Microsoft went all out in their Windows 10 Devices Event today, whilst they did discuss enhancements coming to former and alternate categories of the company, from Windows 10 for Xbox One and some incredible Hololens demonstrations (in which is now available to test Q1 2016 for a small $3,000), the event was all about Microsoft hardware, and we think it goes without saying that after this event no one can say Microsoft can’t make incredible hardware!
But what is hardware without software, being the heart of the company since its inception should it be a surprise that Microsoft claims over 110 million PCs are now running their Windows 10 operating system in just 6 weeks of launch, maybe in this climate, still a very impressive feat. A number of new Universal apps were announced from CBS to others, including Facebook who’ve committed to Facebook, Messenger and Instagram for Universal Windows Store apps.
Microsoft also announced a new Band, which you can find out more about here, if we’re honest we’re the wrong people to talk Band, we’re all about Computers, Tablets and Phones so let’s get to those shall we;
Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950XL
If Microsoft were going to announce any surprises, we think even they knew it wasn’t going to be with the Lumia 950 series, even as Panos Panay joked whilst announcing the devices, we have seen all this before anyway. What you’re left with with these devices, are two flagship devices built for Windows 10, and on first impressions do look better than the renders thankfully but still not the captivating flagships we’ve been used to seeing from, say, the Nokia Lumia days.
Panos Panay announced the two devices, most will recognise him from the Surface team, but more on that later. Panos has a very unique way of presenting devices, with a much more casual and straight to the point attitude which you can’t help but get captivated during his presentations.
As far as a comparison goes between the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, like typical Microsoft Lumia devices with an XL variant it comes down to minor changes and display size. The Lumia 950 supports a 5.2inch display, whilst the XL supports a 5.7inch display, both are Quad HD, both are IPS panels perfect for features such as Glance screen and more.
The Lumia 950 series also feature dual Antennas for greater Wireless radio reception for Cellular or WiFi, Tablet class liquid cooling and a USB-C port with support for Fast Charging to 50% in just 30 minutes. Both devices also feature a high end 20MP PureView XIESS Camera with instant 4K Recording from the Camera button, triple RGB Flash support and a 5th generation OIS.
One feature unique to the Lumia 950XL which we’re not a fan of is the positioning of the buttons on the side. Whilst both have Volume rockers, Lock button and Camera on the right side, only the Lumia 950XL has them laid out top to bottom as Volume Up, Lock, Volume Down, a change which we definitely think will take a much larger learning curve as we’ve not seen Volume rockers like these since Blackberrys and we’re not sure not only why, but also why it’s unique to the XL.
The only other minor change between the 950 and 950XL after display size comes around the Octa Core SnapDragon 810 or the Hexacore SnapDragon 808 in the XL and 950 respectively. Both processors may seem overpowered for Windows Phone devices, but with a ton of new applications expected as part of Microsoft’s Windows 10 strategy, Microsoft believes this pays off, but none more so than with a feature called Continuum.
A very interesting person with a very unique personality was introduced to show off Continuum, something in which we’ve seen before, but now demoed on display. What Continuum essentially allows you to do, is use your Phone as your PC, something we’ve previously seen in a certain device by Motorola but let’s be fair that was a terrible implementation and was limited to a shoddy Linux web browser. Continuum on Windows 10 allows you to run the same applications you have on your Windows 10 Phone, fully in Desktop mode on an external display, but it doesn’t stop there as you can easily add Keyboard and Mice to the fray, and suddenly you’ve a fully working Computer powered by your Phone.
Whilst Continuum is in motion, your Windows 10 Phone is not limited at all by functionality, both areas act separately from each other, you can still open apps on your Phone whilst you use the Windows 10 Desktop experience (for the most part) on the external display, this is truly something only Microsoft can deliver with the foundations they’ve created and built around Windows 10 which this truly demonstrates.
What Microsoft showed off Continuum using was a USB-C Display Dock. On the Display Dock you have 3 USB Ports, HDMI out as well as Display Port out. Meaning you can easily with just one Port have a fully working PC from anywhere anytime. The only caveat we can see is there’s no way to simultaneously charge the Phone whilst in Continuum, something we do think will be rather battery constraining.
The Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL will go on sale at the end of October but you can pre-order yours today;
- $549 Lumia 950
- $649 Lumia 950 XL
But, they’re not alone;
Microsoft Lumia 550
Microsoft also announced the Microsoft Lumia 550, however other than it’s Quad Core, has a great Camera and costs just $149, we don’t know much about the device, and confusingly Microsoft’s own website shares no mention of it as of yet. Strange, but we’ll keep you posted once we hear anything.
What Panos began with in the first place, Microsoft Surface team have introduced not just one, but a collection of devices to move the original vision of the Surface devices being the Tablet that can replace your Laptop, not only forward but, much further ahead of the competition. It seems almost ironic that we’re talking about a Microsoft hardware event, but even more so that we’re seeing hardware that far surpasses anything else in it’s category, and that’s before we’ve even got to the Surface devices announced, these will make your want a PC we’re sure of that!
Surface Pro 4
The Surface Pro 3 was an incredible milestone for the Surface, whilst upping the size up to 12 inch wasn’t to everyones cup of tea, Microsoft perfected everything the Surface originated to stand for, a portable versatile Tablet which can and will replace your Laptop. Now Microsoft have reached that spec, the Surface Pro 4, just takes all that effort back up to eleven and what a device we’re left with.
The Display actually increases slightly up to 12.3 inch (267PPI) however Microsoft have retained the footprint from Surface Pro 3 so you’re simply left with less bezel. The display itself is the thinnest display possible to make being just 0.4mm thin Gorilla Glass 4 mounted and with a custom built G5 chip powering the Display technology branded “Pixelsense”, the Surface Pro 4 features one of the best display for ‘see, touch, write, feel’.
