Microsoft used its October event to establish to the world where it is right now, and where it’s heading in the future. Microsoft unveiled updates to its existing devices, but also new devices that it said would redefine the industry, and that it believes will change the way we use our devices in our day-to-day lives.
Unfortunately for the Redmond giant, its event had more leaks than a paper umbrella, with a deluge of reports hitting the newsstands before their time. Surface Pro 7? Yep. 15-inch Surface Laptop? You betcha. Redesigned Surface Pen? Dang straight. But even so, there were some things that the leakers missed, with some well-hidden products that no one saw coming making an appearance.
Right from the off, Microsoft make clear it’s been trying to make its devices disappear into the background, allowing you to focus on your flow and get your work done. The goal is streamlined productivity, with no distractions getting in your way. On this page, we’ve broken down everything Microsoft announced at its showstopping Surface event, and how exactly the company says they’ll improve your productivity. Want to know what devices you’ll be able to get your hands on, what they do and how much they cost? You’re in the right place.
The rumors pegged Microsoft’s popular Surface Laptop 3 as coming in both 13-inch and 15-inch sizes, and they were not wrong. Microsoft got started with an apparent dig at Apple by pointing out the importance of a quality keyboard experience — something Apple has struggled with in the MacBook Pro. Aside from that, the Surface Laptop 3 comes with a 20% larger trackpad, designed to allow more room for gestures and to make it easier to use your device without a mouse.
Microsoft said it wanted to make the Surface Laptop 3 repairable without compromising the design with hatches and trap doors. The device is modular and serviceable, without the whole thing needing to be taken apart.
There’s also a brand new “Sandstone” machined aluminum finish, which looks gorgeous. But that’s not all — Microsoft took pains to point out there’s no rubber bumper around the screen, making the top of the device one smooth, seamless area.
There’s power inside, too. It comes with a quad-core 10th-generation Intel Ice Lake processor that’s two times faster than the previous version of the Surface Laptop, and three times faster than the MacBook Air. As for graphics, there’s a special AMD Ryzen Surface Edition graphics processor. Microsoft worked directly with AMD to create this, and it’s the fastest GPU in its class in a laptop.
If you need a larger screen, there’s the new 15-inch version for you. Microsoft touted its contrast ratio and high resolution, although exact numbers were not forthcoming.
All that must drain the battery, right? Microsoft says not. The Surface Laptop 3 comes with fast charging — up to 80% power in under a single hour.
Pricing starts at $999 for the 13-inch model, while the 15-inch variant comes at $1,199. They’re available on October 22.
The most popular 2-in-1 on the market has had a big upgrade. For one thing, there are new Studio microphones that are optimized to capture your voice, even in busy environments. The idea is you’ll be able to use speech to text in Windows with ease.
Microsoft stayed tight lipped about other details, other than that it’ll have USB-C, but even then they didn’t say how many ports you’ll get. You can pre-order the Surface Pro 7 right now for $749.
Nowadays everyone is making wireless earbuds, and Microsoft is no different. They’re voice enabled, with a directional dual mic array and filters for noise reduction. They work on any platform and have a charging case for 24-hour battery life. There’s one-click pairing, a secure fit, and all day comfort, Microsoft says. You can swipe to skip tracks and double tap to answer calls, and there’s even Office 365 integration for things like dictation and on-the-fly language translation.
Microsoft is going all-in with voice. The Surface Earbuds support over 60 languages and even translates as you speak for a touch of sci-fi magic. They’re available this holiday season starting at $249.
The new Surface Pro X is Microsoft’s stab at a truly high-end 2-in-1. It’s just 5.3mm thick and weight 1.68 pounds, so is super slim and light. There’s a 13-inch display with a 2880 x 1920 resolution and very thin bezels, which means the physical size of the device has stayed at the same 12-inches across as previous iterations.
As for the internals, there’s a custom Microsoft SQ1 processor powering the device. Microsoft says the ARM chips in many portable devices today run at around 2 watts; the SQ1, though, runs at 7W. It has 3x more performance per watt than the Surface Pro 6. That allows it to be thin and light, but also have much better battery life and high performance. It also has an “integrated AI engine,” making the Surface Pro X the first Windows PC to have one (although what exactly that does, Microsoft didn’t elaborate on).
