Monday, October 25, 2021

All the new Microsoft Surface devices announced today

Microsoft’s hardware event on Sept. 22 saw the refresh of nearly the entire Surface lineup, along with a new addition to the family and a few new accessories.

Surface Laptop Studio

Starting with the big-ticket item, the Surface Laptop Studio is Microsoft’s reimagined convertible laptop, a vision that started with the first Surface Book in 2015.

Unlike the Surface Book, which features a detachable display that functions as a standalone tablet, the Surface Laptop Studio collapses its screen on top of the keyboard using a hinge mechanism reminiscent of the Surface Studio desktop. 

The display can be adjusted into three positions: a Laptop mode, a Stage mode where the display is angled forward, and a Studio mode where the display sits almost flat, turning its 14.4-inch display into a drawing pad. In Studio mode, the display is angled slightly to improve drawing comfort.

A bird's eye view of the Surface Laptop Studio's keyboard
Source: Microsoft

The benefit of this new approach is of course speedier transitions between laptop mode and drawing pad mode, but being fixed to the keyboard base also renders the Surface Laptop Studio unwieldy as a tablet.

Device Surface Laptop Studio
Display 14.4-inch PixelSense Flow, 2400 x 1600, 3:2, 120Hz, Dolby Vision
Processor Intel Core H35 i5-11300H or Intel Core H35 i7-11370H
Graphics Intel Iris Xe graphics (i5 model)

Dedicated Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti or Nvidia RTX A2000 (i7 model)

Memory 16GB or 32GB LPDDR4x
Storage Up to 1TB SSD, removable
Battery i5 model: up to 19 hours, 65W charger

i7 model: up to 18 hours, 102W charger

Ports 2x USB-C 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect port
Camera 1080p with dual far-field studio mics
OS Windows 10 Pro, Windows 11 Home, or Windows 11 Pro
Weight Core i5 model: 1.74kg (3.83 lbs)

Core i7 model: 1.82kg (4lbs)

Price CA$2,050

The Surface Pen, sold separately, attaches magnetically to the underside of the keyboard and charges wirelessly.

Hardware-wise, the Surface Laptop Studio has the best in the series. The highest-end configuration carries an Intel 11th Gen Core H35 i7-11370H processor, 32 GB of memory, 1TB storage, and either the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics or the Nvidia RTX A2000 workstation graphics.

Cooling these powerful components in a 14.4-inch chassis is no easy feat, which is why Microsoft compromised on the device’s thickness. The base has an extra “layer” at the bottom to house its cooling system and increase ventilation.

The three different angles of the Surface Laptop Studio
Surface Laptop Studio has three positions: Laptop mode, Stage mode, and Studio mode. Source: Microsoft

It’s also highly likely that the extended base accommodates a larger battery. Microsoft quotes the Surface Laptop Studio’s battery life as 18 hours for the Intel Core i7 model and 19 hours for Intel Core i5 model. Note that the optional dedicated graphics is only available for the Core i7 model.

Another big feature is the 120Hz high refresh rate display. It goes without saying that a high refresh rate display offers smoother animations and gaming, but it may also improve the drawing experience as well. Although Microsoft did not list the display’s colour gamut on the spec sheet, it does promise an impressive 1,500:1 contrast ratio (any number above 1,000:1 is considered “good”) and Dolby Vision support.

The Surface Laptop Studio is also the first to feature USB 4.0 ports and a haptic touchpad. Moreover, Microsoft says the device’s storage is removable, as it was on the Surface Laptop.

Both the form and function of the Surface Laptop Studio appear to overlap with that of the Surface Book. That’s no coincidence. In an email to IT World Canada, Microsoft said that the Surface Laptop will replace the Surface Book.

The Surface Laptop Studio is available for pre-order now starting at CA$2,050. Ships on Oct. 5.

Surface Duo 2

The Surface Duo, Microsoft’s folding smartphone, has received a massive overhaul.

Whereas the Surface Duo 1 arrived with dated hardware, the Surface Duo 2 has anything but. Inside its two folding leaves is Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip (SoC), 8GB of LPDDR5 memory, and up to 512GB of storage. Using Qualcomm’s latest chip also enables mmWave 5G connectivity. In the U.S., it supports mmWave frequencies; in Canada, sub-6GHz.

Surface Duo in Obsidian
The Surface Duo in the new Obsidian color. Source: Microsoft

More importantly, Microsoft has bolted a rear camera array to the Surface Duo 2 to improve the subpar camera performance of its predecessor. The triple camera array comprises a 12MP main camera, a 12MP telephoto camera, and a 16 MP ultra-wide camera. Even the front camera now sports a new 12MP sensor.

