Everything Microsoft Just Announced at Its Surface Event
The big fall tech events just keep rolling. Following Apple, Google and Meta, Microsoft held an event Wednesday to show off the latest updates to its Surface line of PC products. Starting in 2012 with the original Surface tablet, the line has grown to include the Surface Pro tablet, Surface Laptop, Surface Studio desktop and other models.
The company rolled out three major new products: the Surface Pro 9, the Surface Laptop 5, and the Surface Studio 2 Plus all-in one. It also announced new creativity and productivity tools, including an AI-Powered graphic design app and deepened its ties with Apple by adding iCloud photos to Windows 11 and Apple Music to Xbox. A couple of new accessories to improve hybrid meetings are also available, including an audio dock and a presentation controller for Microsoft Teams. Keep reading for details.
Microsoft Surface Pro 9 and Pro 9 with 5G
For most of its decade-long lifespan, the Surface Pro has maintained a consistent look and feel, with only small tweaks to design, functionality and features. The Surface Pro 9 doesn’t break that chain, instead adding new CPU options and new colors to what I’d call a mature product.
The biggest overall change is that the Intel-powered Surface Pro and the ARM-powered Surface Pro X are combining into a single product line. The Pro X was a spin-off that looked and felt a lot like the regular Surface Pro, but with a custom chip called the SQ, which was a collaboration between Microsoft and Qualcomm, as the Pro X was built for broadband use.
The first two Surface Pro X generations used chips called SQ 1 and SQ 2, respectively. Now, the ARM-based version of the new Surface Pro 9 uses a chip called — you guessed it — SQ 3. While the Surface Pro X line was built around always-on connectivity, it was still operating on 4G networks. The new version, called Surface Pro 9 with 5G, finally adds 5G support.
The Intel version of the Surface Pro is Wi-Fi only, but adds new 12th-generation Intel processors for better performance. The range of available colors has changed, and now includes platinum, graphite, sapphire and forest. There’s also a limited-edition special blue floral pattern option, pictured above, for both the tablet and the keyboard cover.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5
The new Surface Laptop 5 is very much like the old Surface Laptop 4. Available in 13.5- and 15-inch sizes, the touchscreen laptops get a processor bump from 11th- to 12th-gen Intel Core chips, which should at least deliver better performance and slightly improved battery life. (There’s no AMD option this time around.) It also moves up to faster DDR5 memory, and its USB-C port now has Thunderbolt 4.
The rest of the package is almost identical to the 2021 models, including its 720p webcam. That’s disappointing since most competing laptops have moved to 1080p cameras for generally sharper, more detailed video calls.
Microsoft Surface Studio 2 Plus
Seemingly back from the dead — its last update was in 2018 — the “Plus” in Surface Studio 2 Plus refers to upgrades to more recent CPUs, GPUs, ports and wireless. The standout feature of the Studio line has always been the display, though, which in the Surface Studio 2 became a pressure-sensitive, color-accurate, 28-inch monitor with a hinge that provides excellent positioning flexibility for design work.
But Microsoft stopped selling that older model at least a year ago, leaving it dormant with seventh-gen Intel CPUs and Nvidia GTX 10-series graphics. So bringing it back to life necessitated a modernization of the innards, bringing it up to code with an 11th-gen CPU, RTX 3060 GPU and newer ports and wireless.
iCloud photos on Windows 11, Apple Music on Xbox
Windows and Xbox users with Apple devices and services might appreciate a couple new perks. Coming soon, Apple’s iCloud photos network will work with Microsoft’s updated Photos app, which is in testing now. And earlier Wednesday, Apple released an Apple Music app that works on Xbox video game consoles.
Past agreements between the two companies have brought Apple TV videos to the Xbox, as well as contacts and calendar syncing with Windows.
Microsoft Designer app powered by AI, other new Windows tools
The company also announced a new app called Microsoft Designer, which allows Microsoft 365 service subscribers to use artificial intelligence to create unique images based on prompts they input into the computer. The new feature uses the same AI technology in Dall-E 2, whose images have gone viral on the web since its initial release earlier this year.
Microsoft expanded other tools for its Windows operating system as well, upgrading Image Creator on Bing to use AI, adding video-editing tool Clipchamp to the Office 365 suite, launching a website for creators called Microsoft Create and incorporating a new shopping feature into the sidebar of the Edge browser.
Microsoft Audio Dock and Microsoft Presenter Plus
Microsoft also has two new accessories to improve the hybrid meeting experience. Microsoft Presenter Plus is the first presentation controller certified for Microsoft Teams. The Bluetooth remote does all the usual presenter things — advance slides, mute/unmute, screen pointer — but adds a Teams button so you can raise or lower your hand in a meeting to make engagement easier.
It’s joined by the Microsoft Audio Dock, which is part speakerphone, part USB-C dock. Compatible with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet, the speaker has a 15-watt woofer and 5-watt tweeters (much more power than your laptop’s speakers) and dual forward-facing, noise-reducing mics. It has built-in volume, play/pause and mute buttons, plus a mute status light, so you always know when your mic is live. Two USB-C ports, an HDMI 2.0 out and a USB-A 3.2 port on the back let you attach dual displays, external storage and other peripherals.