The Yealink BH76 Teams certified headset is a premium Bluetooth headset featuring active adaptive noise cancelling, HD audio, retractable microphone, 35 hours talk time and 40 hours of battery life. The BH76 is Teams certified and also features wireless charging, has an array of smart sensors, and comes in black or light grey.
Price is circa £279 RRP.
In the box
In the box you get everything you need including:-
Leather carry pouch
Yealink BH76 Teams Certified Headset
Bluetooth 5.1 USB-A dongle (or USB-C) dongle
USB-A to USB-C cable
Charging Stand and power cable
Getting started manual / guide.
Ease of use
This is no budget headset. Everything from the brushed metal finish to the soft cushioned leather earcup and support is premium.
Powering on the device requires a two second push on the power button, after which an audio described “power on” message is heard, followed by another audio notification of the battery power remaining. Pairing is simple with a three second push on the power button to enter pairing mode and then simply go to Bluetooth settings on your laptop or phone.
Sensors in the headset detect when you are wearing it and as such, taking the headset off when listening to music or video, automatically mutes the headphones and pauses the music/video which them resumes again when you pop it back on.
For Microsoft Teams users, there is a “Teams” button on the top of the left ear piece (this is quite easy to miss however). Pressing this, opens the Teams app is not already open. According to Microsoft, Teams Certified devices with the Teams buttons light up when connected to Teams, and provide additional teams controls -the BH76 does not appear to do this – the button also does not do anything. This appears to be a Microsoft issue though (not a Yealink one) and there is a tech community thread here if you are interested.
Yealink provide a management app which can be used to manage all your Yealink devices, update settings and firmware etc., and for IT teams, the BH76 can be managed centrally from the Yealink Management Console along with your Teams Room devices and phones.
Audio Quality and Noise Cancelling
Sound Quality when listening to music is clear and sharp. The headset isn’t super loud compared to headsets from the likes of Bose or even Surface Headphones, but more than loud enough. You can also adjust the max volume settings in the Yealink app
The BH76 includes three levels of noise cancelling (off, ambient noise and noise cancelling), which can be adjusted by a small button on one of the ear cups.
Noise cancelling can be hard to test without a remote participant of course, so I used a colleague to help me out (thanks Adam). I performed the standard ruffling of a crisp packets and tapping of keyboard. Feedback was that he could only hear my voice and couldn’t hear the other background noises at all.
The noise cancelling is fully adaptive, and the levels automatically adjust based on the level of background noise detected. This is achieved using five microphones around the headset which create an “Acoustic Shield” that senses how far away and how loud sounds are to allow it to filter out background noises, leaving your voice loud and clear. This is essential for use in noisy offices or coffee shops for example.
Other audio and sound settings (such as noise exposure limits, and fine tuning ACN) can be configured using the Yealink USB connect software – as shown above ⬆️
To aid in audio pick up, the microphone boom extends out from the right ear cup. When not in use, this can then be conveniently popped back away into the ear-cup, which makes it look more like a conventional stereo headset and of course ensures the mic boom does not get knocked or broken. If you push it away when on a call, it also mutes the microphone.
Comfortable and simple to use
Unlike other headsets I have tried and used over the years, the Yealink BH76 headset is really comfortable, even if you find yourself in the office on calls all day! I found that even after 4 hours of wearing, I did not feel any discomfort and almost forgot I had them on.
Simple to use too – The Yealink BH76 is really easy and intuitive to use too. I did find that the button placement took a little getting used to, since the buttons are a little small for my fat fingers, but it’s simple enough to use. Personally, I would liked to have seen more controls on the ear cups themselves rather than on the cup body (but suspect this is a personal thing).
The device supports Bluetooth pairing with 2 devices simultaneously, or you can use the USB cable that ships with device to plug in via the wire. Yealink provide a BT51 Bluetooth dongle too which provides the best connectivity and “makes the device” Teams Certified. I’m personally not a fan of dongles (I loose them), but Microsoft are slowly working to remove the need for dongles.
Charging and Storage
You can order the BH76 headset with the optional, yet highly useful charging stand. This uses a power cable (not USB powered unfortunately) and provides a convenient stand for your headset when not in use.
The base of the stand also serves as a wireless charger for your phone/tablet and of course your Yealink Headset which means no fumbling around for cables and free USB ports on your laptop.
In short – a really great quality headset with excellent battery life, good audio and great acoustic fencing qualities. There a few cosmetic improvements I’d like to see in the next version but over all, would recommend to anyone for hybrid work.
Surface Laptop 5 is available in several colours including platinum, black, sage and sandstone, this latest iteration of hasn’t changed much from last years’ Surface Laptop 4. It features the same dimensions and form factor as previous generations (which has barely changed since the original version) but has received the annual welcomed tech update and now includes the latest 12th generation Intel chipsets, built on the Intel® Evo™ platform, offering up to 50% power than previous generation. Find out more about Intel Evo?
Thanks to Microsoft, I was able to get my hands on a Surface Laptop 5 on launch day and have been using it as my daily machine to allow me to put it through the paces and write this hands-on review.
If you have never looked at the Surface line of laptops before, then you should! – Microsoft make the most gorgeous looking, premium devices on the market – all of which feature an anodized aluminum metal process, resulting in a luxury and smooth finish, which closely resembles the look and class of a MacBook. If you’ve ever used a cheaper, plastic built Laptop before, you will instantly notice the premium feel of Surface difference.
There are a range of colours available, but the 15-inch model only offers Black or Platinum, while the 13.5″ version also provides the option of Sage and Sandstone. I like the black personally on Surface Laptop range though I do think next time I might try a colour!
Microsoft also offer Alcantara options for the keyboard area, although it is limited to the 13.5″ Platinum model only. This gives a slightly soft and more premium finish to the keyboard deck, which provides a nice alternative to the aluminium metal. See below.
Overall feel and use
This is a quick laptop. I have been using a Surface Book 2 and Surface Pro X for a few years now as my two main devices, yet after just a few hours with the Surface Laptop 5, I could feel that this was a great bit of kit. Everything from the speed to power on (instant on), Windows Hello sign-in, launching apps, multitasking, and switching apps was effortless and fast. Video was smooth and audio was sharp and felt like it surrounded me.
The Surface Laptop 5 itself is thin and light – the 13.5 ” I am testing weighs just under three pounds, which is perfect for on-the-go and taking between home and office.
Both the 13.5″ and 15″ models look similar their predecessor, the Surface Laptop 4 (and those before it – a design that still looks modern and fresh. The device feels every bit premium design as you’d expect from a Surface. It is built from high quality refined aluminium in the popular minimalist design, with full size keyboard, large and responsive track pad, 120Hz, 3:2 ratio, 201 PPI pixel sense display, protected by Gorilla Glass 5.
Sensors, camera and speakers are hidden out of sight, the lid has an elegant and subtle Surface Logo on the lid, and around the sides of the device are the standard range of ports, which consist of the Surface Connector (I know many don’t like this but I like it from a consistency perspective), USB-A, USB-C (Thunderbolt 4) and a 3.5mm headphone jack (which interestingly has been removed from the latest Surface Pro 9 line up).
Microsoft have also further perfected the balance and feel of the device, with one-handed opening and nicely cut-away base that gives the impression that the device is floating above your workspace.
Available in 13.5- or 15-inch variants, the screen is super clear and bright and features 120Hz refresh, 3:2 aspect ratio 201 PPI pixel-sense display. The 3:2 aspect ratio is standard across all Surface devices and gives additional vertical space when working on docs or browsing the Web, but it does mean you’ll get the black pillar box lines top and bottom if watching a movie in 16:9. The screen aspect ratio works really well for work and school.
The screen features the 10-point multi-touch as is super responsive, giving it a natural advantage over other premium products like the Apple Mac Book Pro (which still doesn’t have a touch screen). The screen is super precise and supports all Surface Pen generations. The screen also supports Dolby Vision IQ which works by adjusting the colours on the screen based on the levels of ambient light to boost your viewing experience. Watching movies appeared better than my home TV (I need to upgrade) with ultra-vivid colours which are powered by Dolby Vision®3.
