New Surface Pro 11 and Surface Laptop 7 | Copilot+PCs

Surface Pro 11 and Surface Laptop 7

After unveiling the next generation of Windows and Windows hardware (the PC), Microsoft also launched (available to order today), the first of their flagship Copilot+ PCs – the new Surface Pro 11 and Surface Laptop 7 – both powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite and Snapdragon X Plus Chipsets.

Surface Pro and Surface Laptop start from £1049 and are available on pre-order today!

Key themes are improved environmentals (more than 72% recycled components), repairability, ARM (Qualcomm Snapdragon powered), upgraded screens and cameras.

New Surface Laptop

The latest Surface Laptop offers a modern design with ultra-thin bezels, a vibrant touchscreen, an AI-powered camera, superior audio quality, and a new haptic touchpad. This comes in both 13.8” or 15” screen options and are available in four different colours – Platinum, Black, Dune and Sapphire .

Surface Laptop 15″ version provides up to 22 hours of video playback, while the 13.8” version offers around 20 hours – a staggering increase over previous iterations of the device making them perfect for hybrid, remote work and education. These both deliver exceptional performance and cutting-edge AI features.

Microsoft say it is 86% faster than Surface Laptop 5 and can power up to three external 4K monitors. As a Copilot+PC it’s new NPU delivers a staggering 45 TOPS NPU unlocks new AI experiences and delivers industry-leading performance for seamless productivity. It includes a large variety of ports and features Wi-Fi 7 technology. .

This has been redesigned from the inside out and is sleeker than ever before. It also has a brand new PixelSense touchscreen display with razor-thin bezels and 120Hz refresh rate, HDR technology, Dolby Vision IQ™vii and Adaptive colour technology which adapts perfectly to light for indoor or outdoor use. This generation, while including super responsive multi-touch, does not support use of Surface Pen and neither will Surface Laptop moving forward.

New Surface Pro

The newest Surface Pro builds on what has always been great with Surface, providing a versatile 2-in-1 laptop device redesigned for increased speed and longer battery life and to enable groundbreaking AI capabilities.

Powered by Snapdragon® X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus processors, Microsoft say these deliver performance that is 90% faster than Surface Pro 9. They support up to three external 4K displays, with two USB 4 ports, and a new 13” display (with optional OLED with HDR technology). Surface Pro comes with Wi-Fi 7 and optional 5G to keep you connected where ever you are.

Camera’s get an upgrade too, with ultra-wide, quad-HD front-facing camera – the best Surface camera ever. This makes the new Windows 11 AI-powered Windows Studio Effects like Automatic Framing, keep you in focus, even as you move around your space. The upgraded 10MP Ultra HD rear-facing autofocus camera also supports 4K video.

The new innovative Surface Pro Flex Keyboard, usable both attached and detached, offers improved stability, integrated storage and charging for the Surface Slim Pen. It also has a quiet haptic touch pad. Microsoft say that Surface Slim Pen also gets better – ink  flows which feels more natural with Zero Force inking, ultra-precise shading, 4,096 points of pressure sensitivity and a built-in haptic engine for a more natural writing experience… These are also backward compatible with previous Surface Pro models!

The Surface Pro incorporates a higher percentage of recycled materials compared to the Surface Pro 9, featuring 72% recycled content within its enclosure. It is also designed to be serviceable, with an increased number of replaceable components, such as the motherboard, battery, and cameras, among others..


It’s great to see Microsoft offering their customers more choice in this new realm of AI PCs with both Intel and Qualcomm options.

What do you think about new line up?

Microsoft Surface – Are you ready for what m”ai” be next?

Next week is Microsoft Build, and the day before (that’s Monday 20th May), Microsoft is set to host a significant event in-person in Seattle about the the future and of Windows, Surface and Copilot.

The event (which is not being live streamed unfortunatley) takes place at 17:00 UK Time (10:00am Pacific Time) and will showcase (I hope filled with the famous Microsoft sizzle videos) the next wave of innovation for Surface, Windows and Copilot powered by new AI powered chipsets…

As usual Microsoft has not disclosed specific details about what is being announced, but there have been many “suggestive” leaks, predications and teases about what is coming. What we do know is that this will be a big and “special” announcement.

This year, Microsoft have already launched the first generation of new AI PC with the release of the Surface Pro 10 and The Surface Laptop 6 which were built on the new Intel AI Boost technology – which you can read more about here.

So what is being announced?

We know this is a pretty big annoucement and we do know that this is the year of AI and the year of the AI PC, so we can expect some pretty exciting annoucements. Despite the various leaks, we wont know until monday what is actually coming, but we do know that Microsoft’s previous product updates were only around the Intel based devices and their ARM powered devices haven’t yet received an update.

Windows Insiders will be well aware of the all the AI innovating coming to the next generation of Windows 11 so we can expect some new AI wow to be announced for Windows 11 as Microsoft gear up for the 24H2 update coming later this year.

Next Generation of Windows and Surface (and Copilot)

Given the new Qualcomm chipsets such as the Snapdragon Elite X, it would make sense for this to feature in the announcements. These new chipsets (which I discussed here) provide huge NPU capabilities which are needed to process AI workloads efficiently without sloooooooowing down the device so it will be exciting to see if these feature in the future of Surface and Windows!

Will Copilot work “locally/Offline?

What? Well today, all the AI and Copilot experiences we have seen with Windows 11 (and Microsoft 365 Copilot) take place in the cloud, but I also wonder if Microsoft will discuss their plans and advancements around local/on-device Generative AI experiences. With the newer AI Boost PCs from Intel, what is now available with Qualcomm and what Microsoft have in their arsenal with Copilot and OpenAI, it will be interesting to see what Microsoft can tell us about how they could de-couple the AI experiences, providing the ability to run local LLMs “on chip”. This of course is as much about the software (Windows OS) as it is the hardware that powers it.

What about Windows 365?

I hope so – since Windows 365 is very much part of the Windows story and I’m hoping we will hear some updates about what is coming to Windows 365. We have seen huge performance and boot time increases this year, new innovation with Windows 365 Boot and Windows 365 Switch (i have covered this in another blog) so be great to see what is next for Windows 365. There were also many things annouced over the past 12 months such as offline mode that haven’t yet made it to market – could this be finally coming?

Will 2024 be the year of Windows 11 on ARM?

We are not even six months into 2024, yet we have already seen some of the most exciting innovation to hit the PC in a decade.

Earlier this year we saw the birth of the “AI-PC” which saw Intel ship their new Core Ultra chipset which includes their AI Boost technology (essentially an NPU) along with the much improved Intel Arc graphics chips which brought performance increases far beyond the i5 and i7 chipsets we have been using for years.


Why do we need NPUs again?

As we use increasingly more AI services, whether that is image blurring, sound enhancement or running a local LLMs on your device, Neural Processing Units (NPUs) are much much faster at processing these workloads locally and because they do all the hard work, the CPU doesn’t need too, also freeing up CPU time increasing overall performance. . This therefore also leads to more efficient processing and less battery use.


I remember back (too many) years ago, when the chipset battle was between Intel and AMD. This has moved on significantly of late though with Qualcomm now a real contender in realm of AI workloads, portability and battery/eco performance. Qualcomms new Snapdragon chipsets are built on what was previously called “Oryon” which was designed by NUVIA (which QualComm brought for $1.4 Billion in 2021).

Interesting fact: Nuvia was founded by a group of ex-Apple engineers who were responsible for the original Apple M1 + chipset architecture.

This Oryon chipset (known now as the Snapdragon X series) has been the result of that acquisition and ongoing investment. These ARM chip brings an amazing addition to lower power usage and energy consumption, mobile connectivity, longer battery life and amazing performance (especially with AI workloads) and will soon be running the current and next generation of Windows 11 on ARM technology.

Is Surface RT – Back from the Dead?

Well, yes and no – more sort of.

If you have been using Microsoft hardware (and Surface in particular for while, you may remember the Infamous Surface RT device that Microsoft launched in 2012 along side the Intel Powered Surface Pro (v1). Whilst not a success at the time (and laughed at by many), this was the real exploration of using ARM architecture in mainstream computing running a desktop Operating System (Windows 8.1 back then). Windows 8.1 RT was based on Windows 8 at the time but compiled specifically for the ARM chipset that drove the Surface RT.

Surface RT was a hybrid tablet developed by Microsoft. It was the first personal computer designed in-house by Microsoft and was released in October 2012. It ran on Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 optimised for ARM processors. It has a quad-core Nvidia Tegra processor, 2GB of memory, a 10.6-inch display, a USB 2.0 port, HDMI-out, and a magnesium chassis.

But it failed right? It did – but the failing (in part) was not really down to the ARM technology itself, it was more because the mainstream computing world only really knew the world of Win32 or x64 applications which were built on a totally different architecture and could not run on ARM. There were a number of Win32 applications that were recompiled for ARM and made available via the (then limited) App Store, but these were few and far between (a bit like Windows Phone) which meant that Surface RT was a good good for web browsing and web apps, plus the stock apps and re-compiled Office Applications which worked quite well.

ARM – “I’ll be back”

With the “fail” of Windows RT, ARM was pretty much a thing of the past until 2019, when Microsoft released the Surface Pro X, which I still love and use today. This was the start of a new era for Windows on ARM (some seven years later) which saw Windows 10 (WoA) running on a Microsoft customised Qualcomm which Microsoft called the SQ1.

The SQ1 was based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx laptop chip but with some customization.
It combined Snapdragon hardware with AI capabilities, resulting in a powerful chipset, which gave impressive battery life (well more than in the intel version), and quick charging (to 80% in just an hour). It also featured 4G connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi. Graphics are powered by the Adreno 685 GPU

Microsoft did a brilliant job of this. They produced a super sleek and super thin, fanless Surface Pro device which ran full Windows 10 on ARM. Unlike the Surface RT, whist it could of course run native ARM apps, it was also able to run x64 apps through x64 emulation. These apps did ran slower than they would on their intel counterparts, but and ability to run these apps without recompiling the code removed (mostly) the “app gap”. With devices now going to market (other vendors followed), it also saw software giants like Adobe, beginning to develop their own apps compiled for ARM to run natively. Looking ahead to today, there’s a good steady (and growing) number of apps that are natively compiled for ARM.