Device Surface Duo Surface Duo 2
Display Dual AMOLED PixelSense Fusion Displays, 60Hz

 

Open: 8.1-inch, 2700 x 1800, 3:2, 401 PPI

Single: 5.6-inch, 1800×1350, 4:3, 401 PPI

Glass: Corning Gorilla Glass

Dual AMOLED PixelSense Fusion Displays, 90Hz, HDR, 100 per cent sRGB and DCI-P3, 800 nits

Open: 8.3-inch, 2688 x 1892, 401 PPI

Single: 5.8-inch, 1344 x 1892, 401 PPI

Glass: Corning Gorilla Glass Victus

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Memory 6GB 8GB LPDDR5
Storage Up to 256GB Up to 512GB
Battery 3,577mAh 4,449mAh
Durability N/A N/A
Ports USB-C 3.1 USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
Biometrics Fingerprint sensor Fingerprint sensor
Camera Front: 11MP, f/ 2.0 Adaptive camera Rear:

Wide: 12MP, f/ 1.7, 27mm, 1.4μm, PDAF, OIS

Telephoto: 2x zoom, 12MP, f/ 2.4, 51mm, PDAF, OIS

Ultra-Wide:16MP, f/ 2.2, 13mm

Front: 12MP, f/ 2.0

OS Android 10 Android 11
SIM support Nano SIM+eSIM Nano SIM+eSIM
Weight 250g 284g
Colors Glacier Glacier, Obsidian
Price CA$1,869 at launch Starting at CA$1,900

The folding AMOLED display got better, too. Each half is now 5.8-inches, 0.2-inches larger compared to the previous generation. When opened, the two halves combine into an 8.3-inch display. They’re protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus, the same durable material used for the Samsung Galaxy S21 series. Another surprising upgrade is the 90 Hz refresh rate. The Surface Duo 1’s display was locked at 60Hz.

Also new is the Glance Bar. It’s not a separate display, rather, it uses the edge of the main display to show notification counts so the user doesn’t have to open the device.

Increasing the display size didn’t seem to increase the device’s footprint. Unfolded, the Surface Duo 2 is just 1.1mm wider and 0.7mm thicker than the original. Retaining the sizes while increasing display size could only mean one thing: thinner bezels, woo! With that said, the new version is 34g heavier than its predecessor.

Surface Duo 2 rear shot with camera array
The Glacier color is still around, note the new rear camera array. Source: Microsoft

When the first Surface Duo debuted, its 3,577mAh battery was worryingly small to power an 8.1-inch display. Microsoft has now addressed this with the second-gen by including a 4,449mAh unit. But despite the upgrade, Microsoft still quotes a 15.5-hour local video playback time, the same as last gen, although the call time has extended by one hour to 28 hours.

While the device supports Fast Charging at 23W, Microsoft will not be including a fast charger in the box. And like the last generation, there still isn’t any word on water or dust resistance.

The Surface Slim Pen 2 attached to the Surface Duo 2
The Surface Slim Pen 2 attaches magnetically to the Surface Duo 2’s charging case. Source: Microsoft

The Microsoft Surface Duo 2 is available for pre-order today starting at CA$1,900. Ships on Oct. 5.

Surface Pro 8

The classic Surface Pro returns for the eighth time, making it the longest-running model in the Surface family.

Surface Pro 8 detached from its keyboard.
The Surface Pro 8 with the Signature Type Cover and the Surface Slim Pen 2, both are sold separately. Source: Microsoft

The Surface Pro 8 brings the biggest jump in display size –from 12.3-inches to 13-inches–since the release of the Surface Pro 3 in 2016. The display didn’t just get bigger, it’s also been upgraded to the 120Hz PixelSense Flow panel. Moreover, the display now features 10.8 per cent higher resolution and is 12.5 per cent brighter. 

The bigger display also means a bigger Surface Type Cover keyboard. Microsoft used the extra room to carve out a channel to hold and charge the Surface Slim Pen 2, but only on the more expensive Signature keyboards. A natural consequence of a bigger device is more weight; the Surface 8 is now around 100g heavier than its predecessor.

Device Surface Pro 8
Display 13-inch PixelSense Flow, 2880 x 1920, 3:2, 120Hz
Processor Consumer:

Intel Core i5-1135G7

Intel Core i7-1185G7

Commercial:

Intel Core i3-1115G4 (Wi-Fi)

Intel Core i5-1145G7 (Wi-Fi or LTE3)

Intel Core i7-1185G7 (Wi-Fi or LTE3)

Graphics Intel UHD Graphics (i3 model)

Intel Iris Xe graphics (i5 and i7 model)

Memory 8GB, 16GB or 32GB LPDDR4x
Storage Up to 1TB SSD
Battery i5 model: up to 19 hours, 65W charger

i7 model: up to 18 hours, 102W charger

Ports 2x USB-C 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect port
Camera Front: 1080p, 5.0MP 

Rear: 4K, 10MP

Weight 891g (1.96lbs)
OS Consumer: Windows 11 Home

Business: Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro

Price Starting at CA$1,400

The Surface Pro 8 carries up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor, an appreciable update to the Surface Pro 7’s 10th gen Intel processors. Microsoft says that the Surface Pro 8 can deliver over 40 per cent higher sustained CPU performance and 74 per cent faster sustained graphics performance compared to the Pro 7. The performance gap undoubtedly narrows when it’s pitted against the Surface Pro 7+, but that’s only available to enterprise customers. 