I personally find use any device without a touch screen cumbersome to use as touch now feels so natural across almost every other type of device we use.
The screen is protected with Gorilla Glass 5 (GG3 on the Alcantara version), which not only protects the screen but also provides great resistance to scratching.
Camera / Webcam
The front-facing camera is set in the bezel of the display. This is an HD 720p quality optic that supports Windows Hello. To be honest, 720p seems a bit poor for a premium level laptop, but the camera is high quality and provides good images even in poor light.
Camera quality is ok – more than enough for video calls, but you wouldn’t use it for high-quality photos – a little grainy.
Audio and Sound
Audio quality on Surface Laptop is really good, especially compared to cheaper devices on the market. You get dual studio mics located each side of the web cam and the speakers, leverage Dolby Atmos®.4 to provide virtual surround sound. It’s great for Teams calls or watching movies etc.
As always with super thin devices, connectivity is minimal but practical. All the ports are located on the left-hand side of the laptop with just the Surface connect port located on the right side which can be used for charging and connectivity to a Surface Dock which then gives you almost endless connectivity options as well as multiple screen support at 4k.
You get a single USB-A 3.1 and a USB-C port which supports Thunderbolt 4.0. There’s also a 3.5mm headphone socket and the Surface charging connector.
For connecting more than that you’ll need to use a Surface dock or use Bluetooth of course.
For a device you can carry around and use all day – it needs to be light and have great battery life, or you are forced to carry a charger around “just in case”. Good battery life of course needs to balance three things – performance, battery life and power consumption.
Microsoft say that Surface Laptop 5 can last up to 18 hours of battery life, but the test conditions used by manufacturers is rarely the environment most workers use daily.
I averaged 9 hours and 32 minutes of battery life on a single charge.
I have been using Surface Laptop 5 for just over a month now and have not had a day (yet) where I needed to plug the device in to charge to get me through the day. In my environment I didn’t do anything special – and had settings within Windows as follows:
Screen Brightness: Auto Keyboard Backlight: Off (this is going to use power) Screen Brightness: 60% (with auto-adjust off) Power Saving Mode: Auto Power mode: Recommended (default)
With these in place, and using a typical mix of Teams calls, Office apps and Web Apps, I averaged 9 hours and 32 minutes for the laptop to go from 100% to it shutting off when i ignored the “plug me in” notifications. By best day was 11 hours 12 minutes and my worst day (which was all day on video calls), the the laptop still powered through for 8hrs 4 mins.
Microsoft is committed to sustainability and carbon reduction, and this applies to the Surface device family also. Microsoft Surface laptops and tablets are EPEAT gold-registered, and Microsoft are committed to carbon neutrality across the supply chain by 2030.
From a repairability perspective (which also reduced waste and prolongs device life), Surface Laptop 5 devices have a replaceable SSD, display, battery, and motherboard, amongst other swappable components. This is a huge win for consumers and business since it means they can not only stretch out the lifespan of the Surface Laptop 5 by replacing failed components, but it also goes a long way to help corporate ESG goals. This is not unique to Surface Laptop 5 either, the slide below from Microsoft showcases just how repairable Surface now is.
Surface is also committed to:
Ensuring packaging is from recycled, renewable or responsibly sourced content by 2025
Eliminating all virgin, single use Pretoleum-based plastics by 2025
Being fully recyclable by 2030
Uses 100% recyclable packaging by 2030
In the race for king of premium, this is also another winning factor over devices like the Apple MacBook.
Microsoft even have a YouTube video showing some of this repairability. ⬇️
Verdict – Why Choose Surface?
Surface Laptop 5 may not be a radical new or wow design, but Surface Laptop just works. I’m a big fan of Surface, so you may consider me biased (but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong)!
To me there’s four main reason I choose Surface over other brands.
Look: High-quality, thin, lightweight, premium design and workmanship
Performance: Vast range of technical configuration (and therefore price)
Support: Built to run Windows by the company that makes Windows
Sustainability: Repairable, strong commitments to re-use and recycle as well as low-power and excellent battery life (easily lasts a full day of use).
Microsoft Surface celebrated 10 years of Surface yesterday, with the 2022 line up, which saw Surface Pro 9 with 5G, Surface Laptop 5 and Surface Studio 2 + being launched.
With what was a modest event, compared to previous years, Microsoft unveiled a handful of new and updated Surface devices including:
Surface Pro 9
Surface Pro 9 with 5G
Surface Laptop 5
Surface Studio 2+
Audio Dock and Microsoft Presenter +
The keynoted by Panos Panay, EVP and Chief Product Officer at Microsoft, kicked off the event taking viewers through the history of Microsoft’s journey with Surface.
Surface Pro 9
Always my favour form factor that makes Surface a Surface is the Pro range. Microsoft Surface Pro 9 tablet was annouced with a new Liberty floral print design in blue colour, which has been created in collaboration with design house Liberty London.
Like the Laptop 5, The Surface Pro 9 comes equipped with Thunderbolt connectors and has a 120Hz, 13-inch PixelSense display which makes it perfect for use both as a hand-held tablet and as a laptop when attached to a type cover keyboard.
Microsoft displayed how the Windows 11 adapts with larger spacing between apps when the keyboard is detached from the tablet. Microsoft showcased just how quickly Windows 11 adapts to the change in use, with larger spacing between apps when the keyboard is detached from the device.
Surface Pro 9 is the first in the series with 5G capabilities. This variant is built on the ARM-based Microsoft SQ3 processor powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon and has a battery life of up to 19 hours.
Other variants of the tablet are powered by Intel’s 12th-generation EVO processor.
The front facing camera is centred and field of view has been widened. The (optional) Surface Slim Pen 2 The tablet has a microactuator inside, which, according to Microsoft means “its ink-focussed view makes writing on the screen feel like writing on paper with digital ink that appears to flow”.
Exlusive also to the Surface Pro 9 5G model, is a new NPU (neural processing unit) which Microsoft said is the most powerful ever in a laptop. The NPU gives the Pro 9 the ability to dynamically focus on the subject at all times, even if the subject is moving. It can automatically creates blur effects and smooth auto framing.
Also provided by the NPU, is a new Voice Focus, which drastically cuts out all kinds of background noise. This was showcased with a leaf blower and hair dryer and seemed extremely impressive (almost magical).
Surface Laptop 5
Laptop 5 was first new product revealed at the event and follows last years Surface Laptop 4, released in 2021.
Following the same popular design size, Laptop 5 was shown being opened with just one hand revealing a new, quieter keyboard which has been further optimised for responsiveness. As you’d expect, the design is sleek and light and available in four colours, including the newest colour, sage green.
Surface Laption 5 is built on the latest Intel EVO platform and now has Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Microsoft says that the laptop is up to 50 percent more powerful than its predecessor. It has up to 18 hours of battery life and features a fast charge feature, which powers up the laptop in 30 minutes to provide 9 hours of battery life.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 has the usual 3:2 PixelSense display for both their 13.5-inch and 15-inch models and feature Dolby Vision IQ to deliver richer details and sharper contrast that are tuned to automatically adjust colour accuracy. The screen is also 120hz.
From an audio perspective, we get Dolby Atmos 3D spatial processing speakers, placed right behind the corners of the keys on the keyboard.
Surface Studio 2+
A superb device that many thought had been forgotten was also brought back to life. Oddly called Studio 2+, rather than 3, this could suggest a design change might come in the future, but for now it keeps the futuristic design of Studio 2 and is beautiful.
Surface Studio 2+ is powered by Intel i7 quad-core processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060, which Microsoft say is “five times more powerful than the original Surface Studio.”
It comes with three Thunderbolt ports in keeping with rest of the line up and has a 4K display with a colour depth of DCI P3. This also naturally features both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio.
The gorgeous 28inch screen can be adjusted with just a one-finger push which allows it to intelligently glide and stay in what ever position works for the mode of work. Leveraging Windows 11’s snap layout feature, the screen is large enough to have four separate 14-inch display windows open at the same time, something designers love.
