Subject: Systems | January 23, 2016 - 02:26 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, surface, surface pro 4, surface book
The Microsoft Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 launched back in October, and Ryan published a review of them in December. He didn't really make reference to it, but the highest-end model of each were unavailable until a later date. As it turns out, that time is roughly now. I say “roughly” because, while Microsoft has launched the devices, Amazon's landing page doesn't list them, and searching for the product directly shows a price tag of just under $10,000. I assume Amazon hasn't pushed the appropriate buttons yet.
The only real improvement that you will see, versus the second-highest SKU, is a jump in SSD capacity from 512GB to 1TB. This extra storage will cost roughly 1$/GB, but this is also a very fast NVMe SSD. If 512GB was too small, and you were holding out for availability of the 1TB model, then your wait should (basically) be over.
Although, since you waited this long, you might want to hold off a little longer. Microsoft is supposed to be correcting (some say) severe issues with upcoming firmware. You may want to see whether the problems are solved before dropping two-and-a-half to three grand.
Design - A Tablet and a Notebook
For the last 30 days or so, I have been using both Microsoft's new Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 as every day computing devices. The goal was to review these items from not just a handful of days of testing and benchmarking, but with some lengthy time under my belt utilizing both products in a real-world environment. The following is my review with that premise. Enjoy!
A lot has already been said about the design and style of both the updated Surface Pro 4 and the new Surface Book. Let’s start with the Surface Pro 4 as it sees the least dramatic changes from previous product.
The Surface Pro 4 uses the same kickstand tablet design that made the Surface brand so memorable as well as functional. Many different OEMs are starting to copy the design style because it has a lot of positive merits to it. For instance, it allows viewing angles from nearly 90 degree to flat. The Surface Pro 4 is a tablet in its purest form, though. It doesn’t have a keyboard or trackpad standard – you’ll have purchase the optional Type Cover. It’s only 8.5mm thick and weighs in at 1.73 lbs, without the added keyboard.
The kickstand works exceptionally, with unlimited positions between the starting and stop point of the hinge, and it allows smooth movement between them. It’s strong enough to stand up when being slid around on the tablet or desk. The biggest concern I have with the kickstand is that using it on your lap (or on an airplane tray table) is difficult to impossible, depending on the exact configuration or your legs / tray. Because the hinged kickstand needs a surface to make contact with, pushing the Surface Pro back on your legs where the hinged portion extends past your knees won’t work.
From a design and style perspective, I still think the Surface products are among the best that exist on the market today. The magnesium body is sleek and the angles are both professional and aggressive. Even when coupled with the magnetic Type Cover, it won’t look like a toy at the office or on the road.
The new Surface Book is a completely different beast – a unique design and a new product. I am sure that there are some people that simply won’t like the way the notebook looks, but I am not one of them. Though it is technically a tablet and a keyboard dock, the Surface Book only ships as a complete unit so calling this a notebook or a 2-in-1 convertible feels more accurate than calling it a tablet. It has a larger and more pronounced 13.5-in screen than the Pro, which makes it larger, heavier and bulkier in your bag as well. The magnesium body shares a lot of design cues with the Pro 4, but it’s the hinge on the Book that really makes it different than any notebook I have used.
Subject: Mobile | October 27, 2015 - 05:26 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, surface pro 4, surface book, surface, Skylake, microsoft, Intel
In early October Microsoft took the wraps off of a pair of new 2-in-1 convertible notebooks in the form of the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. The Surface Pro 4 is much like the previous tablet designs from the Redmond giant and includes a kick stand and optional Type Cover to make the tablet a notebook in terms of functionality. The update kicks up the processor to Intel's 6th generation Skylake design while increasing storage performance with NVMe Samsung SSDs.
The Surface Book is definitely the more interesting of the two devices with a unique design that is more notebook than tablet/2-in-1. The 13.5-in 3000x2000 3:2 screen tablet is detachable from a base that includes a full keyboard and track pad, additional battery and even an optional discrete NVIDIA GeForce GPU. The hinge is similar to the watch hinge that Lenovo introduced with the Yoga 3 Pro and uses something Microsoft calls "Muscle Wire" to keep the tablet and keyboard docked firmly using magnets.
