Surface Neo was introduced over 1000 days ago

It’s been more than 1,000 days since Microsoft introduced a foldable dual-screen tablet called the Surface Neo. Other devices announced on the same day have been on the market for a long time, and only Surface Neo has not made it to store shelves.

Surface Neo and Windows 10X, under which the tablet was supposed to run, have been officially postponed indefinitely. In reality, both projects are “dead”, and the company does not yet have any plans for these products.

Windows Central Portal Editor Zach Bowden spoke to Microsoft folks who are familiar with the Surface Neo and shared some pretty interesting insights into some of the challenges engineers faced while building the Surface Neo.

A little about the technical characteristics

Microsoft never spoke about the technical characteristics of the Surface Neo, which is quite logical, since at that time it was just a prototype, and its filling could still change. According to Zach Bowden, the device was equipped with two displays with a resolution of 1440 × 1928 pixels and an Intel Core i5-L16G7 processor (the same one is used in the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold). In the basic configuration, Surface Neo was supposed to receive 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of permanent memory.

Microsoft hasn’t confirmed that the Surface Neo will support LTE either, but cellular-enabled prototypes have existed within the company. Interestingly, the SIM tray was combined with a volume rocker. This kept the design of the Surface Neo clean and minimalist.

Display Two 9-inch touch screens with a resolution of 1440 × 1928
CPU Intel Core i5-L16G7
RAM 8 GB
storage 128 GB
The weight 655 grams
Thickness 5.6mm

Overheat

Several sources have mentioned that the Surface Neo prototype was overheating. In laboratories, it had to be constantly kept under a fan or on a cooling pad. At the presentation in October 2019, the device was also additionally cooled backstage so that it was relatively cold when the work was demonstrated.

There were several reasons for overheating. First, by that time, Intel had not yet completed work on the drivers, and the incredibly thin Surface Neo did not contribute to good cooling. It is not known if the drivers were eventually able to resolve this issue. However, the Lakefield processor was initially not very efficient, and about a year later, Intel stopped production of this line of processors.

Too small for laptop form factor

Microsoft employees testing the Surface Neo complained that the device was too small in “laptop mode”. Due to the 9-inch screens and the small physical keyboard, the device was not very pleasant to use, and there is no need to talk about productivity. Many consider the Surface Go to be a small device, while it has a 10.5-inch screen. The Surface Neo was 1.5 inches smaller.

Of course, it was possible to unfold the Surface Neo and get a 13-inch display, which is already comparable to the screen size of a regular laptop. At the same time, you can connect a full-fledged keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth, but this is not quite the scenario that was originally conceived.

Simply put, the Surface Neo had an identity crisis. It was a good digital magazine, but it wasn’t comfortable as a full PC.

Issues with Windows 10X

Work on Windows 10X, based on the bark and was supposed to run Surface Neo, was also not completed. According to Zach Bowden, several sources spoke about the painful process of testing Windows 10X on the Surface Neo.

Microsoft is actively using Microsoft Teams to communicate while at work, and this is a really important part of the workflow for many employees. The problem is that Windows 10X did not natively support legacy Win32 applications, which is Microsoft Teams. Running legacy applications was done using a virtual machine with a full version of Windows.

Not surprisingly, this was incredibly slow on the Surface Neo. If the Microsoft Teams app isn’t too fast on full Windows, just imagine running it on an overheating, low-powered processor that has to run the app inside a full Windows virtual machine on top of Windows 10X lightweight. It was a failure.

In addition, there were problems with the virtualization technology itself. For example, Windows 10X automatically hibernates a legacy app if it is not displayed on the screen for X minutes to save battery power and free up device resources. But this resulted in the application no longer being able to send notifications to users, which was a serious problem for Teams users.

Surface Neo is “dead”

The Surface Neo has been officially delayed indefinitely, but sources inside Microsoft say the device will never see the light of day. At least they do not plan to return to the option with an Intel Lakefield processor and 9-inch screens, which is not surprising.

But this does not mean that in the future Microsoft will not return to the concept of Surface Neo and reconsider the hardware of the device. True, there are no such plans at the moment, and it is unlikely that any will appear in the coming years.

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