5 Reasons the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 Design Failed

They may be technological marvels, but foldable and rollable screens remain just that in consumers’ eyes. Foldable phones have been on the market for almost five years now, but they’re still considered to be expensive eccentricities and luxuries that only a few can really afford. Even if they were more affordable, most people would probably still not be able to justify such a purchase, especially considering some concerns regarding durability. The Microsoft Surface Duo and its successor tried to offer a less risky yet still expensive interpretation of the foldable design, offering two distinct screens rather than folding a single one. At first, it seemed that it would actually be a new mobile device category to stand beside typical foldables, but the rumor now is that Microsoft seems to have thrown in the towel. Although it did have its fair share of fans, the Surface Duo 2 just didn’t seem to click with the masses, even less than the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, and these are five reasons why.

Designer: Microsoft

Identity Crisis

To some extent, the Microsoft Surface Duo is in a class of its own. You can’t really call it a smartphone, even though it does make calls since it’s rather awkward to actually use it as a phone unless you’re always wearing earbuds. You can’t even fold the Surface Duo 2 back completely now that it has a camera bump. You can easily call it a tablet, either, even though content can span both screens to form one single display that has a very noticeable cut in the middle. Even Microsoft itself avoids calling the Surface Duo by either name, preferring to just refer to it as a “dual-screen mobile device.”

The Surface Duo’s unconventional design does warrant a different classification, though it’s not exactly original in the basic concept. LG tried to take a stab at a dual-screen phone with a case that you can attach and remove as needed. The experience, of course, was very different, more similar to how you’d connect a second monitor to a computer. The Surface Duo had that capability built-in, saving users from having to juggle accessories. It didn’t, however, solve the fundamental problem of exhibiting an identity that people can understand and relate to, which would have gone a long way in making the device more appealing beyond mere curiosity.

The device’s ambiguity meant that it was actually difficult, if not awkward, to use it like you would a familiar mobile device. It’s too wide to use as a phone when folded, and it’s unusable as a “full” tablet when spread out. Admittedly, it’s unfair to judge the Surface Duo by these standards because it’s neither a phone nor a tablet but a completely different device. Unfortunately, people will approach it from either direction because they’re more familiar with smartphones and tablets and might not be able to adequately wrap their heads around a new creature such as this, especially when they might not even understand what it is for. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s target audience makes it clear that it’s not for everyone in the first place.

Niche Business

The Surface Duo 2 can do almost anything a smartphone or tablet can do, especially if you use only a single screen. Those won’t take full advantage of the device’s capabilities, though, and you’ll have to make use of both screens at the same time. And therein lies the biggest question of the Surface Duo’s design purpose. While most people will probably want a bigger screen, how many will actually need two somewhat small screens instead? Why, those who use two apps at the same time, of course!

The School of Jobs and the smartphones that followed have conditioned our minds to use one app at a time, deftly switching back and forth between apps and screens as needed. This is admittedly very limiting, especially if you’re used to the multi-window world of desktops and laptops. There might be some who wish they could do things at the same time or see two apps simultaneously, and it’s exactly for that use case that the Surface Duo was designed. To be more specific, the dual-screen device is made for highly productive people who find themselves always switching between two or three apps.

The subset of mobile users that regularly do this, however, might be very small. Microsoft is clearly focusing its marketing on business users who’d have different documents or apps running at the same time to compare or even share data. There is also the case of some more social users who might be chatting away while watching a video together or browsing the Web. These are definitely legitimate use cases, but not common enough to make the idea of the Surface Duo to be so popular that it would drive sales. Because while the device does enable using two apps side-by-side, the unfortunate truth is that these apps and the Android platform, in general, were designed for single-screen use and remain stubbornly so.

Growing Software Pains

Whether it’s iOS or Android or anything in between, mobile operating systems have been designed from the start with a single screen in mind. And while Android did actually have the foundations for multi-window support, few outside of the likes of Samsung ever took advantage of that and evolved it. Now iOS, particularly iPadOS, has left Android in its dust, and devices like the Surface Duo or even the Galaxy Z Fold are having trouble shoehorning a different paradigm into the platform.

