Microsoft Surface hardware event full recap

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A full recap of Microsoft's impressive Surface hardware event.
Image: YouTube | Microsoft Surface

Microsoft built up plenty of hype for its October 2 Surface hardware event, which took place in New York City. Fortunately, the announcements were worth the wait. With almost 10 new products being discussed, Surface fans will have plenty of gadgets to fall in love with as the holiday season draws near.

As Microsoft’s Surface line continues to grow in popularity, these new devices should help re-cement it as a top player in the computing game. With some much-needed updates, the Surface Laptop 3 finally looks like a MacBook Air competitor. Apple should be worried. Meanwhile, some nifty new Surface Earbuds, an updated Surface Pro 7, and a foldable, dual-screen Surface for 2020 have fans salivating.

While Microsoft did announce some software updates as well (mainly Windows 10X), this article will focus on its hardware announcements. So, without further ado, let’s dive in to what the Surface line will look like moving forward.

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Surface Laptop 3

Microsoft opened up its presentation with the announcement of its revamped Surface Laptop 3. While this didn’t come as a surprise to anyone, the computer is extremely impressive.

Most notably, the Surface Laptop will now come in 13 and 15-inch models. This takes care of a major complaint from fans that the previous versions didn’t offer enough screen real estate. The 13-inch model starts at an affordable $999 while the 15-inch laptop starts at $1,199.

The laptops will come with the highly touted Intel 10th Gen quad-core Ice Lake processors with built-in Iris Plus graphics. Meanwhile, a semi-custom AMD Ryzen Surface Edition chip can be found in the 15-inch model. Microsoft claims that this makes the new Surface Laptop three times faster than the most recent MacBook Air and twice as fast as the Surface Laptop 2.

It is also worth noting that Microsoft is adding an updated USB-C connection. This will let users plug in plenty of peripherals as well as charge their new laptop. However, the old Surface Connector is still present and makes it possible to charge the Surface Laptop 3 to 80 percent in just one hour. Both versions of the laptop offer a lengthy 11.5 hours of battery life.

Finally, Microsoft is modifying the Surface Laptop’s form factor slightly by offering a version without the Alcantara fabric. This was another major user gripe and the new brushed aluminum keyboard area will make repairs far easier.

Preorders for the Surface Laptop 3 are now open, and the device will start shipping to buyers on October 22.

Surface Pro 7

Accompanying the new Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s flagship portable PC, the Surface Pro 7. While this generation is more of a refresh than a total makeover, it does feature some welcome enhancements.

Like the laptop, Surface Pro 7 now features a USB-C connection that takes the place of the Pro 6’s Mini DisplayPort. Meanwhile, the 2-in-1 still features a 12.3-inch display with no notable upgrades. Not that it needed any.

Inside, Surface Pro 7 is also getting Intel’s 10th Gen processors.

While the updates to this product aren’t nearly as exciting as the laptop’s refreshments, Surface Pro 7 will give users new type cover colorways—including an eye-popping red.

Pro 7 is also available for preorder now and will ship on October 22. The seventh generation of arguably the most popular 2-in-1 will start at $749.

Surface Pro X

Next up is an interesting addition to the Surface family: Surface Pro X. In essence, this is a Surface Pro with a different form factor. It’s certainly a little bizarre that Microsoft would choose to debut the device at the same time as an updated Pro 7.

Nonetheless, Pro X’s most important features are on the inside. It features an ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx processor appropriately renamed to “Surface SQ1.” This will allow users to access an LTE connection with their mobile carrier. Meanwhile, Surface Pro X also includes a 2.1 teraflop GPU that’s as powerful as the Xbox One’s. It isn’t hard to imagine the implications of that degree of power in a 2-in-1.

Surface Pro X is a 13-inch 2-in-1 is an extremely slimmed-down version of the original Pro with some notable changes. At first glance, it’s easy to spot the slim bezels that allow for a larger screen in what is essentially the same size chassis. Meanwhile, the Pro X’s type cover now features a slot in which to store the pen.

