Hear what you want to hear with the Razer Opus ANC headphones down to $150

A great pair of headphones, the Razer Opus active-noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones, are on sale today for a low price of $149.99 at Amazon. These headphones were selling for as much as $200 at the beginning of the year, and while they still regularly go that high they’re more likely to be found going for around $180. The last time they dropped as low as today’s deal was back in January. This is another great chance to grab the headphones for a low price before they bounce back up.

We reviewed the Razer Opus last year and gave them 4.5 stars out of 5 with a Recommended badge. Daniel Rubino said, “the audio quality, features, and battery life make the Razer Opus a highly competitive over-the-ear headset with active-noise-canceling ability. They’re also extremely comfortable.”

Even though Razer is more known for the PC peripherals, these headphones are designed to be used with mobile devices. They are THX Certified, which means they produce high-fidelity sound. To get that certification, real-life audio experts optimized the audio and made sure you’re getting great immersion, a balanced sound stage, and the best possible cinematic experience no matter what you’re listening to with these headphones.

The active noise-cancellation technology works by detecting unwanted noises, mostly the ambient sounds coming in, and nullifying them. Watch your favorite movies, binge some TV episodes, or tune into your favorite songs, and let the ANC eliminate any other distractions. Don’t miss out on important sounds either, like traffic or someone engaging you in a conversation. Just tab a button and become instantly aware of the ambient noises around you.

The rechargeable battery will last you for up to 25 hours, and the headphones use a plush leatherette memory foam ear cushion so they can stay comfortable for that entire time. The weight is balanced on your head and ears so they don’t become cumbersome, either.

Hear what you want to hear with the Razer Opus ANC headphones down to 0

The new Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 is an affordable option for education

The Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 is built to fit growing students and comes at an incredibly low price.

What you need to know

Microsoft announced the Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 today.
The pen is optimized to work with Surface Go and Surface Pro devices.
The Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 will be available starting on April 27 for $20.

Microsoft announced a new digital pen today that’s significantly cheaper than the competition. The new Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 only costs $20, which is less than all of best Surface Pen and Surface Slim Pen alternatives currently on the market. It’s also cheaper than the best Apple Pencil alternatives. Microsoft announced the new digital pen in a recent blog post.

You can use the Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 with Surface Go or Surface Pro devices. Microsoft’s blog post highlights that using digital ink within a classroom setting can help save paper, trees, ink, and money. Wellington College switched to Surface devices and saved 3.8 million sheets of paper, according to Microsoft.

The Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 has a longer enclosure and improved design compared to its predecessor. You can also replace the tip of the Microsoft Classroom Pen 2. It has a slot for tethering and a clip, both of which help people keep track of the pen. A video from Microsoft showcasing the pen discusses how a physical clip is more secure than attaching magnetically.

Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 will be available starting on April 27, 2021 for only $20 per pen. Microsoft says the Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 will be sold in packs of 20 for $399.80. The company does not state if the pen will be sold individually. The Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 will be sold exclusively to education institutions.

The new Microsoft Classroom Pen 2 is an affordable option for education

Linux GUI apps arrive with latest Windows 10 Insider build

Users can now run Linux GUI apps on the latest Insider build of Windows 10 using WSL.

What you need to know

Linux GUI app support is now part of Windows with latest preview build.
Other improvements to Task Manager are now also in testing.
The build is 21364 and is available in the Dev Channel.

Microsoft is back again with another Windows 10 preview build for Insiders in the Dev Channel. Today’s build is 21364 and includes support for Linux GUI applications running directly on Windows using the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). That, plus other minor changes and enhancements.

Microsoft is also adding more Edge process classifications to Task Manager a new eco mode that allows users to throttle certain processes from within Task Manager, and a new 50-on touch keyboard for Japanese users. The full changelog is as follows:

The Windows Subsystem for Linux now includes a first preview of support for GUI applications! This means you can now run your favorite GUI editors, tools, and applications, to develop, test, build and run your Linux apps!
We partnered with the Microsoft Edge team to support process classification in Task Manager. This will help you to identify resource consumption under Microsoft Edge. The classification is broken down to several different components like Tabs, Browser processes (Browser, GPU Process, Crashpad), Utility plugins (Utility: Audio Service Extensions), Dedicated & Service workers etc. It also features separate icons for each process to help you identify them including fav icon for website.
Task Manager has a new experimental feature in this build called “Eco mode” which provides users with an option to throttle process resources. It will also help identify apps that are already running in Eco mode. This feature is helpful when you notice an app consuming high resources and would like to limit its consumption so that the system gives priority to other apps which will lead to faster foreground responsiveness and better energy efficiency.
We’re excited to introduce a new touch keyboard layout for Japanese, 50-on touch keyboard. 50-on touch keyboard is a popular layout widely used for Kiosk devices in Japan. It allows you to input Japanese texts intuitively without knowing how to compose Hiragana characters.
Based on feedback, we’re updating the notification that used to say “We need to fix your account (most likely your password changed)”, to be more representative of what it’s for, and now say “Select here to sign in to your account to continue using apps between this device and your other devices.”
When you turn on or off night light manually, for example via the Action Center, night light will now turn on immediately rather than slowly transition.
We fixed an issue causing some USB attached printers to no longer work after upgrading to Build 21354 and higher.
Theme-aware splash screens are now visible again in this build.
We fixed an explorer.exe crash impacting Insiders in the last few builds.
We fixed an issue resulting in the About page in Settings appearing blank sometimes.
We fixed an issue resulting in some corrupted characters across Settings in the previous build, for example in the “These folders won’t be indexed” text on the Searching Windows page.
We fixed an issue that could result in the Windows Update status in the Settings header not being correct.
We fixed an issue where the “Manage Disks and Volumes” page in Settings was incorrectly displaying HDDs as SSDs.
We fixed an issue where chkdsk was sometimes not calculating elapsed time correctly.
We fixed an issue where some of the text in the UAC dialog wasn’t displaying correctly.
We fixed an issue with where the recent changes to the default spacing in File Explorer, the icon in the address bar was a little too close to the side.
We fixed an issue resulting in the New Text Document button in File Explorer’s ribbon not working.
We fixed an issue where File Explorer was unexpectedly not pinned for some Insiders after resetting or clean installing their PC in recent builds.
We fixed an issue where the battery icon in the taskbar looked like it was at 90% when it was actually at 100% at some scaling.
We fixed an issue impacting Windows Hello reliability in recent flights.
We fixed an issue where Windows Firewall was unexpectedly giving an error recently when updating existing rules to Block.
We fixed an issue where sihost.exe would crash sometimes when trying to use the Share option when right clicking an app in Start.
We fixed an issue impacting Search reliability for some Insiders in the last two builds. Please let us know if you continue experiencing crashes after upgrading, as it may be a different underlying root cause.
We fixed an issue resulting in some Insiders seeing a CRITICAL PROCESS DIED bug check in recent builds.
We fixed an issue that could result in freezing in certain games recently when bringing up overlays when HDR was enabled.
We fixed an issue where certain images expectedly wouldn’t appear in your clipboard history after copying them from a webpage using Microsoft Edge.
We fixed an issue where elements of the Japanese IME candidate window may get truncated when using a text scaling of 200%.
We fixed an issue where after using the gesture on the touch keyboard’s space bar to move your cursor, the Shift and CTRL key displayed states may become out of sync with the actual state.
We fixed an issue that was preventing x64 apps on ARM64 like Cyberlink PhotoDirector from detecting the presence of the C++ redistributables.
We fixed and issue preventing split screen mode for Auto HDR from working.
We added support for x64 out of process shell extensions on ARM64.
3D Viewer and Print 3D app shortcuts have been moved back into Start.

