Microsoft held its Surface event on October 2. This gathering was all about hardware, primarily the new Surface branded devices that the company will be launching soon.
But unlike last time, software got equal billing at the show.
There is a new OS that will power a new Surface model — a special version of Windows 10 for a special device. This new variant of the operating system automatically adapts to the dual-screen form factor of this new machine. And it also comes with features to help you make the most of this new version.
A lot to cover about this exceptional event, so let’s get straight to it and take a peek at everything that Microsoft had brought along.
Hype levels unchecked
Before we get to the event itself, a few words about the atmosphere leading to it. Unlike past Microsoft events, this one had an unimaginable level of hype attached to it. And that had all got to do with the years of build up for both the hardware and software that was expected at this New York gathering.
In fact, the fanbase had been anticipating a Surface branded phone ever since the lineup was first made official back in 2012 with the Surface RT.
And while Microsoft had teased a Surface Phone on several occasions over the years, the real hype was built by the watchers and people that kept up with the company and its hardware efforts.
We already had an idea what was cooking behind closed doors at Redmond — a refresh of the current Surface hardware, a phone with a Surface logo, a dual-screen device or two, even a completely shiny new operating system that build upon the legacy of Windows 10.
What we did not know was just how good it would all be once revealed.
An event for the ages
Microsoft took everyone by surprise this week, by not just making some expected moves, but also some left field unexpected ones. It announced its very first Android device, just when everyone thought it would be giving up on Windows 10 Mobile and the Lumia series of smartphones.
It also unveiled a completely new operating system designed from the grounds up for dual-screen devices. And despite it being based on Windows 10, it comes with several notable changes that help it adapt to this new form factor and product category.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
Let’s first quickly rundown all the hardware announcements first and get them out of the way. We shall then get down to what this new operating system is all about after that.
Hardware, hardware everywhere
It wouldn’t be a Surface event without it raining new hardware now, would it? And happy to report that Microsoft did not disappoint here. Despite leaks hinting at a lot of new and updated devices leading to the gathering, there were a lot of interesting announcements.
Both in terms of actual models, as well as accessories and peripherals.
For the sake of brevity, we will list the announced machines and provide basic details of what they offer. You can scan for more information at the official store pages and websites. And, obviously, if you are interested in purchasing them, check out the reviews of these creations once they make their way out to store shelves in due time.
That said, let’s get down to business.
Surface Pro 7
This was the most expected, and most straightforward of unveils. The Pro 7 is the mainstay of the Surface lineup, and it received a modest specs bump with the design of the device remaining similar to earlier generations.
These now house the new 10th generation Intel Core processors, codenamed Ice Lake.
Microsoft also finally moved to the USB Type-C port here, which replaces the Mini DisplayPort. The base unit housing a Core i3 with 4GB of RAM and $128GB internal storage and running $749. You can juice it up all the way up to a Core i7 with 16GB RAM and 1TB storage for $2,299.
You can preorder the Surface Pro 7, with deliveries set to begin October 22.
Surface Laptop 3
A much more substantial update, the Surface Laptop 3 now not only comes in two sizes — a smaller 13-inch affair to go with the standard 15-inch one. it also picks up an impressive new AMD processor along the way. The larger variant comes with this new CPU that also ups its gaming credentials with the Radeon RX Vega graphics.
Few would have imagined Microsoft offering buyers more choice with an AMD chip, yet here we are!
The smaller variant can be had with a 10th generation Intel Core Ice Lake chip, with the base version offering you the power of a Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal memory for $999. However, the top of the line model is the real deal with its custom AMD Ryzen Microsoft Edition chipset with Vega 11 graphics that comes with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. It will set you back $2,799.
Deliveries for the Surface Laptop 3 also start on October 22, with pre-orders now open.
Surface Pro X
X factor! The latest member of the family is the Surface Pro X, a device powered by a custom ARM chipset known as the Microsoft SQ1. This is based on the flagship Qualcomm solution, which is said to be comparable to an Intel Core i5 in terms of performance.
And since it has modest cooling requirements, Microsoft was able to pack in a 13-inch display into a 12-inch chassis. It has the narrowest bezels of any Surface device we have seen until now.
Incredibly thin, the Pro X comes with a new Type Cover that has space for the new Surface Slim Pen.
The base variant of this one costs $999 and sports 8GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage, with the ultimate one topping out at $1,799, which gets you a configuration with 16GB of RAM and 512GB storage.
The Surface Pro X pre-orders are open, shipping set for November 5.
In addition to these above devices, Microsoft also announced the Surface Earbuds — its answer to the Apple AirPods and other earphones from the likes of Samsung and Google. These earbuds are about as advanced as they get, and come with their own unique superpowers.
The Earbuds can be controlled using touch, gestures, or voice. The device has 2 directional microphones on each bud to pick up voice commands. Android users can also double tap on the surface to open and play music via Spotify. The company claims 24-hour battery life for these.
But what truly sets this device apart is its integration with Microsoft services and Office 365. It can tie in with Office apps for dictation, and transcribe user speech into captions in Office using Azure Cognitive Services. It even supports more than 60 languages for real-time translation.
Available later this year, the Surface Earbuds will cost you a pretty penny at $249.
