Surface Laptop 4 launches with new work from home accessories for business.

SurfaceLaptop4

Today (Tuesday 13th April 2021), Microsoft officially unveiled the 2021 Surface Laptop 4.

Surface Laptop, in my opinion, has always been the best “looking” Surface device since it was first released back in 2017. Not only that but Microsoft say the Surface Laptop has the highest level of customer satisfaction across all its Surface devices. 

Speeds and Feeds

Let’s cut to the basics, Microsoft claim that Surface Laptop 4 is up to 70% faster, has significantly longer battery life (with up to 19 hours of battery life on the 13.5” AMD variant), updated colours, 11th Gen Intel Chipsets and Dolby Atmos Audio. Retains USB C and USB-A.

Surface Laptop 4

Above all this Surface Laptop and updated/new accessories has been designed for the hybrid worker which seems set to be the default for most post COVID-19.

Oh…new Surface Headphones “for Business” too

Along with the launch of Surface Laptop 4, Microsoft also announced new Surface Headphones 2+ for Business which have been designed for Microsoft Teams. In addition, the Surface Headphones 2+ battery is rated to 15 hours of voice use and includes 13 levels of adjustable noise cancellation. Microsoft have also included a USB dongle which has a LED indicator to show when the microphone is muted. 

These ship with a dongle (needed for Teams certification). Pricing is $299. Shipping now.

Oh…and Surface branded Webcam and USB-Speaker. 

Yep – you heard it right.  If you have your own home office and don’t need to rely on headphones or ear pods, then Microsoft has now launched their very own Surface branded Webcam and USB-C Speaker.  Pricing was confirmed at $99.99 and available from June.

Microsoft Teams Speaker

Next up, Microsoft announced the Surface webcam which offers true 1080p video resolution video (which beats the built in 720p camera) and provides a 78-degree field of view, support for HDR, and an integrated privacy shutter.  Cost is $69 and ships in June.

SurfaceWebCam

Both of these are important accessories to ensure calls are crisp and clear when working from home. Many still use cheap headsets or non-Teams certified devices so it’s great to see Microsoft release their own Surface branded accessories for their devices. 

Pre orders available now. 

 

 

 

The biggest announcements from MSFT Ignite 2021

So, it wouldn’t be a Microsoft event (#MSIgnite) without a handful of “wow” demos, updates, and new products announcement both in preview and GA across Teams, the wider Microsoft 365 platform, Azure, Windows 10 and Power Platform, but without doubt the biggest “thing” to happen at Ignite this year was Mcirosoft Mesh.  Anyway, here’s my 

As in previous years), Microsoft have published their “encyclopaedia” if you like, of Ignite (the #BookOfIgnite ) which covers all the announcements in detail along with links to blogs and tech articles.

This post, on the other hand is a summary of my personal “top 3” announcements across each of the core solution areas. Of course, depending on your role, line of business and priorities, and interests, you will have your own favourites so feel free to let me know yours in the comments.

 

Microsoft Mesh

This stole the show from the moment the keynote started and was without question the biggest news of Ignite 2021. Much of the keynote and later sessions were available to watch live AltSpace VR in both Mixed and Virtual Reality. Mesh is Microsoft’s new Mixed Reality Platform which is designed to allow people who are in physically various locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences across many kinds of devices.

The business case for Mesh builds upon the success of HoloLens 2 and is designed (and was highlighted) for organisations to let their teams joined shared virtual spaces for collaborative meetings, where everyone will appear as virtual avatars (reminds me of the holograms in the StarWars). Microsoft say that their target audience is both enterprise and commercial customers. Microsoft Mesh can be accessed through an updated version of AltSpace VR, which is Microsoft’s VR platform. Microsoft Mesh will be coming to HoloLens via a dedicated app and solutions built through Mesh by developers will also be able to be tailored/supported to Windows Mixed Reality, PCs, Macs, Smart Phones, and headsets like Oculus.

Microsoft Teams

Teams Ignite Features
Highlight of new Teams Meeting Features

 

Always needing its very own category, my top 3 in this category are:

1. Improvements for Teams Meetings and Live Events.

    • Teams can now be used to create and run fully interactive webinars for up to 1,000 attendees and will also support webinars with up to 20,000 attendees from later this month. This will also be included for any customer with Office 365 E3 and more without any additional licenses or cost.
    • Dynamic View for Teams meetings will be released next month and is all about ensuring more inclusive and natural meetings for remote/hybrid meetings making them more engaging. Dynamic view uses AI to adjust elements of the meeting to allow for display different modes such as charts, chats, etc next to video feeds as well as an overlay of presenter video and presentation space.
    • Improved privacy and security in meetings – with meeting-only meeting controls and end-to-end encryption in one-to-one calls.
    • PowerPoint Live in Teams is available now. The much-requested feature combines slides, notes, and meeting chat in a single view to help make presentations easier for speakers and presenters and to make them more engaging for attendees.

