The time for an Xbox laptop is right

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Image: Sam Rutherford/Andrew Liszewski

Microsoft has entered a new age in console gaming with support to track ray, 120 Hz refresh rates and more with the launch of the Xbox S/X series. I can’t help but wonder if the time has come for an Xbox gaming laptop, as the Microsoft Surface family of PCs continues.

At this point, probably, there are many people yelling out, ‘But Xbox is your dumb console!’ Not that quickly. Certainly, the Xbox name may have been displayed on the console in 2001 first, but since then, Microsoft has expanded the Xbox to include a large range of devices such as the Xbox Play Anywhere contents, hardware and services, allowing you to purchase a game one time and obtain two versions of the game you can play on the Xbox or on a PC when you want.

You can download a selector of rotary games that can again be played on both your consola and your PC. Xbox Game Pass is also available for a monthly subscription. And you’re even talking about the ultimate Xbox Game Pass which provides the option of streaming games from servers to the tablet or phone. Microsoft has also created Xbox Remote Play to help you stream your games from your Xbox to the next phone, tablet or PC, even if anyone’s at home hogges the TV.

By creating an Xbox laptop with native support for the Xbox Wireless Controller, Microsoft could further cement its gamepad as the controller of choice on both consoles and PCs.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

In addition, Microsoft has expanded support of several Xbox branded PC accessories including headsets and gamepads, with Xbox controllers so popular that they essentially are the default PC wireless gamepad. The name Xbox has long since expanded its humble console and only continues to grow.

Most importantly, the Xbox brand is not even regarded as a console thing by Microsoft itself. Phil Spencer, Xbox Chief, has publicly discussed how Microsoft views Xbox as a platform covering a wide range of categories and devices. “The main result of all the work we do is how many people we see and how often they play,” Spencer told the Guardian, adding that “putting our games on a PC will lead to someone not having to go buy an Xbox Series X. I’m going to keep it fast. Player numbers are revealed publicly. That’s what I want us to drive on, not just how many different plastic pieces we have sold.”

Xbox provides access to Xbox features and games irrespective of the device on which anyone might wish to play. Once the Xbox Series S and X has been successfully launched, it feels like one of Microsoft’s best ways to expand the Xbox platform is to build finally a good Xbox laptop (and I don’t speak of any one-off Xbox in-one cases).

Why not a laptop for Surface Games?
This comes with branding, and while it is not really a wrong answer, a Microsoft gaming laptop is more suited than an add-on to the existing Microsoft Surface laptop range. Therefore, there are several factors.

The surface brand itself is a primary consideration, comprising largely systems intended for the production and content generation of mainstream products. There is no real evidence for gaming about the Surface family of devices and the fact that the cheapest surface with a discrete GPU is the 13″ Surface Book 3 – which costs $1700 for an Nvidia GTX 1650 – highlights how much better you’re if you want a laptop. This is also true with the 15-inch Surface Book 3 starting at $2,000 with an Nvidia 1660, which is barely faster than the Nvidia 4, while the new Surface Laptop 4 is unfortunately without any real graphics card configuration. The Nvidia GTX 1070 even exits Surface Studio 2 – which looks like a dream maquine for artists.

One of the issues for the Xbox Wireless Headset on PC is that it only supports Bluetooth connectivity, so if you want higher quality audio you have to buy Microsoft’s $25 wireless adapter. But on an Xbox laptop, Microsoft could include support for the Xbox’s wireless protocol natively and save you from the hassle of buying the dongle.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

It could now seem like a strange strategy to leave a hole in the Surface game portfolio to Microsoft, but this failure begins to make sense when you take a step back. Microsoft focuses on core needs in the Superface line, but also steals a page from Apple’s playbook by catering for digital artists who can typically gravitate to a Mac.

Each surface has a touchscreen, most of them have handwriting and stylus support that is certainly nice but is not precisely the core functionality of a modern gaming laptop. Similarly, Microsoft uses its Surface gadgets to provide rich hues and a strong color exactness rather than quick refresh rates. Frankly, with a relatively high-level Surface laptop released by Microsoft for gambling, it could feel out of place and frighten less aventurous, non-gamers.

On the other hand, you have the Xbox brand which, thanks to all the features that Microsoft added to Windows 10 like the Xbox Game Bar, can be synonymous with gaming — not just on the consols of the Xbox, but on multiple platforms.

More importantly, Microsoft could focus more on including features which are important for gamers by slapping the Xbox logo on a new game laptop: displays with high refresh rates, stronger GPUs and a broader selection of ports. Microsoft may even add native Xbox support for its own wireless audio signal onto an Xbox laptop, which helps to ensure that users have the same high-def audio experience on both devices. (The Xbox Wireless headset returns to Bluetooth if it is connected to a PC by default, and when it is synced to an Xbox it uses the higher-quality wireless audio signal.)

Microsoft only has enough room to create a deeply-engineered game laptop that extends across several platforms with Xbox integration, and I am honestly surprised that Microsoft has not done so.

What’d be like on an Xbox laptop?
Designers have a million different directions for Microsoft, but a hybrid of Surface Laptop four with somewhat like a Razer Blade 15 or an MSI Stealth 15 meters would be the type of system that would make most sense. Imagine a fairly small 15-inch system (15-inches systems still are the most popular on the computer), with a large number of ports, and the same Microsoft keyboard used on Surface machines, but with a little gaming backlight, which is also RGB backlight. a relatively small size for the laptops. I shall leave Alcantara up to Microsoft’s integration, even though I suspect it will not resist Dorito’s dust and spill Dew very well, even in fantastic microfiber cloth.

Look, I’d make an Xbox laptop myself, but this is the best I can come up with.
Photo: Sam Rutherford

Microsoft can even change the 15″ chassis it already uses to be a bit thicker and better adapt to a discreet GPU and the required cooling with larger Surface Laptop 4 models. And while Razer has a black and green lock for gambling laptop colours, Microsoft could easily move to a two-ton black and white design to fit the present look of the Xbox S and X series more effectively.

Microsoft may also support HDMI 2.1 and a 120Hz (or possibly 240Hz) display to get you into Xbox’ synergy to replicate the Xbox series X highly refreshing gaming experience. There would also of course be a number of CPUs and GPUs with current generation from Intel, AMD and Nvidia, so you can still play AAA games at relatively high settings even when you’re on the road in an area with a bad cellular service or weak wifi.

If you buy Microsoft with your Xbox Wireless Controller and your Xbox Wireless headset, you can combine these accessories with a discount of $100 (normal retail price for both $160). Heck, Microsoft might even move the way it is for the Xbox Series and package an Xbox laptop alongside a 24-month subscription for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate into the All-Access Xbox program. You wouldn’t even have to pay for a brilliant new game notebook from Xbox in that way.

And while we’re talking about remote features, Microsoft may even start using a slot that supports a storage expansion card in the Xbox Series, allowing people to interchange these storage cards with both their console and their laptop. That’s a stretch, I admit, but I can dream.