Though I am really just getting started on the review process of these devices, I wanted to share a quick overview of both machines. Check it out in the video embedded below.
So what do you want to know about or see specifically tested on the Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book? Let us know in the comments below!
Subject: Mobile | October 6, 2015 - 02:38 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, surface book, surface, Skylake, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, geforce
Along with the announcement of the new Surface Pro 4, Microsoft surprised many with the release of the new Surface Book 2-in-1 convertible laptop. Sharing much of the same DNA as the Surface tablet line, the Surface Book adopts a more traditional notebook design while still adding enough to the formula to produce a unique product.
The pivotal part of the design (no pun intended) is the new hinge, a "dynamic fulcrum" design that looks great and also (supposedly) will be incredibly strong. The screen / tablet attachment mechanism is called Muscle Wire and promises secure attachment as well as ease of release with a single button.
An interesting aspect of the fulcrum design is that, when closed, the Surface Book screen and keyboard do not actually touch near the hinge. Instead you have a small gap in this area. I'm curious how this will play out in real-world usage - it creates a natural angle for using the screen in its tablet form but also may find itself "catching" coin, pens and other things between the two sections.
The 13.5-in screen has a 3000 x 2000 resolution (3:2 aspect ratio obviously) with a 267 PPI pixel density. Just like the Surface Pro 4, it has a 10-point touch capability and uses the exclusive PixelSense display technology for improved image quality.
While most of the hardware is included in the tablet portion of the device, the keyboard dock includes some surprises of its own. You get a set of two USB 3.0 ports, a full size SD card slot and a proprietary SurfaceConnect port for an add-on dock. But most interestingly you'll find an optional discrete GPU from NVIDIA, an as-yet-undiscovered GeForce GPU with 1GB (??) of memory. I have sent inquiries to Microsoft and NVIDIA for details on the GPU, but haven't heard back yet. We think it is a 30 watt GeForce GPU of some kind (by looking at the power adapter differences) but I'm more interested in how the GPU changes both battery life and performance.
UPDATE: Just got official word from NVIDIA on the GPU, but unfortunately it doesn't tell us much.
The new GPU is a Maxwell based GPU with GDDR5 memory. It was designed to deliver the best performance in ultra-thin form factors such as the Surface Book keyboard dock. Given its unique implementation and design in the keyboard module, it cannot be compared to a traditional 900M series GPU. Contact Microsoft for performance information.
Keyboard and touchpad performance looks to be impressive as well, with a full glass trackpad integration, backlit keyboard design and "class leading" key switch throw distance.
The Surface Book is powered by Intel Skylake processors, available in both Core i5 and Core i7 options, but does not offer Core m-based or Iris graphics options. Instead the integrated GPU will only be offered with the Intel HD 520.
Microsoft promises "up to" 12 hours of battery life on the Surface Book, though that claim was made with the Core i5 / 256GB / 8GB configuration option; no discrete GPU included.
Pricing on the Surface Book starts at $1499 but can reach as high as $2699 with the maximum performance and storage capacity options.
Subject: Mobile | October 6, 2015 - 01:40 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, surface pro 4, surface, Skylake, microsoft, iris, Intel, edram
Microsoft has finally revealed the next product in the Surface Pro tablet lineup, skipping the Broadwell processor generation and jumping straight to the latest Intel Skylake processors. The design is very similar to previous Surface Pro tablets but the upgrades and changes made for the Surface Pro 4 are impressive.
The kickstand design that has made the Surface recognizable remains the same but there is a solid collection of new features including a fingerprint reader and Microsoft Hello support for security and login. The new Pro 4 model is only 8.4mm thick (coming in just about 1mm thinner than the Pro 3) and is also lighter at 1.73 lbs.
