If you were waiting to buy a Surface Pro tablet, a Surface laptop, or a Surface Studio all-in-one PC in the hopes that Microsoft would radically change the designs of these flagship products for 2018, you’ll be disappointed by the incremental improvements the company unveiled on Tuesday.
On the other hand, if you’re a fan of buying your tech devices in a sleek black color, or are in the market for a new set of wireless noise-canceling headphones, this is the update you’ve been waiting for. That’s because all three of these Surface devices now come in black, and you’ll soon be able to buy Microsoft Surface-branded headphones, although they strangely do not come in black to match.
The headphones are only available in a Platinum gray color that matches the color scheme of the rest of the current-generation Surface lineup. They weigh 0.64 pounds and come with four microphones to provide active noise cancellation. Perhaps their most noteworthy feature is the left and right earcups, which double as control dials. One adjusts the volume, while the other increases or decreases the noise cancellation.
A full charge will take two hours, which should give you up to 15 hours of music playback over a Bluetooth connection. The headphones also support Swift Pair, a feature in the latest version of Windows 10 that streamlines the often-frustrating process of pairing Bluetooth perihpherals with your PC.
The Surface Headphones are a pricey $349, and Microsoft expects them to be available in time for the holiday shopping season.
As for the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, there are internal improvements to be sure, including new processors and storage options. But black is by far the main attraction, and it’s the only major physical change.
Surface Pro 6
The updated Surface Pro 6 is a Windows-powered tablet with a detachable keyboard, sharing much in common with its predecessor, the Surface Pro 5. It starts at $899 for the tablet by itself—all accessories, including the keyboard cover, cost extra. New for 2018 are eighth-generation processor options, including an Intel Core i5 and Intel Core i7. The Core m3 is no longer an option.
Microsoft says the processor upgrades will result in at least a 67 percent performance improvement over a similarly equipped Surface Pro 5. Otherwise, the specs are nearly identical, including a 12.3-inch touch screen display with a resolution of 2,736 by 1,824 and support for the optional Surface Pen.
Oddly absent is a USB-C port; the Surface Pro 6 shares the same I/O complement as its predecessor, which amounts to a USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort connector, and a proprietary jack for connecting to the power plug or an optional Surface Connect hub.
If you’re not a fan of the new black color, you can also order a Surface Pro 6 in the original Platinum Silver finish.
Surface Laptop 2
The Surface Laptop 2, starting at $899, also remains physically unchanged from its predecessor, and is also now available with eighth-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors as well as the black color scheme. Microsoft says the improvements result in 85 percent faster performance than the original Surface Laptop.
In addition to eighth-gen Intel processors, you also get the choice of SSDs ranging in capacity from 128GB to 1TB. At 201ppi, the screen has a slightly lower pixel density than the Surface Pro 6’s 267ppi, but both devices share the same 3:2 aspect ratio, which makes them stand out from most laptops’ 16:9 resolution.
The Surface Laptop 2’s ports remain the same as well, without the addition of a USB-C port. Instead, you get one USB 3.0 jack, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a mini DisplayPort, and the Surface Connect/power port.
Both the Surface Pro 6 and the Surface Laptop 2 start shipping on Oct. 16.
The Surface Studio, Microsoft’s ultra-premium all-in-one PC aimed at digital artists, photographers, and other creative pros, gets a component upgrade but not a new black color scheme.
Inside the Surface Studio 2, you’ll now find either an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or a GTX 1070, both badly needed upgrades since the previous-gen Surface Studio included GTX 9-series cards introduced several years ago.
The Surface Studio 2’s processor options are new as well, but they’re seventh-generation Intel Core i7 CPUs instead of the eighth-generation silicon in the portable Surface devices. Refreshing a PC without the latest Intel processors isn’t unheard of, but neither is it very common, and Microsoft is clearly betting that creative pros will be enamored with the design of the Surface Studio 2, with its unique hinge and incredibly thin display, instead of its raw processing power.
On the outside, there’s a revised display that’s 38 percent brighter and offers 22 percent more contrast than the old one, along with support for the P3 color gamut. Storage options have also changed, with Microsoft removing the option for a combination of SSD and hard disk in favor of an SSD-only setup with capacities up to 2TB.
The new Surface Studio 2 starts at $3,499, a $500 increase from its predecessor’s base MSRP. You can pre-order it now, but it won’t ship until mid-November.