Audio Dock and Microsoft Presenter+
Two other hardware products were revealed at the event. These were Microsoft Presenter+, which is a Teams remote with a mute button, and Audio Dock with multiple ports and spacial speaker and mic
Windows and Surface Together
Whilst the focus was of course about the new Surface line up, most of which were inline with the predictions, the importance and development of Windows was also front of stage. As such, Microsoft used this event to showcase new features for Windows 11, many designed specifically around Surface and other multi form factor devices like Surface Studio Laptop, a Surface Pro and Studio 2+.
Following up from the Windows 11 22H2 update that is now rolling out, Microsoft highlighted so of the new accessibility features that are built in to Windows 11. This incudes a system-wide live captions from audio content, which automatically appears on the screen when any audio from any source is playing.
Among other accessibility features showcased was system wide voice access for voice control and navigation which include new natural voices.
Pricing and Availability
No official announcement of the price of any new Microsoft Surface product was made during the event.
Microsoft will still detect for known issues or incompatibilities in your system, either hardware or application based as as such may still implement a blocking safeguardnto prevent your device getting the update until the known issue is resolved.
For less eager users, who do not manually check for updates, the update will arrive in time as part of the traditional update release schedule, giving the Microsoft more time to to continue monitoring the quality and success of the rollout across the huge number of devices running Windows 11.
For more experienced users, Microsoft has also made official ISOs for #Windows11 available from their website or by using the Windows 11 Installation Assistant. Please ensure you don’t use third party, non Microsoft sites as these are likely to be scams and full of nasties!
Known issues with 22H2
Microsoft is constantly monitoring the efficiency and quality of the update and have issues a few advisories around certain incompatibilities with the update which include amongst other things some printer drivers issues as well as an issue when copying large files to Windows 11 2022 systems locally and via network. Patches for the latter are already being rolled out.
Microsoft has confirm what many were expecting. They are holding a Surface event next month (October 12th).
Being held and streamed online also, the event, which is officially dubbed “Microsoft Fall 2022 Event,” is being hosted the day before its global Ignite Event. October also marks the 10 year anniversary of Surface! Wow.
What to expect
As is usual this time of year, the rumour mill and noise around the event is on fire.
It is “expected” that Microsoft will be annoucing the Surface Pro 9 which will have the option of Arm or Intel processors, update to Surface Laptop and a new (but different) Surface Studio.
There is also rumour of new Surface accessories coming too, and knowing Microsoft there will also be a couple of suprises..
To find out first hand what is new and what to get excited about, you can register and watch live by registering here.
For users / owners of Surface Headphones 2+ (for Business), Microsoft are rolling out a new firmware update which enables the devices to be Microsoft Teams® certified using native Bluetooth® without a dongle.
This means users of Surface Headphones 2+ will be able to depend on reliable connections during calls and interact with intuitive touch control with the convenience of not having to worry about the dongle – something which will improve productivity and ease of use for employees that (like me) often navigate different workspaces and devices for hybrid work and everyday life.
This is made possible by Microsoft leveraging the improvement in Bluetooth connectivity directly via the Surface companion app for Windows and Mac desktop clients.
Specific other vendor devices will, in the future, also get firmware updates to support native Bluetooth stack certification support.
For more information about Surface Headphones, you can check out the Microsoft product pages here.
Microsoft Defender for Endpoint has just received top marks for the latest Advanced Threat Protection Test carried out by AV-Test in Feb 2022.
The report (which tested many of the top products including Microsoft Defender in both the home and commercial space) found that it was best-in-class in terms of its ransomware detection and blocking.
The Advanced Threat Protection tests provide vendors and users with substantial findings as to how securely a product can protect against ransomware in real-life scenarios.
… All the products have to successfully defend against ransomware in 10 real-life scenarios under Windows. The test involves threats such as files containing hidden malware in archives, PowerPoint files with scripts or HTML files with malicious content.
The tests were carried out amongst 14 of the top anti virus and endpoint protection products in the consumer and commercial space including:
Whilst Microsoft came out joint top for all the tests in the corporate space, the lowest of the scores were McAfee / Trellix who AV-TEST claim were unable to fully block ransomware attacks in multiple different attack scenarios:
You can access the full reports from AV-TEST here.
Good news for consumers and corporate
In short this should be good news for corporate customers that use Microsoft Defender (which is built into Windows 10 and Windows 11) as well as consumers.
Consumers in particular are often sold additional third party antivirus and anti ransomware products when they buy a new computer, buy software or through advertising and whilst there may be good reasons to buy additional products, these results should demonstrate just how good Microsoft are at protecting consumers and corporate clients who use their products.
Defender is part of a much bigger family
In the corporate space at least, Microsoft Defender is a an entire multiplatform, multi vendor platform suite of. Integrated services for protecting corporate systems and data from attack, breach, ransomware and theft. Their product suite extends across Identity (Defender for Identity), Cloud, Endpoint, IoT and Office 365 to name just a few.
You can find out more about the Microsoft Defender suite of products for corporate customers here.
Microsoft also annouced last month the release of Microsoft Defender for individuals which provides enterprise grade protection for Microsoft 365 consumers and family users. Microsoft Defender is a cross-device security app that helps individuals and families protect their data and devices, and stay safer online with malware protection, real-time security notifications, and security tips. You can read more here.
In recent years, Microsoft has taken a leaf out of Apple Book and is know known for putting together some pretty awesome product launch and general marketing videos for their Surface Lineup and Windows 11.
Whilst we usually only see these things at annual press events and new product launches such as Laptop Studio or Surface Duo, Panos Panay has recently taken to social media and posted a really awesome mashup reveal of the latest innovations across Windows 11 and the Microsoft Surface Products.
Many of my followers will know that I am a huge fan of Surface and also an MVP for #Windows11, but I must admit, this short video even gave me goosebumps since it really does capture the best of what makes Surface devices truly remarkable and innovative (setting the standard for other OEMs). The video also shows some of the latest enhancements within Windows 11 that were annouced formerly in their Future of Work event on the 5th April, where Panos showed off enhancements to things like Fluent icons, the Start Menu, and Windows Hello.
Microsoft is known for setting the standard and innovating the laptop market with Surface and with Surface Laptop SE they have done it again – this time at the lowest end of the market with the extremely cheap but well built Surface that starts from just £229.
What is Surface Laptop SE?
Microsoft target market for Surface Laptop SE is schools that buy laptops in bulk to give to students in classrooms and/or to take home. This is laptop for children from primary age up to mid-secondary school age, which explains why this has been built with lower end specifications and the more lightweight and plastic design.
Surface Laptop SE is not sold commercially or direct to consumers and runs Windows 11 SE, which relies on remote provisioning, deploying, and admin for installing and maintaining applications.
Note: Windows 11 SE is not like Windows 10 in S Mode. Windows 11 SE run apps from both in and from outside the Microsoft Store. The main difference is that the OS is trimmed down and has been specifically optimised for lower specification devices. Windows SE is Microsoft's solution to help empower teachers and learners with productive, sturdy and reliable laptops at scale.
For a device that costs between £229 and £300 you might think “really!!!!”, but I’d say that Microsoft has done it again and created an awesome piece of budget hardware which should set a new standard for low-end devices built specifically for Pre-School, Primary and lower Secondary School students.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop SE is available to education through Surafce resellers and also via Microsoft directly and pricing starts from just £229 for the 4GB RAM/64GB model, which comes with a dual-core Intel Celeron N4020 processor. The model I tested, was the slightly higher specification model which retails at around £299 and has 8GB of RAM, 128GB storage and a quad-core Intel Celeron N4120 CPU.
First Impressions: Look and Feel
This looks like a Surface! From a design perspective, the Surface Laptop SE has some similarities from its sibling, the Surface Laptop Go, but has a much more attractive price for the education market. To get to a price of just £229, Microsoft have had to compromise in a number of areas such as swapping the sleek “Surface” metal for a more child-friendly plastic for the overall chassis design. Do not let that put you off though – it is still a sleek and elegant design that looks modern, clean and far more premium than it should for a device at this price.
The top lid features a simple but bold Surface logo, while the underside of the device is clean with just seven screws that hold it together allowing for easy accessibility for repairs – yes – this is a repairable device! Alongside this, there are four rubber feet with the two rear ones being slightly taller than the front to allow a natural and angled keyboard typing experience.