The screen size is 12.3-inches with a 2736 x 1824 3:2 resolution for a pixel density of 267 PPI. It has a 10-point touch interface with drastically improved latency, palm detection and pressure sensitivity for the included Surface Pen. Even better, that improved Surface Pen will have a full year of battery life along with magnetic attachment to the tablet rather than relying on a elastic loop!
The Surface keyboard sees improvements as well including better spacing on the keys, quieter and more reliable typing and it also becomes the thinnest type cover MS has yet to build for the Surface line. A 5-point touch glass trackpad is now part of the deal, 40% larger than the one found on the Pro 3 - a welcome modification for anyone that has used the type cover in the past.
In terms of computing horsepower, the Surface Pro 4 will be available with a Core m3, Core i5 or even a Core i7 processor. It will ship with 4GB, 8GB or 16GB of system memory and internal storage capacities as high as 1TB. Microsoft hasn't posted any more details about the clock speeds of these CPUs but if you look at the awesome hype video MS made for the Pro 4 launch, you'll notice an interesting thing in the exploded view: an Intel processor with three dies on a single package.
What you are seeing is the Skylake CPU, chipset and an eDRAM package. This tells us that at least one of the available options for the Surface Pro 4 will ship with Iris graphics and 64MB or 128MB of L4 cache / eDRAM - a first for this form factor! This should help improve performance for graphics as well as other specific CPU compute workloads.
Other highlights for the Surface Pro 4 include front facing stereo speakers, 8MP rear-facing camera and a fancy-ass Windows 10 logo.
Pricing will START at $899 but will spike to as high as $2699 if you max out the processor and storage options.
We are working on getting a unit in for testing as the devices are going up for presale today and should arrive by October 26th.
Subject: Systems | October 5, 2015 - 05:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, surface, Surface Pro, surface pro 4, hp, Lenovo, dell, asus, acer, toshiba
Tomorrow at 10 am ET, Microsoft will host a live stream to announce “new Windows 10 devices from Microsoft”. It's pretty obvious that we'll get at least one new Surface device announced, which rumors suggest will be the Surface Pro 4 with a low-bezel, 13-inch display. W4pHub, via VR-Zone, goes a bit further to claim that the display can shrink to 12 inches when in tablet mode, giving a frame for the user to hold. If true, I wonder how applications will handle the shift in resolution. Perhaps the only problem is a little flicker, which will be hidden by the rest of Continuum's transition?
Image Credit: VR-Zone
The Microsoft Blog post also lists the announcement dates of their partners. Here's the rundown:
- October 7th -- HP
- October 8th -- Dell
- October 9th -- ASUS
- October 12th -- Acer
- October 13th -- Toshiba
- October 19th -- Lenovo
While the rush of Windows 10 devices have missed the Back to School season, despite Microsoft's attempts to rush development with a July release, it looks like we might get a good amount of them for the holiday season. I was a bit worried, seeing how slowly Threshold 2 seems to be advancing, but they seem to have convinced OEMs to make a big deal out of it.
Then again, it could be holiday fever.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | March 25, 2015 - 09:51 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, core m, atom, surface, Surface 2, Windows 8.1, windows 10
The stack of Microsoft tablet devices had high-end Intel Core processors hovering over ARM SoCs, the two separated by a simple “Pro” label (and Windows 8.x versus Windows RT). While the Pro line has been kept reasonably up to date, the lower tier has been stagnant for a while. That is apparently going to change. WinBeta believes that a new, non-Pro Surface will be announced soon, at or before BUILD 2015. Unlike previous Surface models, it will be powered by an x86 processor from Intel, either an Atom or a Core M.
This also means it will run Windows 8.1.
The article claims, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that Windows RT is dead. No. But still, the device should be eligible for a Windows 10 upgrade when it launches, unlike the RT-based Surfaces. Whether that is a surprise depends on the direction you view it from. I would find it silly for Microsoft to release a new Surface device, months before an OS update, but design it to be incompatible with it. On the other hand, it would be the first non-Pro Surface to do so. Either way, it was reported.