The first release of the modified Android system for the Surface Duo was pretty much disastrous, with plenty of instabilities and bugs marring the otherwise beautiful first-gen device. To its credit, Microsoft has been addressing those issues slowly but surely, yet the fact remains that Android apps always behave as if they’re the only show on stage. It doesn’t help that that stage doesn’t seem to push those actors to play well with others, even when all the facilities are there. It will take a Google foldable device for Android to really adopt all these features it already has, but that’s a story for another day.

To be fair, even Samsung’s foldables have this kind of problem, only that the phone maker giant has been working on its solution for years. Those flaws are more pronounced on a younger device like the Surface Duo. Despite being primarily a software company, Microsoft still has trouble adapting Android to its needs. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly have a track record in that aspect, either.

Software is Hard

Just because Microsoft is adept at making software doesn’t mean it’s an expert at everything. Some might even refute how good it is at software development in the first place due to innumerable issues with Windows and Office. That’s even truer with platforms that aren’t its own, particularly Android, which it has been using ever since it ditched the idea of any form of Windows on mobile. It hasn’t had much success then, and it doesn’t seem to be having better luck now.

To be fair, Microsoft has shown better performance with the Surface Duo 2, at least as far as pushing fixes is concerned. Unfortunately, even those fixes leave some things to be desired, and the software still shows some of the problems exhibited in the first Surface Duo. Given the fast pace of Android updates, Microsoft is clearly lagging behind on that front as well. Confidence in Microsoft’s ability to fix those software issues isn’t exactly that high, and the latest rumors only serve to validate those doubts.

Microsoft switching to a single foldable screen for the Surface Duo 3 doesn’t make all those problems go away. It could, however, alleviate or even fix some of the problems, particularly when it comes to having to support two screens, something that Android at its core still doesn’t do well in the first place. Unfortunately, it does pretty much throw away all the rhetoric around the first Surface Duo devices, validating once again that Samsung’s design might have been right all along.

An Answer in Search of a Problem

The biggest problem with the Surface Duo design is that there was probably no problem, to begin with. While some will say that this applies to foldable devices as well, it’s even more poignant with a dual-screen mobile device. The Surface Duo 2 is slick, beautiful, and innovative. Unfortunately, it is also incomprehensible for the majority of consumers, even those that can actually afford one. Microsoft tried to offer a device that seemed less fragile than a Galaxy Z Fold but unfortunately slapped a price that is just as inaccessible anyway.

Microsoft did have a clear audience in mind, but it might have overestimated its own clout in that industry. It might have envisioned a large army of mobile users who depend exclusively on Microsoft apps and services, but that ship has long sailed. Without support for other “normal” apps, the overall experience was clunky, awkward, and sometimes even unusable. The Surface Duo 2 definitely has fans that are now disillusioned at the path that Microsoft is rumored to take, but those fans won’t be able to help turn the device into a profit.

While the Surface Duo 2 is admittedly an interesting innovation, at the end of the day, it’s still a product that has to bring Microsoft money. By turning away from the dual-screen design, the company is effectively admitting that it failed to accomplish that. The “innie” foldable screen first used by Samsung is by no means perfect, but it’s also more usable for both regular and power users. It remains to be seen how much of the Surface Duo user experience will remain in such a different device and whether or not it will even be worth investing in a Microsoft mobile device that could suffer the same fate as other Microsoft mobile devices.

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The best 2-in-1 laptops for 2023

The perfect hybrid machine that’s just as good a tablet as it is a laptop still doesn’t exist. But throughout last year, companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google continued to improve their operating systems for machines that do double duty. Windows 11 has features that make it friendlier for multi-screen devices, while Android has been better optimized for larger displays. Plus, with the rise of ARM-based chips for laptops, especially Apple’s impressive M series, prospects for a powerful 2-in-1 with a vast touch-friendly app ecosystem is at an all-time high.

These machines still have their limits, of course. Since they’re smaller than proper laptops, they tend to have less-powerful processors. Keyboards are often less sturdy, with condensed layouts and shallower travel. Plus, they’re almost always tablets first, leaving you to buy a keyboard case separately. (And those ain’t cheap!) So, you can’t always assume the advertised price is what you’ll actually spend on the 2-in-1 you want.