Make sure you check out the Windows Blog for a list of known issues and more.

Linux GUI apps arrive with latest Windows 10 Insider build

Outriders inventory restoration will grant players better weapons

This is great news for anyone worried the items restored would be worse than what they initially lost.

What you need to know

Outriders players have suffered a bug that completely wiped their inventories and weapon stashes.
Square Enix has now confirmed that weapons that are restored will have the same, if not better stats with God Roll values.
The developer still does not have an ETA on when the inventory restoration will take place.

Outriders has had a rocky launch on Xbox Game Pass. The co-op shooter was first plagued by server issues before a more insidious bug reared its ugly head. After players discovered their inventories completely wiped of their hard-earned items, People Can Fly promised it was working on a fix. It looks as if that fix is imminent and will include items with equal or better stats than those you lost.

According to a post on Reddit from Square Enix, those affected by the bug will receive weapons with the “same attribute combinations but with God Roll values.” Even better, all of these items will be granted at the character’s highest available equip level, taking World Tiers and Challenge Tiers into consideration.

Most players who have found themselves hit by the inventory wipe also discovered that they haven’t been able to play the game at all with that character due to an invalid inventory being registered. These people will receive all equipped items at the time of the inventory wipe, all legendary items, and their previous 20 non-legendary items, with first prioritization based on rarity.

Accolade levels will also be recovered if a player reached the final tier of said Accolade, though Square Enix said that interim tiers and progress cannot be restored.

The studio was hoping to give an ETA as to when this restoration process will take place, but given the scale of everything it needs a little more time. Rest assured that this is the team’s highest priority and they hope to roll it out as soon as possible.

If you’re able to look past some of its issues and bugs, many have found Outriders to be one of the best Xbox Game Pass games to come to the service.

Subscribe today

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

From $1/month at Microsoft
$45 at Amazon (3-month subscription)
$15 at Amazon (1-month subscription)

All your gaming needs, in one subscription.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the perfect way to enhance your gaming experience. With hundreds of games on demand and all of the benefits of Xbox Live Gold, Game Pass Ultimate is offers a tremendous amount of value. Xbox exclusives release into the service the day they launch and retail, and some third-party games do as well.

Outriders inventory restoration will grant players better weapons

Review: AMD's impact on Surface Laptop 4 (15") makes a big difference

Featuring newish AMD Ryzen 4000 processors, Surface Laptop 4 15-inch finally realizes its performance potential, but some things keep it from being perfect.

When Microsoft first introduced Surface Laptop back in 2017, I called it one of the best Surfaces yet. Years later, a lot has changed for Microsoft, but surprisingly Surface Laptop has not (save for the added 15-inch model as an alternative to the original 13.5-inch one).

But Surface is all about the details, and while I mostly panned Surface Laptop 3 with AMD Ryzen 3000, the new Surface Laptop 4 with Ryzen 4000 makes a noticeable impact thanks to those eight cores. Yes, Surface Laptop 4 is a marked improvement, so much so I am coming around to the 15-inch model. But, as usual, there are prominent areas where Microsoft can still improve and some heavy qualifications around that AMD chip too.

As to which model you should go with – Intel vs. AMD – the choice is complicated, but the bottom line is that either are great options.

Choice is good

Surface Laptop 4

Bottom line: Surface Laptop 4 gets a massive boost in performance making it a much better upgrade than last year’s model. AMD Ryzen 4000 lives up to its promises, but so does Intel 11th Gen. Only a few things hold this laptop from being the best despite its fantastic design.

Pros

AMD Ryzen 4000 is a massive upgrade
Excellent performance (on AC), decent battery life
Still the best keyboard, trackpad, and audio in a Windows laptop
Not much competition (15-inch model)
Very quiet fan

Cons

AMD performance drops on battery
Limited AMD color options
No Thunderbolt 4, few ports
Display is still glossy, with no HDR or WCG
No option for 4G LTE or 5G

From $999 at Microsoft

From $999 at Amazon

From $999 at Best Buy

Jump to:

Price and availability
At a glance
Design and features
Display
Performance and battery
The competition
Should you buy?

Surface Laptop 4: Price and availability

Surface Laptop 4 is now available direct from Microsoft or through Best Buy and Amazon.com, as well as many other retailers. Global availability varies, but it should be available in all current Surface markets by June.

New this year is the broader availability of choice between Intel and AMD models and many more configuration options.

