Archive for the ‘Surface’ Category

50-inch Surface Hub 2S: $8,999, shipping in June; 85-inch version next year

April 17th, 2019
50-inch Surface Hub 2S: $8,999, shipping in June; 85-inch version next year

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

First announced last year, Microsoft's second-generation Surface Hub now has a price and release schedule—and a couple of new siblings, too.

Surface Hub is Microsoft's hardware dedicated to collaboration within meetings. It combines several roles, most notably digital whiteboarding and video conferencing, with Teams, Skype, and OneNote built into a single combined, integrated package. The 50-inch 2S is only vaguely specified: it has a custom-built 3:2 aspect ratio 4K (3840×2560 with 10 bits per pixel) screen with embedded touch sensors that work with both pen and finger. Inside is an 8th-generation Core i5 (Microsoft offered no more specifics than that) with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD storage; while that may seem miserly, the Surface Hub 2 software is designed so that it doesn't store data locally, so 128GB should be abundant. To support video conferencing, it has an array of eight microphones, front-firing speakers, and a detachable 4K webcam. It will be available in the US from June, with other markets following, for a price of $8,999. One pen and one camera come in the box.

As we've come to expect from Microsoft, the screen looks great. It has a matte finish (reflections are too hard to avoid otherwise), so it doesn't quite have the punch a gloss finish would get it, but it's far better than many of the 1080p screens I've seen in offices around the world. Using techniques refined from building its portable Surface devices, the Hub 2's display integrates the touch-sensing layers into the glass of the screen, a design that makes the screen itself much thinner and reduces the parallax error when using a pen (it was 3mm in the first generation, down to 1.7mm in this).

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Report: Microsoft is jumping onto the wireless earbud bandwagon

April 16th, 2019
Microsoft's Surface Headphones. Its on-device dial controls are great. Battery life and noise-cancelling, not so much, for the price.

Enlarge / Microsoft's Surface Headphones. Its on-device dial controls are great. Battery life and noise-cancelling, not so much, for the price. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

It appears that Microsoft is going to expand its range of audio hardware. Last year the company released the Surface Headphones, a pair of premium-priced wireless noise-cancelling headphones with integrated microphones. They will be joined by a set of wireless earbuds, according to a report by Brad Sams at Thurrott.com.

Apple's AirPods have made wireless earbuds the must-have accessory. Amazon is expected to release its own Alexa-connected earbuds, and Samsung has its own Galaxy-branded earbuds. Distinguishing them from traditional earbuds, these all contain microphones so you can talk to Siri, Alexa, or Bixby. For Microsoft, Cortana would be an option, but it's more likely that you'd be talking to Siri or Google Assistant, given Cortana's diminishing presence.

Microsoft has shipped earbuds before: the Zune media player came with earbuds with a feature that sounds simple but is actually ingenious: the earbuds were magnetic and would stick together back to back. The result? Much less cable tangling when you put them in your pocket or bag. Surface Headphones seem to be competitive with other noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones: their wireless range is great, the noise cancelling is solid, and their volume and noise-cancelling dials are a joy to use, but their battery life and Bluetooth audio standard support are both weak. As such, Microsoft is not totally without experience in this area and has shown that it can engineer thoughtful, compelling designs. How the putative earbuds will stand out from the crowd remains to be seen, of course.

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Surface Book 2 line-up refreshed with new mid-range option

April 1st, 2019
The 13.5 inch Surface Book 2.

Enlarge / The 13.5 inch Surface Book 2. (credit: Microsoft)

Over the weekend, Microsoft refreshed the Surface Book 2 lineup, adding a new mid-range processor option for the 13.5-inch model (via The Verge).

At launch, the Surface Book 2 could be equipped with either a 7th generation dual-core i7-7300U processor with two cores and four threads, or an 8th generation i7-8650U with four cores and eight threads, with prices starting at $1,499 for the 7th generation part. That dual-core system now starts at $1,149 (with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage), with the $1,499 slot taken by a new i5-8350U model. This too is a four core/eight thread chip, with clock speeds of 1.7-3.6GHz and 6MB cache, in contrast to the 1.9-4.2GHz and 8MB cache of the top-end i7.

That $1,499 system is available exclusively with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. Other prices seem unaffected; the 8th generation i7 processor, which also includes a discrete Nvidia 1050 GTX GPU with 2GB dedicated memory, carries a $500 price premium over the new model today, rising to $2,999 for 16GB RAM and 1TB storage.

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Microsoft’s special Costco Surface Go is now available to all

November 7th, 2018
Promotional image of a tablet device.

Enlarge / Surface Go. (credit: Microsoft)

Surface Go is Microsoft's cheapest Surface 2-in-1 available: $399 gets you a Surface Go with 4GB RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. But the next step up in specs was a lot more expensive: it takes an extra $150 to double the RAM to 8GB and replace the 64GB eMMC with a 128GB SSD, a change that should provide a healthy boost in disk performance.

Strangely, there was no model that split the difference; a 4GB machine with 128GB SSD would be a lot more practical for many users. That is, unless you chose to buy your Surface Go at Costco, where a special 4GB/128GB system was sold. Now, however, that spec is available to all through the Microsoft Store, for $499.

While 4GB is a little miserly in the year 2018, it's not unprecedented at this price point. For a system used primarily for Web browsing, Microsoft Office, and media streaming, it's just about acceptable—and with the relatively weak processor in the machine, you likely wouldn't want to do much beyond those tasks anyway. The faster and larger SSD will ensure there's abundant space for music, photos, and videos without having to micromanage storage.

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