2. Teams Connect

A new channel-sharing feature coming to Teams “later” this calendar year. This will enable users to share channels with anyone, internal or external. Unlike guest access, the shared channel will appear within a user’s primary Teams tenant, alongside other Teams channels meaning that “multiple organisations can share a single channel” that all members can then access from their own Teams environments. Channel sharing seems is great for scenarios where multiple organisations are collaborating on a specific project for example. Guest Access isn’t going anywhere and is still relevant as this is more suited to situations where an external organisation or person needs broad access to data, meetings, and information, beyond just a specific channel. This is currently in “private preview”.

3. Teams Calling Updates

  1. Direct Routing and Survivable Brach Appliances: With the explosion of customers enabling and migrating to PSTN calling in Teams from traditional IP PBXs, the use of Direct Routing grown 8-fold, Microsoft announced several new certified Session Border Controllers (SBC) for Direct Routing, with 6 new SBCs completing certification in just the past 3 months. Additionally, to add resiliency to the most critical locations, Survivable Branch Appliance (SBAs) are now generally available, enabling PSTN calling in the event an outage does not allow the Teams client to directly connect to Microsoft 365 global services.

  2. Operator Connect Conferencing brings an “operator-managed service” that provides “bring your own operator” for conferencing, meaning customers can keep their preferred operator contracts in place as they migrate their PSTN infrastructure to the cloud. This also allows additional geographic dial-in coverage, enhanced support, and reliability with locally agreed technical support and SLAs. This enters private preview from June, with the initial wave of qualified partners, including BT, Deutsche Telekom, Intrado, NTT, Orange Business Services, and Telenor.

  3. New Cloud Calling Plan Countries were also announced, with Microsoft native calling plans coming to 8 new markets from April 2021 including New Zealand, Singapore, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland, Norway, and Slovakia, bringing native Microsoft Teams Calling Plans to 26 markets across the globe.

    Teams Calling Countries - April 2021

Identity, Security & Compliance

1. Identity

Focusing on helping organisations deliver on their Zero Trust strategy including, 

    1. Password-less authentication which is now “generally available” for cloud and hybrid environments meaning customers can move towards a truly password-less world leveraging multi-factor authentication and risk based conditional access to provide just in time, assume breach, challenge everything approach to identify and access management without the need for passwords.

    2. Azure AD Conditional Access now uses authentication context to enforce more granular policies based on user actions across the applications they are using or the sensitivity of data they’re trying to access.

    3. Azure AD verifiable credentials will be in public preview later this month. Verifiable credentials allow organisations to confirm information without collecting or storing personal data, improving security and privacy.

2. Security announcements

A wealth of announcements here as well, all of which will further strengthen, Microsoft’s commitment to deliver the absolute best security protection, detection, and response for all clouds and all platforms:

    1. Azure Sentinel now seamlessly integrates with Microsoft 365 Defender with shared incidents, schema, and user experiences to simplify investigations for a totally aligned view and remediation surface.
    2. Endpoint and Office 365 defender capabilities are now also integrated into the Microsoft 365 Defender portal.

    3. New Threat Analytics experience within the Microsoft 365 Defender portal provides a set of reports from expert Microsoft security researchers designed to help customers understand, prevent, and mitigate active threats, like the recent Solorigate / SolarWinds attacks.

    4. The Secure-core services that are now build into Surface devices (and other leading Windows 10 devices) is also coming to Windows Server and Azure edge devices to help minimise risk from firmware vulnerabilities, attacks, and advanced malware in IoT and hybrid cloud environments.

3. Compliance announcements

    1. Co-authoring of Microsoft Information Protection-protected documents will be available in “public preview” from this week. This in my experience the number one blocker of being able to properly deploy organisational wide information protect across SharePoint sites, Teams, and individual documents since currently (well, prior to this announcement) it was not possible to co-author docs that were encrypted which makes most of the power of Modern Office 365 and co-authoring useless. This feature helps significantly close the gap between security and productivity.

    2. Microsoft Azure Purview was announced in more detail. Purview provides new cross-platform support and deeper insight into data classification and protection across structured and un-structured data across on-premises, data bases, Microsoft Cloud and third-party services including Google and AWS – it’s Azure Information Protection on steroids!

    3. Microsoft 365 data loss prevention (DLP) now supports Google Chrome browsers and on-premises file shares and SharePoint Server as well as SharePoint Online and of course Microsoft’s Edge (Chromium based) browser.