Port and connectivity wise, the Laptop SE has a USB Type-A, USB Type-C (which supports power, data and video display), a headphone jack, a separate barrel type charger in favour for a the standard Surafce Connector – which I found a little odd, but presumably is much cheaper to replace.
Laptop SE is extremely light – weighing just over a kilo at 1.11kg (about 2.4 pounds) which is the weight of a bag of sugar! You can see my “unboxing experience” below.
First Impressions: Useability
So first things and weird to get my head round is that the Surafce Laptop SE does not have a touch screen, nor does it support pen and ink! This is not surprising given the price point but had to put that out there – it is a Surface after all!
It’s normally easy to tell a cheap/budget laptop from the quality of the casing, keyboard and trackpad but not on Surface Laptop SE. The experience on Laptop SE is every bit premium and features exceptional quality and usability. Unlike many other budget laptops, Microsoft have reinforced the keyboard, which provides a sturdy and premium typing experience which is IMO the same as the experience on any Surafce Laptop Go .
As a budget device, Microsoft have replaced the usual LCD multi-touch screen found it other Surface devices with a 16:9 aspect ratio, 11.6-inch non-touch TFT screen with a resolution of 1366×768 and an aspect ration of 135 pixels per inch.
When using the Surface Laptop SE, the display is bright, colours look good and the matt screen works well (especially given that in a school environment it’s usually bright and light). Viewing angles are good too and it’s easy to see the screen even if you are looking square on. Finally, screen bezels are a bit thick, but given this is designs for school use, it means you dont grab the screen when closing the lid or changing the angle.
Surface Laptop SE is equipped with just a 1-megapixel 720p (30 FPS) front-facing camera, which is of course a lower budget option compared to the flagship devices. Despite the lower resolution, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the camera worked (even in low and bright light), and in a Teams test call with myself, the image quality was very good and sharp. The onboard microphone is also really good (well it was in limited test environment) and did a great job of picking up all the relevant voice tones.
Given this is a device for schools, it needs to last the school day at least right and even more if the schools are providing these on a 1:1 basis for students which is happening more and more.
Battery life is good, Microsoft claims 16 hours, which they never seem to get right in real life, but I used my test device for a whole day from 8:30am until the battery died at around 4:30pm – a solid 8.5hrs of constant use with it plugged into a second screen, running on wireless and with all my common apps open including Teams which I used for around 6 Teams Meetings.
Performance and Workload
Surface Laptop SE is totally silent in operation. It doesn’t get hot, it does not have a fan, so it produces no ambient noise – at all.
My Test Scenario 1. Battery fully charged (no plugged int mains) 2. Wireless On 3. External Monitor Connected via USB-C in Extended Mode 4. Brightness and Power all set to “auto” 5. Workloads tested: 6 x Teams Calls (with video), PowerPoint, Outlook, Word, Excel, Edge
As you’d imagine by the insanely low price point, Surface Laptop SE is no power horse, though it performed surprisingly well given what I threw at it.
For the main all my core apps like Office Apps and Teams ran well. The device comes with Minecraft Education Edition installed too, so took this for a spin over lunch and it too ran without an issue or lag (I just need to learn how to play it). Surface Laptop SE seemed quite happy chugging along with the majority of my day-to-day productivity apps together. Apps running via the browser were naturally more responsive which is one of the great things with modern apps like Office 365 in the browser.
The only place where it seems to “struggle” a bit, was initial device boot up, resume from sleep (which takes a second or two) and general “first time” app launching where you really notice the performance lag of the “out-dated” chipsets in this device – the N4120 Celeron processor is some 3 years old. This isn’t Microsoft’s fault as it’s the best they can do (and they have done well) with what Intel offers at this low price point.
That said – performance it is not awful, and after a few hours of use, it feels normal to be honest – this is due in part to the way in which Microsoft optimised Windows 11 SE to take the best advantage of the low-power Celeron N4120 processor, including streamlining the Windows 11 OS to use less system resources.
I cover Windows 11 SE in a separate post.
Conclusion and Closing Comments
Given the age range and sector this device is aimed at – it is more than adequate and a great bit of “value” Surface tech.
Surface Laptop SE highlights what makes Surface, a Surface and it sets the standard for low cost, good quality laptops for primary and secondary education. Microsoft’s attention to detail, focus on core features, and quality design where it matters are all what Surface does best and Surface Laptop SE is no exception.
You won’t be buying one of these for the office, but even though this is designed for school children. It feels good to use and doesn’t feel like a budget friendly device at all. Most students (even teachers to be honest), don’t “need” a high-end Surface Laptop or Pro and if this means schools can equip students and teachers with technology to facilitate digital curriculum then Surface Laptop SE can go a long way to help school achieve this.
This of course, brings us to the obvious question about why Microsoft doesn’t sell this directly to consumers as well (with Windows 11 Pro)? I think they should – I’d certainly buy one for my 7 y/o. I think with a slightly better CPU, it would make a great home laptop at a crazy cheap price.
To end this review, if you work at a Primary or Secondary School, are looking at ways to increase your device to student ratio or provide a laptop for every child, Surface Laptop SE should be looked at.
Microsoft describe their Laptop Studio as a “Portable Device with a Seamless Transition Between Laptop and Canvas…. Your Own Portable Studio with a Large Touchscreen & Top Performing Graphics“.
In this hands-on review, I put one of these devices through the paces for two weeks as my daily device, to see how this new form factor device, which blends the best of Surface Studio 2 and Surface Book performed.
Spec Tested: Surface Laptop Studio – 14.4″ Platinum | 11th Gen i7 | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD
My First Impressions
Being a long-term user/fan/enthusiast of Surface, then the first thing I was presented with when un-boxing the Surface Laptop Studio is how familiar, yet unique and different at the same time it is. Laptop Studio is a natural modern evolution of all the best things that makes a Surface a Surface and they have done a great job putting together their latest flagship devices. Its simply a thing of beauty with grunt and muscle to go along side the good looks.
At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking it is simply a bigger, slightly chunkier Surface Laptop that has been given the Windows 11 “rounded edges” treatment. But it is not. Then there is the fact there are many similarities not only to Laptop 4 but also to Apple’s latest MacBook Pro range. From the rounded corners, layout of the keyboard and ports and the large trackpad, these are all similar to that found on Apple’s MacBook Pro (after all both have been borrowing design ideas and innovation from each other for years).
Microsoft are known for setting the design standard through innovation when it comes to their products. If it wasn’t for Microsoft Surface the 2-in-1 or ink driven UI may never have been born after all!
Laptop Studio is no different so when you look a little closer you notice that’s much more than meets the eye.
Blending the best of Studio and Laptop
Whilst Laptop Studio can be used just like a a normal clam-shell laptop, you can fold down the screen to turn the laptop into a tablet (aka Studio mode) for drawing and sketching.
There’s also a half-way house, where by you can simply just pull forward the screen into “Stage Mode” to use it as an angled touch canvas for taking notes, annotating work, playing games and watching films or box sets.
This is all made possible thanks to what Microsoft is calling a “Dynamic Woven Hinge,” which feels sturdy and makes it easy to flip the screen into its various modes of use.
Who is Laptop Studio designed for?
In all the promotional videos around Laptop Studio, Microsoft showcases digital artists using the screen in its various positions to draw on it in flagship apps like Adobe Creative Studio. They also show it being used flat when docked to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard for a complete hybrid experience of digital note taking and conventional computing.
Laptop Studio is clearly an evolution of what Microsoft had developed with Surface Book. With Laptop Studio, Microsoft have made it easier to change between modes and there’s no need to separate the screen from the base unit, though I did often find some advantages in that since I could separate tablet component and move around leaving the base connected to a monitor and dock.
Surface Slim Pen 2
Ok, some personal advice. Do not buy, test or be given (you never know) a Surface Pro, Book, Studio or Laptop Studio without a Surface Pen. To me, the touch screen and ability to use digital ink is what stands Surface out from the crowd. Inking is it’s thing and with Surface Laptop Studio and Surface Slim Pen 2 – that experience just got even better.
