With the Surface Book in 2015 and then the Surface Book 2 in 2017, Microsoft set new standards for what a Windows laptop could be: top-class internal specs, a distinctive design with a hinge you won't forget in a hurry, and of course that gorgeous display.
In fact the first two Surface Books have impressed us so much that we can't wait to see what Microsoft has got in store for its next 2-in-1. We don't have many firm details yet, but we do have plenty of speculation and predictions we can talk about in the meantime.
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Surface Book 3: release date
The Surface Book 2 was announced in October 2017 at a special event organised by Microsoft, which makes us think if a follow-up is coming, then the earliest we might reasonably see it is October 2018.
Even a yearly upgrade cycle might be too frequent for a laptop: remember there was a gap of two years between the first and second model. Maybe October 2019 would be a better bet for a Surface Book 3 launch, though Microsoft certainly won't want to get left behind.
You might not remember now, but there was a specs refresh for the first Surface Book in October 2016 – could that be the plan again for the Surface Book 2? A Surface Book 2.5 if you like. We'll have to wait and see if Microsoft schedules an event in the calendar.
With Apple's MacBook Pros apparently not getting a refresh until 2019 – at least as far as we know – Microsoft might follow suit. We should know more as September approaches.
Surface Book 3: price
Nothing has leaked out of Microsoft headquarters so far about an expected price for the Surface Book 3, but if we look back at past models of the detachable 2-in-1 then it's clear that Microsoft hasn't been afraid to slap on a premium price.
At the time of writing you can pick up a Surface Book 2 from a starting price of £1,149/$1,199 and going all the way up to £3,149/$3,299, depending on the configuration you want, and whether you'd prefer a 13.5-inch or 15-inch screen. That's quite a big range of prices, but you're not going to get a Surface Book 2 for cheap.
The strategy seems to be to leave the mid-range and budget end of the Windows laptop market to Microsoft's competitors, which is a good idea if it wants other manufacturers to carry on licensing its operating system.
When the Surface Book 3 does arrive, we'd expect it to hit the same sort of price points as the Surface Book 2. If the needle does shift in either direction, these laptops are likely to get even more expensive as Microsoft consolidates its position at the top end of the market, so maybe start your saving now.
Surface Book 3: specs
At the moment the Surface Book 2 tops out with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive, and that's still going to be a pretty impressive spec by the time the next Surface Book arrives. Still, as these are premium laptops, Intel will want to make some improvements to the power and performance under the hood.
There's still some confusion over when the next generation of Intel processors, Cannon Lake and Ice Lake, will make their debuts – the former is supposed to be appearing in consumer products this year, with Ice Lake possibly following before 2019 or sometime during 2019, which only complicates matters as far as a Surface Book 3 goes.
At this stage we just don't know whether Microsoft will wait for a processor update from Intel – and if it does, we don't know when that update will appear. We wouldn't expect the other specs to shift too much, though an upgrade to the on-board Nvidia graphics is likely to happen for the next model.
Microsoft will undoubtedly want its new Surface Book 3 to be fully ready for the next-gen augmented reality and virtual reality headsets – maybe it'll be out before the HoloLens goes on sale? – so it's going to need a lot of power behind the scenes.
Surface Book 3: features
The detachable screen and "dynamic fulcrum hinge" are two of the key features of the Surface Book line, and it doesn't seem likely that Microsoft is going to ditch them for the launch of the Surface Book 3. In fact the new model will probably look a lot like the existing one, with the same 13.5-inch and 15-inch screen options.
Those displays might get a resolution upgrade though, or possibly a switch in aspect ratio, so that the increasing amount of 4K content coming out can be properly displayed. Keep an eye on laptops and 2-in-1s hitting the market from the likes of Dell and HP for more clues about what Microsoft might do.
With Microsoft positioning the Surface Books as professional machines, it's likely to keep as many ports on the laptop as it possibly can – there's little chance of the Surface Book 3 following the MacBook route that Apple has taken. However, the new model should finally adopt the Thunderbolt 3/USB-C standard.
Don't be surprised to see updates to the Surface Book accessories turn up with the third version of the device either – the Surface Pen, the Surface Keyboard and the Surface Dial could all be in line for upgrades when the Surface Book 3 eventually breaks cover.