    4. Microsoft 365 Insider Risk Management Analytics was released into public preview.

Power Platform

1. Power Automate Desktop was made free!

This is really really big news for any organisation that is looking, using, or intending to use Robotic Process Automation (RPA).  Power Automate Desktop is a an “attended Robotic Process Automation” solution which is a macro recorder on steroids. You can download it now if you want to try it. It will be available first for #WindowsInsiders to try (built into Windows 10), however it will eventually be rolled out to Windows 10 as a core product (most likely as an optional feature). Until now, a per user for month for the tool would cost about £12 a month. Power Automate currently has circa 400 actions to help build flows across different applications and the best part is that it enables you to build your own scripts to automate time consuming repetitive tasks which saves time and money. Microsoft’s goal here is to “democratise the development for everybody with Power Platform” by making no-code/low-code accessible to everyone not just developers.

2. PowerFX (a new low code programming language) was announced.

PowerFx is a low code programming language that is based on the foundation of the Microsoft Power Apps canvas. What’s great is that since Power Fx is based on Microsoft Excel, it will naturally be a great fit for a wide range of people since it will leverage skills, they “many” already know and becomes a common ground for business users and professional developers alike to express logic and solve problems. Microsoft also said they were planning make Power Fx, open source, making the language available for open contribution by the broader community on GitHub.

3. Dynamics 365 now seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Teams

This ensures conversations, calls, meetings, and chat will be available across dynamics 365 – within opportunities, sales, marketing, finance, and operations.

Windows 10

Windows 10 usually gets a backseat at Microsoft Ignite (as it typically focusses on cloud services and new things), but this year, there were some things which resonated.

1. Power Automate Desktop

As discussed above, Power Automate Desktop was announced and will be free for all Windows 10 users including Windows 10 Home and Pro and not just to Enterprise users. You can read more about this above.

2. Windows 10 in Cloud 

Simply put, cloud configuration is a Microsoft-recommended device configuration for Windows 10, cloud-optimised for users with specific workflow needs. IT admins use Microsoft Endpoint Manager to apply a standard, cloud-based, easy-to-manage configuration of Windows 10 to a selected set of new or existing devices. The configuration works on devices running Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise and may be appropriate for workers who only need a limited number of IT-curated and approved applications to meet their targeted workflow needs. User accounts are registered in Azure Active Directory and devices are enrolled for cloud management in Intune, so they are automatically updated with continuous product and security updates.

Microsoft announced that the newly announced Windows 10 in Cloud has now been integrated into Microsoft Endpoint Manager, which will make it even easier to provide a secure device configuration regardless of the type of worker. Microsoft also made a full “Windows 10 in cloud configuration overview and setup guide” available which is designed to help solution integrators, partners, and internal IT teams to apply a uniform, secure and easy-to-manage cloud-based configuration of Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise devices.

3. New version of Windows 10 Perhaps?

Well maybe! During a Fireside chat session at Ignite, Surface and Windows Lead, Panos Panay “teased” of some major updates and design changes coming to Windows. Windows 10 Insider LogoThese were very much hints and teases than any firm commitments but talked a lot about the fact that Microsoft has not “talked about the next generation of Windows for a while” and that he was “so pumped” for it – ending with “it’s going to be a massive year for Windows.”


Written: 05 March 2021

Windows 10 v21H1 available “now” if you want to try it early.

Microsoft last night shared all the details about Windows 10 version 21H1, which is the, the next version / ok update to Windows 10 which will be formerly released at sometime late spring.

As expected, this update is another minor update just like 20H2 was back in October 2020 and this will actually be the first time since Microsoft shifted to a bi-annual release cycle that the “Spring” update for Windows 10 is a just a minor one. This means there won’t be any new major feature additions (as the October 2020 Update was the previous year).

If you are a WindowsInsider in the beta channel, you can get Windows 10 version 21H1 today.

How to download it

To download it, you’ll need to go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and then choose to download and install the 21H1, which is build number 19043.844 (KB4601382). The installation process is quick (my Surface Go took about 15 minutes) and its a similar upgrade path/patch experience from version 2004 to 20H2.

Getting Windows 10 21H1 from Windows Update

What will 21H1 bring?

Windows 10, version 21H1 brings with it a new set of features that are designed to improve security, remote access and quality. “The are focused on the core experiences that customers have told us they’re relying on most right now,” explained John Cable, Vice President, Program Management, Windows Servicing and Delivery.

New features in Windows 10 version 21H1 include multi-camera support for Windows Hello, which allows users of PC/laptop with an integrated camera to use an external camera (hello certified) for authentication and sign-in. This update also brings performance improvements for Windows Defender Application Guard as well as Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) Group Policy Service (GPSVC) updating, the latter getting support for more remote work scenarios.

There’s also a usual long list of big fixes and minor cosmetic updates as you’d expect.

Windows 10 version 21H1 will be available for non-insiders “later in the first half of this calendar year,” John Cable said , and we should get a final release date in the next week or so.

You can get this today of you are a WindowsInsider in the Beta channel. It is optional.