Elsewhere, this is the thinnest Surface Pro Microsoft makes. It has fast charging, LTE Advanced, it instantly turns on when you lift the lid, and it has a removable hard drive.
Microsoft didn’t just show the Pro X — there was also the new Surface Slim Pen with 4,096 points of pressure for high sensitivity and accuracy. This is kept in a special slot within the Type Cover. When it’s in the slot it’s charging, meaning it should be ready to go every time you take it out.
Adobe also took to the stage to demo Adobe Fresco using the Surface Pen and the Surface Pro X. The Surface Pen’s pressure responsiveness means you can use Adobe’s tools to create artwork that mimics works produced with real-life tools. In fact, just like a real pencil, you can turn the Surface Pen upside-down and use its rear end as an eraser. Other useful tools include being able to lay the Surface Pen on its side and apply light pressure to add more feint shading to artwork. Adobe Fresco will be launching on the Surface Pro X soon, although a firm release date wasn’t announced.
The Surface Pro X, meanwhile, will be available in early November, priced at $999.
Microsoft outlined its vision for the future — “to remove the conflict between the laptop and the tablet.” The Surface 2-in-1 was only the beginning in the journey, the company said.
The next step is the Surface Neo. This has been the talk of the town for some time now. It’s a dual-screen device that combines a laptop with a tablet, much like a large-scale Galaxy Fold (although hopefully without the fractures and breakages). But unlike the Galaxy Fold, there’s a thick, noticeable seam along the middle — presumably to strengthen the device and prevent the kind of problems that beset Samsung’s foldable phone.
There’s a built-in keyboard that folds out from the back and allows you to type. It can be shifted upwards to make room for a trackpad, or removed completely if you prefer. When you flip it over, the apps on-screen automatically move out of the way so they’re not obscured, while the “Wonder Bar” appears — think of it as a larger Touch Bar. You can also magnetically attach a Surface Pen to the back and it’ll start charging.
Each side is 5.6mm thick and the whole Surface Neo weighs 655g. It’s made to be light enough to be held in one hand no matter what orientation you use it in. You can open it up like a book, then fold one side all the way around the back for a single-screen experience. On the inside, there’s a custom Intel Lakefield processor that takes up just half the space of a normal PCB chip.
As for the software, the Surface Neo runs Windows 10 X, which is built for dual screens. Microsoft says it worked hard to make it feel intuitive no matter how you’ve folded or unfolded it. The idea was for it to feel natural — again, letting you get into your flow without distractions. If you have an app on one screen, for example, you can drag it to the middle of the device and hold it; when you release, the app will expand to both screens. Tap a link in an email app on one screen and it’ll open in a web browser on the other. And if you reorient the screen (from landscape to portrait, for example), your windows will reorient themselves automatically.
The Surface Neo will be available in the holidays in 2020.
But Microsoft didn’t stop there. If it could make a device like the Surface Neo, why not put that tech into a phone? Well, that’s exactly what it’s done with the Surface Duo.
Outwardly, it looks like a shrunk-down Surface Neo: same form, same seam, same dual screens. Microsoft made that clear when it told the event crowd, “make no mistake: this is a Surface.” That comes down to the productivity it enables, the company said.
Like the Surface Neo, you can change the orientation however you like, with an optimized operating system that works in a natural and intuitive way. It’s “the absolute best of Microsoft” working with “the absolute best of Android,” Microsoft declared.
The idea, Microsoft says, is that two screens are much better than one when it comes to productivity. Instead of having to switch apps on one screen, you can keep your main app open on one while you open a different app on the second screen. That keeps your main app in your mind so you don’t lose focus.
Like the Surface Neo, the Surface Duo will be available in the holidays in 2020.
- Best Laptop Deals and Sales for December 2021
- Future Intel Evo laptops could require highly improved webcams
- The Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ is still at its Cyber Monday price
- The best Google Pixel 5a screen protectors
- The 100 best Android apps (December 2021)