Pricing still begins at $999 for the 13.5-inch model and $1,399 for the 15-inch one, but there is much more value for 2021. Compared to last year, the $999-entry level Surface Laptop doubles storage from 128GB to 256GB along with 8GB of RAM and a Ryzen 5 processor (instead of Intel Core i5). There is also no longer a $1,199 15-inch model with Ryzen 5. Instead, there is a $1,299 model, but the processor is now a more powerful Ryzen 7, and it also doubles the storage to 256GB making it well worth the extra $100.

Surface Laptop 4 (13.5-inch) Consumer

Features
Colors
Price

Ryzen 5, 8GB RAM, 256GB
Platinum
$999

Ryzen 5, 16GB RAM, 256GB
Platinum
$1,199*

Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB
Platinum, Blue, Black, Sandstone
$1,299

Core i5, 16GB RAM, 512GB
Platinum, Blue, Black, Sandstone
$1,499

Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB
Platinum, Blue, Black, Sandstone
$1,699

Core i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB
Black
$2,299

Surface Laptop 4 (15-inch) Consumer

Features
Colors
Price

Ryzen 7, 8GB RAM, 256GB
Platinum
$1,299

Ryzen 7, 8GB RAM, 512GB
Platinum, Black
$1,499

Ryzen 7, 16GB RAM, 512GB
Black
$1,699

Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB
Platinum, Black
$1,799

Core i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB
Black
$2,399

While AMD may be the star of the show for some, it is evident that Intel still gets preferred options. If you want the cloth-like Alcantara 13.5-inch in Ice Blue, that is Intel-only. The same goes for sandstone and black non-Alcantara models too. And if you are a big spender, the model with 32GB of RAM (also new this year) and 1TB of storage is also Intel-only.

Surface Laptop 4: At a glance

Surface Laptop 4 looks a lot like all previous models because Microsoft has not modified the core design since version one. Nonetheless, there are plenty of smaller changes, including processors, configuration options, pricing, and software that do add up to a substantial refresh over its predecessors:

Intel 11th Gen Core processors with Iris Xe Graphics
AMD Ryzen 4000 and Radeon Graphics Surface Edition
Up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB storage (Intel only)
No more 128GB option (256GB or higher)
Dolby Atmos spatial-audio
Ice Blue with Alcantara (13.5-inch Intel only)
Consumer availability of AMD and Intel models
Commercial availability of AMD and Intel models
Up to 70% performance improvement
Battery jumps from 11.5 hours to 17 to 19 hours
Slightly faster Windows Hello login
15-inch models are only Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7
Same $999 starting price (AMD Ryzen 5, 256GB, 8GB)
AMD models now have Wi-Fi 6 and LPDDR4x

Specs-wise, Surface Laptop 4 falls into the traditional Ultrabook category – thin and light computing. While the 13.5-inch is more reflective of many laptops, there are very few thin and light 15-inch laptops. Most 15-inch PCs add on at least a pound in weight, are significantly thicker, have worse battery life, but are also substantially more powerful thanks to a discrete NVIDIA GPU, which Surface Laptop 4 lacks.

Category
Surface Laptop 4 (13.5-inch)
Surface Laptop 4 (15-inch)

Operating System
Windows 10 Home or Pro
Windows 10 Home or Pro

Display
13.5-inch PixelSense3:2 aspect ratio2256 x 1504 (201 PPI)
15-inch PixelSense3:2 aspect ratio2496 x 1664 (201 PPI)

Processor
Intel i5-1135G7 Intel i5-1145G7 (Commercial only) Intel i7-1185G7AMD Ryzen 5 4680UAMD Ryzen 7 4980U
Intel i7-1185G7AMD Ryzen 7 4980U

GPU
Intel Iris XeRadeon RX Graphics
Intel Iris XeRadeon RX Graphics

Memory
8GB, 16GB, or 32GB (Intel)LPDDR4x (3733MHz)
8GB, 16GB, or 32GB (Intel)LPDDR4x (3733MHz)

Storage
256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD (Intel)Removable
256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD (Intel)Removable

Front Camera
720p
720p

Security
Windows Hello face authentication camera, Firmware TPM 2.0
Windows Hello face authentication camera, Firmware TPM 2.0

Connectivity
Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatibleBluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatibleBluetooth 5.0

Ports
1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack
1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 1x Surface Connect, 3.5 mm headphone jack

Battery
Ryzen 5: Up to 19 hoursCore i5: Up to 17 hours
Ryzen 7: Up to 17.5 hoursCore i7: Up to 16.5 hours

Weight
Up to 2.84 lbs (1,288 g)
Up to 3.4 lbs (1,542 g)

Colors
Alcantara: Platinum or Ice BlueMetal: Matte Black or Sandstone
Platinum metal, Matte Black metal

Only the 13.5-inch models offer the famed Alcantara cloth finish, and even then, it is only available in platinum or ice blue. The other two finishes are matte black and sandstone, which are traditional metal. For the 15-inch models, there are no exciting colorways, just platinum (Intel) and matte black (AMD or Intel).

This review uses the 15-inch matte-black model with Ryzen 7, 16GB RAM, and 512GB of storage provided by Microsoft. It retails for $1,699 and ships with Windows 10 Home.

Looks familiar

Surface Laptop 4: Design and features

Surface Laptop 4 can best be described as minimalist. Borrowing from the design philosophy of Dieter Rams, Microsoft wants a laptop that is clean, unobtrusive, and easily understood, where “less is more.” It succeeds.

There are only four ports: Type A, Type C, and a headphone jack on the left side. On the right is the proprietary Surface Connect port (used with the 65-watt charger or port expansion via Surface Dock). There is no Thunderbolt 4 despite Intel building it into 11th Gen chips. The reason for omission may fall upon offering AMD processors, where adding the port specification is challenging (and maybe even political).

The matte-black chassis is spotless thanks to a single logo on the lid with a mirror finish. While matte black looks nice, it quickly picks up fingerprints and oils, meaning it needs occasional wiping to stay clean. The platinum chassis is a better option for those who hate the sight of such marring. However, you are then limited to Intel as your processor choice in platinum, at least for the 15-inch series.