Windows 10 animated Gif (why not)

Microsoft Edge now alerts you if any of your online passwords are leaked!

Password Dialogue Screen

Let’s face it – all of us re-use our passwords across different systems, and most use one password for pretty much everything they online – and whilst these may be secure (and yes, some sites may enforce MFA – that’s something at least), if just one of these sites/company’s get’s breached – then your password is out there!!!

Microsoft are trying to help prevent this – well, at least make sure you know so you can do something about it quickly…

Whilst anyone running Beta or Dev version of Edge have had this for a while, the latest “stable” update to roll out this week, has introduced / released probably of the most important feature to help users (everyone) understand anywhere where their password may have been breached/compromised – not just on their Office 365 or laptop credentials but across any (and i mean) any web site or SaaS service they use in Edge.

Introducing Password Monitor in Edge

Microsoft have released a new feature called Password Monitor (which is included in Edge build 88 and later), which notifies users if any of their saved passwords have been found in a third-party breach.

Edge Password Monitor Graphic

This is done by using password hash comparison (so Microsoft doesn’t actually learn or store passwords anywhere), so users can be assured that neither Microsoft nor any other party can learn the user’s passwords while they are being monitored for breach.

When you turn on Password Monitor, Edge  starts periodically (you can force it too) checking the passwords you’ve saved in the browser against a huuuuuuge database of known leaked passwords that are stored in the cloud. If any of your passwords match those in the database, they’ll appear on the Password Monitor page in Microsoft Edge Settings. and you also get a pop-up notification if new ones are found. What this is basically telling you is that “any passwords listed there are no longer safe to use” and you should change them immediately – pretty damn useful advice for anyone!
 

Why this so important

Each year, hundreds of millions of usernames and passwords are exposed online when websites or apps become the target of data leaks and as i mentioned at the start, whilst the public are regularly cautioned against reusing the same username and password combination for more than one online account, it’s a common practice, which leaves them vulnerable on multiple sites when even one passwords gets leaked. Even if your password is complex – it only takes one site to be leaked and your password and username is out there – its like leaving the front door of your house wide-open.

Leaked usernames and passwords often end up for sale on the online black market, commonly referred to as the Dark Web. Hackers use automated scripts to try different stolen username and password combinations to hijack people’s accounts. If one of your accounts is taken over, you can be the victim of fraudulent transactions, identity theft, illegal fund transfers, or other illegal activities and bear in mind many of these sites allow you to save or store payment information, address information, family information on them – perfect for an identity theft!

Password Monitor helps protect your online accounts in Microsoft Edge by informing you when any of your passwords have been compromised, so you can update them. Changing passwords immediately is the best way to prevent your account from being hijacked.

Enabling Password Monitor

This new feature is not enabled by default. In order to active this, you need to carry out these simple steps

  1. Sign in to Microsoft Edge using your Microsoft account or your work or school account.
  2. Navigate to Settings and more > Settings > Profiles > Passwords.
  3. Turn on Show alerts when passwords are found in an online leak.
  4. Any unsafe passwords will then be displayed on the Password Monitor page.

Screenshot of settings in Edge

If you are signed in and syncing your passwords, Password Monitor is automatically enabled in your browsers – auto enablement

When you first enable Password Monitor for the first time, all your passwords will be checked to see if any of them have been compromised. If any of your passwords match those in the list of known leaked passwords, a notification appears:

 

This notification appears only once each time a new password is found to be unsafe. Microsoft give you two options at this point:  – view the details or dismiss the notification – its ok you can come back to them later. 

 

Responding to notifications

If Edge informs you that a user / password combination has been breached / therefore is no longer safe, can go here to learn more :

Settings and more > Settings > Profiles > Passwords > Password Monitor.

Here you will see a list of all the unsafe passwords Microsoft has found, and then for each account listed on the page you can be redirected to that site to allow you to update and change your password.  If an entry in the list of compromised passwords is no longer relevant (you may have deleted your account for example), you can click ignore – remember though, if just one site is breached and you use that account elsewhere – change it!

Microsoft have provided a nice Q&A and support page for this here: Password Monitor support page.

 

Read More about how Password Monitor works

Password Monitor will be made available to Edge users on a rolling basis so it will not be immediately visible to everyone.

You can read more about how this works and why is such a vital step forward for privacy, security and control of your online life here: Password Monitor: Safeguarding passwords in Microsoft Edge – Microsoft Research

Say Hello to the SurfacePro 7+

Surface Promo

Microsoft today have announced some subtle but important updates to their Surface family which I wanted to share with you quickly.

As always, I welcome any comments and thoughts – are you a fan or always on Surface range? What’s your thoughts on Hub 2S?

