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Friday, 16 June 2017 13:40

Surface Laptop and Pro surface at Microsoft Sydney Store (first look)

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The new Microsoft Surface Laptop and Surface Pro (2017) hit the shelves today in 25 markets – you can see them at the Microsoft Store in Pitt Street Mall, Sydney.

iTWire attended a media deep dive session on the new Surface LaptopSurface Pro and Surface Studio all presented via its 55” Surface Hub. The full review of the Surface Studio creative desktop is here.

In case you have been living under a rock “Surface” is Microsoft’s hardware brand and design style and it is quite distinct from the competition with magnesium alloy build, clean lines, 3:2 ratio, Pixel Sense touch displays.

MS Surface family

The Laptop is aimed at the higher education market and those who prefer a light (1.25kg) and thin clamshell style device and starts from $1499 for the 7th generation Intel Core i5. The Surface Pro is the category creating a Hybrid 2-in-1 tablet with detachable keyboard device (sold separately) starting from $1,199 for the Core m3. The Surface Book starts at $1945 and the Studio at $4699 – these use Intel 6th Generation processors.

Tina Flammer, Microsoft Australia Surface product marketing lead, and Patrick Burgess, Microsoft Surface product specialist, provided a tour of the intricacies of the new devices.

“Microsoft produces Surface as reference devices to show the world what the right combination of hardware and software can achieve. Its mission is to help users create more – ideate, create, get work done and use touch,” Flammer said in response to a question about other OEMs producing a version of the Surface range. “We want OEMs to have the flexibility to out-design or provide more features or better value. Surface drives innovation.”

Media response to the Laptop and Pro have been positive but one elephant keeps entering the room – the lack of a USB-C Thunderbolt port. Flammer reiterated that Surface did not follow trends and innovated via things like the full-sized USB-A 3.0 connector, the mini-DisplayPort, and the Surface connector which works across the Pro, Laptop and Book range using the same dock.

“Nevertheless, Panos Panay, corporate vice-president, Microsoft Devices, has determined that we will be introducing a USB-C adaptor soon,” she said.

The Verge interviewed Panay who said, “I love the technology in Type-C, I believe in Type-C. When it is ready for our customers, to make it easy for them, we’ll be there. If you love Type-C, it means you love dongles.”

Microsoft is planning to release a dongle that will plug into the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop devices and provide USB-C support. It’s like any dongle you’d expect, and it simply slots into the Surface connector port on the device. “If you want to charge a device with a Type-C charger, you can. If you want to put data back and forth with a Type-C peripheral, you can,” added Panay.

Consider that this elephant has left the room only for the other elephant to enter. But what about Windows 10 S – why?

Windows 10 S (W10S) is Microsoft’s attempt to achieve two things – fast boot time and increased security.

In the demonstration from a cold boot to Windows Hello login was a few seconds. W10S simply does not load the kitchen sink that is part of the normal Windows 10 boot.

In the security area, things get a little more complex – you cannot load programs or apps as you did unless they come from the Windows Store or a corporate or education store set up within it. This also means the default browser is Edge and search is Bing. You can still go to Google in the browser.

This is no different to Apple insisting all apps come from its App Store or Google trying to do the same with Google Play.

But there is one major difference in W10S that really beefs up security – apps are run in “docker-like” containers that start instantly and use less compute and RAM. What this means is that the operating system kernel and registry is largely left untouched ensuring no performance degradation over its life and vastly increased security as a containerised app should not be able to infect the kernel/. There is also increased integration with the cloud to enable a work from any device, anywhere, anytime, philosophy.

For those who want to step outside these constraints, Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro until 31 December 2017. After that the cost is $79.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

iTWire will finish a full review soon. Preliminary findings: 

  • Built quality: What we have come to expect from Surface. Solid, reliable.
  • Design: Surface like with a very attractive Alcantara material covering the keyboard. From all indications, this hard-wearing material is used in premium automotive use as a durable, longer lasting alternative to leather.
  • The screen: It is very thin as all electronics are in the base unit and one finger open and close is good.
  • Keyboard: An improvement over the Surface Pro 4 – eliminates the bounce back of a separate keyboard and has a huge oversized trackpad for mouse-less use.
  • Screen: 13.5” is the same size as the Surface Book and bigger than the 12.3” Pro.
  • Battery: Claimed 14.5 hours (not tested yet).
  • Options: Pen (new 4096 pressure level), Dial ($149.95), Arc ($119.95) or Surface ($79.95) Mouse, Dock ($299.95, 2 x HD monitor support), separate Bluetooth Keyboard ($159.95).
  • Setup: Cortana voice guided set-up is good.
  • Colours: Increased colour availability - Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold join Platinum.

Price:

  • $1499 for base model, Intel Core i5, 4GB/128GB.
  • $1999 for Intel Core i5, 8/256GB.
  • $2499 for Intel Core i7, 8/256GB.
  • $3299 for Intel Core i7, 16/512GB.

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)

This looks very similar on the outside to the Surface and Pro, but Microsoft says there have been more than 800 significant changes under the bonnet.

Not the least is the update to Intel 7th generation Core processors and the improved performance (claimed 2.5 times faster) and battery life from around nine hours for the Pro 4 to 13.5 hours (claimed).

The hinge now folds to a studio level (20°) and supports Dial.

The standard keyboard is $199.95 and the Signature Alcantara Type cover is $249.95. 

Pro will also have an LTE variant using an eSIM later this year.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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