As Windows 11 was released in October 2021, we saw a new and refreshed experience for fans of ARM devices with the the support to run Win32 and x64 apps through emulation as well as native ARM apps of course. Microsoft have recently released updated to their ARM powered Surface Pro devices (only Surface Pro devices currently ship with an ARM option), the latest being the Surface Pro 9 5G which features the Microsoft SQ3 processor.

The SQ3 was built on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. This is an 8-core processor with 8 threads and is based on the second generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon chips. Graphics are powered by the Adreno 690 GPU. This also features 5G connectivity.

The Future of AI Powered PCs

There is no doubt we are witnessing a seismic shift in the market as devices are next generation devices are being primed for AI capabilities, and it’s nothing short of revolutionary. With Intel shipping their new AI powered chipsets in the fist part of 2024 and with what is coming from Qualcomm in the second half, 2024 looks to be the year for Windows 11 on ARM with new devices coming soon from leading PC/Laptop manufacturers, including new Microsoft Surface devices based on the rumours! Apple of course have also announced the M4 for their newest devices.

Intel Ultra with AI Boost

Earlier this year, Microsoft led the charge with the Surface Pro 10 for Business, armed with the Intel Core Ultra processor. What makes this processor different to the previous Intel generations is what they call their integrated AI Boost! This cutting-edge feature turbocharges performance by processing AI tasks locally. This results in a significant reduction in reliance on the CPU and, in some fortunate cases, even the GPU. This means faster, more efficient processing that’s sure to supercharge your productivity, powered by the Intel NPU.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite

But that’s not all! Qualcomm has also thrown its hat into the ring with the Snapdragon X1E Elite and Plus chipsets. This comes hot on the heels of their acquisition of Nuvia, marking a bold new chapter in their AI journey which we are about to start seeing hit the market.

Qualcomm AI Engine, Snapdragon X Elite can run generative AI models with over 13 billion parameters on-device. Qualcomm claims it has 4.5 times faster AI processing than its competitors. Qualcomm has called Snapdragon X Elite the “most powerful, intelligent, and efficient processor in its class for Windows,”

Apple M4

Yes so Apple have recently announced their new M4 Processor which will power the new iPad Pro. Apple say that the M4 promises 50% faster CPU performance than Apple’s M2 and is four times faster than the M2 in GPU performance.

Intel vs Qualcomm vs Apple

While benchmarking processor performance can sometimes be influenced by the manufacturer or even be misleading to the end user, the numbers below are really interesting to see.

The new Intel Core Ultra 5 chipset has also shown significant improvement, boasting a score of 2,150 and 10,450 for single core and multicore respectively. These numbers highlight the rapid advancements in AI capabilities and the potential they hold for our work.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite made a grand entrance with a single core score of 2,574 and a multicore score of 12,562. This immediately positions it as a formidable contender, outperforming the Ryzen 9 7940HS.

Qualcomm has added an AI engine to the X Elite too, which they say is capable of 75 TOPS (trillion operations per second) — that’s a huge increase over the roughly 34 TOPS the Intel Core 7 165H chip is capable of.

There are not yet scores for the Apple M4 to compare against the Snapdragon X Elite since the benchmarks for the M4 are not out yet.

Conclusion

With the latest iterations of Windows 11, we have a mature and stable build of ARM on Windows, that can run Intel apps in both Win32 and x64 mode, as well as native ARM applications. There are more apps than ever that run native ARM in Windows – and even Google have now launched an ARM version of their Chrome Browser.

The marked performance of the Snapdragon shows that will accelerate both the performance and advancements of AI edge compute in Windows 11, along with the efficiency and battery life expected. With this, the next generation of Qualcomm AI PCs on Windows 11 looks extremely exciting.

As we move into the second half of 2024, I think business, consumers, education and more are going to be super excited about the ability to get a new range of super quiet, super fast, super efficient devices with a real stonker of battery life that is able to run AI and traditional workloads with a breeze. All powered by Windows 11 on ARM and Snapdragon X Elite at the core.

So is 2024 the year for Windows 11 on ARM ?

Introducing the new Surface IT Toolkit

The new Surface IT Toolkit which was officially released on April 25th 2024, promises to be a significant tool to help IT managing and optimise their coporate fleet of Surface devices.

We are excited to announce the Surface IT Toolkit, a modern desktop application that compiles essential commercial tools and streamlines the Surface device management experience for IT admins – all in a single application.

Microsoft.

Replacing an older mixture of admin tools, the refresh and centralising of these essential tools into a one application should simplify the deployment and management process, addressing the common challenge of using disparate tools across various locations and versions. This should greatly enhance efficiency and ease of use for IT admins.

What is in the Surface IT Toolkit?

The Surface Tool kit contains a number of new and updated apps. These are:

  • Data Eraser – Which is a NIST [Special Publication 800-88 Revision 1 NVM Express] compliant data erasure tool that also includes the ability to create certificates of sanitization for compliance and auditing. This is beneficial when repurposing, recycling, or retiring a device to guarantee that no sensitive data is left on it.
  • UEFI Configurator – enables IT to implement Surface Enterprise Management Mode (SEMM) UEFI configurations on Surface devices and peripherals such as Surface docks and other accessories. The UEFI configurator allows IT to efficiently and consistently manage and disable components at the firmware level. This enhances security and compliance by safeguarding against unauthorized modifications to device settings. For example it could be used to prevent the camera being used to comply with privacy in schools, or block USB ports being used to connect to external disks for data compliance.
  • Recovery Tool – This feature enables a full device reset, reverting it to its factory state for troubleshooting and re-building purposes. It also manages previously downloaded factory images for reuse, helping to resolve common issues and restore the device’s original performance. The latest update provides a new guided process and no longer requires the serial number to be entered. It also includes ability to build from new or build from an existing image.
  • Tool Library – The updated Tool Library houses the most recent versions of supplementary tools and installers for deployment to end users, offering IT descriptions of their functions and links to the most up-to-date documentation. This tools here include the Surface Asset Tag Tool, Surface Diagnostic Toolkit for Business, Surface Brightness Control Tool, among others.

Video: Install and using the Surface IT Toolkit

Here’s little video that shows the relevant webpages, installing the toolkit and first run experience and tools available.

Usng the Surface Tool Kit.

For more information from Microsoft on this – use the following link

How do I get the Surface IT Toolkit?

You can grab the IT Toolkit from Microsoft > here <.

AI-PCs – what’s the hype all about?

The new buzz in the world of PCs is all about the “AI PC”. This term is the latest messaging being banded around from PC/Laptop manufacturers with a view to ensure that people, families and organisations are taking this next generation of PC into account when planning their legacy hardware upgrades over the next 12-18 months.

AI analytics and modeling require vast amounts of data, which are best suited for cloud, but performing some workloads at the device level delivers more efficient processing, or inferencing, by being offloaded to the device. These efficiencies could be applied to:

  • Visual inferencing: AI applied directly to the camera feed
  • Audio inferencing: AI applied to audio inputs
  • Live transcription: AI applied to language processing

New AI-PCs are being designed and built with specialised processors (NPUs) to support executing those models, and more, locally, in real time.

You don’t need to look very far to see the phrase “AI PC” everywhere both from Intel and leading device manufacturers including Microsoft, but what is the tech behind the latest tech phrase?

You may be aware that Microsoft recently launched the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 – both of these fit into the new “AI-PC” catagory!

Note: AI is the capability of a computer program or a machine to "think, learn, and take actions without being explicitly encoded with commands".

So what is an AI PC?

In short an AI-PC needs to have these three key components:

  • An Chipset with a new NPU, CPU and GPU built-in
  • Windows 11 and Copilot in Windows
  • A Copilot Key (technically).

Of course CPUs and GPUs have been around for a long time, but it is the NPU (Neural Processing Unit) that is new in PCs and it is this that is the key part of an AI-PC. The NPU (or AI-Boost as Intel calls it) is designed to process AI workloads locally rather than in the cloud which brings many improvements for the user, including processor efficiency, improved battery life and increased security.

The NPU is a dedicated microprocessor designed to efficiently handle AI-specific tasks, such as executing predictive models, processing machine learning algorithms, or powering generative AI applications.

Surface AI-PC – Available on Surface Pro 9, 10 and Surface Laptop 6

The Intel Core Ultra processors featured in AI-PCs like Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 provide a holistic approach to running AI workloads on PC. These different processors offer programming versatility to developers that maximise the three type of microprocessors – CPU, GPU, and their new, integrated NPU. With an AI-PC, each microprocessor (compute engine) has its own specialisation, but in the context of AI on Cloud PCs mean they work together when using AI workloads with:

  • The CPU being ideal for general and traditional compute workload as well as light-weight, single inference AI tasks. Think “accelerating cloud-delivered AI” while minimising impact on overall system performance.
  • The GPU being ideal for AI infused into media and 3D rendering apps and tasks. Users can perform data visualisation tasks, create and manipulate 3D images, or generate elaborate reports, enabling your team to efficiently tackle complex data workloads.
  • The new AI-Boosting NPU which is designed specifically for sustained and efficient offloading of AI models such as Windows Studio Effects.

What are the benefits of an AI-PC?

In short – performance, battery life and enabling new AI-Powered experiences.

Windows and many other apps have AI features within their applications sets, but put simply with AI-PCs these AI features and tools will work much quicker and will unlock additional NPU-Specific features.

The NPU is a dedicated microprocessor designed to efficiently handle AI-specific tasks, such as executing predictive models, processing machine learning algorithms, or powering generative AI applications. The image below shows the difference between a video app’s back-ground blur using a CPU vs an NPU. The device on the right is a Surafce Pro 9 with dedicated NPU and it is easy to see how much better the AI effect is when it is processing the AI workload locally.

Image showing the difference between a video app’s background blur on a CPU vs. an NPU.

The key thing about the AI-PC is the impact on the CPU processing AI workloads when there is an NPU present. With AI features like voice and video effects in Windows and the wealth of AI features in apps like Adobe, CPU workload is dramatically reduced as the NPU does the AI grunt work (and is far more efficient at running them) This leads to a more efficient device, increased battery life and a more responsive OS and applications for users. The image below illustrates the impact savings running smilar tasks on a PC vs an “AI-PC”.