Sometimes, getting a third-party keyboard might be just as good, and they’re often cheaper than first-party offerings. If you’re looking to save some money, Logitech’s Slim Folio is an affordable option, and if you don’t need your keyboard to attach to your tablet, Logitech’s K780 Multi-Device wireless keyboard is also a good pick.

While we’ve typically made sure to include a budget 2-in-1 in previous years, this time there isn’t a great choice. We would usually pick a Surface Go, but the latest model is still too expensive. Other alternatives, like cheaper Android tablets, are underpowered and don’t offer a great multitasking interface. If you want something around $500 that’s thin, lightweight and long-lasting, you’re better off this year looking at a conventional laptop (like those on our best budget PCs list).

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2020
Chris Velazco / Engadget

When you’re shopping for a 2-in-1, there are some basic criteria to keep in mind. First, look at the spec sheet to see how heavy the tablet is (alone, and with the keyboard). Most modern hybrids weigh less than 2 pounds, with the 1.94-pound Surface Pro 9 being one of the heaviest around. The iPad Pro 12.9 (2022) and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S8+ are both slightly lighter. If the overall weight of the tablet and its keyboard come close to 3 pounds, you’ll be better off just getting an ultraportable laptop.

You’ll also want to opt for an 11-inch or 12-inch screen instead of a smaller 10-inch model. The bigger displays will make multitasking easier, plus their companion keyboards will be much better spaced. Also, try to get 6GB of RAM if you can for better performance — you’ll find this in the base model of the Galaxy Tab S7+, while this year’s iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 8 start with 8GB of RAM.

Finally, while some 2-in-1s offer built-in LTE or 5G connectivity, not everyone will want to pay the premium for it. An integrated cellular radio makes checking emails or replying to messages on the go far more convenient. But it also often costs more, and that’s not counting what you’ll pay for data. And, as for 5G — you can hold off on it unless you live within range of a mmWave beacon. Coverage is still spotty and existing nationwide networks use the slower sub-6 technology that’s barely faster than LTE.

Best overall: Surface Pro 9 (Intel)

There’s no beating the Surface series when it comes to 2-in-1s. They’re powerful, sleek tablets running an OS that’s actually designed for productivity. The Surface Pro 9 is Microsoft’s latest and great tablet, and it builds upon the already excellent Pro 8. It features speedy 12th-gen Intel CPUs and all of the major upgrades from last year, including a 120Hz display and a more modern design. It’s the best implementation of Microsoft’s tablet PC vision yet.

Don’t confuse this with the similarly named Surface Pro 9 with 5G, though, which has a slower ARM processor and inferior software compatibility. Built-in cellular is nice and all, but the Intel Pro 9 is a far better PC.

Like most of the other 2-in-1s on this list, the Pro 9 doesn’t come with a keyboard cover — you’ll have to pay extra for that. That’s a shame, considering it starts at $1,000. Microsoft offers a variety of Type Covers for its Surface Pros ranging from $100 to $180, depending on whether you want a slot for a stylus. But at least they’re comfortable and well-spaced. You can also get the Surface Slim Pen 2 ($130) for sketching out your diagrams or artwork, which features haptic feedback for a more responsive experience.

Best for Apple users: 12.9-inch iPad Pro

If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, the best option for you is obviously an iPad. The 12-inch Pro is our pick. Like older models, this iPad Pro has a stunning 12.9-inch screen with a speedy 120Hz refresh rate, as well as mini-LED backlighting. This year, it includes Apple’s incredibly fast M2 chip and more battery life than ever before.

Apple’s Magic Keyboard provides a satisfying typing experience, and its trackpad means you won’t have to reach for the screen to launch apps. But it’ll also cost you an extra $300, making it the most expensive case on this list by a lot. The iPad also lacks a headphone jack and its webcam is awkwardly positioned along the left bezel when you prop it up horizontally, so be aware that it’s still far from a perfect laptop replacement. Still, with its sleek design and respectable battery life, the iPad Pro 12.9 is a good 2-in-1 for Apple users.

Best for Android users: Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+

While Windows is better than iPadOS and Android for productivity, it lags the other two when it comes to apps specifically designed for touchscreens. If you want a tablet that has all the apps you want, and only need it to occasionally double as a laptop, the Galaxy Tab S8+ is a solid option. You’ll enjoy watching movies and playing games on its gorgeous 12.4-inch 120Hz AMOLED screen, and Samsung includes the S Pen, which is great for sketching and taking notes. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip and 8GB of RAM keep things running smoothly, too.