The sloped design of the chassis is smooth with no sharp edges. The display lid can be opened with one hand, and there is little flex to the whole body. Typically, the bottom of a laptop is where one finds large intake vents for the processor, but Microsoft pushes them to the rear edge. That means when in your lap, you never block the vents, and it results in a purer design (and likely a cooler chassis). Such details are easy to overlook, but few laptops go this far to hide necessary components due to the complexity of pulling them off.

New this year is the addition of Dolby Atmos software.

There are no visible speakers on the Surface Laptop – another unique design trait not found on any other PC. Microsoft, instead, hides them below the keyboard. Despite its non-visible status, the audio is well above average, which is only improved upon this year by the inclusion of Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos is a software driver solution that increases the speakers’ spatial capabilities during music playback, but especially during modern movies optimized for the standard.

The keyboard and trackpad, as always with Surface, set the bar. Key travel, size, and the overall feel are some of the best in the business, with only HP offering similarly competitive typing. The three-stage backlighting makes it easy to see the keyboard in low-light situations. While some may lament the lack of a number pad on the 15-inch model, Microsoft is again going for a purer experience (and one I favor). The trackpad is large, smooth, and has a relatively quiet click when depressed.

A good display

Surface Laptop 4: Display and camera

Unfortunately, there are no new improvements to the screen for Surface Laptop 4. It is still the same LCD-based 15-inch PixelSense 2496 x 1664 display with a 3:2 aspect ratio. The 201 pixel per inch (PPI) is slightly lower than that of Surface Pro 7 (267 PPI) and Surface Book 3 (260 PPI), but that’s not discernible.

Surface Laptop 4’s display is good but falling behind the competition.

The Surface Laptop 4 supports inking with a Surface Pen (not included), but the display does not open to 180 degrees, nor is there a place to keep the pen in transit. However, in a pinch, the pen is great for signing a document or making a quick note. Likewise, the Surface Dial works with off-screen interaction.

Display accuracy is typical, but unremarkable with 97% sRGB, 72% AdobeRGB, and 75% DCI-P3. The LG Gram 17 and VAIO Z, by comparison, earn 100% sRGB, 87% AdobeRGB, and 100% DCI-P3. Granted, neither of those also have a touch display like Surface Laptop 4, but it is evident Microsoft is not pushing the bar with screens lately.

Brightness peaks at an average of 399 nits in the center, with just 6.3 nits of brightness when set to zero, making this laptop easy to use in the dark of night without being too bright.

Microsoft still does not include an anti-reflective treatment (not to be confused with anti-glare/matte) for reducing eye strain. It also does not support HDR for more vibrant contrast, nor wide color-gamut (WCG) for those who need precise colorwork for photography or video. Such features are now increasingly common, but Microsoft is still uninterested in adding those to Surface.

Color, contrast, and vibrancy are all good with very even brightness. Microsoft gets some credit for having one of the thinnest displays in a laptop, but the bezels are still on the large size compared to what HP and Dell are doing these days.

Microsoft does, nevertheless, excel in the web camera department. Even at just 720P resolution (below that of Surface Pro and Pro X at 1080P), it is an excellent camera that is much better than any other premium laptop in this category. However, post-pandemic, it would have been nice to see even more minor improvements in the hardware to match the new normal.

AMD shines, but …

Surface Laptop 4: Performance and battery

Performance with Surface Laptop 4 with AMD Ryzen 7 (4000 Mobile) is outstanding and a massive improvement over last year’s Ryzen 3000 models. While some will lament that Microsoft is not using the newer Ryzen 5000 Mobile chips, the gains between it and the 4000 series are significantly less substantial than those between Ryzen 3000 and 4000 Mobile. It may be better to think of these processors as Ryzen “4500 Mobile” with the modifications to clock speeds and driver optimizations made by Microsoft.

Compared to other chips, including 11th Gen Intel and even Apple’s touted M1 processor, the picture quickly gets complicated. Those hoping for a clear winner between Intel, AMD, and Apple will be sorely disappointed as each has pros and cons.

Before we begin, there is a caveat and a change to our benchmarks. During my testing, it became apparent there is a discrepancy in performance on Surface Laptop 4 (AMD) between using AC power or on battery (set to performance in both modes). This behavior is also valid on Surface Laptop 3 (AMD). While the difference is not perceptible (that is, it did not feel slower), it is consistent, measurable, and often significant. Intel laptops do not exhibit such variance by comparison. I include benchmarks for both AC and battery scenarios for evaluation to give the entire picture.

AMD Ryzen 4000 is either amazing or just OK, depending on AC status.

On PCMark 10, an overall look at system performance, Surface Laptop 4 is only beat by laptops with a discrete NVIDIA GPU, which is extraordinary. It even slightly edges out the Dell XPS 15’s 8-core Intel i7-10875H and even newer Intel Core i7-11375H. However, on battery, Surface Laptop 4 is a hair slower than Surface Laptop 3 (AMD) when running on AC and below that of 10th Gen Intel laptops.

3Dmark Time Spy reveals limitations of the AMD RX Vega GPU nearing the bottom of the list and below that of similar laptops with Intel Iris Xe graphics regardless if plugged in or not. The discrepancy with discrete GPUs from NVIDIA is even more apparent but unsurprising.

We see similar results on 3Dmark Night Raid, a mix of CPU and GPU overall system performance. Surface Laptop 4 on AC edges out Surface Pro 7+ but is well behind Razer Book 13 and HP Spectre x360 14, neither of which has a discrete GPU, just Iris Xe Graphics. On battery, Surface Laptop 4 edges out Surface Laptop 3 (Intel).

Geekbench 5, which focuses on pure CPU performance, again highlights the difference between being plugged in or not. When on AC, Surface Laptop 4 nearly reaches Apple’s M1 processor and is well ahead of Intel’s 8-core and 4-core chips. However, when on battery, AMD falls behind processors like the one used in Surface Laptop 4 but with Intel for single-core but maintains a slight edge on multi-core (even though it has twice the core count).