Image (c) Microsoft – March 2024

AI-PCs will empwer and improve many experiences – as compute for AI workloads moves to more local-mode and hybrid-mode processing. This goes beyond just video effects and speech and will include things like object detection “seeing AI”, gesture tracing, security and many more.

Intel claim that “AI PCs with an Intel Core Ultra processor are able to edit videos more than 230% faster and perform AI image editing tasks 52% faster.

AI PCs are also set to be defined by how they align with Microsoft’s Windows operating system as well. One of the most consumer-facing AI products right now is Microsoft Copilot, which is slowly rolling out to Windows 11 devices and we’re set to see a dedicated Copilot key on some laptops in the future too. Over time this will also take advantage of local AI-processing with AI-PCs

Note: Today, Copilot operates in the cloud and thus does not utilize a computer’s onboard NPU. However, this is expected to change, as Microsoft has announced plans for new system architectures that will enhance Windows AI experiences by integrating the GPU, CPU, NPU, and the cloud.

Will the birth of the AI-PC reboot the PC market?

I think the AI PC will be the PC of the next decade.

The PC market has been in decline for several years, but IDC predict that 2024 is estimated to see a 3.7 percent year-over-year increase in shipments, ending the decline the market has seen since the highs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are seeing Microsoft, Dell, HP and Lenovo, jumping on AI PCs and with the next two years likely to be the time that more organisations really start to experiment and test AI within their organisations, the rise of the AI-PC is set (according to IDC) to kickstart the PC business again.

Pavan Davuluri now in charge of Windows and Surface.

Surface Under One Roof

Following Panos Panay’s competitor move to Amazon last year, Microsoft split up the Windows and Surface management structure with Pavan Davuluri looking after the Surface division and Mikhail Parakhin leading a new team that looked after Windows and web experiences.

As of this week, these divisions have again been consolidated, like they were under Panos, with both Windows and Surface being run by Pavan Davuluri. Pavan has been with Microsoft for more than twenty-three years and was a huge driver behind the recent custom-designed Surface processors (SQ) developed in collaboration with Qualcomm.

According to a memo obtained by The Verge, Microsoft says merging the two teams will “enable us to take a holistic approach to building silicon, systems, experiences, and devices that span Windows client and cloud for this AI era.”

Pavan Davuluri – Microsoft Surface and Windows Chief 2024

Personally, I think its great to see the reunion of Windows and Surface teams under Pavan which sits within Microsoft’s Engineering and Devices organisation, headed by Rajesh Jha.

This move also comes after Microsoft’s appointment of DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman as CEO of a new dedicated AI division within Microsoft which has presumably prompted a re-evaluation of their team structures as Microsoft look forward to an FY25 fueled by new advances in Copilot, big updates in Windows and Microsoft’s new AI-PCs.

Reflection

This move is welcomed by Windows enthusiasts, as it promises increased collaboration and cohesion between Microsoft’s hardware and software endeavours and just makes sense to see development of the OS that powers Surface (and of course the other OEMs) being overseen by the same person.

Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 – The new AI-PCs from Microsoft

Microsoft has just (21st March 2024) announced their 2024 AI-powered flagship devices – the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6. Both devices are AI-PCs, packed full of the latest AI hardware to designed to deliver the best performance of the next wave of AI powered apps such as Copilot for Windows, Copilot for Microsoft 365 and of course other AI powered applications from other software vendors such as Adobe. These new devices will yet again setting bar of how to make enterprise class devices for Business.

Video (C) Microsoft

Both the Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 also come with a new Copilot key, putting Copilot front and centre and showing that Microsoft means business when it comes to AI PCs and Copilot.

These new AI-PCs are aimed at business users and not consumers……currently!

When are the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 Available?

Both the Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 are available to pre-order now on Microsoft’s website. The devices will be released on April 9.

Introducing Surface Pro 10

Surface Pro 10 yet again improves on the previous version. In the case of Surface Pro 10 we see a huge improvement in power and performance boost over the previous Surface Pro 9 model thanks to the latest Intel Core Ultra processors which boost performance by 53%. As an AI-Powered PC, Surface Pro 10 also features a dedicated neural processing unit (NPU) which does the core Edge processing of AI tasks, reducing load on the CPU and processing AI tasks significantly faster than a CPU does.

Surface Pro 10 | Image (c) Microsoft

The Surface Pro retains the same design and format of its predecessors, but does include a new screen which is now non-reflective and 33% brighter, making it much easier to use outside and when travelling, while also retaining the same battery life. Microsoft also provide more configuration options than ever with options for Intel Core Ultra 5 135U or Intel Core Ultra 7 165U processors and support for RAM configurations from 8GB to 64GB.

Surface Pro 10 also gets a front camera upgrade and comes with a brand new 1440p webcam with a 114-degree field of view. This, combined with the new Windows 11 Studio effects and the Core Ultra’s NPU for AI workloads enables brings new capabilities for video enabled applications and clearer images.

Surface Pro comes with Thunderbolt 4 ports as standard for connectivity and charging but still includes the staple Surface connector port for connections to Surface Docks and Surface Chargers. You also still get USB-A and microphone jack. There is no SD-CARD slot which is something I still think is a poor decision but hey – nothings perfect.

Connectivity and working from anywhere continues to be a big theme for Surface Pro, with Surface Pro 10 being the first Surface device to support 5G.

Introducing Surface Laptop 6

Available in 13.5-inch and 15-inch models, Surface Laptop 6 combines the sleekness and modern design of a premium laptop with the processing power of a desktop, supporting for the first time, Intel’s H-series processors without compromising on weight, thickness or prestige creating a power house of a laptop, second only to the Microsoft Surface Studio Laptop 2.

Surface Laptop 6 | Image (c) Microsoft

During Microsoft’s live event in the US, they showcased the Surface Laptop 6 connected to multiple 4K screens, running video calls, complex graphics apps, Visual Studio and other apps showcasing the sheer grunt work and power of the device. Leveraging options to choose the Intel Core Ultra 5 135H or Core Ultra 7 165H processors means that Surface Laptop 6 can run at twice the performance of the Laptop 5.

The Surface Laptop 6 stands out not only in performance capabilities but also in its range of specifications catering to various user needs. At its base, the device is equipped with 8GB of RAM, which is quite generous for standard tasks, yet it offers scalability up to an extraordinary 64GB of RAM for those requiring intensive computational power for tasks such as data analysis, programming, video editing, and more.

In terms of storage, this now starts at 256GB Gen4 SSD, ensuring quick boot times and efficient data retrieval. For users with higher storage demands, this can be configured all the way up to 1TB of storage capacity, allowing ample space for large files, video, multimedia libraries, and extensive software applications.

Further bolstering Microsoft’s security credentials, Surface Laptop 6 also comes with additional (optional) security features, with options to include a smart card reader (currently available solely in the US) and near-field communication (NFC) technology, which is aimed at bolstering a client’s commitment to zero-trust security principles. These features enable swift and secure sign-in and sign-out processes, particularly vital in high-risk areas where security is paramount.

Surface Laptop 6 still of course includes support for Windows Hello for Business and of course user-specific PINs, again helping to eliminate the need for cumbersome passwords. This approach to dual-factor authentication significantly heightens security, making unauthorised access exceedingly difficult.

Sustainability and Repairability

Finally, I need to mention Microsoft’s on-going commitment to sustainability and reparability. Microsoft design all their products with the circular economy in mind, with “integrity built in across the entire product lifecycle – from design and supply chain through product usage and end-of-life management”.

The new Surface devices are fashioned from recycled aluminium, which not only provides a sleek, modern aesthetic but also reduces the environmental footprint of the manufacturing process. Internally, the device now includes QR code guidance, which simplifies repair processes and effectively reduces the overall maintenance costs, further catering to the needs of businesses conscious of their environmental impact and operating expenses.

This dedication to environmental conscientiousness and user-centric design makes Surface an exemplary devices and the most sustainable devices on the tech market.

Surface for Business… What about Consumer?

Unlike in previous years, Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 are only available for business customers. But don’t worry – Microsoft made it clear that they “absolutely remain committed to consumer devices.” “Building great devices that people love to use aligns closely with our company mission to empower individuals as well as organisations and we are excited to be bringing devices to market that deliver great AI experiences to our customers. Todays commercial announcement is only the first part of this effort.”

Microsoft is saying good-bye to Android Apps on Windows

just three years after announcing they were bringing Android apps to Windows 11 (via the Amazon App Store), they have now u-turned and said they will be ending support for their Windows Subsystem for Windows from March 2025.

Amazon Apps on Windows

In a support article on Microsoft Learn, they said “Microsoft is ending support for the Windows Subsystem for Android™️ (WSA). As a result, the Amazon Appstore on Windows and all applications and games dependent on WSA will no longer be supported beginning March 5, 2025. Until then, technical support will remain available to customers. Customers that have installed the Amazon Appstore or Android apps prior to March 5, 2024, will continue to have access to those apps through the deprecation date of March 5, 2025“.

Writing was on the wall

Is this a strange move? Personally no. Even though Microsoft has been continually updating the Windows Subsystem for Android since it first launched, usage was low despite it being a big promotional item to drive value of Windows as a single OS for home and work. Microsoft had initially positioned Android apps on Windows 11 as a way to compete/align with Apple and their move to support the running of iOS apps on macOS. The main draw back of Microsoft’s approach was that their partnership with Amazon did not provide official access to Google’s Play Store, making it difficult for consumers to access download the more popular Android apps on Windows. Personally, I think this is the main reason Microsoft might be retiring support for Android Apps on Windows.

I had used it a handful of times, but in most cases defaulted to Web Apps or the Windows native app experience. I’m not really one to play loads of Android games so it wasn’t really a thing I envisaged using Windows 11 for.

It could have been better.

I think if Microsoft has managed to leverage this system using the Google Play Store rather than Amazon store, it could have been a different story. Selfishly, it is not a service I will miss, but it was a good way to enable people to access a wider set of apps not available for Windows 11 devices.

