Do you remember the Surface Hub? Chances are you forgot it even existed. And yet, Microsoft just announced a second version of the Surface Hub. The company hasn’t shared any specifications or price, but it won’t be available before 2019 — selected customers will test the Surface Hub 2 starting this year.
The Surface Hub was a crazy expensive digital whiteboard that could handle anything from video conferences to document collaboration. Microsoft says that there are 5,000 companies using Surface Hubs, including half of Fortune 100 companies.
It’s unclear if each company has bought one Surface Hub or a thousand. But it seems like there was enough interest to work on a second version. At heart, it’s still a gigantic touchscreen-enabled display. It runs Windows 10 and supports the Surface Pen.
Compared to the previous version, Microsoft has drastically reduced the bezels. It looks like a modern TV now, but with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Surprisingly, the video camera is now gone from the main device. You’ll need to plug a webcam above the display to start video conferences.
The most interesting part is the concept video. You can see a device with fluid use cases. You can hook it to a wall, you can put it on a rolling case, you can create a wall of Surface Hubs.
Users log in by putting their finger on the fingerprint sensor. This way, you can find all your documents and data and accept calls from your account.
Microsoft is trying to push the needle when it comes to computers. This is an innovative form factor that could fit well in your company’s workflow. It’s interesting to see that the company isn’t standing still. The Mac hasn’t drastically evolved while Microsoft still has bold ideas to share.
Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 is the most powerful mobile Surface device yet. It easily blows away the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and, of course, the old Surface Book. It’s also one of the odder devices in the lineup, though. It’s not just a Surface Pro with a rigid keyboard. It’s a relatively heavy base with a powerful processor and graphics card and a big battery — and it has a surprisingly light removable screen that turns it into a tablet and that features a less powerful processor and graphics chip.
Microsoft shipped me a top-of-the-line 15-inch Surface Book 2 review unit with the latest Intel Core i7-8650U CPU clocked at 1.9 GHz, a discrete Nvidia 1060 GPU with 6GB of RAM, 16GB of memory and a terabyte SSD. That’s $3,299 worth of Surface Book, though at the low-end, you can also get a 13-inch machine for $1,499 with an i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and an integrated Intel GPU. In between, there are a number of other 15-inch models with Nvidia 1050 GPUs and varying numbers for RAM and disk space.
There surely a world of difference between the performance of these low-end and high-end machines, so you get what you pay for. But Microsoft’s message here is pretty clear: the Surface Book 2 is basically a mobile workstation for those who want to edit videos and photos, play games on the road or just need a really powerful mobile machine to crunch numbers or compile a Linux kernel or two. It’s Microsoft’s challenger to the MacBook Pro and it’s not shying away from the comparison.
I’ve only had the Surface Book 2 on my desk for just over 24 hours, so this isn’t a definitive review (I have barely been able to run the battery down once in that time, after all). We’ll do that in a week or so, after I’ve had some more real-world experience with it.
Even after a short time with the new Surface Book, I’ve come away impressed (anything else at this price would be quite a disappointment, of course).
We can argue about its design — that rounded hinge that leaves quite a gap even when the laptop is closed wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea when the first version launched and while Microsoft has tweaked the hinge, the gap is still as prominent as ever. You may even call it ugly. But it sure makes it stand out in this crowded laptop market.
What you can’t argue about, though, is the overall quality of the build. The base is a solid piece of metal. The tablet/screen is securely attached to it (and the keyboard has a key that releases it from its base). The large chiclet keyboard has enough travel and gives you a good indication that you’ve pressed a button, making it quite comfortable to type on.
The touch-sensitive screen is bright and at a resolution of 3240×2160, you’re getting a higher pixel density than on the MacBook Pro. Thankfully, Microsoft and the software developers in its ecosystem have fixed most of Windows 10’s issues with high-density displays, so you can actually now enjoy the experience. The screen may just be a bit too glossy for some (too many laptop screens these days are), but it’s winter in Oregon and we won’t see the sun until next year, so I haven’t been able to test that.
Let’s talk about the key feature of the Surface Book 2 for a moment: the detachable screen. It’s surprisingly light, especially when you consider that it’s a 15-inch tablet with a promised five-hour battery life. But is it more than just a novelty? Microsoft argues that you can detach it and use it as a tablet, fold it around to go into “studio mode” for comfortable sketching, or detach the screen, turn it around, re-attach it for mobile presentation.
Some of these feel like niche use cases and I can’t quite see myself doing any of this on a regular basis but that’s probably a personal thing. I’d be quite happy with the Surface Book 2 if the screen didn’t detach, too (though at a lower price).
The power of the dedicated GPU should make for a pretty good gaming experience (though not at full resolution and the highest settings — it’s not a 1080, after all. We’ll run some benchmarks in the next few days.
