Microsoft’s new $249 Surface Laptop SE is its first true Chromebook competitor

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Microsoft is going head to head with Chromebooks with a new $249 Surface Laptop SE, its most affordable Surface yet. While the software giant has attempted to compete with the popularity of Chrome OS in US schools for years, the Surface Laptop SE is the company’s first true Chromebook competitor.

Surface Laptop SE will be sold exclusively to schools and students, starting at $249. It’s part of a much broader effort with Windows 11 SE, a new student edition designed to compete with Chrome OS that will ship on a range of low-cost laptops in the coming months. You can read all about Windows 11 SE right here.

The Surface Laptop SE is all plastic.
Image: Microsoft

Surface Laptop SE is every bit the low-cost Windows device you’d expect to see for $249. While it retains the same keyboard and trackpad found on Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go, the all-plastic body houses an 11.6-inch display running at just a 1366 x 768 resolution. This is the first 16:9 Surface device in more than seven years, after Microsoft switched to 3:2 for its Surface line with the Surface Pro 3 launch in 2014.

The screen looks like the biggest drawback on this device, particularly as we weren’t fans of the low-resolution screen (1536 x 1024) found on the $549 Surface Laptop Go. Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet ships with a better 10.1-inch (1920 x 1200) display for the same $249 price as the Surface Laptop SE.

Intel’s Celeron N4020 or N4120 power the Surface Laptop SE, combined with 4GB / 8GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of eMMC storage. Microsoft is including a 1-megapixel front-facing camera that offers 720P support, so it should hold up okay for Teams meetings. The Surface Laptop SE also includes a single USB-A port, one USB-C port, a regular barrel-type DC connector, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. That means this is also the first Surface laptop to ship without Microsoft’s magnetic Surface charging port.

The Surface Laptop SE ships with Windows 11 SE.
Image: Microsoft

That’s not the only first for the Surface Laptop SE, though. Microsoft is committing to a big repairability effort with the Surface Laptop SE, allowing schools to replace components inside the laptop. The base of the Surface Laptop SE has standard screws that will allow IT admins to replace the display, battery, keyboard, and even the motherboard.

Microsoft has spent the past 18 months talking to IT admins about the pain points of managing laptops in schools, and repairability was one of the top concerns. Microsoft will sell spare parts through its authorized service providers, and it should mean schools can replace components on site instead of having to send devices for repair and wait days or weeks for them to be fixed.

We’re expecting to see similar repairability in other Surface laptops in the future, as Microsoft has committed to make its devices easier to repair by the end of 2022.

Microsoft is launching its Surface Laptop SE in early 2022 in the US, UK, Canada, and Japan. The base model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage will be priced at $249, with the 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage version priced at $329. A range of Windows 11 SE laptops will also be available from Acer, Asus, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JK-IP, Lenovo, and Positivo.

Update, November 9th 4:40PM ET: Article updated with additional pricing information for Surface Laptop SE.

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