Microsoft need to spend more time on getting more developers to write apps for Windows. Its an age old problem Microsoft have experienced and whilst the best it is ever been, Windows is still not a default destination for apps with many apps being web apps for more common social media and gaming apps outside of the big hitting apps and those supported in Xbox and Windows Games.

Microsoft Surface Go 4 Review

Surface Go 4 Blog Cover Page

Whilst there is nothing new or standout about the Surface Go 4, it is the latest version of Microsoft’s small 10-inch tablet which is ideal for use at home, as a companion device, when travelling or when away, Surface Go is also extremely popular in education, Heathcare, front-line and field operations, retail and in call/contact centres. Surface Go 4 ships with Windows 11.

Being a huge fan of the Surface Family and being a fan of the Surface Go 2 LTE and Surface Go 3 for traveling and working on the go, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Surface Go 4 and put it through the paces to see how much compared to the previous version.

Introducing the Surface Go 4

The Surface Go 4 is looks very much the same when compared to its predecessor, the Surface Go 3 – Infact, the design hasn’t really changed since the original Surface Go. It measures 245 x 175 x 8.3mm and weighs just 529grams. It has a 10.5inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS screen with high quality, solid magnesium body, complete with “any angle” kickstand, single USB-C port, Surface Connect Port and headphone jack port and optional Surface Pen and Type Cover Keyboard. You can find the full spec here:

Surface Go 3 vs Surface Go 4

Being the same overall size and dimensions, the great thing if you are upgrading from a previous generation Surface Go is that it is fully compatible with the any Surface Go accessories such as keyboards or cases you may have. This iteration does get an upgraded chipset and therefore performance lift over the 2021/22 version and is still built with high-quality magnesium alloy body with a premium finish making it feel like a premium device – which Surface is. I do wish, fours on however, that Microsoft would have reduced the oversized black screen bezels a little as it does look a little dated compared to other tablets.

Surface Go is used a lot in education and with frontline workers. This is one of the reasons for the larger screen bezels. This makes it much easier to hold without accidently touching the screen.

Signature Look and Feel

As you expect with Surface 2-in-1 devices, Surface Go 4 gives you the familiar kickstand which is built into the back of the device and can be easily folded out to various angles making it extremely versatile as a tablet or a laptop with the optional (and not included) keyboard. The kick stand is smooth in operation and very sturdy. 

Surface Kick Stand

On the underside of the kickstand, you can find a MicroSD card slot. On the sides of the device, you will find the familiar Surface Connect port, a headphone jack and a USB C 3.1 port which can also be used for charging the device as well as connecting to a range of peripherals, docks or displays.

Camera, Video and Windows Hello®️

You get two cameras. At the back of device, there is an 8-megapixel camera which is good medium range camera for a rear camera on a laptop. At the front you get a 5-megapixel webcam which performs really well in various light settings on video calls and when recording in apps like PowerPoint and Clip Champ. Unlike the Surface Laptop Go, you do also get the additional sensors for Windows Hello and light adjustment and as always Windows Hello works incredibly fast.

Repairability and Sustainability

Microsoft have continued to improve on the repairability and sustainability of their devices and supply chain. Surface Go 4 is more repairable than ever, with the display, battery and back cover, kickstand, motherboard, microSDXC card reader, type cover connector, front, rear and Windows Hello camera, and speakers all being replaceable.

Screen

Surface Go 4 has the same 10.5-inch 10-point multi-touch, PixelSense display as its predecessor and has an aspect ratio of 3:2. Microsoft consistently uses this aspect, and it remains the perfect ratio for office or schoolwork.

Screen resolution supports 1920 x 1280 pixels, meaning you get a Full HD resolution on a 10.5-inch screen which makes it look super sharp and clear. The screen is bright, and colours are vibrant, and you also get great viewing angles. Gorilla Glass 3 also protects the screen. Touch is accurate and responsive as always.

For a late 2023 device, it's a shame that Microsoft didn't upgrade to a 120Hz panel as they have in the latest Pro and Laptop range. I would have also liked to have seen anti-glare screen options to help in outdoor or bright conditions.

Audio and Sound

Yoi get stereo sound with speakers located on the left and right of the display. Whilst sound quality is not studio level like you get on the Surface Laptop Studio, it is more than good enough for calls and watching videos when away or watching in bed. making it a great all-rounder and fine if you want to use it as an entertainment device.

Power and Performance

Microsoft Surface Go 4 is powered by an Intel N200 processor and comes with 8GB of RAM as a standard. This an improvement over the previous models which started at 4GB RAM which was simply not enough in my experience. Storage starts at 64GB SSD storage and provide options of 128GB and 256GB too. Strangely there is no LTE/4/5G version this time round.

According to benchmark reports I have seen, performance of the Surface Go 4 is slightly better than the Surface Go 3 due to the slightly updated chipset and is also more powerful than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE tablet. It falls short of the Apple iPad 9. which is to be expected.

Performance, like many things is subjective though. The Surface Go 4 (I have been using the 8GB/256GB) version which was more than sufficient for multi-tasking office apps and personal social media and video streaming apps.

Usage and Experience

Surface Go 4 is positioned as a work or school device and not designed (unlike a high-end iPad) for video editing or playing video intensive games. That said, for office apps and web applications, I noticed no performance lags at all and the device multi-tasked well. Microsoft’s Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote run smoothly and I was able to have many Edge tabs open at the same time with any issues.

Surface is also a great device for watching stuff on YouTube, Netflix, Disney +. This combined with good performance for multitasking with business or school apps, makes Surface Go 4 an affordable, practical, light weight and fully featured 2-in-1 device. I find this great when I travel or work away without having to take two devices.

Type Cover Keyboard

All previous generations of the Microsoft Type Cover for Surface Go are compatible with Surface Go 4 and the design has not changed with version 4. You can of course buy cheaper (non-Microsoft covers) or USB keyboards, but don’t. Microsoft’s Type Cover keyboard is excellent.

In case you are not familiar; Microsoft’s Type Cover keyboard is extremely high quality. It is made of plastic but has a very high-quality finish and a fabric-like surface. It includes a backlight and is magnetically attached to the tablet and protects the display when folded. Due to the slight angle of the keyboard that the magnetic connector creates, it makes it feel much more like a laptop than cheap ‘flat’ keyboard.

Surface Go 4 Type Cover
Surface Go Type Cover Keyboard.

The keyboard is relatively large for a small 10-inch tablet but does not feel small to use. I can easily touch type on this without effort or having to change how I type. The Type Cover is comfortable to use and much better than some of the cheap tablet keyboards I have used in the past.

There is a touchpad under the keyboard, which, while not a big as some laptops, is a good balance of size and usability whilst helping to avoid accidental touches on the touch panel.

The Surface Pen

For me, a touch screen and pen are a non-negotiator when choosing a device for work or home. Once critiqued by Apple saying that “no one would ever need to use a pen with a tablet”, Surface Pen has been a stable companion to the Surface Pro since the first Surface in 2012.

Surface Go 4 supports all previous iterations of Surface Pens (expect the ones that shipped on the first Surface Pro 1 and Surface RT devices) including the Surface Slim Pen and Slim Pen 2. The Surface Pen is very responsive and precise, and it’s fun to take handwritten notes with it. The lates

Whilst optional to buy, Surface Go 4 together with the Surface Pen and writing and graphics apps like OneNote, MS Paint, Designer, Edge, PDF etc, are what make Surface standout. Yes, you can do this on most tablets, but Surface is by far the best (and original) 2-in-1 device in my experience.

With the latest update to Windows 11, there is now also support for inking anywhere you can type in dialogue boxes.

Windows 11 brings Surface to Life

Everyone knows that Windows is not an OS designed for tablet only devices. Windows 8 tried too hard to make Tablet mode work (and was awful) and Windows 10 had various attempts at tablet mode, but Windows 11 has actually (finally) done a half decent job of adapting the OS to work with tablet devices. This includes 2-in-1s like Surface Go 4.

With Windows 11, tablet mode is switched on automatically when the keyboard is disconnected or folded back to use the device in tablet mode.

In tablet mode, the Windows taskbar becomes significantly larger so that it is easier to use with your finger or pen and the customisable on-screen keyboard opens whenever you click/tap in a text field. If have a Surface Pen, then you also get quick access to the Windows Inking features.

Within Windows, some apps are also tailored for use with Tablets, and some even adapt based on the use mode. OneNote is a good example. When using OneNote in tablet mode, the canvas gets simplified and decluttered, making it much easier to use with pen and ink.

Using Surface with Android Apps

While a Windows thing more than a Surface thing, Windows 11 supports the use of many Android apps via the Amazon App Store. To use this, you need to install the Amazon Appstore via the Microsoft Store.

Amazon App Store in Windows 11

You can then install a vast number of apps and games such as angry birds or City Mapper and use them just like any other app. Whilst you don’t get the full library of native Android apps you get in the Play store, there are thousands, and it works seamlessly once installed from the Microsoft Store.

Surface is even better with Windows 365

Windows 365 is Microsoft’s desktop as a service which is delivered as a SaaS service to business/corporate users. It is a dedicated Cloud PC which is provisioned, used, managed, and updated just like a physical PC but runs in the Microsoft Cloud. Windows 365 provides an “instant on” desktop environment than can be accessed securely from any device (or browser) and allows you to pick up where you left off, providing a seamless experience with all your corporate applications and files available wherever you need it. Since Windows 365 is a Cloud Service, access to it is secure, instantly provisioned, upgraded or updated and since it can be used on “any” device avoids the need for hardware upgrades, protects against device loss and theft and removes the data security / leakage risk of having corporate information on physical devices.

So why Surface Go 4 and Windows 365? Well, I have recently got myself a Surface Go 4 for home and family. The kids love using pen and ink and we use a Microsoft 365 Family subscription for personal, school and work stuff.

When I’m away from the office or traveling with my family, I often need to access work-related files and applications. Windows 365 allows me to securely multitask on our shared device without having to install and download apps, set up complicated VPN services, or compromise company security or confidentiality by using a personal device for work. With Windows 365, I can use my personal device as a work device and switch back seamlessly as needed. Plus, if my kids want to play with Designer or watch YouTube, I can pause what I’m doing and resume later without worrying that they will mess up any of my work.

I’ve written other posts on Windows 365 before, and for more information on Windows 365 you can check Microsoft’s official sites here.