Last year, Samsung dramatically improved its keyboard case, making the Tab an even better laptop replacement. You could type for hours on this thing and not hate yourself (or Samsung). The battery life is also excellent, so you won’t need to worry about staying close to an outlet. The main caveat is that Android isn’t great as a desktop OS, even with the benefits of Android 12L. And while Samsung’s DeX mode offers a somewhat workable solution, it has plenty of quirks.

Cherlynn Low contributed to this report.

Microsoft Selling $25 Hoodies for Xbox Controllers

Because things stopped making sense a long time ago, Microsoft is selling official Xbox Mini Controller Hoodies, so your gaming controllers don’t get cold when they’re not in your sweaty palms. They’re making them in black and white, but the first pre-order already sold out, so clearly, people want these. Why people want them is what I really want to know.

So decorative hoodies for your Xbox controllers are a real product that exists now. Did we need them? Of course not. Am I jealous Sony isn’t selling these for Playstation controllers? With all my heart. Get it together, Sony; my controllers are gonna catch a cold!

It’s only a matter of time before there are entire clothing lines for gaming controllers: novelty t-shirts, hats, flip-flops — you name it. Can you sew? Because we need to start an Etsy store pronto to cash in on this craze. People are crazy, and we have to monopolize. I’ll start sketching some controller fatigues for all the Call Of Duty players. We’re gonna be rich!

[via ReviewGeek]

Surface Pro 9 Liberty Special Edition lets artistry bloom on your 2-in-1 tablet

The first Microsoft Surface tablets started a new trend in computing. Although there were already tablet PCs back then, they were really just laptops that could bend or twist to become slates you could draw on with a pen. The 2-in-1 form factor with a detachable keyboard liberated people from being weighed down by what they didn’t need or use at that time, while the kickstand mechanism, though not exactly perfect, started a new trend in mobile devices and accessories. The Surface is celebrating its tenth birthday this year, and its iconic design has grown over time like a blooming flower. As if the mark that occasion perfectly, the company is launching a Special Edition of the device with engravings and patterns that turn the Surface Pro 9 into a beautiful centerpiece when not in use.

Designer: Liberty

Although many still look the part of hardened workstations and geeky powerhouses, a few laptops today have started paying as much attention to their looks as to their specs. For all the criticisms it received for its early performance, the Surface line of devices brought some of that design focus to tablets, something that is admittedly surprising for a tech company such as Microsoft, especially after its failure with Zune and Lumia. The basic design hasn’t changed drastically in its ten years, but Microsoft has, to its credit, continued to refine and perfect it every year.

The Surface’s tenth anniversary almost coincides with another major turning point in Microsoft’s history. Windows 11 was technically launched last year, but it only came into full swing starting this year. The new Windows release also brought with it a new visual metaphor, one of a blooming flower that symbolizes the collaboration of engineering and design, the merging of natural and digital elements, and the attention to aesthetics that Windows isn’t really famous for. What better way, then, to celebrate the convergence of these milestones than with a Surface Pro 9 that fills its surface with flowers, pun intended.

Made in collaboration with London-based studio Liberty, popular for its flora designs, this Special Edition isn’t just some skin slapped on the back of a Surface Pro 9. The repeating patterns of rhododendron flowers, the official flower of Washington State that Microsoft calls home, are laser engraved to give it a longer-lasting effect. It is akin to engraving fine jewelry, which is what this tablet wants to be. A specially-printed Liberty Keyboard brings those same patterns to your fingertips, almost literally, which also acts as a beautiful cover for the device when folded.

Whichever side it’s lying on, this Surface Pro 9 Liberty Special Edition is designed to look stylish and pretty, almost good enough to be a decorative piece on your coffee table or desk. It is an attempt to humanize these otherwise cold devices, but one that will cost you $1,800. Of course, there are plenty of skins available for the Surface Pro 9, but those might fade and will definitely peel over time like a wilting flower way past its prime.