Surface Slim Pen 2, is of course a must-have for graphic designers or just the more artistic users but for me (who’s been using Surface since the days of Surface RT) it’s still a must and I’d say that it’s a necessary extra for anyone buying a Surface.
Surface Pens have always been great with their 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and inter-changable nibs, but the best thing about Surface Slim Pen 2 that is now has haptic feedback which works in a growing number of apps – from drawing and inking in Whiteboard or OneNote you now get distinct vibrations which mimic the resistance felt when using different types of pencils, pens, markers and highlighters. The haptic feedback makes it feel much more like you are drawing on a real sheet of paper or canvas that a screen and their is remarkable improvement when comparing the canvass feel I was used too on my Surface Book 2.
Like I said, Surface Pens are not just for artists. I see the pen as a vital tools for taking notes, marking up documents or making quick edits to Office docs. The pen can also double up as a more natural tool for reviewing, editing and presenting. As an example, in Microsoft Word, you can use the pen to delete sentences by simply crossing them out, in PowerPoint you can simply ink and draw on the slides and with Edge you can write and draw directly on web-pages or use the pen to annotate notes etc. You can also program the pen to launch apps on a click and of course you can use it as a trust PowerPoint clicker in presentations.
Surface Pens are also designed to work with well known third-party programs including the Adobe Creative Suite, Sketchup and many others.
Surface Slim Pens are magnetic and charge wirelessly. On the Laptop Studio the pen is designed to be stored under the front lip on the keyboard area where it magnetically sticks nicely sticks and charges.
Ports and Charging
The Laptop Studio is actually also pretty slim on ports, with just two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C inputs, a headphone jack and Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect port for using the included charger. You can, however also charge the device via the USB-C port with a compatible power cable). The latest Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports are ideal for connecting to 4K monitors and for connecting to external files from hard drives.
Keyboards and Touchpad
The Keyboard on the Surface Laptop Studio is probably the best they have ever made, and Microsoft keyboards (even on the Laptop Go) are really good. The keyboard has great depth and travel and is responsive with the keys well spaced. As you’d expect it has the usual back-lighting which can be customised or tuned off and you get all the usual volume and media controls above the function keys.
The haptic touch pad brings another similarity from the MacBook Pro. Haptic touchpads, uses a touch-sensitive pad that vibrates to simulate a click instead of buttons that sit beneath the trackpad. I found the trackpad worked really well, with everything from clicking links and browser tabs in edge to pinching to zoom into webpages or office documents felt responsive and natural. Just like a traditional click-based trackpad, the haptic touchpad responded well to our inputs no matter where on the touchpad I clicked or pinched.
Microsoft provide the ability for you to adjust the intensity of the touchpad rumble. It isn’t a killer feature by any means, but it is a nice upgrade which I hope becomes standard on Surface devices moving forward.
Screen and Multi-Media
The display on the Surface Laptop Studio is simply a thing of beauty. As well as looking modern and sharp, the colours are vibrant, blacks black and detail is crisp and sharp whether you’re working in Office apps, inking or drawing or watching a film or box set on Netflix.
The screen is a 14.4-inch, 2400 x 1600 resolution, 120Hz display with the usual Surface 3:2 standard aspect ratio, which means you can comfortably watch 8K films or National Geographic documentaries on Disney Plus! The 120Hz does wonders for image quality and smoothness since the 120hz refresh rate is double that of most mainstream laptops and non-gaming monitors, which essentially means the display is twice as responsive.
It’s not just gaming and film watching though that benefits from a 120Hz display. I noticed that when scrolling through webpages or word documents or using a digital graphics apps like Microsoft Whiteboard, the display felt much more responsive and smoother that it does/did on my Surface Book 2 which is standard 60Hz display like most mainstream laptops.
Laptop Studio also has an impressively high quality set of quad Dolby Atmos speakers which is far from what you’d expect on a laptop! From watching StarWars films, to playing games and listening to Spotify, the audio was loud, crisp and clean with no distortion or tinny sounds/vibrations at full volume.
In usual day to day Microsoft Teams Calls, audio comes through clearly and colleagues gave no complaints about my own audio when using the built-in dual microphones.
Power & Performance
Microsoft position the Surface Laptop Studio as Microsoft’s most powerful Surface yet, and based on using the device for 2 weeks, I wont argue with that statement!
I’ve been using this device for pretty much everything this past two weeks and it has handled everything I threw at with ease with no slowing down or performance drag. The device I have been using is equipped with an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11370H processor and 32GB of RAM and was running the GA build of Windows 11.
In the two weeks I had the device – I used it every day and didn’t reboot it once. Most days I had at least 8-10 apps open including Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint, Word, Excel, PowerBI Desktop, Power Automate Desktop, Paint3D, Camtasia and Edge (with far too many tabs open). This was connected to my Surface Dock where it also powered a ultra-wide 4K screen and allowed me to switch seamlessly between the apps without any signs of struggling or slowdown. I also managed to do some graphics rich editing in Camtasia with the other apps running in the back-ground without any effort at all.
I managed to spend an evening (once the kids were in bed) using Laptop Studio as a mini gaming station by pairing my son’s Xbox controller via Bluetooth and using the device in its’ “stage mode”. It was a real pleasure to use and something I could easily get used too.
Given the amount of power in the Surface Laptop Studio, you’d think the battery was going to let it down. It doesn’t.
I spend a day in our London office last week and risked not taking a charger with me. I’m never one to believe the claims made by manufacturers around battery life, but in my “day out”, the Laptop Studio lasted me just over 8hrs 30 mins of usage which was spend mainly in Office apps and Teams video meetings (webcam on), on a wireless internet and with my Poly Voyager Focus 2 Bluetooth headphones connected.
This is felt was pretty impressive when you consider that kept the device in its default 120Hz mode and was connected to Wi-Fi all day too with my web-cam on for a good 2-3 hours.
In my experience, the Laptop Studio’s runtime is just a tad less than on the Surface Laptop 4 and was about the same as the Surface Book 2 (which is nearly 3 years old now). Surface Pro X (which runs ARM) has been my personal best so far consistently giving me over 9 hours of continual use.
Ok – so Laptop Studio is hardly an entry level device but pricing depending on what you desire / need isn’t as bad as you might think, but some of the key models and pricing are illustrated below for business.
Price (Ex VAT)
i5/16GB RAM/256GB SSD
i7/16GB RAM/512GB SSD/NVIDIA G-FORCE RTX A2000
i7/32GB RAM/1TB SSD/NVIDIA G-FORCE RTX A2000
i7/32GB RAM/2TB SSD/NVIDIA G-FORCE RTX 3050
Sample Surface Laptop Studio Business Pricing [Feb 2022]
Alternatives – of course, the thinner sleeker Surface Laptop 4 or Surface Pro 8 makes for good alternatives for everyday users who don’t need loads of power but still need and good all-rounder device. Personally, I’d always go Pro over Laptop and I don’t think I could live within pen and ink!
In my opinion, Surface Laptop Studio is the best Surface device Microsoft has ever made.
Suppose I had better back that statement up right!?
Ok – well, it’s has the perfect combination of style, performance and battery whilst still being one of the best looking devices you’ll ever see or use. It’s sleek and flexible 2-in-1 design combined with (optional) Slim 2 Pen make it an especially great choice for graphics, drawing, inking and sketching and the haptic touch-pad and updated keyboard feels great for everyday use. Finally the super sharp 14.4-inch 120Hz display brings both detail, colour and sharpness to every app or use and really shows its self off when used for digital editing, gaming or watching 4K or 8K movies.
Like the Surface Book they are not the cheapest of the range but for that you have the Laptop 4, or Surface Pro, but here is my top 5 reasons to buy one (or get your manager to buy you one).
Their Best Ever – The 2-in-1 design makes this the best Surface Microsoft have every made and it is a no-brainer upgrade from the Surface Book
Powerful and Sleek – but will still get you through (just) a working day, but supports USB-C charging if you need it,
Simply gorgeous and really turns heads
Can handle anything and everything you through it without compromise.