My Conclusion

Starting at £549 in the UK (pen and keyboard separate), Microsoft Surface Go 4 is a well priced, versitile allrounder that is great for home, work, school or a combination of all (maybe combined with Windows 365).

Surface Go continues to be a great choice if you need/want a “proper” Windows based PC type device rather than “just a tablet”. This is not a device for intense gamers or graphic designers, but for everything else, it’s a great device that is well built, offers high quality, is super repairable and includes full multipoint touch, pen support and a full and versitle type cover ketboard.

The only dissapointment was battery life. Windows devices in my experience just dont have the power efficienicies that Apple iPads offer.

If you have a Surface Go 3, I would not reccommend rushing out and upgrading (unless you have an etry level one with 4GB RAM). If you do not need a Windows device or just want a tablet to watch films on and browse social media, then Surface Go may be wasted on you.

Surface Go is also a great second device. If you have a desktop for work or home (or a chunky, heavy laptop), Surface Go is a grwat choice as a flexible second device that can also be used for work with or without Windows 365 (see above).

Copilot for Microsoft 365 features are now available from Windows 11 desktop

On Windows 11. corporate users with a Copilot for Microsoft 365 license will see that premium experience is now integrated into the Copilot Windows desktop experience.

This means that users who have a Copilot for Microsoft 365 license and Copilot for Windows enabled can chat with Copilot in Windows using Graph-based features.

With a unified experience across M365 Chat, Copilot in Windows 11 and the Copilot on the web experience, users can now leverage the Microsoft Graph connected features in Windows, thanks to the integration of Copilot for Microsoft 365 into the Windows desktop experience.

This experience requires users to have a Copilot for Microsoft 365 license, as well as having Copilot i Windows 11 experience, making it a convenient and consisytent experience for users to access Copilot in Microsoft 365 features, along side the existing options in Teams Chat, Edge, and at https://copilot.microsoft.com.

For comsumer users wanted to leverage the advanced feaures of Copilot in their apps and services like OneNote, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook, checkout Copilot Pro

Surface devices will now get firmware updates for six years

Microsoft have announced (quietly) that all Surface devices shipped from 2021 onwards will now receive firmware updates for six years (two years more than initially committed).

The documentation states that all Surface devices shipped after 1st January 2021, will receive six years of firmware updates. Devices that shipped prior to this date will continue to receive update for four years.

What Surface devices will receive six years of updates?

Any Surface device shipped after Jan 1st 2021, the following devices will now benefit from the extended firmware support cycles.

  • Surface Pro 7+ onwards.
  • Surface Go 3 onwards.
  • Surface Laptop 4 onwards.
  • Surface Laptop Studio 1 onwards.
  • Surface Studio 2+ onwards.

What about older Surface Devices?

In their documentation, Microsoft states they reserve the right to extend the firmware support cycle for any device where necessary. For example, Microsoft have already extended the firmware update life cycle with the Surface Studio 2 despite this shipping in 2018. This already has a six support file until later this year (2024).

It is worth noting that firmware updates are different to the Windows Operating System updates that devices receive through Windows Updates. Firmware updates are software updates that are applied to the hardware components of a device, such as a motherboard, a hard drive, or a graphics card. Firmware updates can improve the performance, stability, security, or compatibility of the device. Firmware updates are usually provided by the device manufacturer and can be downloaded from their website or through Windows Update.

Firmware updates are sometimes needed to fix driver compatibility issues, known bugs or security vunerabilities and may also be required (or recommended) for major OS upgrades, but are not always necessary. As such there is no issue continuing to use devices that are beyond the firmware lifecycle end date.

What do firmware updates do?

Firmware updates are software updates that are applied to the hardware components of a device, such as a motherboard, a hard drive, or a graphics card. Firmware updates can improve the performance, stability, security, or compatibility of the device. Firmware updates are usually provided by the device manufacturer (in this case Microsoft) and can be downloaded from their website or are delivered/offered directly via Windows Update.

Firmware updates are sometimes needed to fix driver compatibility issues, known bugs or security vunerabilities and may also be required (or recommended) for major OS upgrades, but are not always necessary. As such there is no issue continuing to use devices that are beyond the firmware lifecycle end date.

Firmware updates are important for Surface devices because as well as fixing bugs or vulnerabilities, they also optimise and “tune” the device’s compatibility with Windows and drivers. Typically a firmware update can improve stability, enhance the battery life and improve/tweak performance of the device, and sometimes they can introduce or activate new Windows features. Therefore, it is beneficial to have firmware updates for your Surface devices as long as possible so this extended support cycle is welcomed.

The Future Of Surface

With the departure of Panos Panay last year, many have questioned what the future will look like for Surface. We know there will be some major updates this year to the Surface Pro and Laptop lines (I’m sure you’ve seen some of the “leaks”) as they continue to press forward with updates to Windows (and the next version) which will see more AI goodness throughout the OS.

This coupled with the longer support lifecycles for their older devices also suggests a commitment to continue to innovate and lead the future vision of the Windows device eco system.

Changes coming to Windows 11 in 2024 to comply with the DMA

2024 will see Microsoft ship their “Moments 5” update to Windows 11, which as well as the usually hunch of feature enhancements and tweaks to the OS, will also bring the necessary changes Microsoft are being forced to make in order to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

This update is expected to drop sometime in Q1 2024 following the usual testing with the Windows Insider community. It will be delivered as a cumulate update via the Windows Update service.

Moment 5 is likely to be the last Moment update for Windows 11, as there is expectation thst the next major OS update will be launched sometime in 2024.

Here’s a summary of some of the key changes you can expect.

Changes needed to comply with the DMA

  • Ability to uninstall more of the in-box applications such as Microsoft Edge, Camera, and Photos. The ability to remove Edge will be limited to users in the Europe only.
  • Start menu’s All Apps list will be renamed to All and operating system components are clearly labelled with “system”.
  • Ability to disable Microsoft News integration from the Widgets Board. This also includes the ability to replace it with third-party news services instead.

Updates and general improvements

  • The ability to ink directly into text boxes across the Windows OS.
  • The ability to use third-party search providers in the Windows Search pane
  • Ability to give friendly names to Nearby Share so you can give more readable names to make it easier to find and connect.
  • Anility to use Windows Spotlight as the default wallpaper setting
  • Voice Access is getting a new feature called “voice shortcuts,” which allows you to create custom commands that use your voice to activate. This can be used to create an action based on a custom phrase.
  • In-box app updates to Notepad, Paint and the Microsoft Store.

Updates to Copilot in Windows

  • Copilot can be “undocked” allowing apps to exist underneath the Copilot sidebar instead of being forced to appear next to it. This makes it easier to work with Copilot.
  • The Copilot interface will also show in the Windows ALT+TAB menu, making it easier to  switch to and from it.
  • Copilot will also work across multiple displays rather than just the primary.

Updates to Windows 365

  • Improvements to the Windows 365 integration in Windows 11, including allowing companies the ability to customise the login page.
  • Users will be able to disconnect from the Cloud PC via Task View or Start menu.
  • Ability to configure local device settings from the CloudPC.
  • Task View now also has visual indicators that pop up just above the Taskbar whenever you switch between your local desktops or Cloud PC using task switcher. This makes it easiet to know if you are on the local or Cloud PC.
  • Ability to use Dedicated Mode to boot to the Cloud PC from a company-owned device.

These are the main changes coming in Q1 2024 in what will be an interesting and fast paced year for updates, AI advances and new hardware for Microsoft.

For now, have a great new year whatever your plans, ambitions or dreams are..

Thanks for tuning in

Rob.

Why I can’t stop using Windows 365 CloudPC

I wanted to share my personal experience of using Windows 365 Cloud PC as my main device for the past 4 weeks since getting access to this as part of our partner internal use rights!

In short, I was using this both to test it out, but also because my new laptop had not arrived so I was left with the option to re-image an old one or repurpose our “home” laptop and use it as a gateway to Windows 365 – I chose the latter.

Four weeks later, using Windows 365 every day as main device, I simply can’t and don’t want to give it up. Even though I now have my brand new and awesome Surface Pro 9 device – I still haven’t get turned this on and am still choosing to use our seven year old Surface Laptop running Windows 10 (it won’t run Windows 11) with Windows 365 Cloud PC.

Why I love Windows 365

I keep asking myself the same question – why Windows 365 Cloud PC when I have a nice new Surface Pro to use. Well – Windows 365 Cloud PC gives me a seamless, secure, responsive, and flexible experience on the same device that I (and the family) share do everything else on – it’s essentially now become two devices in one and the experience is amazing – both for corporate use and for home use with out compromising anywhere!

It’s also great to have in your pocket when you bring the wrong device to work!

Here are some of the reasons why I love Windows 365 Cloud PC and how it is totally changing my perception on Cloud Computing.

  • Seamless experience: With Windows 365 Cloud PC, I can access my Windows 11 Enterprise Corporate Managed Desktop instantly on my personal device (or from any other device), anytime and anywhere I need to. I don’t have to worry about syncing files, installing apps, or using web apps.
  • Secure and Compliant: When traveling about, I also don’t have to worry about compromising my personal and work experiences, compromising corporate security or risk having any company data leak onto my personal device or stol n from dodgy WiFi hotspots. With Windows 365, my dideicated Cloud PC is in the Microsoft Cloud – ready for me to use at any time.
  • Connecting from almost anything: I can switch from my personal laptop to my phone (I can use Samsung DEX on a TV) or even access via my Xbox via the Edge Browser. Where ever I resume from – me session is exactly where I left off.
  • Responsive performance: Windows 365 Cloud PC is fast and smooth. I can run multiple apps, browse the web, and stream videos without any lag or stutter. This means the lowest spec device can perform like a powerhouse. The best part is that I don’t have to worry about the physical condition of my device, because the heavy computing work is done on the Microsoft Cloud.
  • Lightening fast Internet speed always since my Cloud PC is in Azure, I get superfast access to the web and my cloud apps regardless of the speed my physical device is using.
  • Flexible: Windows 365 Cloud PC is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a service that can cater to different sized organisations and needs of each user.

