After the press event today, Microsoft had all of the devices available for a hands-on experience. Of all the devices, I was most excited to see the Surface Book and what it brings to the table so let’s start there

The Surface Book is of course Microsoft’s 13.5-inch 2-in-1 device which is as close to a true notebook as they will likely ever make. They wanted to redefine the category and they have definitely taken a step in the right direction. First of all, the keyboard dock has a very good keyboard. Travel was good, and the key presses themselves were very solid. Panos said in the keynote it was quiet but it was difficult to judge in such a noisy room.

The latching system is certainly unique. I spent about a minute trying to separate the top from the bottom before I was shown that you have to press a button on the keyboard to unlock the tablet. This is the right way to do it. There is no way to accidentally separate the two, and the only way you could do it is by breaking it which I would not recommend. It really does feel like a notebook when you are using it and not a traditional tablet that docks into a keyboard (can you say traditional about this product category?) and the weight of the keyboard itself ensures that you don’t have a top-heavy experience.

They are very proud of their new display which includes a custom display controller they are calling the G5. It processes both touch and pen input. The display itself is one of the first where the LCD driver transistors are now built into the panel itself as a thin strip along all edges. This allows them to reduce the bezel size.

I think the Surface Book looks to be a defining product from Microsoft. With the Surface tablet lineup, it took them a couple of generations to get it right, but they have taken all of that and put it into the Surface Book including the 3:2 display which should be very nice. Battery life is of course a concern with such a higher resolution panel but Microsoft is using an IGZO solution here so the impact may not be as bad as it could.

Moving on to the Surface Pro 4, it has gotten thinner and lighter again, somehow. It is just 8.4mm thick compared to 9.1 on the Surface Pro 3 and yet it still has a 15-watt Core processor. The internals of the Surface Pro were also on display. Microsoft has a very large passive heatsink between the battery and the LCD which they can use to cool the processor effectively without having to use the fan at all in most situations, but when more cooling is needed, they can turn on the second stage which is the active cooling. I was told that the solution can actually dissipate more than 15-watt load of the CPU so I am very eager to test this out and see if it suffers from the throttling that the Surface Pro 3 had. The move to Skylake here from Haswell should also make a big improvement.

The display is slightly larger at 12.3-inches because of the new panel. The bezels are reduced but not eliminated which should be better for tablet use. The Windows key on the side has been removed, which is a good thing since it is not needed with Windows 10 and I found myself bumping it by mistake too often.

I think the biggest improvement though is the new keyboard. It is somehow lighter and thinner, yet it is so much more rigid than the old model. But the best part is the new keys. They have much better travel and the keys now fill out the entire width of the device, and the trackpad has been increased 40% as well which should help it a lot. The trackpad on the Surface Pro 3 is ok, but you tend to run out of room on it a lot.

Moving on to the phones, the new Lumia 950 and 950XL both feel like they will be decent flagship phones for Windows 10 Mobile, but they are not as cutting edge as Surface. They are using the Snapdragon 808 and 810 near the end of their lifecycle, and they have not proven to be the best processors for phones this year. The Lumias do have liquid cooling, which is basically a heat pipe to help spread the heat around and keep them operating strongly. We will need more than a hands on to see if that is the case of course.

The displays looked great, and the return of Glance is a “finally” moment. Cameras were decent on the 930 already, so I am curious to see what else has been done with the new models other than just the specifications.

One great thing about the new phones is that the back and sides come off, allowing you to add storage or, change the back altogether. Microsoft showed off a couple of leather options for the back of the phone which would give it a premium feel.

The Lumia 550 was surprisingly good for $140. It feels solid, and the display is nice for something so low cost. I did not get to see this one much but hopefully we can get it in for review soon.

I’m going to skip the Band for now since I need to put my thoughts together on that one. It’s not quite a smart watch and not quite a fitness band, but almost more.

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  • maximumGPU - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    i just don't see how Microsoft can compete with those lumia prices.
    My daily driver is a lumia 930, and there are sacrifices you make when you chose Microsoft's platform, like the lack of apps, or apps of lower quality compared to their ios and android equivalent. This should be reflected with a lower price point. You can't expect people to just pay the same as the high end android and apple phones. Heck some top notch android phones are selling at discounts in order to gain market share, so i seriously doubt Microsoft's strategy.
  • jabber - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    For some of us its all about having quality hardware and the core 6-8 apps we actually use/need. Having 1000000 apps in your store is pointless if 999990 are useless or copies. I see so many people complaining that their battery life sucks and they have no storage on their phones. You look at their phones and they have 300 apps installed. They only use maybe 15 or so of them but then you tell them "Why not uninstall the ones you don't really need/use and free up some space?" they look at you dumbfounded and say "Why would I do that?" Muppets!
  • maximumGPU - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    I'm in that category. I don't need/want a ton of apps. But the situation is really bad on windows phone. BBC news app? there was a decent one that BBC forced out, so it stopped being updated. LinkedIn? terrible. Whatsapp? way behind competitors. Banking apps? good luck.
    Then i got myself a dji phantom drone, was happy it had a windows phone app, install, open.. doesn't work. sigh. Might be time to leave..
  • jabber - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    Well I feel your pain, I would go MS phone tomorrow if it had the Google support.
  • Le Geek - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    Again no mention of liquid cooling of the new 950s. This to me is the most interesting new feature.
  • Le Geek - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    in the 950s*
  • Aenean144 - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    Remember that the liquid cooling only transfers heat. It doesn't magically make it disappear.

    So if the SoC is using 10 Watts (don't know what the real number is), the liquid cooling is moving those 10 Watts from the SoC to somewhere else. If you are holding it, a lot of the heat is entering your hand. If it is docked, air convection is whisking the heat away, and since you aren't touching it, it can run hotter. (Don't like this scenario either).

    If you're holding it, it will throttle just like other devices do as peoples hands don't really like holding things that are hotter than body temperature. So 40° C is about it and it'll throttle. The only thing the liquid cooling may do is spread the heat across a larger surface area so more of the device gets warmer resulting in overall less surface temp on the device. Not sure if this much of a win though.
  • lilmoe - Thursday, October 8, 2015 - link

    First, it's about increasing surface area, and distributing the heat more evenly throughout the whole chassis. Basic physics.
    Second, this isn't about *eliminating* throttling all together, but keeping it at a minimum during the relatively short occasions the SoC is pushed to the limits, improving the experience further and minimizing hickups.

    The significant implication this might have is on battery life. Since the SoC isn't throttling as much, it'll be consuming more power. But logically speaking, Microsoft is probably doing this with continuum in mind which is where these phones will be pushed to the limits. But even then, the phone would be docked, and most likely provided with external power (charging).

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