A true digital canvass – it handles graphics, video editing and drawing apps with a breeze and the Slim Pen 2 turns it into a true digital canvass.
Windows 11 officially launched on October 25th 2021 and ever since that day, Microsoft have been working hard ensure it’s shipped by default with all new modern PCs as well as of course through the free upgrade on supported Windows 10 devices.
Whilst there are still some niggles and bugs reported by users such as task bar functionality and the controversial move of the start menu (which can me moved back to the left if preferred), feedback continues to make a difference and Microsoft are still hard at work on features and updates which will be part of the first major update later this year (currently being tested by #WindowsInsiders as usual).
Microsoft announced, as part of their FY22 Q2 earnings call, a new Windows blog post which highlights the scale and growth of the Windows market, user satisfaction and adoption.
The blog post cited a number of stats including the rapid adoption rate of Windows 11 stating that “Windows 11 also has the highest quality scores and product satisfaction of any version of Windows we’ve ever shipped.”
The PC is more important than ever
According to Microsoft, people are spending 40% more time on their Windows 11 PC when compared to how people used Windows 10. Whilst Microsoft don’t provide substantial details around how the data is collected, its likely as a result of the huge amount of telemetry data that Microsoft have across their product use. Of course Windows 11 has only really “existed” during these COVID-19 times, which is likely to be part of the reason people are spending more time on their devices than pre pandemic.
Over 1.4 Billion Windows devices
In the earnings call, Microsoft said they exceeded expectations for device shipments in Q2 and also exceeded their personal computing segment. Microsoft shared figures for Windows 11, Windows 10, Microsoft Teams, and their other services in a call to investors.
The big stat that was called out was that the total number of devices running Windows now stands at over 1.4 billion devices.
Windows OEM licensing was up by a massive 25% this quarter driven by continued growth in the PC market, despite the on going global chip shortage.
Related to the above, Microsoft Surface revenue also grew by 8%, driven by unprecedented demand for Surface Laptop and Surface Pro 8.
Other OEMs like HP, Lenovo and Dell, Lenovo have also recently published record growth numbers which also help drive that a Windows 11 number upwards.
2021 saw the release of Windows 11 and Microsoft moving to a twice annual update model (outside of security and critical updates).
As we close out 2021 around the world and welcome in 2022, I wanted to share my list of things that I hope may come to Windows 11 this year.
If you haven’t made the move to Windows 11 yet and have not seen it, then in summary, other than a pretty major UI change, Windows 11 really refines a lot of what’s good about Windows 10 without compromising too many of its strengths, adds new functionality to enhance productivity and brings the OS up to date in terms of design, leading edge security baselines and performance.
Like Windows 10, the OS will be reguarly serviced and Microsoft have already confirmed that the next major update to Windows 11 will ship in the second half of 2022. As usual, Windows Insiders will be at the front of the line, testing and feeding back through the development phase as usual.
Below is a summary of some of the top changes to Windows 11 I’m hoping to see in 2022.
What I hope to see in 2022
I will keep this based on what is either public knowledge (Insider MVPs have strict NDAs so we can’t share anything told or shared under NDA).
1. Finishing the build…
22H2 will most likely see Microsoft continue to “finish” off the OS with the features, fixes and changes that either didn’t make it into the initial release or have been niggles/annoyances fed back by the user community via blogs, tweets and the formal Windows feedback hub. Much of these niggles at the top of the feedback lists are associated with finally delivery a consistent system wide dark mode across the OS including to legacy UI components, performance issues around WinUI and the return of the missing functionality, especially those centred around the start menu and Taskbar (like drag and drop).
2. Make the Widgets more useful
Widgets in Windows 11 seemed a really promising concept, but so far have failed to really add anything useful to the OS. They have lots of potential though I think.
Since live tiles in Windows are no more with Windows 11 (which I do kinda miss), Widgets, are essentially auto-updating tiles which reside within a hidden tray that slides out from the left side of the screen when you tap or click on the Widgets button. It builds on the weather/news taskbar app that shipped in Windows 10 21H1.
Within the Widgets is a Top Stories module that shows a selection of six stories from different news outlets like BBC, the Express, The Mirror, and more. Unfortunately it seems more like a never-ending stream of mainly irrelevant stories from different media outlets around the world. These can be personalised broadly by filtering th news from a list of interest topics that Microsoft provide.
The idea of being able to quickly pull up a Widget to monitor CPU performance, jot down a note or add something to a to-do list is pretty useful, so it’s annoying that this aspect of the OS feels so unfinished and rushed. Hopefully it will change and I think allowing users more control over the content and news sources and allowing third party apps like Spotify etc, Widgets would make widgets a really useful part of Windows 11.
From the feedback I have seen via Feedback Hub, Microsoft is likley to give the widget panel some much needed attention in 2022 (especially since the latest Insider Dev build broke widgets entirely).
3. Release the Android App Support
Other than for Windows Insiders in the USA, one of the flagship features annouced at the launch of Windows 11, Android App support has still not been released so I expect this to make its way to everyone in version update 22H2.
This is important since it was a significant part of Microsoft’s marketing plan around the annoucement of Windows 11. Microsoft showed a native Android version of Tiktok running on the same Windows desktop as Excel during the official unveiling of Windows 11 in June 2021.
Like many, I remain skepticle as to how this will materialise, whether it will live up to hype and if people will use it. It will also be interesting to see if it will be limited to apps from the Amazon App Store (a much more limited. Set of apps to the wider Google Play store).
In short, I think that if Microsoft wants to convince more comsumers to migrate to Windows 11, they needs to deliver this native Android app support sooner rather than later.
4. “Inbox” App Refreshes
Windows Insiders have seen some of the native ‘in-box’ apps updated in recent builds, such as MS Paint and Notepad and others are likley to get the modern Windows 11 UI updates such as media player, sound recorder etc. The native Mail & Calendar apps are also expected to be replaced with Microsoft’s new lightweight Outlook client in 2022.
5. More love for Windows on ARM
Windows on ARM (for devices like the Surface Pro X) seems to have been a bit neglected since Windows 11s launch, and we haven’t seen truck loads of ARM powered laptops hit the market.
Microsoft are due to release a formal devkit for ARM in 2022, in time for the next Surface Pro X which will likely ship with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx G3 chip. If Microsoft are serious about the future of ARM then 2022 is the year to make it a thing…as it still feels a little like an ‘experiment’.
What’s your top 5?
This is just my top five from a core functionality perspective. There are other little niggles as always with anything new and everyone has and is entitled to their view an opinion.
What ever you like, don’t like, love or hate, make sure you use the feedback hub in Windows 11 to tell the engineering team. As a Windows Insider MVP, I can tell that the Windows engineering team really do care and what to hear your feedback. It’s hard to make an OS that delivers everything to everyone (over a billion users), but that’s the goal so keep the feedback coming.
Santa was kind this year and allowed me to get my hands on a Surface Duo 2. Before I drive into the formal review, I’d like to summarise by saying that Surface Duo 2, whilst very much similar and samey is much better and more refined better than the original Duo. Whilst a Dual Screen may not be for everyone, it’s different and is great once you to adapt to it.
IMO, having two screens available will (once you get used to it) leave you wondering how you ever made do with just one before. It’s a convenience and multitasking experience that once you get used to is hard to let go of.
The Duo certainly get’s attention and is simply an awesome blend of Surface and Android then this device is worth every penny or cent.
The original Surface Duo was released in 2020 and whilst a thing of beauty (it looked gorgeous, was pretty responsive and a real “wow piece”, it lacked (for most) some key things such as NFC, and decent cameras which stopped me for replacing my daily driver (a Samsung S20) for the Duo.
The Surface Duo 2
Surface Duo 2 is simply the most beautiful bit of mobile technology I have ever set eyes on. It is a work of art, the Picasso of devices, and you just want to touch it and use it. The original Duo only came in a white (Glacier) , but the Duo 2 adds another colour option of black (called Obsidian) which is also stunning.
As I said in the intro, having two screens available to you (once you get used to it) will leave you wondering how you ever made do with just one before. It’s a convenience and multitasking experience that once you get used to is hard to let go of.