The “Surface 3”, whatever it will be called, is expected to be a fanless design. VR-Zone expects that it will be similar to the 10.6-inch, 1080p form factor of the Surface 2, but that seems to be their speculation. That is about all that we know thus far.
Subject: General Tech | October 9, 2014 - 01:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, surface, fail
It seems that Microsoft might be catching on to something everyone else in the market knew when they first announced their first foray into hardware since the Zune; software companies shouldn't annoy their customer by competing with them. Ballmer originally tried to assuage companies like Acer by claiming that Surface was just a proof of concept, which was met by disbelief and after 3 iterations of Surface those doubts were proven to be justified. According to Microsoft the Surface 3 is a big hit overseas but as this is their first crack at those markets you can bet that the sales will follow the same precipitous drop we saw for the first Surface in North America.
The news from DigiTimes today is that Surface 3 will be the last generation of this hybrid tablet. It could be that Microsoft will now focus on their phones, much to the dismay of those who have used their phones though perhaps the remaining human assets from Nokia will bring forth a new generation of workable devices.
"Microsoft continues to see weak sales for its Surface Pro 3 tablet and is reportedly planning to cancel the product line since shipment performance has been far lower than expectations, according to sources from the upstream supply chain."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- How to Build and Tune an Open Source 3D Printer on Linux @ Linux.com
- Windows 10 feedback: 'Microsoft, please do a deal with Google to use its browser' @ The Register
- Fail of the Week: Transparent Circuit Design is Clearly a Challenge @ Hack a Day
- LTE's backers vow to KILL OFF WI-FI and BLUETOOTH @ The Register
- So long, Rory: AMD board names Lisa Su president and CEO @ The Register
- Lisu Su promoted to AMD CEO as Rory Read steps down @ The Tech Report
- The TR Podcast 163: Windows goes to 10 and Maxwell does DSR
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 15, 2014 - 01:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: surface 3, surface, microsoft
Through their blog, Microsoft claims that their Surface Pro 3 devices are selling out in their recently added, overseas markets. In parts of Australia, all models were sold out early in the first day (we can of course question how many is "some retailers" and how much stock each had). The company expects to have appropriate stock levels in a week or two.
Honestly, I never quite get these announcements of low stock. While it is better than having too much stock, and these releases might ease the nerves of shy investors, having too low stock is a problem, too. It is often a sign of something lacking: production, confidence, market insight, distribution, and so forth. It can tell an interesting story if these sales figures are immense, see the Nintendo Wii, but often it just raises a critical eyebrow. This is especially true if concrete figures are danced around.
I mean, if someone is at a store and looking for a Surface but none is available, do you really need to let them know that you intend to make more?
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | August 26, 2014 - 09:10 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, surface, Surface 2
While the Surface Pro 3 has just been released, the latest Windows RT version is still the Surface 2. It is powered by Tegra 4 and contains 2GB of RAM. It also cannot run anything, unless it comes from Windows Store, it is a Windows Update, or it is a website that runs in Internet Explorer 11. If what you are looking for is Microsoft Office 2013 RT (included), Netflix, Halo: Spartan Assault, and so forth, then all Surface 2 models are currently reduced in price by $100 at the Microsoft Store.
Of course, the launch of the Surface Pro 3 without a corresponding Surface 3 suggests that this sale is a way to clear up-to year-old stock for a product refresh. In January, there were rumors circulating that a Surface 3 would appear with a Tegra K1 processor. Of course, with the first two RT-based Surface tablets containing Tegra SoCs, that could just be pattern recognition (rather than concrete information). Other rumors claim that Microsoft is interested in Qualcomm's chips, if only for a "mini" variant.
Either way, you can get a Tegra 4-powered tablet for $349 USD (32 GB), $449 USD (64 GB), or $579 USD (64 GB with LTE from AT&T). Previously, they were $449, $549, and $679, respectively.