Even Linux users can get a Microsoft Surface-alike now

StarLabs StarLite 12.5 2-in-1
(Image credit: StarLabs)

What you need to know

  • Linux-focused hardware brand StarLabs has unveiled its latest budget machine and it's taking heavy influence from the Microsoft Surface.
  • The 12.3-inch 2-in-1 boasts a high-resolution display, comes with a keyboard and starts under $500. 
  • And yes, you could put Windows 11 on one if you wanted to. 

[Updated Friday, August 18, 11.40 a.m. ET: Added more information on configuration and clarification the keyboard is not included now the device can be configured for potential buyers.]

We've long touted the effect the Microsoft Surface has had on PC design, breaking the mould when it first launched and continuing to set the bar for 2-in-1 laptops to this day. 

Now, the iconic kickstand and detachable keyboard design has broken free of Windows, with Linux-focused brand, StarLabs, revealing its latest budget StarLite offering. It's not quite a Surface Pro, but it's that kind of experience, and for under $500. 

Previous StarLite models have been traditional laptops but for the latest iteration, StarLabs has ripped up the old design and gone for a 12.3-inch 2-in-1 with an optional detachable keyboard, a high-resolution display, and some useful ports on the side that you don't get from a Surface. 

(Image credit: StarLabs)

The design, and most likely also the construction, doesn't quite hit Surface levels, but from the early images it doesn't look bad at all. The display is a 2880 x 1920 resolution panel, which itself is amazing for something this affordable. It also promises 16GB of RAM, and storage is available from 512GB up to 2TB. 

The CPU is where the price has been kept down, using Intel's N200 4-core, 4-thread unit. This does at least mean a fanless design, and since it's designed for Linux which is typically less resource-intensive than Windows, it should be capable enough. Demanding users will still need to look elsewhere, though, just as if they wouldn't buy a Surface Go over a Surface Pro. 

What I like the most is that despite being a slim tablet form factor, there are still ports on this thing. You don't need a dock to hook it up to an external display, as it boasts a micro-HDMI port, alongside a pair of USB-C connectors, one of which will be how you charge it. There's also a headphone jack, the keyboard docks with pogo pins and is backlit, and you also get a microSD card slot for storage expansion. 

Starting at $498 the StarLite looks like being a pretty solid value package. It's extremely customizable, too, using open-source firmware, and StarLabs will either ship it without an OS or put your favorite Linux distro on it. And since it's just a PC, you could put Windows 11 on it if you wanted. 

This is the second StarLabs machine in recent weeks that caught my eye, right after its new 16-inch laptop with an innovative detachable webcam. Great things from a company many may never have heard of. You can configure one yourself over at the StarLabs store

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine

  • GothardJ2
    The website allows you to configure the device, and the keyboard is not included. It is an additional $101. The storage options are 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB.
  • Iamdumbguy
    It’s so dumb putting a desktop OS on these tiny devices. Screens should be 14” or larger period- with touch or without.
  • PaperPirateMonk
    With Microsoft inserting adds and distractions into Windows, I would actually consider something like this for my next upgrade. If they get a pen, I'd be seriously tempted.