Surface Duo 2 is simply the most beautiful bit of mobile technology I have ever set eyes on.
Under the hood, Microsoft have given us a flagship mobile chipset (the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888), 2 beautiful screens, NFC, fast charging, the latest Bluetooth, 8GB of RAM and updated cameras (both on the front and in a new 3-camera cluster on the rear). There’s also a glance bar on the sides to see notifications. These hardware improvements have enabled me to use the Surface Duo 2 as my day-to-day device, which the original Duo fell short of.
Yes it is bigger than my “old” Samsung S20 Ultra, but it does feel ok in my pocket (now that my Surface Bumpers have arrived). Unlike the original, the Surface Duo 2 arrived with Android 11 waiting to be installed which, combined with the updated guts makes it feel super fast and responsive with no noticeable lag.
One week in and I haven’t experienced any major quirks, and my only annoyance is that the battery is still not as good as I would have hoped (more on that later) but then I have been using it (ok, showing it off) a lot and of course the Duo has to power two screens.
Design and Feel
The Surface Duo 2 feels more polished than the Surface Duo does. It still looks every bit Surface Duo, Microsoft have clearly listened to feedback and made a number of key refinements over the first generation.
One of the most noticeable changes (you can’t miss it), is the camera bump on the back of the device. Microsoft have added a powerful triple-lens camera setup (there was no rear camera in the original Duo), which means the cameras do protrude from the back of the device (like with most phones). This was a slight concern to me when I first started using the device, mainly because it’s so noticeable compared to the original Duo! The cameras are surrounded with a tough plastic material, which extends beyond the glass back of the camera. This means that camera lenses are not in direct contact with the back of the left side of the device when it closes. Its does stick out though and you can’t help think “I hope I dont damage it”.
With Duo 2, Microsoft has also addressed one of the most annoying things about the original Duo which was that you had to open the device just to check the time or see if you had any notifications – a problem you don’t get with single screen phones. Surface Duo 2 has notification displays (called the Glance bar) that wraps around the edge of the device and are activated with a simple tap of the unlock button to show the time or a missed notification.
Like the original Surface Duo, the Duo 2’s selling point and USP is centred around the dual-screen design.
Two screens make every day tasks so much easier. Everything from reading an eBook across two screens feels more natural, whilst being on. Teams Call and making notes in OneNote on another is simple a fluid. Another great example is when you are reading and email or on a web page with links. With dual screens, clicking a link means these can open on the second screen to read later. As I have said a few times now, having two screens at your disposal massively changes the ways in which you can multitasking on your device.
The displays themselves are simply beautiful and clear. Like many other aspects of the Surface Duo 2, the screens have been upgraded too. The original Duo had two 5.6-inch AMOLED displays with a 1,350 x 1,800 resolution, which “combined” into an equivalent single 8.1 display with a 1,800 x 2,700 resolution.
With Surface Duo 2, there are two 5.8-inch displays, which open up to a “combined” 8.3 inch single screen. Each display gives 1,344 x 1,899, which with a combined resolution of 2,688 x 1,892.
Each display on the Duo 2 has a 90Hz refresh rate and up to 800 nits of brightness. Duo 2 can also deliver over 87% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut which is actually slightly better than the Surface Laptop Studio, a device designed specifically for art and graphics focussed tasks.
Gesture support for the Surface Duo 2 is unchanged from the original. This is good becuase it works well, allowing for example, for you to swipe up and drag towards the middle of the two displays to have an app span both screens. Additionally, most Microsoft apps (and a few third party ones), take full advantage of the dual displays on the Surface Duo. I find apps like Outlook most useful on a dual screen whereby you can have your email list and your current emails side by side which makes scanning through and responding to email much easier and similar to what you’d expect on a Windows/Mac desktop app.
Microsoft Teams is another app that leverages the full potential of the dual screen capability of the Surface Duo. With Teams on a Surface Duo, you can have chat open on one display, with your video call open on the other which makes the mobile Teams experience much more aligned to how we tend to use apps and multitask in a Teams meeting. The Amazon Kindle app is good example of a non Microsoft app that has also been optimised for dual screen devices.
The launcher screen (which is the home screen UI)even allows you to group and launch apps side by side as I have shown in the example below from my original Surface Duo device.
The hinge mechanism on the Surface Duo 2 is the same as on the original Duo. It’s slick and smooth with just enough resistance to prevent it opening by accident and once open, it stays open and in place.
When you are paying this kind of money for a flagship phone, you expect decent cameras, and this was one area the original Surface Duo fell short. Whilst I’d day that Surface Duo is not really aimed at the average iPhone or Samsung S series customer, if you are going to use it as your primary device (whether that is work, personal or both), you don’t want to have to carry a second camera around just to be able to take good photos.
The Surface Duo 2 has two cameras, a 12MP front facing camera, and a triple-lens camera on the back which encompasses a 12MP wide lens, a 12 MP telephoto lens and a 16MP Ultra-Wide angle lens.
The camera bump does mean, however that you can no longer fold the device back completely but it’s a small price to pay for awesome cameras.
The image below is one I took while visiting Kew Gardens in London over the Xmas break.
If you’ve seen or used the original Duo, you will notice the photo quality is a huge improvement from the original and was one my biggest disappointments.
Specifications and Performance
With Surface Duo 2, Microsoft have put a decent flagship chipset inside. The original device, while an innovative bit of technology, struggled IMO to grab the attention needed because the chipset components used weren’t at the specification the device or the price-tag commanded.
This time, Microsoft have got it right – and includes the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, a leap ahead of the Snapdragon 855 which makes up the guts of the original model. RAM in the Surface Duo 2, has increased from 6GB to 8GB, but this is lower in comparison to what other vendors are heading for with their top end devices. Highend Samsung devices for example, now ship with 12GB.
Does it matter? Well, it may not be a RAM related thing, but I’ve read reviews from others seeing performance issues with Duo 2 where the phone gets “stuck” in a the camera app when taking lots of photos, or more precisely when switching from camera to another app and back again. I have not seen this myself yet but it’s something I’ll be on the look out for.
So far though, from my week of use, the Surface Duo 2 works and performs extremely well. I am comparing most of the day to day use with my previous daily device (the Samsung Galaxy S20) and it is at least on par with this, but far more fun to use.
Like all mobile phone makers, battery life gets close attention, and the published numbers are never (in true day-to-day life) accurate.
Microsoft claim “up to 15.5 hours of video playback and 28 hours of talk time”, which definitely sounds impressive. Here’s how the Duo 2 performed for me over Christmas Day and Boxing day….
Though out these two days, I took lots of photos and videos of the kids, family and friends, did a fair bit of web browsing, WhatsApp messaging and general “showing off” of the device, and it did fall short of Microsoft’s claims but faired better than I actually thought it would…
The Surface Duo 2 lasted 11.5hrs before the battery got to the critical 10% level. I didn’t try it with single screen only (why would I), but in essence I’d say it performed about as well as my 1 year old Samsung S20. I think I will still need to bring a battery charger with me for a full day out (fortunately the Duo 2 does support fast charging).
Another big use case of the Duo is gaming, after all this is a device made by the same company that built the Xbox and of course they have recently just released their Xbox Cloud Gaming service. With Surface Duo, You can play games using the second screen as a controller or you can stream console games using an Xbox controller.
Microsoft Surface Duo 2 is available to buy (at time of writing) from £1,349 – which gets you the base/standard configuration with the Snapdragon 888 chipset, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. For another £150 you can get the 256GB version and there’s also a version with 512GB RAM if you really need that much!
Unlike the original device, Surface Duo 2 doesn’t come with the Bumper case that is designed to protect it from falls and knocks – the first thing I did was spend another £38 on one in an attempt to keep it looking new and shiny. Many may not see this as a big deal, as the sides of the Surface Duo 2 are a more rugged plastic this time but its an expensive device so the bumper is the least it deserves to keep it looking pretty.
Yes, Surface Duo 2 is an expensive device, but it’s more competitive with the phones around it. As an example, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 costs £1,599, which is slightly more expensive than the same spec Surface Duo 2.