It’s not all bad news, however. On Cinebench R23, Surface Laptop 4 is remarkable regardless of power state. The AMD’s 8-core advantage is especially apparent on the multi-core test, where it handily beats Apple’s M1 processor by a substantial margin (Apple slightly edges AMD out on single-core). Intel quad-core and even 8-core 11th Gen chips are left in the dust.

Surprisingly, even SSD speeds, which is never an area Microsoft excels in, takes a hit depending on power status (plugged or unplugged). Surface Laptop 4 PCIe 3.0 SSD has below average speeds of 2,310 MB/s for sequential read and a low 1,060 MB/s for sequential write when on AC power. On battery, those results drop to a disappointing 1,806 and 1,056 MB/s, respectively. Like Surface Laptop 3, the SSD on Surface Laptop 4 is serviceable, meaning users can upgrade it, although the process is a bit tricky.

Peak fan noise is not very loud at all.

Thermals are pretty good, with the top of Surface Laptop 4 never exceeding 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) on the top deck. The bottom peaks at or just below 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius), making this laptop warm but never hot. Similar numbers are seen on Apple’s MacBook Pro with M1 when both devices are running Cinebench 23.

Surface Laptop 4’s battery is fine, matching the Intel-based Surface Laptop 3 in our controlled test.

Fan volume is about 2 decibels less than Surface Laptop 3, peaking around 46 dBA, which is incredibly quiet for a laptop in peak mode. Apple’s MacBook Pro with M1 is a smidge softer at 44 dBA. When not pushing CPU and GPU to the max, the Laptop 4’s fans rarely turn on, making this a very quiet laptop for everyday usage.

However, compared to Intel 10th Gen Surface Laptop 3 (13.5-inch) Surface Laptop 4 with AMD did not pass the 3Dmark Time Spy Stress Test earning just 91.6% FPS Stability compared to Intel’s 99.1% score. Such a result suggests that the 8-core AMD processor is hitting thermal limitations, which seems plausible considering how thin and quiet this laptop is versus proper gaming or workstation PCs.

Surface Laptop 3 & 4 15-inch battery rundown tests.

Battery life is decent even though the 15-inch Surface Laptop has the same battery as the 13.5-inch. Of course, as has been illustrated, AMD and Microsoft accomplish this by reducing the CPU, GPU, and even SSD performance, which heavily influences such a result. In our controlled battery rundown test (PCMark 10 Modern Office), which loops through productivity-related tasks with occasional breaks, Surface Laptop 4 matched Surface Laptop 3 15-inch with an Intel Core i7 10th Gen.

The battery results are OK but not super impressive either, and it makes us wonder what the version with Intel 11th Gen would attain. In real-life experience, battery life appears to hit the 8-hour mark and should be fine for most people.

Surface Laptop 4 also resumes from sleep very quickly so that by the time the lid is opened, the Windows Hello infrared camera is already logging you into the OS. However, on hibernate, AMD takes around 5 seconds longer than an Intel Evo laptop to fully resume, clocking in at approximately 15 seconds versus 8 to 10.

Putting aside benchmarks and charts, Surface Laptop 4 feels very fast and responsive, much more so than Surface Laptop 3. Microsoft makes a big deal about “system integration” of all the hardware to work smoothly and efficiently — and I believe them. While the Ryzen 7 drops in overall performance on battery, where I use it most of the time, it still feels exceptionally competent and enjoyable.

Anything better?

Surface Laptop 4: The competition

HP ENVY 14 (2021).

While there are plenty of similar PCs in the 13-inch range, there are very few thin laptops like Surface Laptop 4 15-inch.

The most obvious comparison is the new LG Gram 14, which has a slightly smaller and lower resolution non-touch display (1920 x 1200), 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage with an Intel 11th Gen Core i7-1165G7. It does offer Thunderbolt 4, more ports, a larger battery at 72WHr (versus 47.4 WHr), and weighs just 2.2 pounds (999g) – more than a pound lighter than Surface Laptop 4, all for $300 less at $1,400.

Another interesting choice is HP’s ENVY 14. It has a smaller, lower-resolution 16:10 14-inch touch screen, but it offers up a moderately powerful NVIDIA GeForce 1650 Ti GPU, which obliterates Iris Xe or AMD. It gets surprisingly good battery life, has many more ports (including microSD and full HDMI), and it is overall just one of the most lovely laptops I have used. Pricing with GPU is much lower than Surface Laptop 4 (15″) at $1,260 while or smidge heavier at 3.53 pounds (1.6kg) versus 3.4 pounds (1,542 g).

The rest of the 15-inch space is crowded with some excellent offerings like the Dell XPS 15, Razer Blade 15, HP Spectre x360 15T, and more. Still, these all get into gaming laptop or workstation genres weighing much more than Surface Laptop 4 with higher price tags and often worse battery. You also get something much more performant since that class of laptop also features an NVIDIA GeForce GPU.

See our best 15-inch laptop and best 13-inch laptop lists to see our top-rated choices.

It’s better

Should you buy Surface Laptop 4?

Who it’s for

People who want a light and thin 15″ touchscreen laptop
Those who want an elegant PC with strong AC performance
Writers, photo and video editors, office workers
Fans of Surface who want a traditional laptop

Who it isn’t for

Those who need Thunderbolt 4 or a convertible PC
Gamers
People who need 4G LTE or 5G connectivity

My first experience with Surface Laptop 3 15-inch was, at best mediocre. Part of it was AMD’s Ryzen 3000 processor was lacking compared to the much superior Intel 10th Gen chip. The other was more philosophical: why even buy this laptop?

The processor dilemma has mostly been answered, or rather, improved upon. AMD Ryzen 4000 and the eight-core R7 is a very powerful upgrade one that can even nip at the heels of Apple’s M1. Battery life is decent – not unique – and the overall responsiveness, instant-on, and quality of the components shine. All of that has greatly improved my impressions and even fondness of the 15-inch model.

What makes a Surface a Surface is Microsoft’s attention to detail and the sum of its parts. It is something you only “get” in using one firsthand. That holds especially true for the Surface Laptop, which is still one of the nicest, most enjoyable PC laptops available.

