Microsoft Refreshes Surface Lineupby Brett Howse on October 2, 2018 5:55 PM EST
In addition to the Windows 10 October 2018 update being launched, Microsoft also refreshed the majority of its Surface lineup today. This was very much an evolutionary update, and one that was sorely needed for some of their products, but with today’s announcement their entire lineup is now using the latest generation of CPUs and GPUs. We don’t have the full range of specs and pricing yet, but Nate is at the event today and will be doing a hands-on soon and will hopefully be able to get some more information. Also apologies for the photo quality Microsoft hasn't sent out press shots yet.
Surface Pro 6
Last June, Microsoft updated the Surface Pro 4 to the Surface Pro, dropping the numbering system while refreshing to Kaby Lake processors and therefore fixing the power management issues that plagued the Skylake lineup. Today, Surface Pro is now Surface Pro 6, meaning they’ve decided to go back to numbering. Naming aside, this is a good update to the product which was already near or at the top of its class in most categories. Other than moving to an 8th generation CPU, the rest of the Surface Pro 6 stays the same, including the lack of USB-C. Microsoft is offering it in a new matte black color though, which does look good.
Surface Laptop 2
Much like the Pro, Surface Laptop was stuck on dual-core Kaby Lake when the world had moved on to the quad-core Kaby Lake Refresh parts last fall. As such, it was in a pretty tough spot. It offers a nice design, great display, and comfortable Alcantara keyboard, but had sat idle for well over a year. The refreshed Surface Laptop 2 fixes this with the same 8th generation CPUs as Pro, and also the same matte black offering. Microsoft is claiming up to 14.5 hours of battery life on the new laptop, as well as 85% more performance, but the 85% gain is only because it sat with dual-core Kaby Lake for so long.
Surface Studio 2
We were one of the lucky few sites to get a chance to review the original Surface Studio, and it remains one of the best displays available on any PC, tied together with an all-in-one PC. The original version suffered from a couple of issued though, including being launched right at the tail end of NVIDIA’s Maxwell generation of GPUs, meaning as soon as it was available, it was also pretty much out of date. Today Microsoft is fixing many of the original complaints though. Not only does it come in a new “oxide transistor”
color TFT, the Surface Studio 2 now features a Pascal GPU with “6 TFLOPS” of performance, which should put it around a GTX 1070. That is a huge upgrade over the outgoing GTX 980M in the top model. Also, Microsoft is finally offering the Surface Studio with pure SSD storage. The hybrid SSHD in the original was one of its major faults. The amazing display with 192 PPI and a calibrated sRGB, P3 D65, and DCI-P3 gamut now offers improved contrast thanks to better polar alignment of the filters.
The new product in the lineup is the Surface Headphones, which offer 13 levels of noise cancelation, as well as two beam-forming microphones for Cortana and voice calls, and 8 total microphones for noise cancellation. They connect over Bluetooth, and will be available this holiday season.
Overall this event was pretty much as expected, with refreshes of the lineup. That’s not a bad thing though, since Microsoft tends to be slow on their refreshes, and all of these devices were in need of an update. We didn’t quite get the wow factor that Panos Panay and the rest of the Surface team can sometimes deliver, but there’s nothing wrong with iterating an already proven design.
Nate will check in soon with some hands-on of the new devices.
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MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - linkSurface Studio continues to baffle. Premium display mated to laptop parts. The press conference mentioned 35% more CPU performance, which means it’s probably sticking with U-series CPUs. Maybe they do the hex-core model, but that might be too expensive. MS missed big time by going with mobile innards. iMac (non-Pro) uses a 65W CPU, which is cheaper and has more sustained power over a mobile part. MS said they couldn’t make the design work with desktop CPUs, but I just can’t believe that considering the iMac Pro has something like a 500w cooling design. With the right internals, it would have been a walk-off home run. Instead, it goes on a 2 year refresh cycle with laptop parts.