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Someone revived the Microsoft Lumia brand as an action cam and I have to say, it looks pretty dope…

Microsoft Lumia Action Camera

With GoPro practically flailing, and DJI and Insta360 both being under scrutiny for their Chinese origins… there’s truly space for another homegrown action camera company. What better time for Microsoft to revive its Lumia brand (under their Nokia acquisition) as an action camera behemoth? The Lumia’s always had a great reputation for stunning camera optics, especially given its continued partnership with Carl Zeiss. The Lumia Action would be a wonderful idea and would give Microsoft yet another domain to expand its hardware chops, after gaming and computing! Plus the Lumia brand practically markets itself.

Designer: Dmitry Lyubimov

Microsoft Lumia Action Camera

For now, the Lumia Action is purely a fan-made concept, but it presents an interesting idea. What if Microsoft jumped into the action camera race? The company, which produced arguably some of the best camera phones in the early Android vs. iOS vs. Windows days, is well suited to take on the task. Microsoft’s camera department is rather dormant, but a great product would revive the category and reinvigorate the space, stealing thunder from DJI and Insta360.

Microsoft Lumia Action Camera

Microsoft Lumia Action Camera

Designed by Dmitry Lyubimov, the Lumia Action is a nifty, colorful action camera with the same format as the GoPro, and the block-ish round-edged design as Microsoft’s Lumia-edition phones. The block-shaped design owes itself to the block-ish lithium-ion battery that sits inside the camera, which can be detached and swapped out for a new battery. You’ve got a single wide-angle lens on the front, and a large touchscreen display on the back. The Lumia Action charges via USB-C, and records video and image footage onto a MicroSD card.

Microsoft Lumia Action Camera

While the Lumia Action isn’t real (and it doesn’t seem like Microsoft intends on even making cameras), the thought experiment in itself is a rather interesting one. For starters, the Lumia brand, while rejected because of the windows mobile OS, was loved as a design language. The iPhones were chunky 12 years ago, as were Android phones. Microsoft (or Nokia) Lumia phones, on the other hand, were loved for their vibrant design and their rejection of standard norms that blocky phones couldn’t look beautiful. In a lot of ways, action cameras fit within that same paradigm. Current cameras look unmemorable (apart from GoPros), and are all extremely chunky and block-ish. Instead of portraying sleekness, the Lumia Action embraces its geometric brick-shaped design, and comes in colors that instantly grab the eye and make you fall in love. Heck, this concept even supports accessories like selfie sticks… what’s not to love?!

Microsoft Lumia Action Camera

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The Microsoft Teams Speaker is a smaller, sleeker, wireless version of the company’s Audio Dock

Designed without all the multiport capabilities of the Microsoft Audio Dock which debuted just last month, the Teams Speaker distills its predecessor down to its basic function – being a purpose-built smart speaker for music, calls, and collaboration. With dedicated buttons to help you navigate your Microsoft Teams interface (or even other VoIP services like Skype, Google Meet, Zoom, or FaceTime), the Teams Speaker is a handy accessory to have on your workspace tabletop!

Designer: Microsoft

The Teams Speaker comes with the same design format as the Audio Dock but sits flatter against the tabletop surface without any of those multiports like its larger sibling. Sure, the Audio Dock achieved quite a bit with its ability to let you connect peripherals, hook displays, and even charge other devices, but it was first and foremost a speaker (at least visually). The Teams Speaker tries to stick to that persona with a flatter design that works both wirelessly or wired.

Buttons located on the top of the speaker make it easy to answer or decline calls, open applications, increase/decrease volume, and even periodically mute your mic with a hardware button so you’re never figuring out whether you’re on mute or not, or how to unmute yourself.

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The Microsoft Audio Dock gives you a versatile smart speakerphone that manages audio for Teams calls

“Add connections, reduce cord clutter, and upgrade your audio for meetings, music, and more.”

The Microsoft Audio Dock, announced alongside several Surface hardware releases, hopes to be the smartest most convenient speaker on your workplace tabletop. Styled to look somewhat like a cross between the Google Nest Audio and Apple’s HomePod, the Microsoft Audio Dock empowers and declutters, putting all your audio needs and requirements into one easy-to-use solution, so you’re never going “can you hear me now?” while on calls again.

