The new, cheap Surface tablets could cut corners on processing power
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
You can’t have something for nothing, and that looks set to be the case with the upcoming low-cost Surface tablets Microsoft is reportedly working on. Reportedly, the way it’s looking to get the cost of the convertible tablet down to under $400 is by fitting them with Pentium Silver N5000 and Pentium Gold Y-series CPUs. While they match up favorably with the Core m3 processor used in the base-model Surface Pro, they fall well short of the Core i5 CPUs used in the slightly more costly models.
While this is disappointing for anyone who was hoping for a viable alternative to the Surface Pro for general computing purposes, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if you consider the purpose of the rumored new Surface line. Microsoft is looking to compete directly with Apple’s iPad hardware. Those tablets are relatively low cost and offer reasonable power, but they don’t compete with laptops. The whole point is to keep costs down, and Pentium Silver and Gold chips could be a great way to offer that whilst introducing the benefits of brand new CPU technologies.
Whichever configuration new Surface buyers opt for, they should get far more powerful hardware than the last Surface tablet, the Surface 3. Although we liked that 2015 convertible tablet with its Intel Atom CPU, the three-year-old hardware doesn’t hold up to the newer Pentium chips. The Atom and Pentium Silver chips have four cores, where the Gold chips have two (with support for hyperthreading), but the newer architectures are significantly more powerful in all scenarios than the older Atom chip.
That said, those hoping for real power will want to opt for heftier devices, as these chips are not designed to be workhorses. While perfectly capable for watching Netflix or writing up documents, more intense tasks will certainly stress the system. As Engadget points out though, that’s not a problem, as Microsoft’s simply wants students and budget tablet users to consider it instead of the Apple alternative hardware.
For everyone else, there’s fantastic convertible laptops in the Surface line like the Surface Book 2, which sports industry leading battery life and real performance hardware.
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