Here’s a quote from myself about how Windows 365 Cloud PC improved my productivity and efficiency:

Windows 365 Cloud PC is a game-changer for me. It allows me to work from anywhere, on any device, with the same performance and functionality as a physical PC. I can easily switch between tasks, collaborate with others, and access my files and apps in the cloud. I literally have my corporate desktop with me on any device at anytime, wherever I go.

Pricing and Licensing

OK… So take a seat as on the surface the cost of Microsoft 365 can look expensive.

Firstly, Microsoft offers two subscription models, Windows 365 Business for smaller businesses and Windows 365 Enterprise for larger ones.

Prices are per user, per month subscription based and range from £26 per user per month for the base model (2CPU/4GB RAM/64GB HDD) but can be as much as £146 a month for a powerhouse configuration of 8 CPU/32GB RAM/512HDD.

Both models share the same range of features and provide thirteen Cloud PC configurations to choose from to blend the right spec with the right person and role of Cloud PC within the organisation. Here is the full range of specifications:

Image (C) Microsoft.

Unlike virtual apps and shared/pooled desktops (such as Azure Virtual Desktop), with Windows 365, each user gets a dedicated corporate Cloud PC, meaning it will run all the apps they need to use.

IT managers dream…

Managed by Intune: Like physical PCs, Windows 365 Cloud PC is managed from Intune. IT can Configure auto patch, install and schedule apps, use Autopilot for zero touch provisioning, reset and reissue devices, up size (upgrade) and down grade the specification on the fly. Intune provides details stats on performace, usage and even makes recommendations on down or up sizing of the PC based on usage and performace

Smooth Migrations: IT can choose between Windows 10 and Windows 11 (or make both available to users). This can also be helpful as a migration and training method to prepare users for Windows 11. IT can also choose to give users local admin control (or not) and can even allow users to reset their Cloud PC devices themselves.

Good bye to hardware failures: Since Windows 365 runs in the cloud, there’s no hardware to go wrong. If a users physical laptop (or TV, xbox, phone etc) fails, nothing is lost.. They can resume on a new/different device and session continues where they left of… Even the cursor stays in the sale place!

The downsides?

To be honest, from a user experience there aren’t many, unless you are working where there is no or poor internet access. Writing this, I am sat in Nero on “free wireless”, knowing my connection is secure and I’m accessing my Corporate Device through an encrypted connection, with no data leaking between the host (personal PC) and my corporate device.

The price tag can be “off putting” but the ROI is high when you take into account carbon reduction (runs in Microsoft carbon neutral data centres), cost of hardware, repairs, re imaging, recycling, replacement every 3 years, and costs due to lost or stolen devices. Do the maths…

Cloud PC is not for every one… You’ll find great use cases and bad ones.. Such as contractors, new starters, remote and over seas staff, developers, finance and other specific roles. I cover use cases in a separate blog post…

Note: Offline Access is coming for Windows 365

Free to try for 30 days

Organisations interested in trying out Windows 365 Cloud PC, can speak to their Microsoft Partner and obtain a free 30-day trial, or buy a subscription from Microsoft 365 admin centre.


I hope you enjoyed reading my blog about Windows 365 Cloud PC.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

Windows 11 2023 Update (23H2) is now available.

Last month, Microsoft rolled out the moment 4 update to Windows 11 22H2 which included loads of new AI features as well as a Windows Copilot.

I cover this in more detail in a previous post.

Today, Microsoft have started offering Windows 11 version 23H2 as an optional update. This includes all the new AI features that rolled out to users in 22H2.

What’s in Windows 11 23H2?

The new features included in this update being all the new AI features including Windows Copilot which is now pinned to your Taskbar by default. You also get all the new inbox updates including AI powered additions to the Snipping Tool, Paint, and Quick Settings.

How to get Windows 11 23H2 update

Since this is an optional update, you need to head over to Settings-> Windows Update and ensure that the “Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available” toggle is set to on.

You can the check for updates and should see “Windows 11, version 23H2” appear in your Windows Update downloads list for download.

If you are already running Windows 11 22H2, this update may not be available straight way but Microsoft will he making this available shortly.

Windows 11 release rings and support cycles

Microsoft has a 6 monthly core version update model for Windows. This means that the support cycle for Windows 11 version 23H2 will be supported for 24 months starting November 1 for Home and Professional users, and 36 months organisations running Enterprise and Education versions of Windows 11.


To find out more about the new features included in 22H2 and 23H2 check out my post below.

https://robquickenden.blog/2023/10/windows-11-gets-new-ai-features-as-moments-4-update-rolls-out/

Windows 11 gets Copilot upgrade as “moments 4” update rolls out.

Microsoft’s AI infused update is now rolling out for the masses. The update started rolling out last Tuesday and is the lastest next major feature update for Windows 11. It is bundled as part of the October’s security release for all Windows 11 users.

This update (known as Moment 4 update) is far more than security updates and includes lots of improvements and big new features to take advantage of that include a new File Explorer design, Copilot for Windows (a new AI assistant). There are also lots of improvements to the Taskbar, and notable in-box app updates as well including notepad and paint.

Here’s a quick rundown of the key new things and changes.

Major AI related stuff

  • Windows Copilot (incorporating Bing Chat)
  • AI-powered file recommendations in both File Explorer and Start
  • A new AI Hub for “AI-powered apps” in the Microsoft Store

Changes to desktop and taskbar

  • A new File Explorer design with more modern interfaces plus a new “Gallery feature”
  • System wide ability to Ink directly into text boxes
  • Taskbar app labels and other improvements
  • HDR desktop wallpaper support
  • New Windows Spotlight wallpaper UI
  • Native support for more archive file formats such as .RAR
  • New sound output menu
  • Native RGB peripheral controls

New features and UI changes

  • New account recommendations in Start and Settings
  • A new revamped Settings homepage

Inbox app updates

  • A new cloud-based backup and restore feature built in to Windows
  • Snipping Tool improvements including OCR text and ability redact / mask sensitive information
  • Improvements to Notepad including new auto save feature

When is Windows 10 end of life?

As a reminder to those still on Windows 10, this will go end of support on October 14, 2025 meaning now more feature or security updates…

Microsoft says that “Every Windows product has a lifecycle. The lifecycle begins when a product is released and ends when it’s no longer supported. Knowing key dates in this lifecycle helps you make informed decisions about when to update, upgrade or make other changes to your software.”

Windows 11 is now on over half a billion devices as of October 2023 according to Microsoft.

Microsoft September 2023 News: The new and exciting stuff

Microsoft hosted a live Surface and AI event on Thursday 21st September where they announced a lot of new and exciting features and products across its various platforms and services. In this blog post, I have tried to summarise the most notable ones and explain how they might benefit you and your organisation.

Disclaimer (and product plug) - Since this was an AI event in whole, I also want to state that other than some slight tweaks, this blog post was written by Bing Enterprise Chat - Microsoft Designer created the image. The whole thing took less that 10 minutes. 

Copilot: Your AI Assistant at Work and Beyond

Copilot is a new feature that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help you with various tasks, such as drafting emails, summarizing texts, creating images, and more. You can access Copilot from Windows 11, Microsoft 365, Edge, and Bing, and chat with it in natural language. Copilot will understand your intent and provide relevant assistance based on the context and your data.

For example, you can ask Copilot to draft an email for you with a specific tone, or to generate a graphic art based on your description. You can also use Copilot to answer questions, troubleshoot your PC, control your settings, and access recommendations. Copilot is designed to save you time, reduce your cognitive load, and ignite your creativity.

Copilot will be generally available for enterprise customers on November 1st, and for a select group of consumers and small business customers as part of the Early Access Program (EAP). It will initially be limited to three hundred licenses and will cost $30 per user per month.

Windows 11: The Most Powerful and Personal Windows Ever

Windows 11 is the latest (and IMO best) version of the Microsoft’s desktop operating system that powers millions of devices around the world. Windows 11 offers a fresh and modern design, improved performance, and security, and a more personalised and connected experience. They announced the latest update coming next week (Sept 26th). Some of the new features in Windows 11 will include:

  • An updated Start menu that gives you quick access to your apps, documents, and settings.
  • An updated Taskbar that lets you easily switch between multiple instances of each app, hide the time and date, and end tasks with a right-click.
  • A new Dev Home that helps you set up your development environment by downloading apps, packages, or repositories, connecting to your developer accounts and tools, and accessing experimental features in WSL.
  • A new Dev Drive that provides a fast and secure storage volume for developers, with a file system that delivers both performance and security.
  • A new WinGet Configuration that simplifies the setup process for developers by reducing it to a single command.
  • New Gallery in File Explorer that makes it easy to access your photo collection across all your devices.
  • A new Snipping Tool that lets you record your screen with audio and mic support, copy and redact text from a screenshot, and edit your images with Paint.
  • A new Photos app that has new editing capabilities to achieve stylish background blur effects and makes it easier to find specific images backed up in OneDrive.
  • Updated Narrator that uses natural human voices in new languages, and lets you use voice access to log in to your PC and access other areas on the lock screen.
  • Refreshed Notepad app that automatically saves your session state, allowing you to close Notepad without any interrupting dialogs and then pick up where you left off when you return.
  • A new Instant Games feature that lets you play your favorite casual games directly from the Microsoft Store without the need to download and install them on your device.
  • Windows Copilot – Your Copilot for Windows.

Windows 11 also announced general availability of Windows 365 Boot and Windows 365 Switch, which allow you to log into your Windows 365 Cloud PC as the primary Windows experience on the device or easily switch between the Cloud PC and the local desktop. Windows 365 is a cloud PC service that lets you stream a full Windows experience from anywhere on any device and is fully managed from Intune.

This update will start rolling out as a free update on September 26th.

