4 things we want in a Surface 4 powered by ARM

The original Surface RT and Surface 2 were both ARM devices that were locked to the Windows Store, meaning they ultimately failed to gain any traction in the tablet PC market. With the Surface 3, Microsoft changed things up a little by bringing the line to low-end x86 chips with the Intel ATOM. This allowed it to run normal desktop apps, which, as a result, solved the problem that plagued both the Surface RT and Surface 2.

Intel since killed those ATOM chips, meaning there's no viable low-end CPU out there that would make sense in a low-powered Surface 4 device. If Microsoft wants to continue building low-powered Surface devices, it needs two things: desktop app support, and low-powered, low-cost CPUs. Luckily, with Windows 10 coming to ARM, the company can do just that. A Surface 4 powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor with full Win32 emulation would mean you could download your favorite programs from the web without being locked to the Windows Store. It just makes sense.

With that in mind, there are a few more things I'd like to see show up with a Surface 4 powered by ARM. The Surface 3 is an amazing little tablet that's great for light web browsing, email and games. But it's not perfect. Here's what I'm hoping Microsoft improves with the Surface 4.

1. Infinite kickstand

The Surface 3 is currently limited to just three positions of the kickstand, which is plenty for most people. It'd be nice, however, if Microsoft gave us the same infinite-position kickstand found on the Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 4. It's nicer, feels better to adjust and allows for much more control when in your lap.

"Lapability" is a phrase only ever brought up when talking about Surface devices, and while the Surface 3 did a good job at being "lapable", due to its kickstand being limited to just three positions, it meant not everyone had a comfortable angle to work from on their lap. A kickstand mechanism from the Surface Pro 4 would solve this problem.

2. Bigger screen, same overall size

Similar to what Microsoft did with the Surface Pro 4, I'm hoping Microsoft increases the size of the Surface 4 screen by 0.3 inches, which would minimize screen borders while maintaining that same 10-inch device size. This would remove the Surface home button from the screen, but Windows 10 doesn't really benefit from that button anyway.

It would also allow for a slight increase in screen real-estate, which would make Windows feel less claustrophobic when working with multiple windows. The Surface 3's screen suffers from feeling compact, so increasing its screen size just a little bit would help.

3. Improved type cover

Microsoft almost nailed the type cover on the Surface 3, with its excellent key travel but slightly-small trackpad. However, there's still room for improvement. I'd like to see Microsoft introduce a type cover for the Surface 4 that has the same key design as the Surface Pro 4 type cover, with a slightly wider trackpad for precision and a Windows Hello fingerprint reader. 

Type Cover with Fingerprint ID

Type Cover with Fingerprint ID

For cost reasons, I don't expect the Surface 4 to feature facial recognition, so some form of Hello via the type cover makes sense. I'm also hoping Microsoft introduces more color variants of the type cover and maybe even different textures and materials. It'd be nice to see an Alcantara type cover (opens in new tab) for the smaller Surface 4, right?

4. Better battery life

Last but not least, I'm hoping Microsoft is able to improve the battery life on the Surface 4. Considering it'll hopefully be powered by ARM, you can guarantee there'll be improvements in the standby department, but I'm hoping there'll be some improvements to battery life when in use, too.

MS logo

MS logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

I'm not saying battery life on the Surface 3 is bad, but I am hoping for some minor improvements in this department with the Surface 4. A device that lasts a little bit longer is never a bad thing.

That's what I'm hoping to see on a Surface 4 powered by ARM. What would you like to see?

Is early 2018 too soon for a Surface phone?