Of course, as the benchmark section revealed, there are a lot of qualifications too. Whether you primarily work on AC or battery could impact your choice of processor. AMD gets the battery life, but Intel gets the mobile performance. When plugged in, AMD dominates, but only if you do not need a strong GPU. If you primarily do work in multi-core app scenarios, then go with AMD, but Intel is the winner if you use single-core apps. Likewise, for media creators, our results from PCMark 10 revealed the AMD Surface Laptop 4 better for photo editing, but Intel Iris Xe (Surface Pro 7+) is better for video.

It is all overly complicated, and most people don’t have single answers to those questions. Instead, “it depends.” The only takeaway is there is no clear winner between the two processors, and either option is fine. Just don’t overthink it.

What makes a Surface is Microsoft’s attention to detail, which holds especially true for the Surface Laptop.

The more significant issue is why get Surface Laptop 4 15-inch regardless of the chip inside it? For myself, it is a tricky question to answer. The most obvious answer is the simplest: you prefer a more prominent display. That may be a good enough response for many, and it is not my place to disagree. However, I would still like to see Microsoft do a bit more to make the 15-inch model more than just a “blown up” smaller one. Even things like using a larger battery, adding an extra port, or a 1080P camera would at least be interesting. LG can get away with this because its whole schtick is ridiculously light laptops, e.g., Gram 17.

For either the 13.5-inch or 15-inch Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft could still do things to make the display on par with Apple, HP, or Dell regarding HDR, WCG, and anti-reflective treatment. Thunderbolt 4 would also be excellent (even if I think it is overrated for your average user).

4
out of 5

Overall, Surface Laptop 4 is a welcomed improvement to the line irrespective of whichever processor you choose. As always, Microsoft seems to be slipping a bit in pushing new features making this laptop full of potential not yet realized. But if you are set on the 15-inch model, it is much easier to recommend in 2021 than last year.

AMD or Intel

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (2021)

From $999 at Microsoft

From $999 at Amazon

From $999 at Best Buy

The choice is now yours

Surface Laptop 4 brings options for Intel 11th Gen or AMD Ryzen 4000 Mobile processors in both 13.5 and 15-inch models. With Dolby Atmos, Iris Xe, or Radeon Graphics, the new Surface Laptop 4 should deliver an excellent experience.

Review: AMD's impact on Surface Laptop 4 (15") makes a big difference

Microsoft's Cloud PC service could arrive summer 2021

Microsoft’s Cloud PC service may be arriving sooner rather than later.

What you need to know

A Cloud PC service by Microsoft is reportedly in the works.
A new report suggests its launch is now just a few months away.
It could launch as soon as summer 2021.

According to a new report from ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft is apparently gearing up to launch its Cloud PC service, which could arrive as soon as this summer.

Foley states that she’s hearing the tech giant may be aiming for a June or July launch of the service, potentially to coincide with Microsoft’s Inspire conference, which will be held from July 14 through July 15 as a digital event.

Reports on Microsoft’s Cloud PC service date back to last year, when the Azure-powered project was first rumored to be coming as soon as spring 2021. Now that spring 2021 is winding to a close, summer is the next best bet for any big announcements and service launches.

Details on the service are scarce, but ZDNet mentions that Microsoft plans to sell its new cloud service at a “flat per-user price.” It will be a managed Microsoft 365 experience, which makes sense given that its core functionalities are reportedly giving users remote access to a Windows desktop wherein they can utilize software such as the suite of useful programs that fall under the umbrella of Microsoft Office.

As mentioned in a Microsoft job posting with some relevance to the upcoming Cloud PC service, the goal of the service is to provide users with an always accessible, always up-to-date Windows experience that will enable productivity from anywhere.

Microsoft's Cloud PC service could arrive summer 2021

Discord walked away from Microsoft talks, may pursue an IPO

A month after reports that Microsoft sought to buy the hot voice chat app Discord surfaced, those talks are off, a source familiar with the deal confirmed to TechCrunch.
Discord is considering plans to stay independent, possibly charting a path to its own IPO in the not-too-distant future. The Wall Street Journal first reported news that the deal was off.
The two companies were deep in acquisition talks that valued Discord at around $10 billion before Discord walked away. According to the WSJ, three companies were exploring the possible acquisition, though only Microsoft was named.
Discord’s valuation doubled in less than six months last year and its stock is only looking hotter in 2021. A well-loved voice chat app originally built for gamers, Discord was in the right place well ahead of the current voice chat trend that Clubhouse ignited. As companies from Facebook to Twitter scramble to build voice-based community tools, Discord rolled out its own support for curated audio events last month.
Discord’s decision to veer away from a sale makes sense for a company keen to keep its unique DNA rather than being rolled into an existing product at a bigger company. The choice could also keep the company distant from a protracted antitrust headache, as lawmakers mull legislation that could block big tech deals to prevent further consolidation in the industry.

Immersive chat startups have a very different vision for the future of voice

Update: Discord confirms raising $100M at a valuation of $7B

Discord walked away from Microsoft talks, may pursue an IPO

Up your PC gaming, uh, game with one of these keyboards

Having the right tools at your disposal when PC gaming is critical, and the heart of your performance is your keyboard. It’s your primary input for a large portion of your games, so getting it right is crucial. If you want the absolute best keyboard right now, you want the SteelSeries Apex Pro.

Best Overall – SteelSeries Apex Pro

The SteelSeries Apex Pro is simply unlike any other gaming keyboard you can buy right now. Some go the mechanical route. Others have started building optical switches based on breaking light beams. SteelSeries has gone for a magnetic actuation that you, the gamer, can change on a key-by-key basis to truly customize your experience to how you like to play games.

The Apex Pro makes it possible to adjust the actuation point between 0.4mm and 3.6mm using the onboard control wheel and OLED display or SteelSeries Engine. The software interacts with the magnetic Omni point switches to adjust how each key performs, and you can set keys to different values to save to profiles.

This means you can have different profiles for different games and a mix of instant actuation and, as an example, a heavier actuation on something like a special ability or a grenade to prevent accidental misfires. It’s quite pricey, but there’s absolutely nothing else on the market like it right now.