Surface Pro 7+ (not the “Pro 8”) Launched

The Surface Pro 5 shipped with an LTE variant which was and remained popular but neither the Pro 6 nor Pro 7 included an LTE variant which was extremely frustrating for organisations that wanted always on Surface Devices. Until now the only way to that was to move to the ARM based Surface Pro X or the baby Surface Go LTE...until now that is!

Announcing -the Surface Pro 7+ (yes, not sure why it’s not the Pro 8)

Image of Surface Pro 7+
Image of the Surface Pro 7 plus (courtesy Microsoft)

 

The Pro 7+ includes the following key updates to last year’s Surface Pro 7:

  • 11th Gen Processor options
    • Dual-core 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i3-1115G4 Processor (Wi-Fi)
    • Quad-core 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-1135G7 Processor (Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi AND LTE)
    • Quad-core 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-1165G7 Processor (Wi-Fi)
  • Same form factor as Pro 7
  • 2.1x faster than the Pro 7 (10th Gen) 
  • Optional LTE Support on select models
  • Battery is bigger and longer with 4.5x better than the Pro 5 LTE
  • Now includes removable SSD – like the Surface ProX

 

Surface Hub 2S 85”

The latest news here is that shipping of the latest giant 85″ Surface Hub has started shipping with US, UK and other shipping this month (existing orders) and EU following in early Feb followed by other regions such as Asia-Pac / India etc by March 2021.

Surface Hub 2S 85"

Surface Hub2S 85″ (courtesy Microsoft)

Microsoft spent a bit of time focusing on the huge achievements they have made here, not just on getting the device ready, but getting it ready for shipment and fulfilment globally – which given the pressures on manufacturing due to COVID-19 and Microsoft’s previous “challenges” in getting Surface Hub v1 into market this was well called out!

For those not familiar, Hub 2 S 85″ is a beast but a thing of beauty. If builds on the gorgeous look and familiar Surface family feel but also provides a nice upgrade to the (now 5-year-old) Surface Hub V1 84″. It’s still heavy at 85kgs but won’t require 4 of the “world’s strongest man contestants” at least to move into position and wall mount it. There’s also of course the familiar Steelcase wall mounts and roam stands available.

You can see the full spec’s in the image below

Surface Hub 2S 85" Specs

 

 

 

New Windows 10 Insider build 21286 brings integrated news and interests feed into the taskbar

Windows 10 Insider Logo

Microsoft is looking at making the Windows 10 taskbar more useful and interactive by brining your common interests, news a d weather into a neat interactive task bar applet that is designed to keep you productive by not having to open an app or browser to check the latest news, weather or sports results score.

Rolling out in the latest #WindowsInsiders dev build (21286), Microsoft has adding a customisable and collapsible news and interests feed directly to the Windows 10 taskbar.

The collapsible news and interests feed in action (Image (C) Microsoft)

The news feed can be fully personalised to show you news headlines, sports, weather information, and more. Microsoft says the feed can be populated with content from over 4,500 international publications that include the likes of Sky, BBC etc.

Using it seems simple and natural… when you click on an article, it opens in a ‘streamlined reading view’ that dusht get in the way of your apps… And if you don’t like it you can turn it off!

Check it oot if you are a #windowsinsider sna renege to feed back using the feedback hub!

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go Review -Much better than you might think..

Surface Devices

Introduction

Anyone that reads my blogs/ramblings will know I’m a huge fan of Windows 10 and Surface and I have reviewed a fair few of them over the past 18 months.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go is a more than capable, great looking, and best of all “affordable” premium laptop from Microsoft that is every bit “Surface”..well almost!

Surface Laptop Go starts at just £549 in the UK (as of Nov 2020) and it’s not often that you can find a “premium device” at this price point that isn’t plasticy, chunky, heavy, and slow (often with several generation old processors) – which is the typical trend around this price point – after all you get what you pay for right!

Here’s my hands on review.

Hands-on Review

What I find funny about Surface is that many analysts/reviewers (I won’t name names) often slate Surface for being an overpriced device when compared to, well, cheaper, non-premium device, but then again Surface is a premium brand, and, like Apple and premium does carry a price tag. What I think everyone who has ever had a Surface (from Surface Pro 4 and upwards) will agree, is that Microsoft do make some pretty awesome, good-looking, powerful and extremely productive devices with ink and touch and the centre of the Surface and Microsoft 365 message…. (more on that later).

If you’ve not experienced Surface before, then I truly think you are missing out.. Its like having a mediocre smart phone and then having never picked up a flagship Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy Phone. You have to try Surface!

Speeds, Feeds and Bolt-ons

Starting at just £549, the Surface Laptop Go package weighs a solid 2.44 lbs and feels every bit as premium as its larger flagship brother- the Surface Laptop. 