Just a few…
The Microsoft Launcher needs updating. It’s far out of date compared to the Standalone version you can run on any other android phone and other a couple of dual app launching shortcuts, lacks features of the standalone launcher.
The size of the camera bump (mainly its noticeable since the device is so thin) is overwhelming at first but when you use it you soon forget how good the cameras are (especially compared to the Duo 1).
Touch response is an issue at times on the Surface Duo 2 as it was on the original and an area of the software that Microsoft really needs to work on. Hopefully the upcoming Android 12 update and promised updates will address this.
Apps optimised for dual screens are few and far between. It’s a shame that not nearly enough app developers take advantage of the capabilities and flexibility of using dual screen technology effectively. This is not limited to Surface Duo of course – there simply aren’t that many of these type of devices in the market today.
Would I recommend?
In short Yes
Being a Surface Fan and Windows MVP, I am always going to say yes!!! but in all honestly, the Surface Duo 2 is a truly unique and beautiful device that delivers a really solid solution for IT professionals, senior managers or tech enthusiasts.
Surface Duo 2 addresses all the short comings of the original and is a device that allows you to replace your daily driver.
Just like the Surface line up for business, Surface Duo 2 hits the professional market spot well. If you are an IT enthusiast, love the Surface Brand and want a device that stands out from the crowd, delivers a powerful and unique experience over the run-of-the-mill iPhone or Samsung devices out there then this a device that will not disappoint.
2022 will celebrate 10 years of Surface
2022 will see Microsoft celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Surface. The first device launching in October 2012 with the Surface RT followed shortly after by the Surface Pro (I still have a working one in my office somewhere too).
Being a big fan of the Surface Family, and being a fan of the Surface Go 2 LTE for traveling and working on the go, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Surface Go 3 and put it through a days work!
Introducing the Surface Go 3
The Surface Go 3 is essentially an under the hood upgrade to last years’ Surface Go 2. Internally, the entry-level Pentium Gold 4425Y processor has been replaced with a Pentium Gold 6500Y chip, while the higher end model (the one I have been evaluating) has had its Core m3-8100Y chip replaced with a 10th-gen Core i3-10100Y chip. Being 10th-gen is key as this means it will run and support Windows 11 which the Surface Go 2 family will not (officially anyway).
While not a power horse (and not designed to be), the Surface Go 3 is still the cheapest, smallest and lightest Windows 11 Surface device from Microsoft that gives you the full experience of Surface including Surface pen support, 10-point multi-touch and Windows Hello camera.
Same Quality Look and Feel
The Surface Go 3, looks almost identical to the Surface Go 2 which is no bad thing. There are rumours and “leaks” online that a black version is also coming very soon which will be nice as I am a fan of the Surface Pro X which I have in Black and feels a little more “Professional” in my opinion.
A year on, the Surface Go still looks modern, but the screen bezels, which are 13mm at the top and 12mm at the sides, are wide by modern standards and again I’m surprised these weren’t made a bit smaller. Surface is very popular in schools and one of the reasons for the larger bezels is to help with screen grip and reduce accidental tapping on the screen or so we are told!
The size of the Surface Go 3 is 245 x 175 x 8.3mm and weight is 544grams. The screen is the same 10.5inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS screen and the body is high quality, solid magnesium body, complete with “any angle” kickstand, single USB-C port, Surface Connect Port and, headphone jack port.
Specifications, Speeds and Feeds!
As with the Surface Go 2 before it, the spec sheet is only half the story and it is easy to dismiss the Surface Go range due to its specification when comparing to the big brother devices like the Surface Pro 7 or 8. Whilst I would have liked to see a “little more grunt” under the hood, the Surface Go, is, however, in my opinion, a great bit of modern workplace kit and deserves serious consideration when looking at future 2-in-1 purchases for both home and work – depending on the use case of course. Here’s the headlines:
Core Spec: The base model features just 64GB eMMC and 4GB RAM with no pen or keyboard. The higher end version (I really wouldn’t bother with the lower end one unless on a real tight budget) is built with a Intel Core i3 10th Gen/128GB SDD and 8GB RAM.
Battery: The Surface Go 3 improves on the battery life of the Go 2 and delivers 9hrs 31mins according to benchmark data. My own personal tests delivered me just over 8hrs of constant use with a blue tooth mouse and the Type Cover Keyboard attached, connected via wireless and with me in and out of Teams calls, Outlook and usual office type apps. That’s not bad considering the battery is only a little larger than the Surface Go 2’s (28Wh versus 27Wh) but not as good as Apple manage with their iPads.
Wireless: comms in the Surface Go 3 has been extend to Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 which is powered by the Intel AX200 card, and there is also an NFC radio inside too. The LTE version also ships with Fast 4G support either in physical SIM or eSIM.
Keyboard: The Surface Type Cover keyboard is rightly regarded as a design classic and something that has been copied, cloned and built upon my most other OEM vendors. The Surface Type Cover keyboard is sleek, easy to type on, and very light and even has a backlight. Unlike the majority of it’s “clones”, it also has a trackpad for the full-on “mini laptop” experience.
Front FacingWebcam: The Webcam on the Surface Go is 5MP and is exceptionally good quality. The picture and video quality is crisp and colours are vibrant and low light support is good too. The camera also supports video recording at 30fps / 1080p. Generally the cameras on Surface devices are always fantastic – and the Go 3 is no exception. Combined with the highly effective microphone array, makes the Surface Go 3 ideal for videoconferencing apps like Teams (or WebEx or Zoom). The webcam also supports Windows Hello facial recognition.
Rear Camera: At the back of the device is average quality flash-less, 8MP camera that, like the front facing webcam, can shoot 1080p 30fps video. Quality is good and clear and great for school field trips etc.
Surface Go 3 starts from £369 (£30 cheaper than the Go 2) and as always with Surface devices, specification options, regional variations, promotions and volume, and accessories all affect the end price.
Note: Surface Go doesn’t ship by default with a Pen or the Type Cover Keyboard which to me are what makes a Surface a Surface.
Without these promos the price for commercial organisations is around:
Typical Price (inc. VAT)
Surface Go 3: Pentium Gold/4GB/64GB eMMC [no extras]
Surface Go 3: Pentium Gold/8GB/128GB SD [no extras]
Surface Go 3: Intel i3/ 8 GB / 128GB [plus Pen and Type Keyboard]
Surface Go 3 Consumer Pricing Table
Stay clear of the entry-level Surface Go 3. Yes, it is very cost effective, lovely to look and great if you just want to do web browsing type activities or use it for the occasional film or word doc etc.
If you are going Surface Go, go for the Core i3 model with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD and dont forget the keyboard.
Finally bear in mind the use case. I love the Surface Go family but as a secondary device to my primary and not as a daily driver. They are great for school use – my 7 y/o uses my old Surface Go 2 for school work and loves it as its a “proper” laptop, runs Windows and he can use the pen to make “things come to life!”. I also work with many commercial organisations that use Surface Go for front-line staff due to the light-weight build, LTE options and good battery life.
I feel I must congratulate Cisco on the annoucement of their new partner and customer centric Enterprise Agreement.
Simple and Inclusive
This looks and feels like one of the simplest yet powerful subscription based licensing programmes in the channel… at a time when “other” major vendors seem to be struggling to get a model right that is fair and offers value to both customer and partners regardless of size.
Consistent across their solution portfolio
When fully available in early 2022, Cisco will make their full portfolio of services available through a single agreement rather than the current multiple EAs with different terms, rules and portals they have today. Instead the EA will cover all five of Cisco’s solution areas – application infrastructure, networking infrastructure, collaboration, security and services.
Helps make it easy for customer to buy solutions across the stack
This new EA will dramatically simplify purchasing and selling as it creates one program and one experience for everything Cisco do and aligned to their product portfolio.
For example, Cisco has been beating the drum hard with the concept of “full stack observability”, which is growing in importance in this multi-cloud centric, highly mobile and hybrid world.
To make this a reality, customers, need to buy products across multiple technology and solution stacks, including services like AppDynamnics, ThousandEyes, Intersight etc., but this new should make it much easier for partners to sell and for customers to buy.