Microsoft announced a plethora of new products during their Windows 10 devices event in New York City on Tuesday afternoon. Those products are pretty cool, and many had even been rumored of over the past few months. Let’s go through some of the products first, and I’ll get to the major issues later. Skip to the bottom if you have already been updated on the latest hardware news.
Surface Pro 4
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 was expected to be announced at the event. The latest iteration of the Surface family, the 4 features the latest 6th Generation Intel core CPU’s, alongside Windows 10 Pro. Practically speaking, a lot has changed internally since the Surface Pro 3. The basic rundown is as follows. A 12.3 inch PixelSense touch screen display with a pixel resolution 2763 x 1824. This display can be powered by either an 6th Generation Intel Core M3 / i5 / i7 CPU, paired with 4 / 8 / 16 GB of RAM, and a 126 / 256 / 512 GB SSD. Wireless options include 802.11 A/B/G/N/AC dual-band WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0. Connectivity options include a single USB 3.0 port, microSD card slot, headphone jack (3.5 mm), Mini DisplayPort and Microsoft’s own proprietary Surface connect port. It also has a rear facing 8 megapixel camera coupled with a front facing 5 megapixel camera. It ships with Windows 10 Pro, a Surface Pen, offers up to 9 hours of battery life, and weighs less than 2 pounds. Practically speaking – it’s a great device. For some inexplicable reason the keyboard is still sold separately and costs $129 on its own – which is stupid considering the fact that the basic configuration for the Surface Pro 4 starts at $899, and can go all the way up to $2,699 – without a damn keyboard.
Microsoft Band 2
Microsoft’s answer to the Fitbit / Apple Watch / Samsung Gear / Pebble / Android Wear, has been its Band smartwatch. Its second foray into the world of wearable tech is focused on health as well as practical usage, since the company is hoping to attract both the athletic minded and the average Joe Sixpack. It features a curved OLED touch screen covered with Gorilla Glass 3, so it should withstand a few falls and brushes with buildings / cars / wildlife. It also features Cortana integration, so it will work seamlessly with Windows 10 Mobile. Other features include GPS, heart-rate monitor, and barometer. Unlike other smartwatches (Glances menacingly at the Apple Watch) it is compatible with iOS and Android phones – aside from Windows Phone itself. It costs $249, putting it in line with most other smartwatches on the market right now.
Windows 10 On Xbox One
Microsoft finally provided a date for the Xbox One’s transformation from fantastic video game console, to even better home theater media player console. Practically speaking, the update will turn that hunk of plastic and silicon sitting under your TV into a (mostly) full fledged PC. It lands in November, along with an expected price drop for the Xbox One. If you were considering a media center PC, look no further than the Xbox One this coming season. It get’s better – the new update will finally allow for backwards compatibility with older Xbox 360 titles, as if you needed another reason to buy an Xbox One!
Now let’s move onto some really sweet stuff.
Microsoft Lumia 950 / 950 XL Smartphones
Blah Blah something something Nokia, something something layoffs. Microsoft managed to produce two new Windows 10 Mobile flagship devices which, to tell the truth, actually go head to head against many other flagships on the market so far as specs go. This is despite the fact that the company’s acquisition of Nokia proved….useless? At least on the surface. When docked, these smartphones provide a PC-like experience. This will be awesome for those of you looking for something simple to carry around and do everything. But it gets better, because these phones feature USB-C. You know, that new super awesome standard that will let you charge your device, move massive quantities of data, and run an external display all at the same time – from one port! This is achieved via the Microsoft Display Dock, which offers USB-C connectivity alongside standard USB 2.0, HDMI, and DisplayPort ports.