Pros

Changeable actuation points
Onboard storage
Useful OLED display
Included wrist rest

Cons

Quite expensive

Best Overall

SteelSeries Apex Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

$242 at Amazon $200 at Best Buy $200 at Newegg

You’ve never seen a keyboard like this before

Changeable actuation on a key-by-key basis makes the Apex Pro the first genuinely customizable gaming keyboard.

Runner-up – Corsair K95

If there’s a dream gaming keyboard, the K95 is one of the closest to hit that mark right now.

It’s big, and it’s expensive, but if you’re a PC gamer, it ticks just about every box on your wishlist. That starts with the Cherry MX Speed switches, which are so responsive it almost feels like you’re cheating. They’re probably not the best if you do a lot of typing, but they’re one of the very best mechanical switches around for gaming.

It’s well made and thoughtfully designed, too. Sure, the font on the keys might not be your thing. Still, Corsair included a detachable wrist rest, macro keys, a selection of textured keycaps, onboard memory for lighting and macro profiles, and that sweet scroll wheel for changing volume shows it is thinking about the people who will be using the K95. It’s from a brand you can trust, and you can expect excellent reliability.

Pros

Cherry MX Speed Switches
Onboard storage
Textured keycaps
Included wrist rest

Cons

Speed switches not great for typing
Font will put some off

Runner-up

Corsair K95

$170 at Amazon $170 at Newegg $199 at Walmart

Pricey, but absolutely worth it

This is a fast, well-made, feature-packed keyboard for PC gaming with high-speed mechanical switches.

Best Budget – HAVIT KB-395L

Havit has released a solid, low-profile keyboard with excellent Kailh mechanical keys. That’s a feat in itself, but to have it combined with such a sound typing experience is the icing on the cake. The HAVIT KB-395L is one of our favorite low-profile mechanical keyboards.

The switches are still perfectly suitable for gaming, but this is a keyboard that comes into its own for anyone who wants to combine their gaming with a ton of typing for work. It’s almost crazy how good this keyboard is for its low asking price; it’s so comfortable to type on for long periods.

But it’s still got RGB, a detachable cable, superb build quality, and durability, and some useful companion software that allows you to create macros, lockout the Windows key, customize the lighting profiles, and a dedicated “game mode.”

Pros

Good value
Excellent typing experience
Detachable cable
Low-profile mechanical keys

Cons

Prone to flex in the middle
No media keys

Best Budget

Havit KB-395L

$70 at Amazon

For when you type and game

This low-profile keyboard is as good for typing as it is for gaming and has a ton of customizable options, all at a great price.

Best Membrane – Razer Cynosa Chroma

Not everyone enjoys the added noise you get from mechanical switches while still wanting something reliable for gaming. The Razer Cynosa Chroma is one of the best membrane keyboards around with a quiet sound and a soft cushioned key press.

Naturally, this Razer keyboard comes with Chroma lighting and supports a 10-key rollover with anti-ghosting. Thanks to the Synapse 3 companion app, you have additional features like locking out the Windows key when gaming, and you can add other functions or macros to any key using Razer Hypershift.

Perhaps the icing on the cake, though, is that the Cynosa Chroma is spill-resistant, which makes it a good companion for the office, too, since you’ll never have to worry about that inevitable coffee spill!

Pros

Quiet membrane keys
10-key rollover and anti-ghosting
Macros and customizable key functions
Spill-resistant

Cons

No detachable cable
Membrane not as responsive as mechanical

Best Membrane

Razer Cynosa Chroma

$60 at Amazon
$60 at Razer
$98.29 at Walmart

A quiet gaming experience

Quiet, cushioned key presses, gamer-centric features, and protections against spills are a keyboard perfect for work and play.

Best Wireless – Logitech G613

There was a time a wireless gaming keyboard would be unthinkable. Not only is it now an option, but thanks to the Logitech G613, it’s a great option with mechanical switches.

Thanks to the company’s Lightspeed technology, you get a one-millisecond report rate while being able to clack away on Logitech’s Romer-G switches. That’s important because latency without a cable is a thing, but Logitech has worked black magic on keeping it as low as possible.

The wrist rest is permanently attached, and incredibly, Logitech claims it’s possible to get a full year’s battery life from the G613 through general use. For a pretty affordable price, you get all that, macro keys, and, most importantly, no wires, which certainly helps keep your desk a little tidier!

Pros

Wireless
Romer-G mechanical switches
Macros and customizable key functions
Great battery life

Cons

Quite large

Best wireless

Logitech G613

$97 at Amazon $79 at Newegg $90 at Walmart

The wireless quality you get from Logitech

Wireless is now a real possibility for gaming, and the response time of the G613 is proof that the future is cable-free.

Best for Competitive Gaming: Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition

Razer designed the Huntsman Tournament Edition with professional gamers, using their feedback throughout the process to get the product just right for the most demanding competitive players. And the results are astonishing.

Simply put, no other keyboard feels as fast as this one does, which when you’re in the middle of the action, means you’re getting an instant reaction. It uses optical linear switches, so the actuation is immediate, and there’s no ‘bump’ so you can go as fast as your fingers allow.

It’s also a TKL design, perfect for those attending LAN events, and with built-in profile support, a detachable USB-C cable, and a solid build, it’s absolutely designed for tossing in a bag and taking with you. The one thing to be wary of is that it’s so fast that it’s not really an excellent choice for spending your days typing on. This is purely for competitive gamers, who will absolutely love it.

Pros

Insanely fast optical switches
Detachable USB-C cable
Doubleshot PBT keycaps with the standard bottom row
Onboard memory

Cons

Almost too fast for regular typing
Pricey

Best for Competitive Gaming

Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition

$124 at Amazon $100 at Razer $130 at Best Buy

Stupidly fast optical switches for killer gaming performance

Optical switches mean virtually no delay, and the new red linear ones here are as fast as you’ll find on any keyboard.

