags and are marketed as premium devices.

On the other hand, the Surface family isn't just about pricey hardware; it's about driving the industry. The Surface Pro lineup inspired manufacturers to take the 2-in-1 seriously. While not as budget-friendly as the Surface Laptop SE, the Surface Laptop Go pushed the limits of an affordable laptop. Microsoft uses its Surface devices to showcase an idea or form factor in the hopes that other companies will follow suit and compete within the same space.

So, where does that leave the Surface Laptop SE? Is it an innovative device that lives up to the Surface family's history of pushing OEMs? Is it a budget device that would be better served by carrying a different brand under Microsoft? Let us know in this week's poll and explain your reasoning in the comments below.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

42 Comments
  • I was always under the impression that Surface devices were aspirational and meant to help drive innovation by the various device makers. As such, a concept device in any area seems like fair game. Now for the Dells and HPs to take the torch and run with it.
  • There is nothing aspirational about this hardware. It is a carbon copy of dozens of PCs already serving this market. The device is pointless and the branding could poison the rest of the lineup. There’s a reason dell, hp, and Lenovo have differently named lines, so the crappy low end stuff doesn’t color the good stuff.
  • And how well is that doing for them? Pointless because Microsoft are seeing market share lose out to Google, this kind of "pointless"? It makes total sense Microsoft would want something that's suitable for the educational sector. Let's not forget to average consumers Dell. HP, Lenovo don't exactly have perfect reputations. Often it's not their actual fault but non-technically minded people just blame "Windows or "Dell" for everything that's wrong with their poorly managed device.
  • Reporters have already been told by Microsoft that these computers will be managed and deployed just like existing windows 10 and 11. Making the same computer that every other Orem already makes is not what the market needs, it needs a windows that is easier to manage for schools. And this does nothing for that.
  • They definitely tier things at other OEMs, but I question the success of the segmentation or its intent. Like, look at a Yoga 6 against a higher-priced Yoga. They really aren't comparable in materials and components, but they're both Yoga. Dell models have some wide differences too.
  • One of the best laptops for grad school students or grade school students??? There's a difference.
  • Wha's the difference?
  • Grade school: Typically in the 6-12 age group. Grad school: Typically mid-20s, working towards a Masters degree
  • To determine if this device "deserves" the Surface branding (meaning pushing the boundaries to inspire other OEMs to follow) depends mostly on windows 11SE performance. I think this device is only there to showcase the performance tweaks in the operating system with the purpose to inspire OEMs to make more education market focused devices.
  • They make tons of education devices…it’s just that many run chrome. This hardware brings nothing to the table, and unless something has changes dramatically (and reports are it hasn’t) windows 11 se is no easier for schools to configure, wipe, and repurpose than any other windows computer has been.
  • It brings to the table it doesn't run ChriomeOS :/
  • Reporting is that Microsoft has confirmed that these windows 11 se devices will be managed the same way as windows is currently with intune. There’s a reason schools are buying chromebooks and this is not doing anything to change that.
  • Most companies/schools are not fully using Intune to manage them. An MS branded, fully cloud managed machine brings them way closer to Chromebooks. Easy deployment, reset for the next user, easy to configure custom configs could go a long way.
  • I can only tell you that the people who know better than me are saying that this is still far inferior to chrome. But I guess we'll see.
  • Yeah, and that is yet to be seen. Until somebody will do a review about those devices, especially this Surface Laptop SE, and fairly, no trying to do Photoshop with 20 layers. Tbh the unique trait that many people think of Surface brand before were already lost since the rlease of Surface Laptop, which is just a well, a laptop. Alcantara is the only unique thing about it, and even then we now have Surface Laptop without one, now it is simply like any other premium ultrabook with touchscreen. If there is something that maybe can be disruptive, is if they can release something like a Surface Neo-like device for education. Basically a digital moleskin for students but cheaper and more robust hardware for everyday use, especially for kids. The huge challenge is to make that really cheap. Or maybe just a plastic version of Surface Go. IMHO, it would be great if we can normalize having students to use more of a tablet device with keyboard attach, so they can use it to actually write, draw and annotate something. Just like a real notebook that we used to use at school.
  • These K-8 students will first learn to use computer with Surface brand. Likely they will continue to use brand as they grow older. I think this is a good move by Microsoft.
  • Boy remember that slow plastic piece of **** I got in elementary school? I should get another.
  • Plastic doesn't make a device run slower :/
  • No, windows on pentium with emmc makes it slower, plastic makes it a bloated flexing piece of crap
  • That assuming the Windows 11 SE Experience is actually that good. If they remember having bad experiences about it, that actually may turn out to be the opposite reaction. So in that part, it can be risky to the brand. I guess why they use Surface brand is simply because it is just their computer hardware brand, that's all.