Oh – and if you’re worried about having to use dongles for this laptop, don’t worry. It comes with a USB-C port, two regular USB-A ports, an SD-card slot and the usual Surface connector for charging and attaching the Surface Dock if you have one. And there’s a headphone jack, too. There’s no Mini DisplayPort like in the first-gen model, but you can connect up to two 4K monitors at 30Hz or a single 4k monitor at 60Hz via the USB-C port — or via a Surface Dock, of course. You can’t drive four screen by using both the USB-C and Surface Dock simultaneously, though.
What about the negatives? The fan, especially in the screen, tends to kick in a bit too often. It’s quiet but noticeable, even when the CPU load isn’t all that high. The screen can also get a bit warmer than I’d like. It’s also heavy. At 4.2 lbs, you’re not going to have to double-check that it’s in your backpack. And there’s the design with its odd hinge — but I already mentioned that.
Unlike the first-gen Surface Book, this one doesn’t seem to suffer from the regular blue screens of death and other issues that buyers of its predecessor had to deal with. I hope that remains true as I continue to use it.
Microsoft is clearly making a play for disgruntled MacBook users by throwing in a three-month subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography plan for the next two months, talking up how well Autodesk Maya and other apps work on the Surface Book 2, and — most importantly — by simply making this a high performance machine.
So will the Surface Book 2 get MacBook Pro users to switch? That probably depends on how much you love/hate Windows 10, but it strikes me as a good — and far more powerful — alternative to Apple’s current mobile offerings. And it’s copious amount of power that sets it apart from the masses (plus its detachable screen, but I just don’t know how big a selling point that’ll be for potential users).
No one in the tech industry wears their heart on their sleeve quite like Panos Panay. The Windows Devices head is sometimes almost overwhelmed by his own passion for Microsoft’s Surface products. Panay’s enthusiasm bubbles over, he goes off script, and he often over-shares.
Either all that is true, or Microsoft has never had a savvier product lead. Whatever the case, Panay’s product fervor is infectious and, when he explains why he’s so excited about Microsoft’s new Surface Book 2, you believe him.
Panay unveiled the two new Surface Book 2 hybrid laptops, a 13-inch model and big-rig 15-incher last week at a relatively low-key event that, while timed as the last Microsoft media get-together before the launch of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (Oct. 17), was squarely focused on a launching the redesigned portables.
“I just want to talk to you about these products,” said Panay earnestly. He’d been instructed to keep it low-key, stay seated, and just chat, but, as usual, Panay was prowling before the group of journalists assembled causally on couches, benches, and cushioned chairs. Behind him, under fabric, were the two new laptops.
Microsoft is aggressively pursuing the mobile-workhorse market that Apple has carved out.
Panay spoke, as he often does, with enormous pride about the growth of the Surface brand over the last five years and how, in those early days in 2012, the team would challenge each other to spot a Surface in the wild.
“Who can take the first picture?” he remembered. That first picture turned out to be a Microsoft employee on an airplane.
When I sit down with Panay after the launch to talk about his vision for these Intel quad-core, 8th generation Core i-running systems, I also note that just a week earlier, when I pulled out my Surface Pro on a recent flight to the West Coast, the woman two seats away did the same.
Panay smiles and says, “It’s indicative now. It’s happening.”
With the Surface brand now more firmly established in consumer’s minds, Microsoft continues to expand the brand across multiple mobile devices, Surface Laptop, Pro, and Book, and on the desktop with the Surface Studio. Now, with the new Book 2, especially the super-sized 15-inch model, Microsoft is aggressively pursuing the mobile-workhorse market that Apple has carved out with the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Panay called the new $2,499 15-inch Surface Book 2 “a beast,” telling us it’s five times more powerful that the original Surface Book, claiming it’s capable of pushing a stunning 4.3 trillion math operations per second.
“No laptop has ever pushed this much computational power in this mobile a format,” said Panay.
He also claimed that the Surface Book 2 offers 70% more battery life than a comparable MacBook Pro.
For all that power, the Surface Book 2, both the 13-inch ( $1,499) and 15-inch, looks almost exactly the same as the original 13.5-inch laptop. Microsoft still puts the core processor in the 3:2 aspect ratio screen, which is essentially a touchscreen tablet that sits on the dynamic fulcrum hinge. The screen (6 million pixels with 260 ppi on the 15,; 267 ppi on the 13) still detaches with the press of a button and can be used alone or flipped around, reattached, and then folded down on top of the keyboard to an angled “Studio Mode” for drawing. The keyboard base still houses copious amounts of battery and, in some cases, a discrete Nvidia GPU.
However, as is often the case these days in mobile technology, there is very little about the Surface Book 2 that isn’t new.
