It’s been nearly a year since the Surface Go 3 was announced, which means a successor should already be in development. So the question is, which chip will power Microsoft’s next-gen Windows tablet? Is this the year Microsoft makes the switch to ARM for its entry-level tablet or will it continue its partnership with Intel?
Despite Microsoft and Qualcomm working on the Windows-on-ARM project since 2016, Microsoft only has one commercially-available product that is powered by an ARM processor, and that’s the Surface Pro X. Even the $249 Surface Laptop SE is powered by Intel processors. Apple, on the other hand, has switched all of its Macs to its custom-built ARM chips.
The next-gen Surface Go 2-in-1 tablet should launch as the Surface Go 4, and while there is no information on what new changes will be coming to the device with respect to design, there are already reports about which chipset will power it. The folks at Windows Central have disclosed that Microsoft is considering an ARM chip for the Surface Go 4. No decision has been made yet about the specific chipset but it will most likely be an entry-level one, possibly one of the Snapdragon 7c series, given that the Surface Go is a budget tablet.
In December 2021, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3, a 6nm chip with a 5G modem (mmWave and sub-6GHz) and support for WiFi 6 and WiFi 6E. The official spec sheet even mentions that it supports Windows 11. The chipset will begin appearing in devices in the second half of 2022, and if Microsoft launches the Surface Go 4 this year, it might be the chipset of choice, or at least a chip based on the platform. This is because Microsoft usually customizes Qualcomm’s chips for its devices. The Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2 chips used in the Surface Pro X are based on the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 1 and Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, respectively.
Even if Microsoft does launch the Surface Go 4 with an ARM chip, it doesn’t rule out the possibility of an Intel-powered variant. The Surface Go 3 is available in two configurations – one with an Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y processor and another with the more powerful Intel Core i3-10100Y processor. Microsoft may decide to use an ARM chip for the base model but stick to Intel for the more powerful configuration.
While the Surface Go 4 should arrive this year, Microsoft may push it to 2023. Irrespective of the launch date, it will have its fair share of competition in the Windows space as well as the Chrome OS segment. There are the ASUS ExpertBook B3 Detachable and the Lenovo 10W Tablet for those who want a Windows 2-in-1. Lenovo also has a formidable Surface Go competitor in the form of the IdeaPad Chromebook Duet 3.