Photo by @uniboa / Unsplash.com

Thoughts on the new Microsoft Surface products – hello Surface Book 3, Surface Go 2, and others!

Today, Microsoft announced a bunch of new Surface products:

  • Surface Book 3 – 17.5 hours battery life, 13″ and 15″ models, newer 10th Gen Intel processors, faster SSDs, and up to 32 GB of RAM – starting from $1599
  • Surface Go 2 – larger 10.5″ display, better performance, and battery life up to 10 hours – starting from $399
  • Surface Headphones 2 – Improved sound quality and battery life (20 hours) – price $249
  • Surface Earbuds – Fully new product with Spotify support (on Android), ‘all-day’ battery life and wireless charging case – price $199
  • Surface Dock 2 – Actually, two new docks – a USB-C enabled Travel Hub ($99.99) and a new Surface Dock 2 ($259.99) – higher data transfer rates
  • PC Accessories – Ergonomic Desktop (keyboard, $89.99), Bluetooth Desktop (mouse, $59.99)

Significant upgrades for the laptops, and a super interesting entrance with the earbuds! I recently moved to Surface Book 2, and since I’m very happy with it, I don’t feel at all bummed that a newer version is now available. Perhaps I’m an edge-case user – I use the laptop relatively little – only a few times a week now. Most of the time I work on my main workstation PC, where I don’t worry about storage, capacity, or other things I usually worry about laptops.

As we don’t have honest reviews of these products yet (and most of them are available only for pre-order, final availability is later in May), it’s perhaps more interesting to briefly see how these upgrades feel on the surface (pun intended).

Surface Book 3 – more RAM!

People have been asking for ages for the Surface line of a laptop to have the capability to support RAM up to 32 or even 64 GB. For regular use and perhaps even power user needs, 16 GB has been relatively sufficient. Developers running containers, multiple Visual Studio or VS Code instances and perhaps Virtual Machines, often complain about this. Surface Book 3 with 32 GB of RAM is a welcome addition but perhaps nothing that drastically makes you want to upgrade to this model. I often argue that instead of shelling out up to $3999 for a laptop, perhaps get a great one for half the price, and use the rest to build a server (or to host your workloads in the cloud).

Long battery life, excellent touch display, and newer 10th Gen Intel processors would be the reasons for me to eventually upgrade. And then, ticking 32 GB would make obvious sense. Looking at the press photos and the promotional video it seems the upgrades are all internal to Surface Book 3. The faster SSD also means it’s available now with up to 2 TB of storage.

Overall, an expected upgrade and seems like a great option for power users.

Surface Go 2 – what the first Surface Go should have been?

I bought the Surface Go in 2018. I even wrote a bit about it in my passwordless and FIDO2 tokens post. It’s a neat little device but so underpowered I found it hard to actually use for anything productive. Windows 10 is also often cumbersome to use as a pure tablet when I compare the experience with my iPad Mini 4.

I still have the original Surface Go, and with each major update to Windows 10 I test it out to see if it’s something I could find a reasonable use for.

The new Surface Go 2 promises better performance (“up to 64 %”), which on paper sounds exactly what it should be. You can view the promotional video here. No mentioning of 10th Gen Intel CPUs here, so perhaps it’s another variant of the Intel Pentium Gold family of CPUs.

It feels like an evolutionary upgrade, and if slugginess of the initial Surface Go product is addressed while providing great battery life, then I would certainly see the device useful when on the road.

Surface Earbuds and Surface Headphones 2 – I have to hear these first

I admit, I think the Surface Earbuds seem massive. Just look at the promotional picture:

Image by Microsoft

I currently use the Samsung Galaxy Buds (original version), and they are less obvious:

Image by Samsung

I’d have to experience these myself to judge if I’d be willing to pay $199. One of the interesting features is listening to, deleting, and replying to emails with the help of the earbuds. But that only seems to work on the Outlook mobile app on iOS. And on iOS, my understanding is that many people simply go for Apple Earpods. A huge upside is that the Surface Earbuds support aptX audio codec, and they are also semi-waterproofed with IPX4 (protects from splashes of water, but not suited for swimming, for example).

The promise of dual microphones on each earbud also sounds amazing. That has been one of the downsides of the Galaxy Buds, as the microphone is not stellar for audio calls.

Then, the Surface Headphones 2. I rarely need or use over-ear headphones – mostly when I record a podcast episode, and for that, I need wired and neutral monitoring headphones. Perhaps, once we can travel more again in the future, these would be great when on the go, especially if the active noise cancellation is better than the Bose headphones traditionally have had. As with the Surface Earbuds, one has to hear and experience these first before making the decision to buy.

In closing

Exciting releases and I was surprised we didn’t have a launch event. Panos Panay did have a message to share, you can view it here. Reflecting through these updates and new products, I’m most keen on the Surface Earbuds, despite disliking the seemingly large form factor initially. I might just hold on in my planned upgrade from the Samsung Buds to try them out myself in the coming weeks.