At its Surface event on Tuesday, Microsoft announced a wide range of new products, including a new Surface Studio 2, Surface Pro 6, and Surface Laptop 2. We’re focusing on these three announcements and what they mean for each product category, starting with the device that’s been most-synonymous with the Surface family since its introduction — the Surface Pro 6.
The Surface Pro 6 will be available in matte black for the first time since the Surface, but as rumors suggested, there aren’t any external changes to the design. Microsoft opted to update the internals with a quad-core 8th Generation CPU, as rumor suggested, with an updated cooling system that supposedly allows the system to run up to 67 percent faster than previous-generation devices according to Panos Panay.
Internal battery life has also been improved with a new runtime of 13.5 hours, though Microsoft’s battery life estimates always seem to be extremely optimistic and reports from reviewers typically wind up quoting substantially lower hours. The system still weighs 1.7 pounds and features like its display and port loadouts haven’t changed. Prices, however, do seem to have come down — the Core i5-equipped variant will start at $899, which is well below the current price for a Core i5 Surface Pro 2017. Maximum RAM loadout is still the same, at 16GB.
The Surface Laptop 2 has received a similar set of upgrades, this time boosting its performance by a claimed 85 percent, with the “thinnest LCD ever” to be fielded on a laptop. As before, all specifications apart from the CPU appear to be identical, though MS claims the system is quieter now. The entry-level price is rising to $999, which isn’t great, but the move to 8GB of RAM and faster CPU are welcome. We weren’t particularly kind to the first-generation Surface Laptop, but this second-gen model could be a better deal even without USB-C — if you’re willing to live with minimal storage and ports. Unfortunately, the SSD upgrade from 128GB to 256GB will cost you $300 according to the MS Store.
Finally, there’s an upgrade for the Surface Studio 2. GPU horsepower has been substantially increased, from a GTX 965 or 980M to a GTX 1060 or 1070 (MS calls this a 50 percent improvement in graphics performance, but the leap from the GTX 965 to the 1070 would likely be larger). The 28-inch display is still the same size, but its brightness has been boosted 38 percent with a 22 percent contrast improvement. Internal storage is more robust, with a 2TB SSD on tap, and the base model now comes with an Intel Kaby Lake CPU rather than an 8th Generation chip. It’s not clear why Microsoft is skimping on the CPU in this system, or why it’s opted for a mobile Kaby Lake part — the i7-7820HQ is a 45W chip with a base clock of 2.9GHz and a 3.9GHz Turbo. Granted, it’s still a quad-core / eight-thread CPU, but a six-core i5 like the 8400 might have been better received by the Surface Studio’s ostensible customers.
In aggregate, all of these updates are fairly small. They reflect modest point tweaks to all of the product families rather than wholesale redesigns, but that seems to be as much as Microsoft is willing to commit to this line of products. Fortunately, performance, in all cases, should improve significantly. If battery life rises as well, the update cycle should be an overall success, even if it isn’t particularly exciting.
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