Last week, Microsoft held a Surface event that took the wraps off a whole slew of new and innovative devices that the company is hoping will capture the imagination of its customers. Some of these devices were iterative versions of what is already available from Microsoft, but others were completely new product categories.
I’ve really come to admire Microsoft’s innovation. They are not afraid to push the boat out and try new things. These products don’t always pan out the way they hope, (see Surface RT), but a willingness to innovate and expand the boundaries of what is already out there, is something you have to at least respect, even if you are not a Windows user. Here’s what’s new.
Surface Laptop 3
The third generation of Microsoft’s popular Surface Laptop comes with some worthwhile upgrades, not least of which, is the option of a 15-inch screen. Both the 13 and the 15-inch laptops come with 10th generation Intel processors, and you can have dedicated graphics cards in the 15-inch model. The Surface Laptop 3 has a larger glass trackpad, and weighs as little as 2.76lbs, (the same as Apple’s Macbook Air). The 13-inch model starts at $999, while the 15-inch model starts at $1,199. Both are available in a range of colors, they ship on October 22, and you can pre-order here.
Surface Pro 7
The Surface Pro is now up to version seven, which in itself is testament to how popular this model has become with Windows users. On the outside, the Surface Pro 7 looks very similar to its predecessors, but they new models do come with the latest 10th-generation Inter processors. The Surface Pro 7 also comes with a USB-C port, in addition to the USB-A found on previous iterations, and it has a lower starting price of $749. Although that is about the sum total of the changes in the seventh generation Surface Pro, that’s not actually a bad thing. After all, if ain’t broke, don’t fix it! They ship on October 22, and you can pre-order here.
Surface Pro X
This a really interesting device. It has an ARM-based processor, (the Microsoft SQ1), instead of an Intel processor. This comes with some significant advantages such as instant-on power, LTE connectivity, and a 13-hour battery life that can be recharged from 0 to 80% in just one hour. The ARM processor also allows the computer much thinner. This one is just 7.3mm thick. It has a 13-inch screen and, (for an additional cost), it can be paired with a keyboard and the new Slim Pen stylus. Microsoft says it will easily run existing Windows apps like Chrome or iTunes, despite the new mobile processor. The Surface Pro X starts at $999, and will be released on November 5, 2019. You can pre-order here.
The Surface Neo is a brand new product category for Microsoft. It’s a dual screen device with twin, 9-inch touchscreen displays that are joined by a 360-degree hinge. You can run separate apps on each screen, or have one app flow over both screens. The Neo supports pen input and has a unique keyboard that can be attached magnetically for typing or a trackpad experience. Microsoft didn’t reveal any pricing at the event, and the release date for the Surface Neo is only loosely pegged at the Fall of 2020. This is primarily because developers will need time to adapt their apps to support dual screen displays, and get to know the new Windows 10 X software that is optimized for dual screen devices.
If you thought the Neo was a great idea, but you would prefer something more pocketable, the Duo might be just what you are looking for. Like the Neo, it has two screens, joined by a 360-degree hinge, but the dual 5.6-inch displays make this one much more portable. It also runs a version of Android that Microsoft has optimized specifically for this device. It comes with a suite of Microsoft apps, but you can still access the Google Play Store to find others that you might need. For some, the Surface Duo will replace their smartphone. For others, it may be an additional device. Pricing is not available at this time, and the Duo will launch alongside the Neo in 2020.
Last but not least, the new Surface Earbuds were also unveiled by Microsoft last week. These truly wireless earbuds are similar in style to AirPods or Galaxy buds, and they follow on the heels of the recently released Surface Headphones. They have 8 hours of battery life and a charging case that will extend that up to 24 hours. The touchpads on the side of each earbud let you control your music or summon a digital assistant.
However, perhaps more interestingly, is the integration with Office 365. The Surface Earbuds give you the ability to provide a live transcription of a speech while connected to a computer running a PowerPoint presentation. They can translate your captions into one of 60 different languages, or move to the next slide in your presentation with a swipe. You can listen to, delete or reply to emails, and dictate text in Word or Outlook. They will sell for $249 when they are released later this year.
Microsoft’s Device Strategy
The Surface line of products is a bold and imaginative collection of devices. Not all of them are home-run products, but they are well-made, thoughtfully designed, and rooted in a unified vision to help promote creativity and maximize productivity. All this, unfortunately, comes at a cost. A Surface is not a cheap device, but, like Apple, they represent some of the best technologies you can buy today. If you live in a Windows environment, and you want the best hardware you can buy, the Surface devices should definitely be on your shortlist.