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Microsoft’s cheapest Surface Laptop might launch with Windows 11 SE

Published Oct 26th, 2021 8:07PM EDT
Microsoft Surface Laptop
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft released its 2021 Surface lineup a few weeks ago, just in time for the launch of Windows 11. There’s a new Surface for everyone, whether you’re looking for Microsoft’s brand new flagship laptop, a versatile convertible, or a great deal. If you’re in the third group, then you can score a base Surface Go 3 tablet for $399.99, which is quite a deal for a Windows 11 tablet. But if that sounds too expensive, there might be good news for you. Microsoft is reportedly working on a more affordable Surface Laptop that will compete against Chromebooks. These machines will run a variation of Windows 11 that Microsoft might call Windows 11 SE.

The Windows 11 launch came with a big controversy. Microsoft implemented firm hardware requirements for the new operating system, citing security concerns. Some people discovered their Windows 10 laptops and desktops wouldn’t run Windows 11. The only fix seemed to be upgrading the hardware. Microsoft has relented since then, allowing some of the Windows 10 devices that failed the hardware check to run Windows 11. That procedure isn’t entirely hassle-free, though.

But it turns out that Microsoft might have a different Windows 11 version in the works, one that’s specifically tweaked to run on significantly cheaper hardware. That’s the Windows 11 SE version that should run on the mysterious new Surface laptop.

Microsoft Surface
Microsoft’s 2021 Surface hardware: Studio Laptop, Pro 8, Go 8, and Duo 2. Image source: Microsoft

Microsoft’s mysterious 11.6-inch Surface Laptop

According to Windows Central, Microsoft is eying the K-12 education market with the new affordable Surface Laptop.

The 11.6-inch machine is codenamed Tenjin and should compete against similar devices that target the education sector, like the Lenovo 100W or HP Stream machines.

The cheap Surface Laptop will feature a plastic chassis, according to sources. The display has a 1366 x 768 resolution and an Intel Celeron N4120 paired with 8GB of RAM power the whole show. These are obvious compromises that will drive costs down. But the affordable laptops are supposed to serve students in classrooms, just like some Chromebooks do.

The hardware compromises might impact the software experience as well. The report notes that Microsoft is developing Windows 11 SE specifically for the low-cost Tenjin Surface Laptop. It’s unclear what these changes are, but Windows 11 SE should focus “on special optimizations, tweaks, and features built for education establishments deploying low-end hardware.” Also, it’s unclear whether Windows 11 SE can run on any other Windows device.

Microsoft might sell this affordable Surface Laptop might as Surface Laptop SE to match the special Windows 11 release. Microsoft will sell the device for under $400 to compete directly against Chromebooks that target the education market.

Comparatively, the more premium Surface Laptop Go starts at $549. Also, the $399.99 Surface Go 3 comes without a Type Cover keyboard, which would cost $99 extra.

The Windows 11 SE laptop is reportedly ready to go, and Microsoft might announce it before the end of the year.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.