At an intimate event in New York City in early October, Microsoft unveiled a number of new and upgraded devices in its Surface line up.
The traditionally software-only company now has an almost complete hardware product range which puts it into direct rivalry with a certain other Silicon Valley firm known for its computer design expertise.
In all, four new Surface products were unveiled, refreshing the entire line apart from the Surface Book and adding one more SKU to the inventory. The first announcement was the Surface Laptop 2. The original Surface Laptop released in 2017 performed better than expected, with its excellent 14-hour battery life and slick appearance. It was however somewhat underpowered in comparison with the competition. Microsoft has sought to alleviate this concern with the base model of the new Surface Laptop 2 doubling the amount of RAM to a more realistic 8GB and including an eighth generation Intel quad core processor.
For people requiring higher performance, there’s also a model with 16GB and a Core i7 processor. Microsoft says the extra processing power, reportedly 85% faster than the original Surface Laptop, does not negatively impact on battery life. The new model is now available in matte black in addition to previous colour options of cobalt blue, burgundy and platinum. One notable consideration is the omission of any USB-C ports and microSD card slots.
Also getting a big increase in performance is the Surface Pro 6. Microsoft’s iPad Pro competitor is now said to be 67% faster than the previous model and is the first tablet-plus-keyboard to have a quad core processor. The company has somehow achieved this without increasing width or reducing battery life, though how its performance is impacted by thermal throttling is not yet known. Additionally, the Surface Pro 6 now boasts an 8 megapixel auto-focusing camera, but again is lacking a USB-C port.
Microsoft has also put performance front and centre in this year’s version of its unique Surface Studio desktop computer. The original device won over many creatives with its ability to be folded down into a large digital drawing surface, but did not have much in the way of processing power. Partly, this has been rectified with the switch to a solid state drive, but the upgrading of its Nvidia graphics chipset will be the main reason to update for most users.
In a surprise announcement towards the end of the event, Microsoft unveiled a set of Surface-branded wireless headphones. The premium quality noise-cancelling over-ear headset is probably more suited to listening sessions at work or home than Apple’s tiny AirPods. Other than design, the Surface headphones will offer many similar features such as a voice assistant in the form of Cortana, which can read out emails, start calls and pause music simply by taking the headphones off.
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