Surface Slim Pen 2 being lifted from the Signature Type Cover's holder.
The Surface Pro 8’s Signature Type Cover has a cutout for the Surface Slim Pen 2 (sold separately) and can charge it wirelessly. Source: Microsoft.

The devices include up to 32 GB of memory and up to 1TB of storage.

After eight years, the Surface Pro series finally gets Thunderbolt for the first time. Not only does the Surface Pro 8 come with two USB-C 4.0 ports, but they also support Thunderbolt 4. Unfortunately, the two USB-C ports left no room for a USB-A port; its absence from this generation likely means the end of USB-A on Surface Pro devices.

The Surface Pro 8 is available for pre-order now starting at CA$1,400. Ships on Oct. 21.

Surface Go 3

Microsoft Surface Go 3
The Surface Go 3 gets a faster processor and…not much else. Microsoft is content with how it handles the user’s workflow. Source: Microsoft

Microsoft’s affordable Surface Go 3 gets new processors, now coming with the Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y or the Intel Core i3-10100Y. Its 11-hour quoted battery life is one hour longer than the previous version. The Type Cover keyboard is still sold separately.

Device Surface Go 3
Display 10.5-inch PixelSense, 1920 x 1280, 3:2
Processor Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y 

Intel Core i3-10100Y processor

Graphics Intel UHD 615
Memory 4GB/8GB
Storage Consumer: 64GB eMMC or 128GB SSD

Commercial: 256 GB SSD

Battery Up to 11 hours
Ports 1x USB-C, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect port, 1x MicroSDXC slot
Camera Front: 1080p, 5.0MP 

Rear: 1080p, 8MP

OS Consumer: Windows 11 Home in S mode

Commercial: Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro

Weight Wi-Fi only:  544g (1.2lbs)

LTE: 553g (1.22lbs)

Price Starting at CA$520

And that pretty much sums it up. The Surface Go will be available for pre-order today starting at CA$520 for the Wi-Fi only model. The LTE model will be available in the coming months.

Surface Pro X

The Surface Pro X
The Surface Pro X is now cheaper and comes in a new Wi-Fi only option. Source: Microsoft.

The Surface Pro X received the least love. In fact, its biggest change is actually a feature reduction. It now comes in a Wi-Fi only model that starts at a lower US$889  (CA$1,150) price point. The silver lining is that it now runs Windows 11 on ARM.

Device Surface Pro X
Display 13-inch PixelSense, 2880 x 1920, 3:2
Processor Microsoft SQ1

Microsoft SQ2

Graphics Intel UHD 615
Memory Microsoft SQ1 Adreno 685 GPU

Microsoft SQ2 Adreno 690 GPU

Storage Up to 512GB, removable
Battery Up to 15 hours
Ports 2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect port, 1x nano SIM
Camera Front: 1080p, 5.0MP 

Rear: 4k, 10MP

Weight 774g (1.74lbs) without keyboard
OS Consumer:

Wi-Fi only: Windows 11 Pro on ARM

LTE: Windows 10 Home on ARM

Commercial:

Wi-Fi only: Windows 11 Pro on ARM

LTE: Windows 11 Pro on ARM

Price Starting at 284g

The future for an ARM-powered Windows device is a nebulous one. The Surface Pro runs well enough to be sold, but it’s clear that Windows on ARM just can’t hold a candle to Apple’s M1 MacBooks both in performance and ecosystem. Microsoft had its chance before Apple released its own chips, but it now must fight an uphill battle.

Surface Slim Pen 2

The Surface Slim Pen 2, Microsoft’s active stylus for Surface devices, now carries a haptic motor for Tactile Signals when used with a compatible application. The tactile feedback provides “the same feeling you get with pen on paper” and confirmation when a natural gesture is activated successfully. Compatible apps include Microsoft Word, Adobe Fresco, and Shapr3D. Note that Tactile Signal only works with Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop Studio with Windows 11.

Hand drawing using the Surface Slim Pen 2
Source: Microsoft

Its features include 4,096 pressure sensitivity points and near-instantaneous latency. The pen comes with a USB-C charging base in the box, but can also be charged wirelessly in the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard, Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover, or when it attaches magnetically to the Surface Laptop Studio. Each full charge can last 15 hours of use.

Full list of compatible devices:

  • Surface Laptop Studio
  • Surface Pro 3 to Pro 8
  • Surface Pro X
  • Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2
  • Surface Go
  • Surface Go 2
  • Surface Go 3
  • Surface Hub 2S
  • Surface Laptop 1 to 4
  • Surface Studio gen 1 and 2
  • Surface Book gen 1 to 3
  • Non-Surface devices that support Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP)

The Surface Slim Pen 2 is available for pre-order now for CA$170. Ships on Oct. 5.

Update: The Surface Pro 8 will ship on Oct. 21, not Oct. 5. The original article has been amended to reflect this change.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Tom Li
Tom Li
As an avid technology enthusiast, Tom loves to fix, break, and talk about electronics. Now he gets to write about them. Talk about a dream career.

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