Performance is off the charts too, featuring the latest and greatest from Intel, 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage options, it’s easy to see that this is not a Tablet that’s holding back on performance, which according to Microsoft increases 30% from Pro 3 and has a 50% performance boost from a MacBook Air. Of course it has to be said that generics such as those never truly translate to real-world use, we’re simply delivering the stats Microsoft is delivering.
Just like with all Surface devices, the Surface Pro 4 will include a Pen in the box and Microsoft continue and continue to refine it, firstly by returning two of the most annoying absences from the Pen after switching to Ntrig being the side mounted display area for the Pen as well as a very useful Eraser which will now work using the back of the Pen where the same button is placed for OneNote. One thing which was an ironic jab, anyone in his position probably had to mention, was the iconicity of a “Pen” on a Tablet having an Eraser, but a “Pencil” on a Tablet not. But, Microsoft have added some extra functionality to that button on top of that, by making the Surface Pen button, once held down for a full second, launch Cortana and allow you to make an instant search.
The Pen support 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity which, thanks to the “PixelSense” technology Microsoft have built in to the Surface Pro 4 Display, is even more accurate than ever before. The Pen will also last longer too, as Microsoft claim a full year of Battery life possible with the Surface Pen.
Another feature unique to the Surface Pen is the ability to swap out the tips for interchangeable ones. Microsoft were rather quick in mentioning the Pen tips before moving on, which was rather disappointing as it’s actually a very big deal what you can do with them. The tip that comes installed on the new Surface Pen, and the one we’re all used to is the HB tip, which is perfect for writing and sketching. The “B” tip is used for illustrations and the “H” tip is for drawing. “2H” is used for drafting. It’s important to mention as well that these Tips as well as the Pen are also compatible with the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 and will also come included with all new Pen purchases.
TYPE COVER 4
The Surface Type Covers have always being something we’ve been a massive fan of, easily one of our favourite keyboards was the Surface Type Cover for the Surface Pro 3, but Microsoft are taking things up a notch with the new Type Cover designed for Surface Pro 4.
Of course typing is personal preference in regards to which suits you best, but we think the more mushy feel of the Type Covers have being a big key point to how typing has been so seamless, so finding out that the new Type Cover does away with that with separated keys supporting the new Scissor mechanism found in Apple’s 2015 MacBook, one of Apple’s worst keyboard devices ever, it doesn’t exactly give us great confidence with the new Type Cover. Of course seeing is believing and we’ll be checking out the Surface Pro 4 as soon as we can, so we’ll see what the Keyboard is truly like, luckily however as this is compatible with the Surface Pro 3, the previous Pro 3 Type Cover will work on the Surface Pro 4.
One thing you won’t get however unless you go for the latest Type Cover is a built in Finger Print Scanner, which you can see to the right of the Trackpad. Oddly the Fingerprint scanner is limited to not only the US, but the Black keyboard at the moment, Microsoft are blaming supply, which we don’t fully believe. Thanks to the Fingerprint Scanner however, Surface Pro 3 users will be able to use Windows Hello as the Iris scanning won’t be possible without the Pro 4.
SURFACE PRO DOCKING STATION *ALSO COMPATIBLE WITH SURFACE PRO 3
Whilst placing your Surface Pro in to a Docking Station was nice, we think it was always going to be easier to use one of these, this is the new Surface Pro Docking Station for Surface Pro 3 and later. By simply attaching to the Surface charger port, your Surface Pro 4 instantly becomes a fully workable PC giving you the following I/O;
- Two Display Port Outs support Dual 4K Monitors *Pro 4 only supports higher DPI and Htz Speed*
- 2 USB Ports (on top of the 1 USB still accessible when using this port.
- Charger port *as the main one is used by this dock.
And that’s the Surface Pro 4, sure it’s iterative, but in a very big way, it’s faster, cleaner, thinner and lighter and most of all, refined. You can get yourself a Surface Pro 4 right now by pre-order or buy direct on October 26th;
The term we’ve left the best till last was invented for this, as this is quite frankly one of the most incredible Computers Microsoft, and anyone has introduced this year, this is the Surface Book and it’s Microsoft’s first Laptop / 2-in-1. But it’s not just a Laptop by Microsoft, it’s the most powerful 13 inch Laptop in the world today offering dedicated Nvidia GPU, latest Intel Core i7 Processors, and a combined speed up to 2X of Apple’s latest gen MacBook Pro.
The Surface Book takes in everything we’ve just mentioned featured in the Surface Pro 4 and packs it all in to a very workable Laptop form factor, the device features a large 5 point Glass Trackpad as well as an incredible chiclet Backlit Keyboard. The Surface Book is also compatible with the new Surface Pen and Docking Station we just mentioned, although will need it less as the device has 2 USB, SD, 2 Display out and Audio in.
But, just before you already get blown away by the friction hinge design, rock solid build quality and high end performance, you can still take off the Screen from the Keyboard and use as a powerful Tablet. Whilst using as a Tablet you will sacrifice the dedicated GPU for an integrated one as that is in the base, as well as some ports, but let’s be honest when we need ports we need Trackpad and Keyboard anyway.
The Keyboard base attaches either way to the Surface Book allowing you to use in traditional 2 in 1 standards, and connects and detaches using muscle wire connection allowing for a secure and solid feel whilst using the device. This allows the Surface Book to not only be the most powerful PC in it’s category, but also the thinnest and lightest PC ever created.
Surface Book starts at $1,499 and will, like Surface Pro 4, be available October 26th, pre-order now!
We will have so much more on the Surface Book, as well as everything else announced at Microsoft’s Event yesterday in the coming weeks upon them all being available October 26th, but let’s just put it there and say we’re very impressed to say the least, this is innovation!