Samus - Wednesday, October 3, 2018 - linkWhile I would have agreed with you just a year ago, laptop parts these days are ridiculously powerful. The Core i5-8350U, a 15w part, is faster than a DESKTOP Core i7 from just a few years ago that uses around 6x the power.
If Coffee Lake did anything, it was especially noticeable in the U-series parts.
PeachNCream - Thursday, October 4, 2018 - linkThere's really no point in desktop-TDP parts these days anyway, even in desktop form factors. You just end up bloating your system, adding cooling complexity, adding noisy fans, and discharging a lot more waste heat. We're at a point now where the majority of computers purchased are mobile systems of some sort anyway so the economies of scale advantage is leaning away from desktop computers. You could argue that GPUs justify the need for added cooling ,but look at recent NVIDIA graphics cards and how they've rocketed up in price, but offer insignificant performance advantages over previous generations within the same TDP envelope. They also have few, if any, actual advantages over iGPUs beyond playing games at higher resolutions which is something that already happens well on dedicated console hardware and isn't broadly appealing to adults anyway. So yeah, though I don't really agree with how Microsoft handles their operating system, I think they selected a good combination of hardware for the Surface Studio given its intended computing role.
Inteli - Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - linkSo the Surface Studio was released with Maxwell a few months after Pascal launched, and the Surface Studio 2 is releasing with Pascal...about a month after Turing launched. I guess it's better than before, but seriously Microsoft?
This event seems like a complete non-starter. The Surface Pro was released with a quad-core CPU...that everyone knew it'd be getting because the U-series processors are quad-core now. The Surface Studio is being refreshed with a previous-generation GPU...again. The Surface Laptop is refreshed with new CPUs. Oh, and some headphones. This entire event could have been replaced with a press release on their website. I guess making the Surface Pro black again is cool.
Alexvrb - Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - linkDevelopment takes longer than a couple months, dude. You can't just "real quick" swap the GPU in an extremely compact fully-custom design. If it was a fat desktop that could house a full-size GPU, sure. Why not. But it isn't...
6TFlops is plenty for the target audience anyway. I don't know why all these spec hounds keep acting like this is a gaming rig or something. Look at the frickin' display. Even the original Studio has enough raw horsepower for artists. The main flaw of the first gen was the SSHD, which is now a decent sized SSD.
MonkeyPaw - Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - linkI dunno, the thing begs to be used as a photography studio, but it needs heavy lifting processors, not mobile ones—especially when you factor in price. I know why Turing isn’t inside—there is no mobile equivalent yet. I think the GPU is actually probably about right—too many pixels to expect big things in the gaming department.
Inteli - Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - linkYes, of course development takes more than a couple of months. I don't see where I suggested that Microsoft could have put Turing in it and launched it now. I was more considering postponing the launch to fit a new uArch in instead of launching with the old one right after the new one was announced. It's not like the old Surface Studio could have gotten more outdated than it already was.
If anything, I think Turing's features would work pretty well in a machine marketed towards creatives. 3D modelling with real-time raytracing would be pretty cool.
I was actually hoping Microsoft would release the display without a computer. It's a fantastic display, but it's permanently tied to its computer.
GreenReaper - Thursday, October 4, 2018 - linkIf they wanted to delay, a better reason would be to get new CPUs with more hardware Spectre fixes. As it is we're still going to have to wait anyway, or else continue to buy "new" systems with firmware working around problems, some of which there is a known hardware fix for.
cbutters - Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - linkI absolutely disagree that this is a good update for Surface Pro.... The iris graphics 640 included with the i7 on the previous gen (surface pro 2017) is gone. Sure you get more cores; but your graphics solution has been gimped in half. #notanupgrade
ToTTenTranz - Wednesday, October 3, 2018 - linkYup, graphics performance will be a lot worse on the "new" i7 than on the 3 year-old i7 from the Surface Pro 4.
I guess they know they have a dud, which is why they didn't livestream the event and bragged about the new pro being cheap.