Of the seven new products Microsoft announced on Wednesday, five will ship this holiday season: the Surface Pro X, the Surface Pro 7, the Surface Laptop 3 in 13.5-inch and 15-inch sizes, and the Surface Earbuds.
The two others, the Surface Neo computer and the Surface Duo phone, are expected in 2020. While Microsoft demonstrated them, we weren’t able to touch them or put them through their paces.
I had a chance to check out this year’s products. Here’s what you need to know:
Surface laptop 3
Hear me out — I think this computer might be better than Apple’s latest MacBooks, and the main reason is the keyboard. It’s awesome and provides a much smoother typing surface than the MacBook Air (which I’m using right now). I also love that Microsoft ditched the soft fabric material on some models, instead adding aluminum to the whole area around the keyboard. It looks sharp.
Plus, there’s an even larger trackpad, on par with a MacBook, more ports than Apple’s computers and a touchscreen. I love Apple devices, but this computer starts at $999 and it packs a punch. I prefer the 13.5-inch model to the 15-inch option because it’s more portable.
I’ll know more when I sit down for my final review, but I already think these offer better value than Apple’s current crop of laptops. Keep in mind, however, that Apple may launch a 16-inch MacBook Pro this fall, so Microsoft may not have the throne for long.
Surface Pro X
I wish this was the Surface Pro 7. I’m a big fan of the slimmer design and the screen that runs almost edge-to-edge. I love that it promises 13 hours of battery life and cellular connectivity. The pen that hides right in the keyboard fold is really convenient. But it’s thin for a reason: this runs on a new SQ1 ARM-based processor that Microsoft built with Qualcomm. That means it’s running Windows for ARM instead of a full-blown version of Windows that can run all of the apps you know and love.
Microsoft has struggled to get more traditional Windows apps to work on the ARM version of Windows, but the company appears confident that developers will fill the gap with apps that people need. Adobe has been one partner on this front. I’ll need to wait until my full review to see. At $999, I want this device to run all of my apps.
Surface Pro 7
There are three big updates here. The Surface Pro 7 can charge quickly (up to 90% in about an hour), it has a new USB-C port for attaching modern peripherals and it’s faster than last year’s model thanks to Intel’s 10th-generation chip. The design hasn’t changed much, but that’s OK. I still like the detachable keyboard, which is easy to navigate, and the really portable form factor. I just wish Microsoft would include the keyboard in its $799 starting price.
Skip these, at least for now. At $250, I expected features like noise reduction and better gesture controls. My gestures didn’t always register when I tried to change the song or adjust the volume, and instead often launched Cortana (a double-tap). You get 24 hours of battery life, but the case felt a little cheap.
They also look silly, like I tried to stuff two bottle caps in my ears. At least it includes USB-C for charging, instead of microUSB like Amazon’s new buds. In general, though, these feel like they should cost $99, not $250. Maybe we’ll get a break before they ship ahead of the holidays.