The Audio Dock aims at achieving quite a few things simultaneously. It sits beside your laptop/desktop, being the primary audio device for your computer, and even acts as a multiport hub, letting you connect USB drives, hard drives, and external monitors to your main machine through it. The Audio Dock’s internal Omnisonic® speakers deliver exceptionally balanced sound, while specially-tuned voice capture microphones help you conduct calls with absolute clarity. Finally, a simple interface on the top lets you increase/decrease volume, play/pause music, launch Microsoft Teams, and activate/mute your microphone while on calls across a variety of audio/video conferencing apps.

Designer: Microsoft

The Audio Dock comes with an abundance of ports to add to your machine’s functionality. An HDMI port allows you to hook external displays, two USB-C ports let you power/charge other devices and peripherals, while a USB-A port lets you hook external storage like a hard drive or USB drive for storing/accessing work files. The Microsoft Audio Dock plugs into your laptop via USB-C and can even supply power to your device through pass-through charging, eliminating the need for an additional charging cable to add to your tabletop woes.

As a speaker itself, the Audio Dock is a rather capable little cookie too. Built-in Omnisonic® speakers deliver multi-dimensional, room-filling sound and deep bass for music and meetings, thanks to a 15W woofer and 5W tweeters that provide a comfortably vast frequency range for great audio. The buttons on top integrate into your workflow and are compatible with a wide range of apps (with a dedicated Microsoft Teams button), letting you listen to music and attend meetings in a way that feels much more intuitive. The microphone mute button has a built-in backlight that lets you know if your mic is active or if you’re on mute, giving you absolute foolproof control over your meeting, while the dual mics inside the Audio Dock capture your voice with clarity so you’re never scrounging for headphones or left helpless when your AirPods run out of charge in the middle of a video call.

Pricing and availability details for the Microsoft Audio Dock are still forthcoming, and this piece will be updated once the information becomes available.

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Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 offers powerful computing in a sophisticated style

Once upon a time, actually just a decade ago, the Surface name simply referred to a range of 2-in-1 tablets that transformed into laptops when a keyboard cover was attached. Today, the brand encompasses a variety of devices, including Microsoft’s very own laptop. Rather than aping Apple’s MacBook like other manufacturers tend to do, the Surface Laptop made a name for itself with its distinctive design that clearly marked it as part of a larger Microsoft family of computers. Now in its fifth year, the Surface Laptop 5 continues that tradition, bringing not only a new set of hardware upgrades inside but also a new selection of colors to match your own personal style.

Designer: Microsoft

The Surface Laptop has always looked smart and sharp compared to most laptops. Clean corners and flat edges give it a somewhat industrial look, while its minimalist surfaces provide a modern contrast that gives the notebook PC a unique visual character. Ever since the early days of the Surface line, Microsoft has adopted a special design tradition with the use of premium Alcantara material on many of its devices. The Surface Laptop 5 inherits that DNA but also expands it a little bit to accommodate the diverse tastes of customers.

Knowing that there is no one size or color that fits all, Microsoft is adding a new Sage color option to the roster. This grayish-green hue has earthy tones that call to mind pebbles and smooth rocks that are commonly associated with Zen gardens. This gives the Surface Laptop 5 a calmer appearance that seems to fit perfectly with today’s busy lives centered around computers. Customers can still pick their preferred Sandstone or Matte Black metal colors, as well as the Platinum colorway with a premium Alcantara keyboard deck.

The Surface Laptop 5 upgrades the series with the latest 12th gen Intel processors, all designed using the chip maker’s EVO platform to guarantee power efficiency in a mobile setting. Like before, buyers can also choose between 13-inch or 15-inch sizes depending on their need for portability or more screen space. Whichever they choose, they will be able to harness the laptop’s full potential for work and entertainment. Those include Dolby Vision IQ and Atmos for exceptional image quality and cinematic sound, a 720p HD webcam and dual far-field Studio mics for video meetings, and a battery that will last 17 to 18 hours, depending on the model and use case. Availability details for the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 are still forthcoming, and this piece will be updated once the information becomes available.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet brings new power in a new range of colors

Microsoft has been pushing tablets as powerful yet flexible productivity tools long before Apple decided to go on its “What’s a computer” iPad Pro marketing campaign. Although it has had trouble making and selling its own devices before, Microsoft finally struck gold with the Surface Pro 2-in-1 tablets, giving birth to a new brand of Surface devices that have become the company’s signature hardware line. Nine years and nine generations later, the Surface Pro still remains a benchmark for this class of Windows computers. With the Surface Pro 9, Microsoft is consolidating its lightweight and flexible PC while also breaking it out into new splashes of colors that will give customers more options to fit their aesthetic tastes.