The base / entry level features:

  • 12.4-inch 2:3 ratio touch screen with 10-point multi-touch
  • 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor
  • 64GB of eMMC storage (with upgrade options to 128 GB or 256 GB SSD)
  • 1x USB-C and 1x USB-A port
  • Headphone Jack (yep – still got it)
  • Mid-range Intel UHD graphics
  • 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM (upgradable to 256GB)
  • 720p HD f2.0 front-facing webcam (not Windows Hello)
  • Firmware based TPM chip
  • All day battery (and it really is!).

What is missing?

There is of course “some” compromise in getting a premium device like Surface down to this price point, but thereof this brand and I must admit, I was surprised by two omissions on the Laptop Go (given it’s a sibling of the Surface Go).

  1. No LTE option (one of things that makes the Surface Go so great – you never know they might add an option in early 2021)
  2. No Windows Hello camera – though the high spec models have a Windows Hello finger-print reader. If you are used to Surface like me then you may find this hard to get used to!
  3. Whilst the Surface Laptop Go has a really nice and responsive touch screen, the one thing that really got me was this device does not support ink and pen – which is the first Surface to be released without pen or ink support – this “personally” is a big no no for me…Its a surface…. its a signature feature (ok rant over). 

What Spec did I test?

Microsoft sent me an evaluation unit (my company, Cisilion are Microsoft Gold Partners for Surface), which was a more beefed-up model and had: –

  • 16 GB RAM
  • 256 GB SSD
  • Windows Hello (via Fingerprint Reader)

How did it pan out?

Really well actually.

Screen:
I’ve read a few comments from other reviewers about “poor” screen quality! It’s not – it is just not as higher-resolution as the screen on the Laptop 3 and Surface Pro (as you’d expect for the price). The screen on the Laptop Go is the standard 3:2 ratio and features the much “as standard on Surface” ten-point multi touch. 

Battery: Microsoft claims up to 13 hours of usage, but in the week that I was testing for 50% work (Outlook, Teams, Word, PowerPoint) and 50% social (web, social, Netflix etc) and it managed on average just over 9.5hrs. 

Laptop Go will easily get anyone through a full day without having to charge/top it up which was one of my “issues” with the original Surface Go and while it’s not a big issue, charging is limited to the Surface charger cable – and it’s a shame for such a mobile device that charging isn’t supported via USB-C.

Performance: Ok so I was actually really impressed by just how well this little gem performed. I’ve been using “my” Laptop Go for a full week as main daily driver (my usual device is a Surface Book 2) and had none, absolutely none, performance issues at all. I has this connected to a Surface Dock (1st gen), driving a second screen and running every thing I need – Teams, Office Apps, PowerBI, Web Apps, CRM – everything. 

Noise: What? What a funny category to add Rob! So I added this category because, whilst the Laptop Go is silent most of the time, when you dial up the performance and drive a second screen, the Fan was on, almost continuously. Dial it back to “Better Performance” the fan turned off though with lots of apps open and the device on mains power, I favour “Best Performance Mode”. 

The Crux of it – Would I recommend and for what?

In short – yes!!

Building on the success of Surface Laptop the new Laptop Go is great device for anyone (home or business) that needs a light, good looking, mid-range laptop that is still a beautiful looking device – which this is.

The question of course is who’s it good for and when. Again I think there some great use cases

  • Education – DEFINATELY (all day battery, light, powerful)
  • Most Workers – DEFINATELY either as a second device or a primary device if you don’t need a powerhouse
  • Developers/Power Users – NOPE.
  • Home Use – DEFINATELY

I cant comment on the entry level version of course, but from what I have seen and experienced from a battery, processor performance these are great devices. Laptop Go is the ideal choice for the school (its a Windows device too so no application compromises) and the 10th Gen Intel Core i5 is meaty enough to get through any classroom task!

My Advice

  • For business – get a couple try them out – you’ll be surprised
  • For home – If you are buying a new laptop for home – don’t by  cheap clunky heap of plastic. Buy this – you’ll love it, your kids will love it. They are great.

Here’s what’s new in Windows 10s’ “October 2020 Update”

Windows 10 20H2 Update Image

Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 feature has started rolling out and is known as the Windows 10 October 2020 Update, version 20H2. This is the second Windows 10 update this calendar year and brings enhancements to the May 2020 update adding subtle design and performance tweaks rather than bringing loads of new features and changes.

This update is delivered as a cumulative update that is installed on top of version 2004, which means that the update isn’t a full install/upgrade so doesn’t take long to install…. If, however you are not on version 20H2, then the update is delivered as full upgrade. 

Here, I walk through the key changes that I feel are worth a mention – let me know if I have missed anything you feel is worth a mention.

Start menu changes

In this build the Start menu has been streamlined with a tweaked design that removes the solid colour background behind the icon in the apps list and applies a partially transparent background to the tiles, which matches the menu colour scheme that should help to make easier to scan and find an app quickly.

