The first Microsoft Surface tablet to hit the streets featured a 10.6 inch display and a $499 price tag. But it was soon followed by a Surface Pro tablet with premium specs and an $899 starting price.

That was in 2012 and 2013. Microsoft has continued selling Surface tablets ever since… but the lineup has changed a lot in recent years.

The company’s flagship Surface Pro is still a tablet with a built-in kickstand and optional pen and keyboard support. But the latest model sports a 12.3 inch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and prices ranging from $799 (for a Core M3/4GB/128GB model) to $2699 (for Core i7/16GB/1TB).

As for Microsoft’s smaller, cheaper Surface tablets? The company hasn’t launched one since 2015. Interestingly, that means Microsoft abandoned the budget tablet space at about the same time as Apple entered the premium tablet space with the launch of the first iPad Pro.

Now it looks like Microsoft may be giving low-end tablets another try.

Microsoft Surface 3 (2015)

According to a report from Bloomberg, Microsoft plans to launch a new line of Surface tablets with 10 inch displays that will sell for around $400. Note that the price does not include a keyboard cover, which will be sold separately… but Bloomberg says lower-cost stylus, keyboard, and mouse accessories are also in development.

The new tablets are expected to ship with Windows 10 Pro software, and to feature Intel processors and graphics. But it’s unclear what chip they’ll use (my money would be on a low-power Celeron or Pentium Gemini Lake processor, but I wouldn’t rule out a Core M3 or Core i3 chip).

They’re also expected to be Microsoft’s first tablets to feature USB Type-C ports for charging and data transfer. And the new tablets will have an updated design with rounded corners. They should be 20 percent lighter than a Surface Pro, but they’re also expected to get less battery life than a Surface Pro.

While Microsoft’s Surface Pro will continue to compete with Apple’s iPad Pro tablets in the high-end space, these new tablets could compete against Apple’st latest entry-level iPads which sell for $329 and up.

Of course, if you want a really cheap option for gaming, web browsing, and media consumption, it’s hard to beat Amazon’s Fire tablets, which sell for as little as $50. But if you want a tablet that offers PC-like functionality, there’s plenty of room for innovation in the $400 space.

Meanwhile, Google is also starting to target this space, not with Android tablets (which have largely failed to capture much market share at this price point), but with Chrome OS 2-in-1 tablets like the upcoming HP Chromebook x2 and Acer Chromebook Tab 10.

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23 replies on “Bloomberg: Microsoft to launch smaller, cheaper Surface tablets (again)”

  1. This will be a no-go if it only has 32gb of storage. 64gb should be the minimum.

  2. Folks seem to forget that the Galaxy Book 10.6” has an m3 CPU, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, USB-C, keyboard and stylus for $730.

  3. These should be the devices running on Qualcomm Snapdragon. Why would they go and use some low cost intel stuff when there is a new market category to develop?

    1. Because that’s what they tried the first time around. The Surface RT was a flop.

      This time around Windows 10 on ARM can run x86 apps, which is an improvement… but there are still some serious limitations (no support for x86 64-bit apps, for instance), and performance is generally acknowledged to suck.

      Yes, a $400 Surface tablet with a Snapdragon processor would tempt a few people to try the new platform… which they may or may not be disappointed in. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what Microsoft is trying to do here.

      Instead, the idea is to offer a lower-cost alternative to the high-end Surface in order to stay competitive in the lower-priced tablet space. A device with full Windows functionality at an iPad-like price could do that. One with a crippled OS and sluggish performance would just make the iPad look like a better option.

      1. Based on Microsoft past history they might just do that and launch a product that nobody will like 🙂

      2. Brad I always mention this one thing. What is the letter between R & T? Windows S is the modern evolution of the Windows RT strategy. Agree with your thoughts on this device though.

    2. Arm on Windows isn’t nearly developed enough. You might as well go for a Samsung chromebook plus if the $400 surface ran on arm. The ability to run Windows programs such as steam and millions other programs effectively goes out the window with the current state of arm on Windows 10. This means you don’t get to use Windows for what it’s good at and you don’t get any benefits of a similar/cheaper priced Chromebook such as no maintenance, instant updates, zippy web performance with chrome and the Google play store.

      Windows needs to stick to x86 processors instead of trying to chase a market they are beaten at. There’s nothing wrong with Windows on low end intel processors.

    3. Unlikely ARM based given the lesson Microsoft learned from Surface RT’s failure. Could be Intel’s Gemini Lake mobile version.

  4. I love my 10 inch Windows 2 in 1. My only lament is that it only has 2GB of RAM (adequate for word processing, web browsing, light photo work, and retro gaming; but that’s about it). If they made a device that was both affordable and had 4GB+ of RAM, I’d be thrilled.

    1. My Linx suffers from a lack of viable sleep and struggles with updates but it is surprisingly good.

  5. Finally!!! I would like a low cost 10 to 12 inch tablet with pen support to use at work. I am considering the new 2018 iPad with Pencil support. But if a new low cost Surface is in the works, I’ll wait for it. Hopefully the wait won’t be long.

      1. I’ve been using tablets for the last 5 years…and I can’t understand why people would want a bezel free tablet? Where do you put your thumb on this “bezelless” device? You can’t hold the tablet with any solidity in a “dinner plate” fashion. Doesn’t make sense…other than I agree with you Tobi…it might look pretty nifty…but unless you don’t have thumbs it might not be feasible? For this new device…I don’t like the shrinkage in size at all…just keep it the same size as the others(and therefore compatibility with all accessories as well). If it has the new Core M3, I’d probably be a buyer as long as it is fanless…and I’d imagine it will be. A 10″ device on these aging eyes is a no go though…

    1. I recently bought a new Acer Switch 12 for $550. It’s a 12″ Surface clone with an i5 CPU, 8GB RAM and 256 SSD. The keyboard is included. I just looked and it’s $500 today at the company website..

      1. Jerry. I agree. I paid $400 for my HP Spectre x2 12…and I was strongly consider the Acer unit because of the liquid cooling. These units are priced right. Microsoft on the other hand is looking to be the new Apple. Everything is 2x what they should be charging…and they’re obviously getting away with it. There’s a sucker born…well, you know.

  6. Great news! I’d like to upgrade from my Surface 3 LTE. Hopefully, these new models have an LTE option as well. In addition to the CPU upgrade, more RAM and an SSD (the current eMMC is noticeably slow) would be nice.

    Of course, I’m expecting these to still be fanless.

    1. I am up for a decently priced Surface 10″ Windows tablet to be used a road computer.
      I have been looking at refurbished models of the Venue 11 Pro 7140 and Latitude 11 5175 but can’t quite convince myself. A Surface correctly priced and with decent screen and performance may convince me.

  7. I would love to see a comeback of 7-8″ windows tablets. Maybe some models with 4GB of RAM?

    1. Personally I would love to have another good 8-9″ Android tablet, preferably with native Oreo (Project Treble). I have a Fire 8HD and I keep going back to the 8.4 Galaxy Tab Pro (which battery is almost dead).

      1. You can always run Android in an emulator on a Windows tablet which works surprisingly well. It just needs enough storage.

    2. Oh, yeah! The Dell Venue 8 Pro was my daily driver for many years. My sister still uses it to draw with the stylus.

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