There are over 1,000 new parts in Surface Book 2, Panay tells me later. Even that iconic hinge that lets you use one finger to lift the substantial screen while keeping the base firmly on the table, is all new.
Earlier that day, Microsoft Design Chief Ralf Groene told me as I lingered over an exploded view of the new hinge in the Surface Book 2 demo room that Microsoft re-engineered the entire hinge and attachment mechanism.
I noticed that when I detached and reattached the screen, the operation was quieter and surer. Groene told me that the redesign cut down on screen wobble.
It’s made out of ceramic now,” says Panay later. This has the side benefit of making the Book 2 slightly lighter.
“We have to design from inside out; we don’t design from the outside in,” says Panay as way of explaining why the Surface Book 2 is not, visually, a new design. He also notes that the design has become iconic for customers looking for a certain level of performance in a laptop.
And the Book 2 does take the Surface brand performance to some new, uncharted places.
This may be the first Intel Quad-Core i7 CPU (8th generation) running in a tablet without a fan (13-inch model, only). The tablet cools passively. Earlier, I noticed a tiny grill runs the entire outside edge of the tablet.
“When you don’t need a fan, it starts to change a lot of things. One, it takes weight out of the product. Two, passively cooling means you’re not working with any noise, any barriers from a tablet perspective… and you’re burning less battery,” says Panay.
Microsoft is promising 17 hours of battery life for the Surface Book 2. “I’m using my Book 15-inch,” grins Panay, “I can’t remember that last time I charged it. It’s just crazy and it’s so fun to me right now.”
It sounds a little less crazy when you consider this is, in the case of the 15-inch model, a nearly 4.22-pound laptop (the 13-inch weighs 3.67 pounds). The tablet alone alone gets you a still-solid 5 hours. For comparison, the Surface Pro weighs 1.73 pounds (Core i7 model) and gets you 13 hours of battery life.
If Surface Book 2 users primarily use the product as a tablet, this might be a problem, But Panay explains that the typical Surface Book user detaches the screen in relatively short, 20-to-30-minute bursts.
“Of course, the way we manage battery is, when you’re docked or back plugged into the keyboard, we push the power equally through this [to the screen and base], so it makes it easy to detach whenever you need to and you have power. It works out pretty well for our users,” he says.
Microsoft’s redesign work extends to the keyboard and mouse.
“The keyboard has got its own new feel,” says Panay, who boasts to me about the laptop keyboard’s 1.55 millimeters of travel, (the amount of movement you get when typing a key), adding that it’s significantly better than the, according to him, 0.55mm of travel found on the latest MacBook Pros.
That satisfying typing feel is a direct result of the Surface Book’s unusual design. While the MacBook elegantly squeezes virtually all its technology into the base, Microsoft gets to split at least some of it between the base and the 7.7mm-thick tablet.
“I will profess to you it’s perfect for the elegant typing experience,” says Panay, warming to his subject, “the buttery smooth feel, the make/break of being productive and typing as fast as you can… and we do a bunch of typing tests.”
Yes, USB-C, finally
There is one other notable change to the outside of the Surface Book 2: the introduction of a USB-C port (there are also two USB Type-A ports and an SD card slot).
Back in May when Microsoft unveiled its new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, I asked Panay why the company still hadn’t adopted USB-C. Panay said that, “It’s not that it’s not great. It’s not that people don’t use it, but it’s not ready for these products yet. It’s not ready for our customers.” He did add that it would eventually show up in their products.
And now it has.
The USB-C port replaces the DisplayPort and, as such, is primarily intended to drive an external display.
“What I want to be careful of is, I don’t want to remove the Surface Connector that’s so important to people. That quick charging, that matters,” he says, still trying to qualify the introduction of this single port.
Panay admits that the USB-C port can also be used to read an external hard drive and, yes, charge the Surface Book 2.
And yet he hedges again, trying to warn people off plugging in any random USB-C-based charger.
“You can charge off of it, of course, but that’s not the goal. Because you’re going to find chargers that simply don’t work and that’s not what I want for customers,” he says.
Inside a beast
The Surface Book 2 is designed for creators and those who are building the future, said Panay during his presentation. The Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU backed by 6GB of RAM (in the 13-inch, there’s a 1050 with 2GB of video RAM) will support processor-intensive tasks like CAD, 3D and video rendering.
During the presentation Panay impishly played an unfinished Surface Book 2 sizzle video that elegantly, and with copious amounts of exquisite 3D-rendering, demonstrates how the new design came together.
Later, Panay is still beaming about going rouge and sharing the video early. “That video you saw, we are pushing renders of that video on this device. Not sure how we’ll talk about that in the future, but it just gives you that essence…We can do our video editing right on the fly. We can recreate that product, rendering the sound and the images. It’s pretty cool.”