Windows 10 20H2 StartMenu

 

Taskbar Changes

For new users (doesn’t apply to devices upgraded), Windows 10 “can” 0offer a more personalised layout, cleaner, and less clutter taskbar experience. A notable example of this is for users that use the Android “link your phone” or “Your Phone” app – they will now see the Your Phone app pinned in the taskbar. For personal users, if they have an Xbox Live account, then they also see the Xbox app pined by default to the task bar. 

Notifications improvements 

Another subtle change in this build are some changes to the notification experience. From this build onwards, there a new notification icon at the top of the notification group to help the user understand the app that generated the alert/notification.

Also, worth mentioning, the Windows 10 OS now also turns off the Focus Assist notification and summary toast by default to avoid unwanted distractions – though this can be re-enabled if needed.

Changes to “Settings” pages

Microsoft continue to move old settings services to the new Windows 10 Settings pages as well as tweaking the existing pages

  • The About settings page now allows you to copy the device information to the clipboard
  • Any “link” that would have traditionally opened the System page in the old Control Panel will now direct you to the About page in Settings.
  • Microsoft have added the ability to control and change the refresh rate for different connected displayed under the updated Advanced display settings page. 

Changes to the Tablet experience

Since the very first version of Windows 10 back in 2015, Microsoft has had a tablet mode designed to make navigating Windows 10 on a touch screen tablet more…well, tablet like.

This is one of the most slated features in Windows 10 so it’s nice to see that us been given a bit of love in this update. The new tablet experience, introduced with this update, is now the default mode when detaching the keyboard on convertible devices. I like this since it means that users will no longer see a notification asking to select a mode when in keyboardless mode. Microsoft have also removed the tablet mode quick action on non-touch enabled devices

Finally, there is a new control “logic” that allows users to boot into the appropriate mode according to the mode they were last signed in and whether the keyboard is attached to the device or not.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium is baked in)

In this build, Microsoft is now shipping their new Chromium powered Microsoft Edge browser into the Windows 10 operating system. What’s also nice is that open browser tabs will now appear in the App Switcher (Alt + Tab) shortcut like separate apps, but Microsoft do allow this experience to be changed under Settings > System > Multitasking allowing users to configure the Alt + Tab experience to show none, last three, last five tabs or all. 

Windows 10 Multi-Taskingh Settings on Windows 10 20H2

Updated naming conventions on this and future builds

As of this version, Microsoft is also changing the versioning scheme from the year and month (for example 1903) to year and half one or two of the year scheme (for example, this October 2020 Update is version 20H2 because is releasing in the second half of 2020).

What’s Next?

As such the next update which is currently in preliminary stages of testing with #WindowsInsiders using this new versioning scheme, the next version is therefore expected to be 21H1, since it’s expected to release during the first half of 2021.

If you are interested in signing up as an “insider”, you can do so here: 

Not only can you contribute feedback and ideas to the future of Windows10, you can even get recognised for your enthusiasm and drive by coming an MVP!

 

 

Surface Laptop Go – the most “affordable” Surface yet

Surfac eLaptop Go Picture

Microsoft has released the much-anticipated sibling to the Surface Go with the announcement of the Surface Laptop Go (which is a bit of a mouthful) that starts at just £549 – for reference this is about half the price of the cost of its big brother, the Surface Laptop 3 which makes the Laptop Go could a seriously tempting device for anyone or any business that is bought into the Surface Brand but doesn’t need the size or power of the premium range.

The Laptop Go is to date, the most “affordable” laptop in Microsoft’s Surface line-up. 

Image of Surface Laptop Go

Is this like the Surface Go?

If you think of the Surface Go 2 as the “baby Surface Pro”, then the Laptop Go is a “baby Surface Laptop 3″ with a 12.4” screen.  It is a smaller, lower-spec device than the Surface Laptop 3 for sure, but it also is quite an uplift from the internals of the Surface Go 2, launched back in March.

The good news is that unlike the Surface Go (which I am a huge fan of and reviewed here), Microsoft has been far more generous with the technical internals of the Laptop Go and hasn’t cut corners on the processor. The Laptop Go features 10th Gen Intel’s Core i5 processors (the Surface Go uses the M3), which provides plenty of performance to handle everyday tasks such as web browsing, watching videos and working on big doc, presentations and spreadsheets.

The Laptop Go is also surprisingly accessory-friendly, with both USB-C and USB-A connections, along with Microsoft’s standard Surface port.

Surface Laptop Go is also hot on security, with Firmware TPM and Fingerprint Power Button for password-free One Touch sign-in on all but the base model. Weirdly there is no Windows Hello camera, which I was surprised at given it’s been a key feature on every Surface model since the Pro 5 and is even in the most entry level Surface Go 2. 