  • That's exactly why majority of students are turning to iPad or ChromeBooks... the next generations won't be Windows users for sure ;-)
  • Until they graduate, get out into the real corporate world where Windows dominates.
  • Yep, and that can be a disadvantage as well to the real world. While many others who are already used to Windows can adapt it to it just fine. Heck even MacOS is far more suited for students to learn at the early stage as there are companies who do use it, some. But nobody really operate a company that runs only with Chromebooks or iPad alone. Unless that is just an small business.
  • Why ask people who won't be purchasing or using these laptops what they think?
  • Because the question is about the Surface brand, not about these laptops. I use Surface devices - I have four in my household right now - so my opinion on the Surface brand is relevant. Possibly not all that relevant to Microsoft but it's not Microsoft asking the question.
  • It's their best chance for success. It's an uphill climb vs. Chromebooks and what else would they call it? They don't have a non-Surface line of laptops and IT decision-makers are likely aware of the Surface brand so in most cases, it'll probably help to at least get a foot in the door of the evaluation process. It'll also help introduce the Surface brand to kids and their parents who aren't aware of it and may lead to the adoption of more Surface products, short term and long term. Similar to the way some Japanese auto-makers started out with budget-friendly cars that provided great value targeted at first-time buyers, established brand loyalty, and then introduced more expensive models as their customers progressed and earned more.
  • These devices are limited in their market and purchasing channels. People here are unlikely to be a factor in those purchasing decisions, so our perception means little. We're not going to get to experience the hardware, and probably not the W11SE platform. It seems unlikely we see much of a brand perception influence because of how narrow the scope of availability is. What will matter is if the users of these devices like them. If they're cheap junk, they'll likely remember that as they get older and have the chance to get better, more expensive devices. These can grow or tarnish the brand for future generations, if they fail to establish themselves as reliable, quality products.
  • I have no desire to ever see one of these in my classroom. No thank you! No drop protection from careless students and no touch screen. The two most important things that I care about are totally missing. I will gladly purchase an HP Chromebook 11a for 149.00 I don't see this laptop as deserving of the Surface brand because it doesn't push the market in a way that the market needs or will needs.
  • You make great points and while I voted yes they belong, I must say this makes me think twice. But ultimately my opinion is that we do need something other than Chrome to choose from. If MS is willing to step into these waters, I welcome it. It's up to the schools what they will choose, but there must be another option.
  • I don't like Microsoft using the Surface name on the Laptop SE. They already had a budget line in the Surface division, the Go series. Calling the Surface Laptop SE a Surface product feels like if the VW Group gave Lamborghini a VW Golf to re-badge and re-style and put it on the market. Sure, it shares some of the design language that the more premium devices, and its made by the same company. Outside of those 2 things, what is the Surface Laptop SE doing that warrants giving it the Surface name. It doesn't push any boundaries that Google hadn't pushed 10 years ago. It's going to be a much worse experience than any of the currently available Surface devices can provide and much slower than similarly priced Chromebooks because of the Windows bloat. I don't mind Microsoft getting into this market, but it shouldn't tarnish the Surface name to do so and it should redefine what Windows is on low-cost devices, because if history serves us well, it will be another bad retelling of Windows RT/10 S/S Mode. Who knows, maybe in a year or two this comment will have aged poorly and fourth time would be the charm for Microsoft, who has been all but alienated from the K-12 education market since the iPad and Chromebooks became the norm for schools to buy in bulk and hand out to children. Growing up with school computer labs filled wall to wall with Windows XP and later Windows 7 PCs, it is sad to see the decline Microsoft has faced, but it is their own fault for not keeping up and I have little hope in Windows 11 SE and the Surface Laptop SE changing Microsoft's bad fortune in the education market.
  • I think my main issue with these devices being under the Surface banner is that, to me, the whole point of the Surface name is the touch-screen. That is the surface that the name refers to. Obviously the name was originally used for a table-top device and was probably even more apt then but, once that idea disappeared but the name was retained, at least the use of a touch-screen meant that you were still interacting with an actual surface. Without a touch-screen, the name Surface really just becomes a meaningless label. That's fine if you're OK with that, and Microsoft seemingly are. They seem to have decided that Surface just means "computing device made by Microsoft" and that's their prerogative. Perhaps they think that that makes it more likely that those students and/or their families will think Surface or at least Windows when it comes time to buy their own devices. Perhaps they're right.