That raw power, however, may also excite another audience: gamers. Panay called the system “amazing for gamers,” telling me later that its remarkable to have this kind of gaming power in a system this small. “This should look like a massive gaming rig,” he says.
When I tell him that my son owns one of those huge gaming laptops, Panay encourages me to bring home 15-inch review unit I’ll eventually get and “take it to your boy and let him have at it.”
Before we finish, I bring Panay back to a question I’m often asked, “Which Surface should I buy?”
Panay breaks it down:
There’s the Surface Pro, which is all about versatility. So, if you need a laptop with significant battery life but that can truly support work on the go, this is probably your pick.
The Surface Laptop is “a laptop in its truest form,” says Panay, “It’s about beauty and precision design,” and adds, “There are a set of people who want a laptop that’s performant, that’s light enough, that’s thin enough, but must be iconic or beautiful, it has to be.”
The Surface Book 2 is about pushing performance. It’s really for the creative in the 3D rendering app Maya, the engineer in CAD.
To see if that product messaging and reality come together for consumers, Panay spends a lot of time in Microsoft Stores observing customers who come into buy new systems.
“So, there’s a reality to that moment. Somebody walking in and wanting to buy a product and understand it and the reality to the marketing messages,” he says.
He wants the product truth, how the Surface feels, what its components can do, to match the marketing message so that when the customer does arrive in the store, the choice is obvious.
October 17, 2017 / Comments Off on Why Microsoft turned the Surface Book into a 15-inch ‘beast’
Yikes! You should probably hold off on that Microsoft Surface purchase you’re thinking about, and hopefully you haven’t already been swindled.
Consumer Reportsannounced Thursday it’s withdrawing its coveted “recommendation” badge from four Microsoft Surface laptops that were previously blessed with the recognition.
The reason: It estimates about 25 percent of Surface computers will break within two years of ownership — an abysmal rate of reliability compared to other popular laptops and tablets.
The non-profit publication surveyed more than 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and discovered that about 25 percent of the sample who owned Microsoft Surface devices were presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.”
Brutal. So that means that if you buy a base price Microsoft Surface Laptop for $1,000, you’re basically paying about $41 per month to use it before it breaks. Compare that to comparable devices like the MacBook or even Razer Blade, and frankly, it’s just kind of sad.
However, keep in mind that there’s no way the survey could take into account Surface products made in the last two years. The new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop as well as the latest Surface Book are all less than two years old. Even the first Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 haven’t yet had their second birthdays. Mashable gave favorable reviews to all of those products, and the ones we’ve used for extended periods have held up.
In response to a query from Mashable, a Microsoft spokesperson responded, “While we respect Consumer Reports, we disagree with their findings. Microsoft’s real-world return and support rates and customer satisfaction data show we are on par if not better than other devices in the category. We stand firmly behind the quality and reliability of the Surface family of devices and continue to make quality our primary focus.”
August 10, 2017 / Comments Off on You may want to hold off buying that Microsoft Surface
Good news — no great news — the one thing that crippled Microsoft’s first laptop, the Surface Laptop, is no more.
As we said in our review, Windows 10 S and the fact that it only lets you install apps from the Windows Store (there’s no Chrome!) is too restrictive, and anybody who buys a Surface Laptop should immediately upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.
The downside to upgrading from 10 S to 10 Pro was that you couldn’t revert or “downgrade” back if you changed your mind later. Microsoft’s now reversed that somewhat hostile stance.
Less than week after releasing the Surface Laptop, Microsoft’s provided a “recovery image” for owners to effectively revert back to Windows 10 S if they made the upgrade to 10 Pro.
It’s a nice token for Surface Laptop owners, but it’s also not as simple as clicking a button. To get your machine running Windows 10 S again, you’ll need to perform a factory reset, which means it’ll erase everything. So you’ll want to backup your data onto an external hard drive or to the cloud before doing so.
You can find both the recovery image and instructions on how to restore your Surface Laptop to Windows 10 S on Microsoft’s website.
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is one of the best Windows 10 laptops you can buy and a solid alternative to Apple’s MacBook Pro.
It’s got a high-res touchscreen, a keyboard wrapped in Alcantara fabric that doesn’t feel like you’re typing on a table, all-day battery life, and a full-sized USB 3.0 port so you can live a dongle-free life.
Surface Laptop owners can upgrade their machines from 10 S to 10 Pro for free until the end of the year. After that, it’s $50 for the upgrade, and will presumably cost you each time you want to upgrade again after factory resetting back to Windows 10 S. Although, it’s possible you could save your Windows 10 Pro license and reuse it later. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to clarify the upgrade fee after performing a factory reset.
June 19, 2017 / Comments Off on Surface Laptop lets you restore back to Windows 10 S if you suddenly decide you hate apps