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

181 Comments
  • I guess it's the Surface 5 though.
  • They will skip '4' to mark a change in architecture
  • Or just jump straight to "Surface
    10".
  • :D
  • Then where is the Surface Pro 10?
  • and what about Xbox One 10 (aka 1-10)?
  • That'd be Xbox Ten.
  • Or just Xbox 10. All devices, for everything 10.
  • ...Xbox One...OneCore....Windows 10... Get it?
  • it should have been OneWindows or Windows1
  • Perhaps Microsoft could actually stick with a marketing strategy for more than five minutes and call it the Surface One. To go with OneDrive, Xbox One, OneNote, OneCore....
  • I doubt that it's about the architecture but simply about the timing. The Surface 3 did appear later than the Surface Pro 3 but not by a lot. By the time the next Surface iteration is ready for release, the Surface Pro 5 will have been released or be near to release, so using the name Surface 4 would make the device appear quite old, whereas Surface 5 would make it appear more up to date.
  • Or Surface Mini
  • Surface 95
  • Lol. Surface 3.1 sounds good.  As long as it's not Surface XP...
  • It will be Surface ZR2S10
  • I'll take Surface XP over Surface-Vista any time any day
  • I would love to see a 8 incher.
  • Come on over the house then. Oh you mean a Surface, nevermind.
  • Lol!!!!
  • PAUSE!!
  • Is that what your girlfriend said?
  • I have a 10 inch
  • I love my Xiaomi MiPad 2 8 incher only if was faster with better performance.
  • Surface DOS.
  • Ill stick with my surface book with performance base
  • It must be nice to have large pockets unless you're a spend thrift which it really wouldn't matter
  • iSurface
  • That's what Apple should have called their iPad Pro...
  • They wanted to, but it wasn't good enough.
  • Samsung tried skipping a number to not make the "new" product not seem like it was old...we see how that worked out for them. *BOOM*
  • I wish lumia 2520 had a successor now... It had awesome design.
  • My screen broke the other week and I cant get parts, so hoping something similar would be arriving. I don't need a full Surface Pro, an ARM powered version is sufficient for my purposes with it.
  • I wish MS make a version of w10m for 2520, it was an awesome tab.
  • I wouldn't be surprised if they skip 4 and go straight to 5 assuming they launch it alongside the SP5 like Samsung did with the note 7 to keep the numbering consistent with the GS. Aside from that I think they could get away with axing the full size USB in favor of type C in order to make it thinner (keep it on the pro) and maybe offer both a 10 and 12 inch version (while dropping the m3 model pro) in order to better compete with the iPad pro on a price/battery level while leaving high performance to the pro line with i5/7s  
  • Only if they include a USB-C-to-USB A cable in the box.
  • they should include 2 USB-C ports and 1 DP port.
  • WoA and Window 365 and windows 365 mini(free) will mark the end of android and ios duopoly. I'm also rooting for windows 365 (aks education) with 'class 365' (intune for education) to send chromebook to abyss
  • How? Edit: what's Windows 365 and 365 mini?
  • I think he talks about the Cloud SKU.
  • What worries me is that Universities and Colleges of under developed countries start to buy Chromebooks or Windows 365 cloud machines as you call them (Windows 10 Cloud SKU) for college or University students, that cannot afford to purchase a laptop that comes with Windows, Linux or OS X. Most scientific degrees need software that is not available on iOS, Android or Windows RT2 (Aka Windows 10 cloud).  Are we really interested in making kids smarter in industrial revolution 3.0 or we're just making a smoke curtain with all these fancy laptops that run on the cloud and look beautiful in the outside.
  • That's not a new problem, and it already has a solution. At my high school, every computer lab had ~30 Windows 7 computers with Office and other basic programs. One computer lab used by the graphics students also had Photoshop on their machines.  Now, the school has switched to Chromebooks for all their students, and most of the computer labs have been converted to class rooms. However, they still have a computer lab for the graphics students who need Photoshop.  For the students that just need a word processor and web browser, a Chromebook or Windows 10 Cloud laptop makes a lot of sense. The scientific students could have their own computer lab or other means of accessing that software. 
  • Sounds like a lot of investment in computer lab infrastructure which these schools might not have, I'm sure that companies like Siemens, Cisco, Motorola, etc. are going to hire graduates that know how the smart grid works with all these new communications and security protocols to build cyber-physical-systems and I'm almost sure they won't hire a student that only knows how to use a Chromebook or a Windows 10 Cloud machine.
  • I think if a low budget, rural Indiana school can have a dedicated computer lab for heavier programs, other schools can find the room in their budgets.    And it's not that hard to learn how to use a new machine, especially for someone in a technical field. I've never used macOS personally, but I can get by well enough with it when my friends need me to fix something. In fact, if someone can't learn how to use a new system, should they even be in a technical field?
  • That's why Win32 emulation exists on Windows 10 on ARM. You still get your software.
  • But Windows Cloud wouldn't be Windows 10 on ARM. It wouldn't be able to access Win32 applications. 
  • Windows 10 Cloud isn't Windows 10 on ARM. Windows 10 on ARM is the one Microsoft showed in their video. Windows 10 Cloud would be more like chromebooks, only being able to run windows store apps. 
  • Right, but Josh was replying to a comment about Windows 10 Cloud. Windows 10 Cloud (presumably) won't have access to Win32 apps that people say are crucial. 
  • Honestly for my use case (EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT), I would be interested in a Cloud SKU if it was a lightweight, portable device with good battery life. Oh and make it cheaper than a full W10 laptop. I am a biomedical science major and the most intensive programs I use are Excel on rare occasions. My entire workflow consists of Edge, OneNote, and Office. I even tend to like the UWP office more because it is lightweight and simpler to use. Anyways, long story short, I think there is a market for this if the price is right.
  • I honestly don't mind thicker device since I still think the current device is way too thin. And make it slightly thicker can give a lot more room for battery
  • For me tablets should be as portable as possible so the lighter and thinner you can make it, the better.
  • But when it is So think I always get the feeling that it is gonna bent in my bag. Also the battery life on the current device are simply trash, Surface pro 4 is the prime example. It would have been a perfect device, but it is hindered by it's battery
  • I've been using an SP4 for the last few months and feel that the battery life is perfecly fine.  If you kept the same form factor, simply moving to an ARM processor will give you better battery life.
  • It needs to be thin and light to keep up with the iJonses. Any fat and heavy 'consumption' level Tablet (non-Pro) will fail. Personally I want thin and light too, certainly nothing thicker than my current Surface 3.
  • I agree!
    Same with the mobile phones. A 10mm phone is not bad at all the handle. And you can definately use that space to have more battery;")
  • The only thing I care about with Windows on ARM (WoA) is that it is truly feature compatible and that it performs as well as the Surface 3, which had good performance (Intel Atom processor). If it maintains the same performance and improves battery life, then that's a big win because it will encourage more UWP development and OEMs will also be encouraged to release WoA-based devices. If Microsoft effectively releases another Surface RT, then they are asking for failure. I owned a Surface RT (and Surface Pro) and I quickly became disappointed with its performance and I'm not certain that ARM processors have improved enough to stem that problem. The performance was a much bigger problem than the lack of apps on it, which says a lot.
  • Question: Will WoA run desktop apps? *confused*
  • Yes. In the demo it did
  • Ok thx. So then don't y