Surface: The Ultimate Devices for Work and Play

Surface is Microsoft’s line of devices that combine innovative design, powerful performance, and versatile functionality. Surface devices are built to work seamlessly with Windows 11 and Microsoft 365, offering the best productivity and creativity tools for work and play. I am a massive fan of Surface

The new / refreshed Surface devices include:

  • Surface Laptop Studio 2: The most powerful Surface ever built, with the latest Intel Core processors, NVIDIA Studio tools for creators, touchscreen display, and flexible design with three unique postures.
  • Surface Laptop Go 3: The lightest and most portable Surface Laptop, with touchscreen display, premium features like an incredible typing experience and a Fingerprint Power Button, and four stylish colours.
  • Surface Go 4: The baby Surface Pro is this time, available only for corporate and not consumer market (why??), the device is the same dimensions as before but is more repairable (the most repairable and sustainable device int he Surface Fleet). It ditches the 4GB RAM option (good) and brings a higher spec entry level processor. Pricing increases too which is a shame as is ditching consumer market. These are great for school kids.
  • Surface Hub 3: The ultimate collaboration device for teams, with a large interactive display that runs the Microsoft Teams Rooms experience. Surface Hub 3 pairs seamlessly with Teams-certified devices and supports Hub on day one. There was also an upgrade announced for Surface Hub 2S customers to upgrade to Surface Hub 3,

The new Surface devices are available for pre-ordering now.

Microsoft 365: The World’s Productivity Cloud

Microsoft 365 is a cloud-based subscription service that offers the best productivity apps for work and life. Microsoft 365 includes apps like Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Teams, Stream, Loop, Clipchamp, and more.

Microsoft 365 Copilot (which will be available from 1st November) is an add-on service at $30 per user per month and provides in-built AI-powered features and services that help you get more done across all your Office 365 apps and services – with support also coming to Microsoft Designer, Loop and Clipchamp and more.

Some of the new features and services in Microsoft 365 include:

  • Copilot in Outlook, Excel, Word, Loop, OneNote, Stream, and OneDrive: Copilot is integrated into various Microsoft 365 apps to provide AI assistance for different tasks. For example, you can use Copilot in Outlook to draft emails, in Excel to create charts, in Word to summarize documents, in Loop to generate content blocks, in OneNote to take notes, in Stream to transcribe videos, and in OneDrive to find files.
  • Generative Expand, Fill, and Erase in Microsoft Designer: These features let you manipulate images in creative ways, such as expanding the canvas, filling in missing areas, or erasing unwanted objects. Generative Erase is generally available now, and Generative Fill and Expand are coming soon.
  • Copilot Lab: Copilot Lab is a feature that lets you learn how to use Copilot effectively, share your favorite prompts with coworkers, and get inspired by other users. Copilot Lab will be accessible to all Microsoft 365 Copilot users once it’s generally available in November.
  • Mobile Application Management (MAM) for Windows: This feature allows employees to access organisational resources through Microsoft Edge from an unmanaged device, while giving IT the ability to control the conditions under which the resources can be accessed.

Bing and Edge: The Smartest Way to Search and Browse

Bing and Edge are Microsoft’s search engine and web browser that offer a fast, secure, and personalized way to search and browse the web. Bing and Edge use AI to provide relevant information and assistance based on your needs and preferences.

Some of the new features and improvements in Bing and Edge include:

  • DALL-E 3 in Bing Image Creator and Microsoft Designer integration: Bing Image Creator is a feature that lets you create images from text descriptions using AI. Bing Image Creator is now powered by DALL-E 3, which produces more realistic and detailed images. You can also access Bing Image Creator directly from Microsoft Designer for further editing.
  • Content Credentials: Content Credentials is a feature that uses cryptographic methods to add an invisible digital watermark to all AI-generated images in Bing. This helps you verify the origin and authenticity of the images. Content Credentials will be supported in Bing Image Creator, Microsoft Designer, and Paint soon.
  • Bing Chat Enterprise: Bing Chat Enterprise is a feature that lets you chat with Copilot from the Edge mobile app. You can also use multimodal visual search and Image Creator from Bing Chat Enterprise.
  • Copilot in Microsoft Shopping: Copilot in Microsoft Shopping is a feature that helps you find what you’re looking for more quickly. You can ask for information on an item, and Bing will ask additional questions to learn more. Then, Bing will use that information to provide more tailored recommendations. This feature will be available soon on both PC and mobile.
  • Personalised Answers: Personalised Answers is a feature that uses your chat history to inform your results. For example, if you’ve used Bing to track your favorite soccer team, next time you’re planning a trip it can proactively tell you if the team is playing in your destination city. Personalized Answers will begin to roll out soon.

Microsoft Advertising: The Best Way to Reach Your Customers

Microsoft Advertising is a platform that helps businesses connect with their customers across the web. Microsoft Advertising offers various solutions and tools to create effective and engaging ads that reach the right audience at the right time.

Some of the new features and improvements in Microsoft Advertising include:

  • Copilot in the Microsoft Advertising Platform: Copilot in the Microsoft Advertising Platform is a feature that simplifies and enhances every aspect of your experience with the platform. You can use Copilot to create campaigns, get content recommendations, optimize your performance, and more. This feature will be coming soon.
  • Compare & Decide Ads: Compare & Decide Ads are a new type of ads that pull relevant data of various products or services into a succinct table. This helps users easily evaluate different options based on their criteria. Compare & Decide Ads will be available for cars initially and will be brought to closed beta in early 2024.

Conclusion

These are just some of the highlights from the Microsoft September 2023 News. There are many more features and products that we didn’t cover here, but you can find them on the current web page context. I hope you are excited about these new developments, and I would love to hear what you are most excited about.

Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop recognized as a Leader in 2023 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Desktop as a Service

Microsoft has been recognized as a Leader in the inaugural Gartner Magic Quadrant™ for Desktop as a Service (DaaS). According to Gartner, DaaS is defined as “the provision of virtual desktops by a public cloud or service provider” and encompasses a variety of cloud solutions, such as Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop, which are described in a way that is familiar to customers of varying backgrounds and technical expertise.

Given the newness to the market of Microsoft’s two offerings in this space, it’s incredible to see Microsoft leading in this catagory (ahead of the golden players like Citrix and VMware).

Gartner stated in their report that “Microsoft is one of the few vendors with significant global presence,” and “Microsoft is in a unique position, as it owns the architecture for Windows, Intune, Microsoft 365 applications, Azure, Azure Virtual Desktop, and Windows 365.”

Microsoft have two offerings in this space which are both designed to provide organisations with secure and versatile cloud desktop solutions that support flexible work options.

  • Windows 365 – a fully managed DaaS solution that securely streams personalised Windows desktop, apps, settings, and content from the Microsoft Cloud to your Cloud PC which can be accessed from the device of your choice.
  • Azure Virtual Desktop, a full enterprise cloud virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platform that delivers hosted remote desktops and apps with flexibility and control without compromising on security.

You u can check out my short user experience demo on Windows365 here.

Goodbye Cortana…hello Windows Copilot

Logo of Microsoft Cortana

While not especially surprising given its lack of attention, Microsoft has quietly announced that it “will no longer support Cortana in Windows as a standalone app,” starting in late 2023 as we see the introduction of Windows Copilot which was announced at Microsoft Build last month.

Originally launching in 2014 for Windows and Windows Phone, Cortana was poised to be be the “the next big thing,” – a personal assistant to rival Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, that could look up things, take notes, answer questions and even book things in your diary or read your emails. There was even an iOS and Android app and Cortana also made it’s way into Microsoft Teams as an assistant for video conferencing.

Goodbye Cortana

Lack of investment, low consumer demand, and lack of “intelligent speakers” to allow Cortana to be heard. In 2020, Microsoft announced a new vision for Cortana instead positioning it as part of their “vision to deliver transformational AI-powered experiences in Microsoft 365 through Cortana, your personal productivity assistant for Microsoft Office and Teams“.

Earlier this year Microsoft announced they were dropping support for Cortana as an app on Apple iOS and Android and as of late 2023 it the final nail in the coffin will be it evicted from the Windows OS as well. I expect Cortana on Teams Rooms to be replaced by Copilot in Teams at some point though at this moment in time, Microsoft have said that “This change only impacts Cortana in Windows, and your productivity assistant, Cortana, will continue to be available in Outlook mobile, Teams mobile, Microsoft Teams display, and Microsoft Teams rooms.”

This year (and it’s only June), we have see the advent of Bing Chat (which is powered by ChatGPT- 4), voice access for Windows 11, Cortana’s voice functionality has all but now been replaced, as has its future.

Microsoft’s advice for anyone that still uses the Cortana app in Windows is to use something else!!

“We know that this change [removal or Cortana] may affect some of the ways you work in Windows, so we want to help you transition smoothly to the new options. Instead of clicking the Cortana icon and launching the app to begin using voice, now you can use voice and satisfy your productivity needs through different tools”.

Microsoft

Introducing Windows Copilot

At Microsoft Build, Microsoft announced that a preview version of Windows Copilot would be coming to Windows Insiders later this June (most likley for the US first, before rolling out to other regions).

Windows Copilot will centralised AI assistance across Windows. In conjunction with Bing Chat and both first and third-party plugins, it will enable people to interface with Windows and Windows apps and services using Copilot chat, rather trying to find what app to use, find settings or work out how to do something.

More on Windows Copilot in my previous blog post.

Windows 11 beta 22624 previews new widgets experience.

Microsoft has released Windows 11 Insider builds ( 22621.1680 and 22624.1680) with fixes and new features. Build 22624.1680 gets fixes and new features whereas 22621.1680 just gets fixes this time round. The full release notes are here.

Evolved Widgets Board

Microsoft say they are starting to revamp the widget board  experience (based on user feedback).

Image showing updated widgets board in Windows 11 beta build 22624

This includes a larger (dynamic) canvas (3-columns if supported by the device) and introduction of new zones to provide quick access to new glanceable widgets from their apps and services. Users will also be able to take a high-value break with their personalised feed which will more personalised and customised that the current version.

Feedback request

As always (and an ask from the Windows Insider community and Dev team is) “please file your feedback” on the new experience using the Feedback Hub (🪟 + F, Desktop Experience, Widgets).

Surface Pro 9 5G – how the latest Surface aids hybrid work

Surface Pro device being used in space (AI Generated image)

After using as Surface Pro 9 5G for 6 weeks as my daily device, this blog is my hands-on review of, IMO, an “almost” perfect device for working from “almost” anywhere!

Surface Pro 9 5G is a super thin, every bit premium, two-in-one device that continues to improve over the previous iterations. It has superb battery life and fast, always-on data with support for 5G sim and e-sim.