Speaking of the pen, Pro X uses the new Surface Slim stylus. Though it functions almost identically, its form factor more closely resembles a carpenter’s pencil than the old Surface Pen.

Pro X has also ditched the Surface Pro 6’s USB-A connection and 3.5mm headphone jack. This will force users into the future. It does include 2 USB-C slots along with the Surface Connector port.

Surface Pro X will release in November, but users can preorder it now at a starting price of $999.

Surface Earbuds

While Microsoft’s Surface hardware event was heavily focused on computers, it didn’t stop there. The company also announced a companion to its Surface Headphones in the form of the all-new Surface Earbuds.

The truly wireless buds offer 24 hours of battery life (with the charging case). They also boast omnisonic sound and a dual-array microphone in each bud to pick up even the quietest details while also cutting out background noise. While Surface Buds feature touch controls like most Bluetooth earbuds, they also come with something a little more intriguing: Office integration.

That’s right, these earbuds are integrated with the world’s most powerful productivity suite. For example, users can move through a PowerPoint presentation while on stage. The earbuds are also able to translate 60+ languages in real-time. Though this isn’t going to be a feature that everyone wants, it could be very useful for professionals and presenters.

Nonetheless, Surface Earbuds are a little clunky. For true wireless earbuds they are very large and are a strange circular shape. It remains to be seen if the design is comfortable and practical.

GIF: Microsoft

Surface Earbuds will be available to consumers “later this year” according to Microsoft’s presentation. They will retail for a hefty price of $249, which puts them in the scope of other top-notch wireless earbuds.

Surface Neo & Duo Preview

At the end of its presentation, Microsoft threw a few curveballs. Despite a few leaks in the days leading up to the Surface event, fans were blindsided by the announcement of new “Neo” and “Duo” devices.

Both feature dual-screens and somewhat mimic the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Fans can only hope that they are more reliable.

Neo is a more traditional Surface device but boasts two 9-inch foldable displays joined by a 360-degree hinge in the center. It comes with a new keyboard that rests atop the bottom display. This can apparently slide around to give users the option of having an interface resembling Apple’s Touch Bar—aptly named the WonderBar—along with a physical keyboard. Users can also slide the keyboard up over the WonderBar to reveal an on-display trackpad. Neo will run Microsoft’s new Windows 10X. The device is still in development and won’t be available until the 2020 holiday season.

Meanwhile, Surface Duo is a smaller version of Neo and runs Android. The dual-screen hybrid will come with phone functionality and gives users access to everything that a traditional Android smartphone would—but with two screens. The 5.6-inch displays meet with the same 360-degree hinge that joins Neo. Duo will also arrive around the 2020 holidays.

Notable Exclusions

While Microsoft’s new Surface lineup is certainly worth being excited about, some fans are disappointed (myself included) by the devices that were excluded from the presentation. Most notably are the nonexistent mentions of a Surface Book update, a new Surface Go, or a refresh of the Surface Headphones.

Surface Book 2 is now over two years old. It’s definitely time for a refresh unless Microsoft is planning to abandon the line. Since it added two new types of devices with the Surface Pro X and the Neo, this isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. Nonetheless, Surface Book 2 was originally announced at a separate event in the spring, so fans can hold out hope for a similar reveal for the third generation.

Surface Go is in an almost identical situation and may be revealed sometime this spring as well. However, Microsoft may also look to replace this device with the ARM-based Pro X or the highly mobile Neo. It is certainly a lot easier to see this replacement taking place than Microsoft ditching its high-powered laptop-2-in-1 hybrid the Surface Book.

Meanwhile, there will likely be an update to the Surface Headphones sometime in the future. As of now, it is unclear when (or if) that will occur.

Even considering the exclusions, Microsoft’s Surface event did not disappoint. It will be a busy holiday season for tech retailers trying to keep the new devices in stock. The presentation can be viewed in its entirety below: