2022 marks a decade since Microsoft introduced its Surface line of devices. The company built a formidable competitor to Apple’s iPad in that time and worked to bridge the gap between tablets and notebooks to build Surface into a premium name in Windows-powered devices.
That legacy was a heavy focus of Wednesday’s Microsoft Surface event as Microsoft unveiled this year’s Surface additions alongside some interesting additions positioned squarely at harnessing AI-powered tools to improve user experience. The same can be said for Microsoft Designer, the company’s latest addition to Microsoft 365. Let’s dig into all of the major announcements from the event.
Surface Pro 9 (Starts at $999.99)
Surface’s trademark 2-in-1 delivers exactly what users have come to expect from the brand. Powered by an Intel 12th Gen Core processor, the Surface Pro 9 gets a bump in speed and processing power. Much of the changes to this year’s model are cosmetic, however. The 13-inch display features Dolby Vision IQ support, app icon spacing automatically adjusts when removed from the keyboard and Microsoft remarked on improvements to the Surface Slim Pen. The device’s casing will also feature colors beyond the type cover for the first time. The Surface Pro 9 will be available on Oct. 25.
Surface Pro 9 with 5G (Starts at $1299.99)
Probably the largest change to the Surface line comes with the 5G enabled version of the Surface Pro 9. Microsoft finally folded the Surface Pro X line into the proper numbered Surface Pro lineage, and is doing so with some notable internal improvements. Top among those is the addition of a dedicated neural processing unit, or NPU, that harnesses Microsoft’s AI algorithm to improve social functions on the device without using the CPU or GPU. This allows for video calls to be greatly improved with automatic framing, automatic eye contact and Voice Focus, one of the most impressive noise cancellation tools on the market, and all are compatible with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other chat apps. The 5G model also hits shelves on Oct. 25.
Speaking of AI, Microsoft’s new graphic design program, Microsoft Designer, poses an interesting use case for AI-generated images. While the Open AI DALL-E Mini program inspired many lovely nightmares born out of machine learning and user imagination, the more advanced DALL-E 2 program powers the new app in the same way. Users can create images through text prompts and pair them with text tools and templates to make complete graphics. Imagine the possibilities. Microsoft Designer is currently in web preview and will be available in both free and paid forms in the future.
Surface Laptop 5 (Starts at $999.99/$1,299.99)
Not a lot has changed with the Surface Laptop 5. Microsoft says that it is 50% more powerful than its predecessor, likely thanks in part to the Intel 12th Gen processors in the various models. This is both because of its performance and that it is now the only processor series featured in the laptop. Unlike the Surface Laptop 4, AMD chips are nowhere to be found in the new line, and Microsoft hasn’t provided much detail as to why. But you can get the new 13.5-inch in sage green (not the 15-inch version though.) On a more positive note, the notebook thankfully includes USB-C Thunderbolt ports. Both notebooks ship on Oct. 25.
Apple and Windows Shake Hands
Apple and Microsoft feel like eternal rivals in the computing space, but that doesn’t mean an olive branch can’t emerge sometimes, right? Microsoft announced that multiple Apple apps will get Windows 11 integration in the future. Users will be able to connect their iCloud accounts to connect photo libraries on Windows and Apple Music is also coming to both Xbox and Windows 11. The Xbox Apple Music app is live now while both Apple Music and Apple TV will launch on Windows next year.
Surface Studio 2 Plus (Starts at $4,299)
It’s been four years since the Surface Studio 2 launched, so people may have thought a new iteration of Surface’s creator-focused all-in-one desktop may be ready to show. Wrong. Instead, Microsoft introduced the Studio 2 Plus, an incremental upgrade to the existing model. The major changes are all internal, adding a new motherboard and Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU, but it is also powered by an Intel 11th Gen i7 processor. That’s a puzzler considering the chip’s age and all other surface devices featuring 12th Gen or better chips. The price tag is also eye-popping. At least they finally added three USB-C Thunderbolt ports. The Studio 2 Plus will be available on Oct. 25.
Presenter Plus and Audio Dock
The Presenter Plus remote and Audio Dock were introduced as new accessories for the Microsoft Teams lovers amongst us. The remote is your all-in-one presentation tool, with buttons for everything from scrolling through PowerPoint slides to a dedicated button that launches Teams and reminds you when you’re on mute. The Audio Dock features the same dedicated Teams launcher button plus microphones with noise reduction. The dock also has a passthrough charger and the ability to connect two monitors via HDMI and USB-C. Neither accessory received a release date or pricing information during Wednesday’s presentation.