Report: Upcoming Microsoft Surface devices may use AMD or Qualcomm chips

It appears that Microsoft plans to hold another Surface event this October for the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Laptop 3.

Surface Pro 6
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

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Upcoming Microsoft Surface devices may use chips from either AMD or Qualcomm, according to a report, as Microsoft attempts to diversify its portfolio.

While it’s unknown whether Microsoft’s relationship with Intel has deteriorated, the company apparently is evaluating Surfaces that use either an AMD SoC or a Snapdragon chip, Petri reported. The AMD SoC, code-named Picasso (said to combine a Zen+ core with a Vega GPU), would be used inside a potential Surface Laptop 3, with the Qualcomm chip reserved for the Surface Pro 7.

Microsoft typically hosts events to refresh its Surface devices in October. The 2018 improvements to both the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 were mostly cosmetic. Petri said it expects more of the same for this October, though with a shift away from the underutilized Surface connector to a more conventional USB-C port.

Microsoft might be quietly seeding leaks about using rival chipmakers as a time-tested negotiating tactic to extract better pricing from Intel, currently its exclusive CPU supplier. But it’s also likely that Microsoft is looking for better solutions than Intel provides. For instance, Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices typically include an LTE variant that ships later. A shift to a relatively powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon chip like the 8cx would probably allow an LTE or 5G variant to ship right away. (Branding it as the Surface Pro 7 5G probably wouldn’t be out of the question, either.)

Shifting to AMD for the Surface Pro, on the other hand, would allow Microsoft to bundle in a bit more graphics horsepower. Related, Intel recently made some bold claims about how well its own Ice Lake chips would compare to AMD’s GPUs.

In any case, it’s likely that Microsoft will choose either AMD or Intel or Qualcomm exclusively for a product line. The intricacy of tablet design doesn’t lend itself to designs that could accommodate a choice of chip.

Whether new Surface products come to market is all speculation at this point. But if Microsoft is evaluating CPU options, the next refresh to the Surface lineup could be somewhat more than iterative, and that’s good news.

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