Gadgets for humans

Surface Duo, Neo, and everything else at Microsoft’s packed hardware event

Microsoft went all out

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I almost can’t believe I’m writing this, but the quasi-mythical Surface Phone – now known as the Surface Duo – is real.

Microsoft had its busiest Surface event ever today, announcing a total of eight or nine new products, depending on how you’re counting. Despite many of those leaking in the days leading up to the event, Microsoft managed to keep a couple of products, like the Surface Duo and Earbuds, a secret. That’s a rarity these days.

We’ve written about all of Microsoft‘s announcements in separate posts, but we know you’re lazy, so we’ve collected all the biggest details here. Microsoft‘s also amassed some snazzy trailers for each of the new gadgets too, which you can watch below.

Surface Laptop 3 – including a 15-inch model

We once thought Microsoft would never make a ‘normal’ laptop, but now the device is in its third generation. For the first time, it’s available in a 15-inch size. This model uses an AMD Ryzen processor that excels at multi-thread workloads and provides stronger integrated graphics (the smaller one uses 10th-Gen Intel chips).

The 13-inch laptop comes in both fabric and metal finishes – including an attractive ‘Sandstone’ that’s kind of a gold with a slightly rosy tint. The 15-inch model is only available in metal finishes, black, and silver.

There’s finally USB-C on board! Battery life is rated at 11.5 hours of typical usage, and though Microsoft still uses the Surface Connect port, the laptops now support fast charging, providing an 80 percent charge in an hour.

Price: $999+ (13.5-inch), $1,199+ (15-inch)
When: Pre-order now, releases October 22

Surface Pro 7

It may not be the biggest news of the day, but the classic Surface Pro hasn’t been forgotten. It features similar specs to the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3, with 10th Gen intel chips and Iris Plus graphics. It’s equipped with higher quality ‘Studio Mics’ and claims to offer 10.5 hours of battery life, with fast charging. The type cover comes in snazzy new shades of red and blue, and USB-C is here too.

Price: $749+ (without keyboard)
When: Pre-order now, releases October 22

Surface Pro X

And then there’s the Surface Pro X – this is the device that elevates the Surface Pro form factor to new levels. It’s ridiculously thin at just 5.33mm, with seriously slimmed bezels that are just a few millimeters thick on the sides; the device packs a 13-inch screen in the chassis of a 12-inch device. It uses a custom ‘SQ1 processor designed by Microsoft and Qualcomm, claimed to be the latter’s fastest PC processor yet, and is available in an LTE configuration as well.

Microsoft also finally found a good spot to store the Surface Pen: in the Type Cover. The new flat stylus lives in a little nook at above the keyboard, neatly concealed when the tablet is closed or the keyboard is used in its angled position.  There are two USB-C ports on deck, and because of the efficient ARM architecture, the tablet claims to deliver 13 hours of battery life with typical use – despite a slim chassis.

Price: $999+
When: Pre-order now, available November 5

Surface Earbuds

We probably shouldn’t be surprised, but Microsoft is making true wireless earbuds too. The Surface Buds are kind of a cross between Apple’s AirPods and Google’s Pixel buds, except with a gigantic touch surface.

That means intuitive controls that actually let you perform all the actions you expect from a pair of headphones, including changing the volume and skipping tracks without pulling out your phone or using voice commands (this is surprisingly uncommon among true wireless headphones). Despite the large disc, I found them comfortable.

Their main selling point, however, is tight Office integration, allowing you to access information from Office, swipe through slides, use real-time translation, and dictate documents (aside from all the usual assistant stuff). The earbuds provide a total of 24 hours of battery life – eight in the buds themselves, and another two charges in the surprisingly svelte carrying case.

Price: $249
When: “Later this year”

Windows 10X

No, Windows 10X is not Windows 10’s successor. Instead, it’s Microsoft‘s latest attempt at making its OS more friendly to mobile devices. This time, it seems the company might have a chance of succeeding.

Windows 10X works basically just like regular Windows, however, it is significantly optimized for use with mobile devices – and folding devices or dual-screen devices in particular. It only loads the components of Windows necessary for what you’re doing in order to save battery – always the bugbear with mobile devices.

When: Fall 2020

Surface Neo

The Surface Neo has been a long time coming. Rumored as ‘Project Centaurus’ since last year, the device is really an evolution of the ‘Courier’ concept first detailed over a decade ago. It has the potential to redefine PC form factors, the way the original Surface did so many years ago.

Rather than embracing flexible screen technology, Microsoft was clear it believes delineating two separate screens is a good thing. It helps us keep our mind on getting things done, and it could make the device far more durable than devices like the Galaxy Fold. Microsoft shows off smooth transition moving information between screens, and that Windows 10 X was able to adapt to whether you’re using it as a dual-screen device or folded up into a slimmer form factor.

Most impressive, however, is how the device integrates with its keyboard.  Once you magnetically attach the keyboard to once of the displays, the interface changes to allow you to perform a multitude of actions. You can even practically use the Neo as a regular laptop, as the screen becomes a touchpad adjacent to the keyboard. Alternatively, you can use the space to play a video or save information while working on a primary task on the other display.

It’s hard to put into words, so just watch Microsoft’s video above for a better idea of the radical concept.

Price: Unknown, but probably lots of dough
When: Holiday 2020

Surface Duo

It’s been a long time since we’ve been truly surprised at a tech event, with leaks seemingly unstoppable in our ever-connected world. But though a mythical Surface Phone had been rumored for years, the latest news was that the project was indefinitely scrapped in favor of Centaurus, AKA the Neo. Even if you held out hope for a Surface Phone, no one expected it to be revealed today – much less running Android.

And yet, the Surface Duo is real. It looks something like a mini Surface Neo, except its running Android. And like the Neo – and unlike other folding phones – the Duo has no flexible display technology. These are two separate screens, meant for running separate tasks. It looks like a phone I can actually get work done on efficiently. And it’s odd to live in a world where a Microsoft device is running someone else’s OS; I’ll be darned if the Duo isn’t the most interesting phone concept in years.

I want one. Now. Too bad it isn’t coming out until next year.

Price: Who knows
When: Holiday 2020

Got all that? Stay tuned for ours hands-ons with the new devices.

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Published October 3, 2019 — 01:31 UTC