Microsoft Takes on Chromebooks With New $250 Surface Laptop SE

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(Photo: Microsoft)The long-rumored Chromebook competitor from Microsoft has finally arrived, and it’s called the Surface Laptop SE, running on a stripped-down version of Windows 11, also dubbed SE. The $250 laptop is aggressively priced and aimed directly at students, as well as at schools using Google’s popular Chromebooks.

The laptop has rather modest specs, which is not a surprise given its price tag.  At the heart of the all-plastic beast lies a Celeron processor, either in dual-core or quad-core trim, along with 4 or 8GB of DDR4 memory. Storage is handled by an embedded eMMC card, which is available in either 64GB or 128GB capacities. It offers an 11.6” TFT display with 1366 x 768 resolution, 80211.AC Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, a 720p webcam, and lone USB-A and USB-C ports for connectivity. Microsoft claims the 2.45lb. laptop offers up to 16 hours of battery life.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop SE is all-plastic and weighs a very totable 2.45lbs. (photo: Microsoft)

Though the hardware is interesting, Windows 11 SE shares top-billing, as it’s a new version of Windows designed explicitly to be run by IT administrators in a classroom setting. This is not to be confused with Windows 11 S Mode, which is also a streamlined version of Windows 11. Ok, it is confusing, we admit it. That said, this new SE version comes pre-configured for student privacy and remote management, according to Microsoft, and is also a “cloud-first” OS, so it’s safe to assume many of the devices apps will be run from the Cloud, as opposed to being installed locally. Naturally it runs Microsoft’s Edge browser, but can use Chrome extensions, Google Classroom web Apps, and Office 365 web apps as well. This should make it easier for schools to ditch Google’s hardware for Microsoft’s, as the transition should be relatively trouble-free as far as compatibility goes.

Another interesting feature is Microsoft told Ars Technica that, “…vital components like the display, battery, keyboard—even the motherboard—can be easily repaired onsite, saving time and money for IT admins and schools.”

This is certainly a major play in a market dominated by Google and Apple, and as we reported earlier Chromebook sales have skyrocketed as schools transitioned to hybrid learning in the pandemic.  We noted at the time that the rise of Chromebooks is a big threat to Microsoft due to the age at which eager students become engrossed in the Google ecosystem. With the Surface Laptop SE, Microsoft is obviously hoping to turn the tide.

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