October 18, 2021

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Microsoft designs latest Surface models for Windows 11

Microsoft has built its latest Surface laptops and tablets, including the innovative Surface Laptop Studio, to take full advantage of everything new within the pre-installed Windows 11.

The latest Surface devices have low-light cameras and studio microphones to complement video conferencing in Microsoft Teams, part of the new OS. The hardware will be available with compatible trackpads and styluses that take advantage of Windows 11’s haptic feedback feature. 

Overall, the new Surface Pro 8 and Laptop Studio meet Windows 11’s extensive list of hardware requirements. Microsoft will release the devices and operating system in tandem on Oct. 5. 

“These [Surface products] are built to show off the best of Windows 11,” said Gartner analyst Stephen Kleynhans. “This is about having a more modern machine for a more modern operating system.”

Microsoft built into Windows 11 and the new Surface products features to address the need for video conferencing as companies shift to a hybrid workplace, a trend sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. To support Teams in Windows 11, Microsoft added to the Pro 8 and Laptop Studio a 1080p resolution front-facing camera that works well in low-light situations.

An unfolded Surface Laptop Studio
Microsoft redesigned its Surface Book model into the Surface Laptop Studio, a notebook with a screen that users can fold into a tablet without detaching the keyboard.

Also, Windows 11 will power haptic trackpads within Surface keyboards and in styluses designed to make writing on a tablet feel like writing with a pencil on paper, according to Microsoft.

The Laptop Studio uses Windows 11 to adjust the content on its display when shifted from one position to the next. It is a laptop with a display that can serve as a regular clamshell, slide forward to act as a propped-up easel for gaming, and folded down to act as a tablet.  

Panos Panay, chief product officer at Microsoft, said the Surface Laptop Studio evolved from the standard clamshell Surface Book and the adjustable desktop display of the Surface Studio. 

“It’s the most powerful Surface we’ve ever made, bringing you the power of a desktop but also that portability needed in a laptop,” Panay said. 

The Surface models will be the first Microsoft products to include the new OS. Computer makers Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung also plan to release PCs with Windows 11 on Oct. 5.

“[The Surface releases] will inspire the hardware vendors to offer the same or even better — keeping the PC market vibrant,” said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research. “Nothing is better than competition.”

The Surface Laptop Studio comes with a 14.4-inch touchscreen and up to 32 GB RAM. There is the option for an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor. For storage, there is a removable solid-state drive with up to 2 TB. Laptop Studio works with Microsoft’s optional stylus, the Slim Pen 2, which attaches to and charges from the base of the Laptop Studio.

The Surface Pro 8 laptop with a Slim Pen
The Surface Pro 8 comes with longer battery life and the long-awaited Thunderbolt 4 port.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8, which the company marketed as a 2-in-1 laptop and tablet, comes with a 13-inch touchscreen and up to 32 GB memory. It pairs with the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard and Slim Pen 2, sold separately. The Pro 8 comes with the quad-core 11th generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor.

The Surface Pro 8 and Laptop Studio feature the newest iteration of Thunderbolt, a first for Surface products. According to Kleynhans, businesses have been asking for this feature because many have Thunderbolt docking stations.

Microsoft also added the option of ordering the new Surface models with an Intel vPro chip, a chip many enterprises rely on, Kleynhans said. That might be an essential selling point for companies that need the extra processing power.

Surface products introduced this week also included the Duo 2, a foldable smartphone that competes with Samsung’s recently released Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3. With Duo 2, Microsoft addressed some of the problems people found in the original Duo.

The Duo 2 comes with 5G and a triple camera lens and mini screen on the outside of the fold, with the latter used to show notifications. The original Duo did not have those features.

The Surface Pro 8 starts at $1,100 and the Surface Laptop Studio starts at $1,600. The Surface Duo 2 is priced starting at $1,500, the Surface Pro X at $900 and the Surface Go 3 tablet with Wi-Fi at $400. The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard costs $180, and the Slim Pen 2 costs $130.

All the new models are available for pre-order online.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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