Designer: Microsoft

Tablet PCs existed long before the iPad was even conceived, but those portable computers really stretched the meaning of the word “portable.” While tablets powered by iOS (now iPadOS) and Android were indeed lightweight and convenient to carry around, their earlier incarnations lacked both the hardware and the software to be considered worthwhile tools for work and creating content. The first Surface Pro in 2013 challenged those assumptions and started a trend that other PC makers would follow even to this day.

The Surface Pro’s core design has changed very little, despite heavy criticism of its kickstand’s “lap-ability.” Microsoft opted to focus on familiarity, refinement, and compatibility, with last year’s Surface Pro 8 making the biggest change that would see the bezels around the screen slim down considerably. This year, the Surface Pro 9 pays attention to a slightly different aspect, increasing the color options to include more vibrant hues to appeal to more design-savvy customers.

New to this batch are Sapphire and Forest colors, adding a bit of life to the more subdued Graphite and Platinum choices. As with any new Surface Pro release, there are matching Signature Keyboard Covers that are now partially made with biobased Alcantara material. This more sustainable textile contains at least 12% renewable content derived from sugarcane waste, making the Surface Pro 9 a little bit more environment-conscious this year.

There are more changes inside, of course, primarily with the more powerful 12th gen Intel EVO processors. Those familiar with Microsoft’s previous Surface Pro devices might notice the addition of a new Surface Pro 9 with 5G model in the list. This replaces the Surface Pro X line and is powered by a new Microsoft SQ3 processor co-designed with Qualcomm, pitting it directly against both the M1 iPad Pros and the M1 MacBook Pros. All in all, the Surface Pro 9 offers more flexibility in the number of options buyers will be able to choose from, letting them decide the features they need in the colors they want. Availability details for the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 are still forthcoming, and this piece will be updated once the information becomes available.

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Microsoft Presenter+ delivers stress-free presentations, whether in person or online

The way we work changed drastically after 2020 due to how many businesses were forced to adopt work-from-home arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though many companies have returned to normal operations by now, a lot have embraced hybrid work strategies that let people work in the office or at home, depending on the situation. During these tumultuous times, the one thing about work and even school that hasn’t changed is the need to deliver presentations. Very few people actually find that activity fun, and it can ironically be even more stressful when done remotely. There are a few ways to lessen the cognitive load when doing presentations, and one of them is by having the right tool for the job, like the new Microsoft Presenter+ remote control specifically designed for a hybrid life.

Designer: Microsoft

No matter how well you’ve prepared your slides and rehearsed your delivery, something always tends to go wrong during presentations. One of the biggest “accidents” that happen is a slide that just refuses to move forward or backward at your command. If you’re near the laptop or computer where the presentation is running, that might be easy to resolve, but not if you’re at a distance, whether in a meeting room or your bedroom.

The new Microsoft Presenter+ addresses a few of these problems and then some. With Bluetooth connectivity and a maximum range of 32 feet, you won’t have to worry about your presses not going through. Dedicated forward and backward buttons make it clear which does what, but these can even be reprogrammed to do other things if you really need some extra functionality. For in-person presentations, a screen pointer is also available to keep your audience focused on the content that matters.

The Microsoft Presenter+ is designed from the ground up for the new systems and technologies that have been adopted in the workplace, especially hybrid work arrangements. A dedicated Microsoft Teams button lets you easily join a meeting or raise your hand when you’re already in one. There is also a clearly-marked mute button, so you won’t have to scramble to click the correct icon. A helpful status indicator lets you easily see if you’re muted or not to prevent that awkward silence.

Although specifically designed with Microsoft Teams and PowerPoint in mind, the Presenter+ also works with other presentation software, including Apple Keynote and Prezi. With an easy-to-use interface and convenient shortcuts to often-used functions, this handy gadget keeps you focused on your presentation rather than on which button to press next. Availability details for the Microsoft Presenter+ are still forthcoming, and this piece will be updated once the information becomes available.

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