Microsoft’s annual Surface event was held recently on October 12, marking the 10-year anniversary of its Surface brand. For a while, all we had to go on was speculation, but it turns out many of these rumors were true.
This is an exciting time, particularly for die-hard Microsoft fans, as a slew of new products were announced: the Surface Pro 9, Surface Laptop 5, and Surface Studio 2 Plus. They were accompanied by a variety of accessories, such as integration with Apple services. Read on to find out more about Microsoft’s recent innovations.
Surface Laptop 5
The latest rendition of the Surface Laptop is as elegant as its predecessor while being as portable – the battery life lasts all day long just as expected. Powered by the 12th-Gen Intel Core processor, using Intel’s P-cores (performance cores) and E-cores (efficiency cores), improving battery life and performance.
Microsoft reports the Surface Laptop 5 to be over 50% more powerful than the Surface Laptop 4. The display for the Surface Laptop 5 is the typical 3:2 PixelSense display, with visuals coming courtesy of Dolby Vision IQ, while audio is managed with Dolby Atmos 3D spatial processing, previously only available for the Surface Laptop Studio.
Thunderbolt 4 ports are included, much like in the Surface Laptop Studio from the previous year. Unlike the Studio, however, the Surface Laptop 5, unfortunately, doesn’t have a 1080p webcam. So, for certain uses, it may be wise to use an external webcam with this laptop.
As well as keeping the webcam the same, the Surface Connect port is still used for charging, and the display technology is almost identical to the Laptop 4. The big difference is in the use of the latest processors from Intel.
The Surface Laptop 5 is available now, as it was released on October 25. Pricing begins at $999 for the 13.5-inch model, going up to $1,699 when configured with the i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 512GB storage.
It’s also available in a 15-inch model, starting at $1,299 but potentially as expensive as $2,399 if you’re going for the full specs. 32GB ram is available with the 15-inch model.
Surface Pro 9
The Surface Pro 9 comes in two varieties. There’s the Intel 12th-Gen powered version with Wi-Fi, and the one with a Microsoft SQ3 processor and 5G, based on ARM architecture. Both of these provide great performance and long battery life, but there are some key differences.
Namely, the 5G model has an improved display, with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, meaning motion will look smoother than on the Wi-Fi model. The 5G model also supports all features of the Surface Slim Pen 2, such as Tactile signals. This allows a more realistic feel when using the pen, aiming to simulate the feel of a pen on paper.
As well as this, there are new AI features with the 5G model, through something termed the Neural Processing Unit (NPU). This gives some new camera features, such as automatic eye contact, portrait blur, and voice isolation; handy for calls and meetings where background sound is a distraction.
It seems like Microsoft is no longer distinguishing between the Surface Pro and Surface Pro X. The Surface Pro 9 5G model is set to replace the Surface Pro X.
That’s because the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3- based processor boasts some significant improvements in performance over the previous Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2- based SQ2 processor; an 85% faster CPU performance and a 60% faster GPU performance are reported.
Range of Colors
Another aspect worth mentioning is the range of colors available. Sapphire and Forest are new additions to the pre-existing Platinum and Graphite, but these options are only available with the Wi-Fi model – the 5G model is only available in Platinum.
Which model should I choose?
In terms of which model you should go for, it really depends on your usage. The 5G model is more suited to portable use where Wi-Fi may not be available and is superior in terms of taking meetings and any application that relies on smooth animation.
However, the Arm-based processor can struggle to deal with apps that aren’t arm-optimized, so you’ll want to make sure your commonly used apps are comfortable with this processor before making the switch. In either case, the Surface Pro 9 doesn’t come equipped with a headphone jack, so if this is important to you, it’s something to consider.
Prices start from $999.99 for the Wi-Fi model and $1,299.99 for the 5G model. These prices can go up to $2,599.99 and $1,899.99 respectively if you’re opting for the best possible processor and the largest memory and storage.
It’s worth mentioning the full specs for the Wi-Fi model are 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, whereas those for the 5G model are 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.
Surface Studio 2+
The Surface Studio 2+ has an upgraded processor, much like Microsoft’s other new offerings. Using the updated 11th-Gen Intel i7 Core H Series processor, the Surface Studio 2+ allegedly has up to 50% faster CPU performance, so not much change there.
There isn’t much difference in terms of design either, as Microsoft has opted to continue with the same style and 28-inch 3:2 display. The hinge is still there, which allows you to turn the display into a canvas for artistic applications.
Graphics for the Studio 2+ get a boost, with an upgrade from the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or 1070 to the newer GeForce RTX 3060 mobile GPU. While this essentially doubles the graphics performance, the new CPU and GPU are still outdated, since Intel is now on its 12th-Gen Alder Lake processors (and will soon be moving to its 13th-Gen Raptor Lake processors).
If you’re looking for a very high-end performance you may be disappointed with this model. For casual gaming though, the performance should still be suitable for your needs.
The Surface Studio 2+ incorporates a 1080p webcam, perfect for taking professional calls, and is equipped with Thunderbolt 4 ports, USB-A, Gigabit Ethernet, and a headphone jack. The Studio 2+ is also bundled with all the accessories you could need, including the Surface Keyboard and Mouse, as well as a Surface Pen for sketching.
Overall, not too much has changed since the Studio 2, apart from increased CPU and GPU performance. While the design is one many know and love, it’s arguably outdated compared to the competition with its rather heavy-looking frame around the screen.
The Surface Studio 2+ pricing begins at $4299, coming with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.
Microsoft Surface Event: More Innovations
As well as announcing several releases for the Surface brand, Microsoft revealed a bunch of exciting accessories and tools. One of these are Adaptive Accessories, which take inspiration from the Xbox Adaptive Controller to create accessories for the PC, such as programmable wireless buttons and customizable mice.
These are designed to make PC use easier for people who may struggle to use a traditional keyboard and mouse. Button toppers and mouse tails can even be replaced with 3D-printed designs that can be ordered through Shapeways, Microsoft’s 3D printing online service.
Next up is the Microsoft Presenter+, a presentation control connected via Bluetooth, which allows remote control of presentations; even Teams. Another addition is also aimed at improving the online meetings experience.
Namely, the Microsoft Audio Dock is equipped with noise-reducing microphones and HDMI, USB-C, and USB-A ports, designed to be an all-in-one audio solution that doesn’t take up much desk space.
Integration was also a key topic covered at the event, as Microsoft revealed that the ability to synchronize your iCloud account with your Windows devices will be available from November. Adding to this, Apple Music and Apple TV functionality will launch next year.
Finally, a new graphic design app was announced, called Microsoft Designer. This app is powered by cloud-based AI, as well as DALL-E 2, and allows you to generate unique images just by using your voice. It will also allow you to streamline the content creation process for social media posts and more.