Microsoft has unveiled its hardware lineup for the holiday seasons of 2019 and 2020, including new Surface Laptop and Surface Pro models, wireless earbuds, and two hinged dual-screen devices—one running Windows 10X and another with Android.
It’s been nine years since Microsoft’s first Surface prototype and seven years since the original device launched with three ambitions: putting people at the center of every device experience, innovating across form and function with a focus on enabling creation and productivity, and building experiences that span all the devices in people’s lives and not just one device. The hardware announced today continues that ambition.
Surface Laptop 3
First up, the company revealed new 13-inch and 15-inch models of the Surface Laptop, with the latter coming in both Intel and AMD variants.
Key specifications include a trackpad that is 20% larger, 1.3mm key travel with a 19mm pitch between keys, USB-A and USB-C connectivity, a studio mic optimized for your voice so it captures what you’re saying and not all the background noise, instant-on capabilities, and fast charging tech that can boost your battery to 80% in less than an hour.
Microsoft emphasized the hardware’s machined aluminum finish and that there’s no rubber bumper wrapping around the edges of the screen which contributes to its ultra-clean aesthetics. The 13.5-inch and 15-inch PixelSense displays have touch support and great pixel density for sharp-looking graphics.
In the case of the AMD-based model, the system is powered by a Ryzen 7 chip with best in class Radeon RX Vega 11 graphics. Microsoft said it co-engineered this Surface edition processor and it’s claimed to be the most powerful processor available in any competing laptop.
The Intel version is equipped with a quad-core 10th-gen Ice Lake chip (10nm fabrication) that is said to be three times more powerful than a MacBook Air.
Both feature a modular design that makes it easy to get inside for repairs. The top of the laptop’s deck can be removed—keyboard, touchpad, and all—to expose the innards. Also of note, the systems feature a removable hard drive.
Pre-orders are available now with the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 going for $999 and the 15-inch fetching $1,199. Units ship October 22.
Surface Pro 7
For its seventh-gen Surface Pro, Microsoft said it focused its engineering efforts on delivering more power, performance, and better experiences while retaining the familiar flexible design that lets you use a combination of mouse, keyboard, pen, voice.
Part of this comes by way of adding USB-C connectivity, a long-awaited feature for the device, as well as 10th-gen Core i3, i5 and i7 processors from Intel that offer double the performance of the components powering Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6. While faster, the new configuration results in a quoted battery life of 10.5 hours versus 13.5 hours on the Pro 6.
The Surface Pro 7 can be outfitted with up to 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM and a 1TB solid state drive, while the PixelSense display offers a max resolution of 2,736 x 1,824 with 267 pixels per inch.
Beyond the parts inside, Microsoft has made improvements to the Surface Pen (sold separately) as well as Microsoft Office, such as enabling support in Microsoft Excel and improved capabilities for in-line editing on Word documents.
Pre-orders are open today with pricing starting at $749, and units will ship October 22.
Surface Pro X
Microsoft said it aimed to push the boundaries with this device, which is the thinnest Surface Pro yet and the first ARM-based model since the Surface 2. The Surface Pro X measures 5.3mm at its thinnest point, weighs 1.68 pounds, and has a 12-inch chassis with chamfered edges along with the skinniest bezels on any 2-in-1 available today.
Many of the same specs already discussed are also available here, such as USB-C, studio mic, always-on capabilities, removable hard drive, and fast charging support. Beyond that, however, the Surface Pro X is a different beast from the Surface Pro 7.
For starters, the Surface Pro X is powered by a custom Microsoft SQ1 processor with a 9-teraflop AI engine and 2-teraflop graphics chip. The SQ1 chipset is based on Snapdragon DNA and while ARM chips typically run at around two watts, the SQ1 has been pushed to seven watts with help from Qualcomm engineers.
It also features a redesigned GPU that is three times more performance per watt than the Surface Pro 6 and it’s the first PC to pack an integrated AI accelerator. This can be used for instance when two people are talking over a video call and they are looking at their screens instead of their cameras. The AI engine can automatically adjust their gaze on the video so it appears as though they are looking directly at the camera for a more natural and personal experience.