  • Nope.
    Nope.
    And nope. Surface SE has nothing to do with winning the future through the education market.
    Apple thought that in the 80's. And 90's. And got nowhere.
    Apple dominated education with the Apple ii, iie, iiGs...
    ...and as soon as students hit the outside world they discovered the world ran mostly on Windows and companies cared little about their old habits. They had sunk tons of money into systems tbat worked well enough. And they weren't going to trash it for some newbies.
    It is a myth that getting to them young means you get to keep them forever.
    (That isn't true even in politics.)
    The center of gravity of personal computing is business productivity. Everything else is secondary.
    Education is the dog's tail of computing; it follows market trends, it doesn't create them. Surface SE exists for one reason and one reason only: to make money in the present.
    Most specifically: the government's latest boondoggle is to give away a few million computers to students under tbe idea that giving them free computers will magically make them smarter.
    Yeah, right.
    Well, government contracts go to the low cost bidder with the best lobbyists. After tbe antitrust lawsuit failed to destroy them, MS learned to be as good as anybody at lobbying and better than most. And using the Surface name will tie the Surface SE to the high price hardware, giving the illusion of deep deep discounts.
    Note that in tbeir hype the MS PR machine is highlighting the SE ability to work offline, where there is no internet access as a defining trait. That is not to convince teachers. Or school IT managers. It is to appeal to bureaucrats. When MS says the Surface SE is for the education market they're talking students or teachers or superintendents; they are talking Department of Education. Rest assured that when the DC paper pushers write up the requirements for the federal mass buy of education laptops for students to take home, offline use will be front and center. Oh, MS will meet all the real world needs for deployability, management, software, etc. But the bureau rats picking the winners of the "infrastructure" digital divide won't care about that. They won't care if it's plastic or even good (though it almost certainly be good enough. PCs are commodities. The cheapest China Inc compute stick is good enough for tbat market). They'll see SURFACE, tbey'll see Microsoft (their own systems run on MS software), they'll see the spec sheets, and they'll see the price. Cha-ching. The federalization of education is why Surface SE exists.
    There is going to be billions spent on computers and MS wants tbeir piece of the pie; one contract, billions in profit. For all the fighting at local school boards, the real fight for education dollars is in DC. Debating the technical and free market merits of the Surface SE is meaningless. Have at it if you plrase but that's not what will decide its fate.
    It is a government contract product.
    Technical merits are secondary to price which is secondary to the contract fine print. Finally, note when the bill was signed and when MS announced the SurfaceSE.
    The ink hadn't even dried.
    Google will make their announcement soon enough. But MS got their bid in first. Let the lobbying begin.
  • “and as soon as students hit the outside world they discovered the world ran mostly on Windows” Well, the front end runs mostly on Windows. The heavy duty stuff is running on mainframes and Linux servers running Oracle DBs.
  • Have you looked at the market share numbers lately?
    Especially the tools of the end users?
  • He's not talking front end users he's saying that every major service that you access from your computer is running on Linux (or in the case of Netflix bsd)
  • Yes if they're well made and especially when these are only for the education market anyway. I've always thought Apple do customers a disservice by being so elitist. You can absolutely make a decent MacBook without charging so much. Well made plastic for example won't change how a MacBook works. It's unfair to consumers to keep a brand only premium. A tonne of the world will never be able to enjoy your product.
  • Imagine if Apple released a similar device? Chrome Books and the SL:SE would be screwed imo.
  • You forgot that they have to develop lots of apps for classroom and hardware management like Intune etc. Hardware is just a scratch on the surface 🙃,
  • It does not matter either way. “Surface” is not a known brand to the general public. This is not Harley Davidson making a kids bicycle with training wheels. This is Microsoft selling a cheap laptop.
  • They already are, the Surface Go is a budget device.
  • Brand building is an intentional and coordinated presentation of the associations of the brand. The challenge is that Microsoft as a company has a brand name that has many meanings to many people so it has its own "messaging battles" to face (unlike "Apple" which brand name carries a generally positive connotation). The "Surface" name denotes "computing devices built with premium materials and a unique, or rethought, form factor and aesthetic" (except for the Surface Laptop, which is a generic touchscreen laptop design). Surface also denotes "pricey" because of the premium materials. The brand name and expectation should not be diluted with generic design, materials, or craftmanship, or it negates all the work Panos and the team have done to paint the picture of what it means to be a "Surface" device.
  • The term "Surface" is a reference to touch interaction, such as touchscreen, or interaction like on the Surface buds/headset . Without touch interaction of any sort, this device shouldn't really qualify as a Surface.