Both the Lumia 950 and the 950 XL pack practically identical specifications which I’ll lay out here, Below I’ll point out the differences. They both have an AMOLED Quad HD display with an eye shattering resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels covered by Gorilla Glass 3. Both have 3 GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, along with a microSD card slot for further expansion. Their main camera is a 20-megapixel ZEISS Optics lens paired with Tricolor LED flash. Their front camera is a 5 megapixel shooter that can do 1080p video. Their Wireless options include LTE, GSM, NFC, 802.11 A/B/G/N/AC dual-band WiFi , and Bluetooth 4.1. Additionally, each of these phones offers fast charging via USB-C, and Qi wireless charging, as well as the upcoming Windows 10 Mobile OS. So what are the differences between these two flagship smartphones?
The Lumia 950 features a 5.2 inch screen powered by a 1.8 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexa-core CPU, a 3000 mAh battery and a $549 price tag.
The Lumia 950 XL features a 5.7 inch screen powered by a 2.0 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 hexa-core CPU, a 3340 mAh battery and a $649 price tag.
Finally, upon it’s launch Windows 10 Mobile will be available for free on all current Windows Phone 8.1 devices in December, so long as they meet the minimum hardware requirements.
Microsoft Surface Book
The real shocker at the event – the Microsoft Surface Book. Many companies (Ehem, Apple) make a point of keeping flagship products under lock and key so as to avoid loose lips leaking info prior to their official release announcement. Secrecy is key they say. Anyways, somehow no one noticed Microsoft was making its own notebook / tablet hybrid device. So here’s the breakdown – It’s a notebook, and it can be a tablet. Unlike the surface, the keyboard is a real keyboard with LED back lighting and chicklet style keys, as well as a glass track-pad. Furthermore it has a built in battery which will provide extra power, and on the highest end configuration also packs a dedicated Nvidia GeForce graphics card with GDDR5 (the exact card has yet to be named). Using Fulcrum lever tech (it looks a lot like a watch band) the screen can bend while attached to the keyboard, like a regular notebook. The tablet can be flipped back to lay on the keys. It packs a 13.5 inch touchscreen PixelSense display with a resolution of 3000 x 2000 pixels. Powering that display is your choice of the latest 6th Generation Intel Core i5 / i7 CPU’s paired with either 8 or 16 GB of RAM and a 128 / 256 / 512 GB SSD. Wireless options include 802.11 A/B/G/N/AC dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1. Connectivity options include 2 USB 3.0 ports, Mini DisplayPort, an SD card slot, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. It’s rear camera is a standard fare 8 megapixel shooter, and its front camera is also a fairly standard 5 megapixel shooter. The Surface Book ships with an included keyboard, Digitizer Pen, and Windows 10 Pro. Finally it offers up to 12 hours of battery life and weighs in at 3.48 pounds. Prices start at $1499 and reach all the way up to $2,699 on the highest end model.
These Devices Are Awesome! What’s Not To… Oh, I See What The Problem Is…
The lack of USB-C (and to a lesser extent, NFC) on the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book. It’s 2015, and everyone knows that USB-C is the next generation of USB connectivity, it already started making its way unto devices a few months back (the Chromebook Pixel and The New Macbook) so why in the hell would Microsoft not include it with its latest devices? Especially when they start at $1499? That’s just stupid. Because following CES 2016, I promise you every major PC manufacturer is going to start including it with their “premium” and higher notebooks. Why? Because flagship phones are already offering it (including the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, ironically enough), so why should the PC maker’s be left behind in the dust? Sure USB 3.0 will be there as well alongside HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, and SD card readers. But those are just convenient.
Most consumers who can spend $1500 on a notebook these days are expecting to get at least 2 – 3 years of practical use out of it. But why spend so much money when a new standard is right around the corner? It does not make any sense. If you are looking to buy either of these devices and you have the last generation surface or equivalent device – do yourself a favor and wait till they release it with USB-C, that way you won’t be kicking yourself in a year from now when the new standard hits every major PC.
About Benny Sabghir: Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Benny enjoys all aspects of consumer electronics - especially writing about it. He also enjoys hitting the gym, running and discussing the history of his three favorite wars - The American Revolution, The Six-Day War, and the Star Wars Trilogy. Currently in Jerusalem, Israel. Follow him on twitter @Sabghir_Benny Find him on Google+ View author profile.