Choosing the best gaming keyboard

There are a lot of great gaming keyboards out there right now, and PC gamers are spoiled. If the price doesn’t put you off, the SteelSeries Apex Pro is the one to get right now. It brings something genuinely new and innovative to the table with its use of magnets to allow customizable actuation points on a key-by-key basis.

No other gaming keyboard does this right now, and it’s one of those features you didn’t know you wanted until you try. SteelSeries has top-notch build quality, too, and a decent companion application that really will help you get the most from your keyboard. Whether you’re typing or gaming, you’re in excellent hands with the Apex Pro.

If you don’t fancy such functionality and want the best gaming keyboard for competitive play to help you score big online, look no further than the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition. It’s compact, amazing to type and game on, and is a little more affordable. There are some excellent choices out there for gaming keyboards and this guide is a solid place to start.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you’ll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.

Up your PC gaming, uh, game with one of these keyboards

The Surface Duo's April 2021 security and firmware update is here

Microsoft’s Surface Duo’s April 2021 update patch has arrived.

What you need to know

Microsoft’s Surface Duo is receiving its April 2021 update.
The update is 338MB and brings the build number to 2021.314.91.
The Surface Duo changelog hasn’t been updated yet.

Microsoft’s Surface Duo is in the process of receiving its April 2020 update.

The update will likely contain an assortment of improvements, one of which will be an Android security patch. Given that April’s update is 338MB in size, which is far bigger than previous months, there might be a number of noteworthy changes included.

This patch brings the build number from 2021.207.70 to 2021.314.91, with the security patch now being April 20, 2021.

To grab the update yourself, use these steps:

Connect to a Wi-Fi network.
Select Settings on your Surface Duo’s home screen.
Select System.
Select System Update.
Select Check for update.
Select Restart now.

Microsoft has yet to share the changelog for April’s update. We’ll update this post when the April log notes are live.

As usual, those with AT&T-branded Surface Duos will likely have to wait a week for carrier approval.

Double the Android

Microsoft Surface Duo

From $1,000 at Microsoft
From $1,000 at Best Buy
From $47/mo at AT&T

Two screens are better than one.

Microsoft delves into the future of foldables with an ambitious dual-screen device featuring two ultra-thin 5.6-inch AMOLED displays bound by a 360-degree hinge. This pocketable inking-enabled Android smartphone marks the latest in the Surface lineup, geared for mobile productivity.

The Surface Duo's April 2021 security and firmware update is here

Check out these PCs if you need an upgrade before Diablo 2: Resurrected

The best pre-built PCs for Diablo 2: Resurrected will offer you smooth gameplay with high settings. From what we’ve seen so far in the Diablo 2: Resurrected tech alpha hands-on, this game is going to be beautiful. If you’re in need of an upgrade before it launches sometime in 2021, we’ve put together this collection of pre-built gaming PCs.

Performance And Value

HP OMEN 30L

Staff Pick

HP offers a wide range of hardware configurations for the OMEN 30L, including up to an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X or Intel Core i7-10700K CPU and NVIDIA RTX 30-series GPU. It all comes in a classy black case with tempered glass panels and RGB lighting. If you want high-end performance without overspending, this is the way to go.

From $1,600 at HP (AMD)

From $2,000 at HP (Intel)

Powered By AMD

Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10

Editor’s choice

The Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 brings the unique style from the standard Aurora and packs it with up to an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X CPU, NVIDIA RTX 3090 GPU, 128GB of DDR4 RAM, and 4TB of storage (with a 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD). There are tons of ports and you can even get inside for future upgrades. If you want maximum performance and love AMD, check this one out.

From $1,059 at Dell

$2,799 at Amazon

Budget Pick

iBUYPOWER Trace MR

Buying a pre-built PC doesn’t have to cost more than $1,000. The iBUYPOWER Trace MR packs in a Core i5-10400F CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 240GB SSD coupled with a 1TB HDD, and a NVIDIA GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB of VRAM. This is very close to the recommended specs, and you can always upgrade in the future. A keyboard and mouse are included to add to the value.

$800 at Best Buy

$1,000 at Amazon

Work And Play

Dell XPS 8940 SE

The Dell XPS 8940 SE is a bit of a sleeper. It uses a comparatively plain case that can fit into an office, yet it has available up to an Intel Core i9-10900K CPU, NVIDIA RTX 3070 GPU, 128GB of RAM, and 4TB of storage split evenly between an SSD and HDD. If you want a great gaming experience but don’t want to show off, this is a great option.

From $945 at Dell

From $1,115 at Amazon

Truly Compact

MSI MPG Trident 3

Not everyone has the space for a full-size PC tower, which is where the MSI MPG Trident 3 comes in. It’s about the size of the last-gen consoles but includes up to an Intel Core i7-10700F CPU, NVIDIA GTX 1660 Super GPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB HDD with a 512GB SSD. It holds onto plenty of ports and even has a bit of lighting on the front corner.

$1,589 at Amazon

$1,527 at Newegg

Full Customization

MAINGEAR VYBE

Don’t want to build your own PC but also don’t want to live with a pre-built’s shortcomings? The MAINGEAR VYBE is the likely answer. It offers full customization right down to the color finish of the case. The best performance hardware is available to configure, and it’s all delivered to you ready to go.

From $699 at MAINGEAR

If we’re making some suggestions

Diablo 2: Resurrected is shaping up to be a proper remaster of a legendary game, and you don’t want to struggle with the new graphics on an old PC. You could upgrade with the best graphics card or the best processor for your custom PC, but you can also go the pre-built route and have something ready to go as soon as it arrives.

The HP OMEN 30L is our top pick thanks to plenty of configuration options from AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA. You’re going to be able to get a stellar PC at a great price. The case is stylish with glass panels and built-in lighting, plus there’s plenty of space for future upgrades.

If you’d rather go all out and money doesn’t matter, the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 is probably what you’re looking for. Get the latest AMD CPUs coupled with the latest NVIDIA GPUs for ultimate performance in Diablo 2 and pretty much any other game on the market today.

If none of these options appeal to you, our best gaming desktop PC and best gaming laptop roundups have more great hardware.

Check out these PCs if you need an upgrade before Diablo 2: Resurrected