If the above range of exciting devices is not enough for you, then a bunch of new accessories and peripherals are also headed your way soon. More specifically, a few different kinds of keyboards and mice, the good kind.
You have the Microsoft Bluetooth Mouse that costs $19.99, and is not rechargeable and runs on a replaceable AA battery. And then there is the much more comfortable Microsoft Ergonomic Mouse that has its own two customizable buttons that justify its price tag of $39.99. The company is also releasing a few more variants of its Arc Mouse that are more pastel in tone, and these will cost you $79.99.
Moving onto keyboards, then.
There is the new Microsoft Bluetooth Keyboard that costs $49.99 and features the Office key that had been rumored before, as well as an emoji button. Something that we may see other manufacturers also add in, at least in keyboards designed for productivity.
Speaking of keyboards designed for productivity, and comfort, we have the return of the king. Speaking about the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard, which is designed for these factors. It is wired, built for effortless typing, and costs $59.99.
All these devices are available for preorder now, and on track to ship on October 15, a full week ahead of the new Surface devices above.
If you have read this far, you may be wondering, where all the good stuff is, the software talk? I mean, an AMD chip and a Surface Pro X is fine stuff, as is a Surface Earbud and the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard, but come on!
Just where is the innovation?
Well, if it’s innovation you seek, then you may find it split between two displays.
And that is because Microsoft is going all in with the dual-screen concept. This is, again, something that has been rumored for quite some time now. And Intel even showcased a prototype, Samsung and Huawei went a step ahead and showed actual products sporting two dual displays and this exciting new form factor.
Not the one to be left behind, Microsoft has done too.
What was once believe to be a mythic device is now a reality. Or will soon be. Microsoft showed off a demo unit of the Surface Neo, a new model that uses two separate 9-inch displays that are connected to each other with a 360° hinge.
In other words, this device supports both tablet and laptop modes. This gives you the benefit of additional screen real estate, though obviously the tablet side is the big winner here.
The Neo also comes with a special keyboard and stylus that can be used to convert it into an even more productive device. The keyboard attaches to either the top or bottom of the screen, and its position actually dictates how the device behaves. Placing it at the top part shows a few handy controls for whatever you are doing on the screen, while plugging it at the bottom converts it into a virtual touchpad.
The new Surface Slim Pen also works with the Surface Neo.
And although Microsoft confirmed that the Neo will be powered by Intel Lakefield chips, it did not reveal the rest of the specifications. Most likely as they are yet to be finalized, seeing that this device is set for launch sometimes in 2020.
Just when you thought Microsoft would launch one dual-screen device, it surprises you with two! Yes, this is the long-rumored Surface Phone, and it’s finally here. Surprising still, this one is not even powered by Windows — it is running the Android mobile operating system.
The Surface Duo shares many a similarity with the Surface Neo. It too is a dual-screen device that sports an innovative hinge design that allows it to do much more than a typical smartphone. It also supports the Surface Pen for easy writing and drawing.
Surface Duo uses two 5.6-inch screens that fold unfold to give you 8.3-inches of screen real estate.
Other specifications are not yet available.
But since it runs Android, it comes with access to the Google Play Store, alongside a bunch of preinstalled Microsoft apps. Expect the Microsoft Launcher to be set as default on this device, but the rest of it will be exactly what an Android smartphone offers. The company says that it is working with Google to offer a flawless experience.
The Duo is projected to launch in the holiday season of 2020, so there is plenty of time for Microsoft to finalize and refine things. Though a lot of its success will depend upon how the company prices this new device. Get it right and this could be a hit among users that put productivity paramount.
Windows 10X is in the house
In addition to all the hardware that Microsoft showed off at its event that got everybody talking, the software giant also had some exciting software news in tow.
This comes in the form of Windows 10X, a new operating system that is specifically designed for dual-screen devices. It is finally here, and we can expect it to power a wave of products from Microsoft and its hardware partners. In fact, the company confirmed that devices from ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo are already in the works.
And for those of you wondering, yes, this is the OS that was originally referred to as Windows Lite.
Basically, this new platform is optimized for everything that a dual-screen device brings to the table. Factors like touch input, support for stylus, drag and drop gestures for moving apps from one screen to another, and more importantly greatly improved battery life.
It marries familiar with the new, though it does make a few compromises along the way.
The Start Menu is completely simplified, and this new OS runs the traditional Win32 applications in containers. But on the whole, this feels like a solid new direction for the Windows 10 operating system to go forward.
Microsoft plans to share more information on Windows 10X in the coming months, as it continues to polish this new operating system before its launch sometimes in fall 2020. This early start was necessary to give developers time to take a look at it and optimize their apps and solutions for a dual-screen world.
Whew! Goes without saying that there was a lot to unpack at this event, both on the hardware and software side of things. We have given you a rundown of all the action, though obviously these only serve as jumping points for whatever interests you.
Explore more of what Windows 10X has to offer, or what the new dual-screen devices will bring to the table next year. Or check out the new hardware arrivals on their storage pages, and order away anything that interests you.
The big takeaway is that the rumors we had been hearing came true — pretty much all of them. And it’s hard to imagine Microsoft topping a power packed event like this anytime soon. These are exciting times for both the Windows ecosystem and user base as well, as we had into a new decade.
The board is now set, the pieces are finally moving.
Exciting times on the horizon!