The Surface Pro X has a 2880 x 1920, 267 PPI PixelSense display that measures 13 inches edge to edge with a 1400:1 contrast ratio and “individually calibrated pixels.” It also features support for dual 4K displays and
Other specs include LTE Advanced connectivity, and a revamped rechargeable Surface Slim Pen with better latency, better tilt, and 4,096 points of pressure. The pen can be stored in an area between keyboard and display, and will be especially useful for the newly optimized Adobe Creative applications that are being brought to the Surface.
During the presentation, Adobe Fresco was demonstrated with a live drawing on stage. The software lets you draw crisp clear lines and responds to pressure for a natural feeling line as well as producing a blended effect. Oil brushes can be used to blend colors together similar to real oils, while the back of the pen can be used to erase lines like with a real pencil. Fresco is designed to be powerful enough for professionals yet accessible enough for kids. Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat Reader, and more Adobe Creative Cloud products are being optimized for the Surface.
Overall, the Surface Pro X delivers better battery life, faster performance, and a thinner, lighter design. Units are available for pre-order now from $999 and will ship November 5. Microsoft suggested that if you’re interested in the Surface Pro X, you’ll want to get your pre-order in early, so perhaps these are going to be in limited stock early on.
Microsoft has joined the fray of manufacturers who have recently entered the wireless earbuds game, not least of which being Amazon. The Surface Earbuds are voice-enabled with two-directional mics per ear and support for touch gestures to navigate music and calls without taking out your phone.
The buds support one-click pairing to devices and when paired with Android, you can open Spotify in a few taps and it will play the right music for you at that moment. Assorted touches made on the outside of the earbud will let you play, pause, skip, and change volume.
Besides offering omnisonic sound and filters for noise reduction, the Surface Earbuds are designed for all-day comfort and balance against two points in your ear.
Perhaps most notable about the device is the mention of Office 365 integrations for dictation, advancing PowerPoint slides, and the ability to provide real-time captions and translations in 60 languages courtesy of Azure cognitive services.
The Surface Earbuds will be available later this year for $249.
Future Microsoft Products
Along with a new lineup of products that will be shipping this holiday season, Microsoft teased some of the hardware it plans to ship by holiday 2020:
Surface Neo: Reminiscent of the Courier that never made it to commercial production, Microsoft says the Surface Neo is the first of its kind. It’s a dual-screen device that folds with a hinge between the displays, enabling “unlimited postures” for ultimate mobile productivity.
The 360-degree hinge joining the two displays is comprised of micro-gears including 60 micro-coax cables that are thinner than a human. Each screen measures 5.4mm and is covered by Gorilla Glass, while the device weighs only 655 grams.
That compact form-factor was partly achieved with the help of a custom Intel Lakefield processor, a hybrid chip with 11th-gen graphics engine. The chip has a silicon footprint that has been reduced to enable the Neo’s thinness and was designed specifically for the Neo’s dual screens.
Accompanying the dual displays is a magnetically charging Bluetooth keyboard on the back that can fold around and sit on one of the screens. This covers about two-thirds of the display and results in an Apple-esque Touchbar (called the Wonderbar here), which is still large and versatile enough to hold a minimized video if you want to free up the main display.
As part of its testing, Microsoft said it has measured people’s brain response when using devices and their brains lit up and their productivity increased when two screens were present.
There’s no word on pricing, but the Surface Neo won’t be available until holiday 2020.
Windows 10X: This is a new version of Windows 10 designed by hundreds of engineers over the last few years specifically for the Surface Neo. It’s meant for mobile productivity on dual-screen devices and has capabilities such as “spanning” which lets you drag applications so they occupy one or two screens, and the application interface adjusts accordingly. We have a deeper look at Windows 10X on How-to Geek.
Surface Duo: Similar to the Neo, the Duo has dual screens separated by a hinge but it’s a smaller device that’s more geared toward mobile communication. Although it’s more than just a smartphone, Microsoft is partnering with Google to employ a customized version of Android on the Duo. It seems especially geared toward business users who need to get things done on the go and seamlessly transition between platforms.
Like the Neo, there’s no release date or pricing info for the Duo.