The Surface Pro 9 5G (SQ3)

The Surface Pro 9 range is beautifully designed, and is the first model of Surface device to come with the option of super-fast 5G support built in. Note that the Surface Pro 9 comes in two variants. The Intel version (without 5G) and the SQ3 [ARM-64] version which features built in 5G chipset along with a new NPU chip which adds additional uniqueness to the device (more on that later).

Surface Pro 9 with 5G
What I loved about itWhat liked less!
✔️ Great battery life and fast 5G connectivity❌ Windows on ARM still needs stability improvements
✔️ Premium build quality❌ Feature differences between Intel and SQ3 (ARM) models is confusing
✔️ Best-in-class kickstand, keyboard and pen / inking experience ❌ Not all colour options available across the range
✔️ NPU – provides advanced AI powered camera and voice call features❌Still need to buy keyboard separately,
✔️ Full HD webcam
✔️ Supports USB-C charging
Surface Pro 9 5G likes and dislikes

Overall look, feel and use

The Surface Pro 9 5G is every bit gorgeous in design and feel as previous Surface devices and looks almost identical to its sister the Surface Pro 9 (Intel version). Both are premium in every way, and feature the impressively thin, aluminium case, 13-inch 120Hz PixelSense display, and perfectly designed (optional) type-covers keyboard which now also houses the (also optional) Surface Slim Pen 2. Both models feature the built-in kickstand, which lets you prop up the screen on a table and adjust is smoothly to any viewing or working angle.

The Surface Pro 9 5G claims to have a 21-hour battery life, positioning it as the ideal choice for remote users who need a slim, sleek device without the need to carry a power supply and use clunky, unsecure coffee shop internet hotpots. This device is simply perfect for that [almost].

In my experience, the battery life was simply the best of any Surface I have ever used. Even in video calls all day and with multiple apps running, a mix of wireless and cellular (5G) usage I still have close to a third battery remaining after a 10-hour day here, there, and everywhere.

On the Surface 🤣 – outside of the internal upgrades and battery, the Surface Pro 9 is almost identical to the Surface Pro 8 and hardly distinguishable from even the older Surface Pro 7. The Surface Pro range works though – so I see no reason to make drastic changes.

Connectivity without boundaries

The Surface Pro 9’s built-in 5G connectivity support both eSIM and physical nano sim card.

Inserting a SIM into Surface Pro 9 5G

I used a physical sim (which can be easily fitted into the Surface Pro 9’s expansion area under the kickstand). My 02 SIM was recognised within about fifteen seconds and being 5G enabled was giving speeds of close to 80Mbps down and 12 Mbps which was rather good. As you can see from the image above, it is also easily to swap out the SSD with a Microsoft supported SSD should you need to in the future.

The ability to have 5G available whenever I needed it is certainly something I could get used too as I didn’t have to worry about trying to join an access point in a café or customer office or tether my mobile phone (not that that is hard to do, but the process is just more seamless and slicker).

Surface Pro 9 5G – AI through its’ Neural Processing Unit

One of the new features in Windows 11 that is bought to life with the Surface Pro 9 5G is new AI enhanced video and audio enhancements known as Windows Studio Effects. Surface Pro 9 5G’s front-facing camera it’s enhanced and assisted by the NPU, that powers feature such as automatic framing, hardware-based background blurring and sustained eye contact during video calls all of which work much better than the native teams (software) experience – the automatic framing super smooth. These features work across any video app too as it happens at hardware as you can see in the example below.

AI powered auto-framing on Surface Pro 9 (5G)

Note: These new AI features are only available with the Surface Pro 9 5G (which runs ARM) – which means the Intel version of Surface Pro 9 cannot take advantage of these features. While Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs are powerful, they don’t have an NPU built-in.

If you do have the 5G Pro 9 (or another OEM device with an NPU) you can access the setting from the Setting App in Windows 11.

Windows Studio Effects in Windows 11 on devices with NPUs

Pricing

Surface Pro 9 with 5G starts at £1,089 (ex VAT) which gets you the entry level device with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD – though another £50 gets you the 16GB / 256GB version. Remember – you also need to add the type of cover keyboard and Surface Slim Pen.

Surface Pro 9 5G generally works out around £100 more than the Pro9 Intel based devices, but bear in mind the Pro 9 5G has, well, built in 5G connectivity. I would say, however, with the current “in-perfections” with Windows 11 on ARM (which is mainly due to lack of apps natively compiled for ARM-64) and that the performance of the Intel chipsets is better than that of the ARM based device, I had hoped that the Pro 9 5G would be cheaper than the intel version.

Changes in port and button layout.

Microsoft has moved the buttons and ports around a little from the previous generations of Surface Pro. For example, there is no 3.5mm headphone jack (which may annoy some). The two USB-C have also moved from the same side as the Surface Connector port to the opposite side, which gives them more space (this is the same as the Surface Pro X). They have also moved the power/sleep and volume rocker from sides of the device to the top of the Surface Pro 9 5G in line with other Surface devices including the Surface Book and Laptop.

“Optional” Keyboard and Pen

For me, the “optional” Typecover keyboard and Slim Pen are a necessity to get the best from a Surface Pro device such as the Surface Pro 9 5G.

The keyboard is full-sized, with comfortable spacing between the keys and 1.5mm of travel on a per-key basis for a satisfying typing experience. The Alcantara cover on the keyboard provides a nice level of comfort when typing, the 4-inch-wide touchpad is nicely positioned and in each reach.

The new type-cover, which was first available on the original Surface Pro X, features built-in storage for the Slim Pen which is a positive change to having a pen magnetically stuck to the side of the device like the previous generation of Surface Pro devices (Pro 3 to Pro 7 range). What’s more the Surface Slim pen automatically charges (no more AAAA batteries) when docked on the keyboard.

Surface Type cover with Slim Pen

To reveal the pen, we just pull the keyboard away from the screen and pluck out the Pen. It’s always fully charged and ready to use with a pen-friendly display.

Overall, this is a more elegant and secure way to manage the pen.

Audio, Sound and Cameras

Surface Pro 9 features dual far-field microphones, which means no one will have any trouble hearing you, while the SQ3’s neural engine brings special background noise-canceling capabilities.

Speaker-wise, you get a pair of 2W Dolby Atmos-supporting stereo speakers that provide a clear and crisp sound with no distortion even at high-volume. The speakers are good for everything from video call meeting audio, to watching films in HD on the crisp 120Hz screen.

At the back of the device is a ten-mega pixel camera which is capable of capturing superior quality images and can also record in 4K.

As with all Surface Devices (except the Laptop Go), you also get Windows Hello Camera, which can be used with Windows Hello and Windows Hello for Business for biometric (MFA) authentication – meaning in short, you can unlock and logon to your device with your face which is highly secure and much better than using passwords.

Display, Touch and Ink

The screen (which follows the usual 2:3 display ration) is vivid and offers dynamic 120Hz refresh and a high resolution of 2880 x 1920 (267 ppi).

Brightness is good for most light conditions with a max brightness of 450 nits and a contrast ratio of 1200:1. This is good but not super bright and other devixes such as iPad Pro do have better. That said, it was fine for my use and I never had any brightness issues which I just left on Windows auto-brightness.

Surface of course, also benefits of being both a touch- and incredible ink/pen screen.

Inking on Surface Pro 9 felt super natural – and when taking notes in OneNote really felt like ink was flowing out of the nib of the Slim Pen 2 and onto the digitial notebook. The latest Surface Slim Pen 2 is the most precise yet and also includes haptic feedback to make it feel as if you’re scratching a pencil across real paper. The Pen is lightweight, comfortable to hold, and never slips from your grip when holding it or writing.

What I love about the Surface Pen experience is that they use both ends of the pen – you get the inking nib and then a digital eraser on the other end, which is both a button and a digital eraser. There’s also a button along the pen body that you can use to activate various features in a number of apps which can be configured by the user – In OneNote, for instance, it can be used to quickly access the eye-dropper colour picker.

Battery and Power Consumption

If battery life and versatility is top of list for your next Windows 11 device, Surface Pro 9 5G does an awesome job.

Microsoft claim “up to 19 hours”, but in my experience I got well over a full day of use. By that I mean I managed a full day of use (starting at home, in the office, client meeting, coffee shop) and then still had 29% battery in the morning which was enough for email on the train and my first meeting before I had to connect it to my portable USB Charger.

Beware of the buts…..

Microsoft’s vision on a creating an ultra-thin, ARM-powered Surface are great, but the vision is not yet a full reality. Don’t get me wrong – this is nothing like the original attempt (if you remember or bought a Surface RT back in 2012). The Pro 9 5 is a great device and runs Windows 11 brilliantly, but there are some practical issues. If you’re at all interested in a new Surface, buy the Intel model and get a hotspot on the side.

I love the Surface Pro 5G, but there are a few things that stop me giving this a 10/10. Some of these are niggles, some of them should attract a cheaper price and some might put you off. Then again – these are my opinions and I welcome yours.

The names can be confusing

Microsoft now has a single product line running on two very different chip designs – one built on Intel’s x86 hardware and another built on Microsoft’s custom SQ3 ARM system-on-a-chip (which is based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3). This can be confusing for buyers.

Performance and app compatibility needs to be understood

Of course, the Intel-powered Surface Pro 9 can run all the modern and legacy Windows apps you need.

The ARM/SQ3 model, however, can run a fewer set of apps natively (those that are ARM native apps) – whereas all other x86 apps need to run in an x86 emulated mode which naturally leads to slower performance. Windows 11 does fully supports x64 emulation, so the Pro 9 with 5G can pretty much run any x86 apps, but that doesn’t cover many games.

Microsoft claim that performance between the Intel and ARM / SQ3 models should be comparable which they are with native ARM apps, but there is occasional lag with older apps (especially those that are 32bit x86 apps. Microsoft Edge is super quick as a browser (doesn’t use Chrome) being built for Windows 11 and becuase it’s a native ARM app. For SQ3 to really shine it needs more developer support for ARM with native apps..

Do not use the ARM version if you are a gamer.

Buy the Intel version if you want to run/play most games. Since most games aren’t optimised for ARM, they simply will not run well. Advice is…if you are a gamer, you need to stick to the Intel versions or you’ll be disappointed in the performance lag.