Designed for on the “Go”

Like the Surface Go, the small form factor of the Laptop Go means it is easy to pop into a bag or simply carry round and despite its weight (at just 1.1Kgs), it does look and feel (so they say) every bit like a Surface. Battery power is claimed to be around 13hrs and supports fast-charging – which can take you from zero to 80% charge in just an hour.

One thing which I had assumed would be an option, is lack of support for mobile data (LTE/4G) which I presumed would be there – it seems the LTE variant is still only available in the Surface Go and Surface Pro X range.

Laptop Go

The Laptop Go comes in blue, platinum and sandstone colours.

Compromise or Upgrade?

To keep the price point of the cheapest Laptop Go cheap, there are some compromises in the £549 model.

  1. Graphics: Being a more “budget” Surface device, graphics power is one place where there is some compromise. The Laptop Go includes the more entry level ‘Intel UHD’ graphics chip, compared with the significantly more powerful ‘Intel Iris Plus’ which is included within the Surface Laptop 3.
  2. RAM – The entry level Surface Laptop Go comes with only 4GB RAM which is really the bear minimum anyone should have in a device these days! This is fine if you are mainly using web apps and only a few apps, but if you plan on doing lots of multi-tasking and don’t want to have to keep closing apps to free up memory, you’ll want to  opt for the 8GB version,
  3. Storage – The entry level Laptop Go has just 64GB of the cheaper, more basic ‘eMMC’ storage which isn’t as fast as the solid-state drives (SSD) found in the higher specification models.

A small upgrade – makes all the difference

The shortcomings high-lighted above can be easily overcome by throwing a little more money at the Laptop Go.

If you go for the next model up in the range (which is an extra £149), you get

  • A faster and larger (128GB) SSD
  • 8GB of RAM.

If you want even more, you can change the config up to 16GB RAM and 256GB SSD, though personally at this level I’d be looking at “grownup” Surface!

When can I get one?

It’s available for pre-order now with delivery dates from 27th October 2020 in the UK


Microsoft announces refreshed Surface Pro X and new Surface Laptop Go

1st October 2020 and Microsoft has officially announced the 2020 line up of new Surface devices. Here’s a quick summary of the new devices that were announced:

New Surface Laptop Go

A new baby is born – a 12.5-inch Surface Laptop Go starting at just under £499, and like the Surface Go, brings the features most loved by Surface Laptop customers to a smaller, more affordable design and is the “lightest, most affordable Surface laptop yet“.

  • Surface Laptop Go – has a 12.4″ touchscreen display, large precision trackpad and a full-size keyboard. This comes in comes in three lightweight metal finishes: Ice Blue, Sandstone and Platinum and has secure sign-in options including Windows Hello and optional Fingerprint Power Button with One Touch sign-in through Windows Hello. The new Surface Laptop Go has an Intel’s 10th Gen i5 Quad-Core processor under the hood with up to 16GB RAM and 256GB storage. So much more of a power horse than the Surface Go and Go 2. 

Updated Surface Pro X

An updated version of last year’s Surface Pro X featuring a new Microsoft SQ 2 processor, which like last year’s SQ1 processor was built by Microsoft and Qualcomm and is stated to be “the fastest processor in its class” and claims to be able to deliver 15 hrs of battery life. This is available to order now and starts shipping on October 13th.

  • This new Microsoft SQ 2 processor for the Surface Pro X will be coupled with a more powerful Adreno 690 GPU and will be available in the new top end Surface Pro X with 16GB of RAM and will be around £1,400. The Surface Pro X with the existing SQ1 processor will keep its £900 starting price, and Microsoft also announced that they are adding a new Platinum finish as an alternative to the original Matte black colour in the Surface Pro X. 

Both Surface Pro Xs retain the same great look and design with 13” PixelSense Display, and ports as the original model with the SQ 1 processor, though the new chip is promised to deliver significant performance improvements over last year’s already supper fast Surface Pro X.  Both models come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X24 LTE modem that supports Gigabit LTE speeds – no news on a 5G model yet (unless I missed that bit of the announcement).

 

What’s the future of ARM on Windows 10?

Good question – Microsoft also announced just yesterday that more native apps will soon be coming to the ARM for Windows 10 platform including a native ARM64 version of Microsoft Teams which is well overdue.

Microsoft also said that from November, Microsoft will be testing support for x64 emulation with Windows Insiders, which should really help to fix the app compatibility issues on Windows 10 on ARM and should also see better performance for apps. 

The Surface Pro X is still Microsoft’s thinnest ever Surface Pro tablet, and it’s also the first Surface tablet to ship with two USB-C ports, a removable SSD, and above all a Firmware TPM chip for enterprise security. 

The 2020 Surface Family Portrait – the family keeps growing

Surface Family 2020
2020 Surface Line up (C) Microsoft.