Microsoft celebrates 10 years of Surface with new devices

TL;DR

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.

Surface Pro 9 – Image (c) Microsoft

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.

Surface Laptop 5 – image (c) Microsoft

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+ — Image (c) Microsoft

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.

Windows 11 22H2 rollout picks up pace.

Image of Surface Laptop Go 2 on a desk

After the initial release of Windows 11’s first annual update 22H2 about a month ago, Microsoft is increasing the availability of Windows 11 2022 for users who proactively look for updates by clicking the “check for updates” button in Settings.

Check for updates in Windows 11

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.

New Surface devices are coming next month….

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.

Stay tuned.

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.

Windows 11 22H2 Update is here. What’s new and changed.

Windows 11 version 22H2 is the next major update coming to Windows 11 was released yesterday (20th Sept 2022).

Can you believe that Windows 11 has been with us for almost a year? Since then, Microsoft has been continually working with Windows Insiders to add more polish and refinement that is now making their way into this latest update, as well as continuous enhancements and improvements based on feedback and media.

The initial release last year, was the major new release of Windows which built on the success of Windows 10, but with a major new Start menu, modern UI, enhancements to security, a brand-new, modern sounds and animations, and a bunch of new features all centred around enhancing the hybrid work and play experience.

As a Windows Insider, I’ve been using and testing the Windows 11 22H2 update for some time, and this blog aims to summarise the key changes and experience from my point of view.

TL;DR

There’s lots of polish, improvements and changes coming in this update, the key ones worthy of mention are listed below and discussed in more detail within this blog… Enjoy!

  • Start menu now has App Folders
  • Taskbar finally support Drag and Drop
  • Focus Assist integrates to Notification Center
  • Snap Assist gets snappier and smarter.
  • File Explorer gets Tabs
  • OneDrive gets more integrated with the OS
  • Touch enhancements and new gestures
  • New Task Manager app
  • New Video Editing / Authoring App
  • Enhanced Accessibility Features
  • Numerous UI improvements

Version 22H2 will be offered as a free update for all Windows 11 users and is part of the life cycle updates that we are used to with Windows.

Note: Windows 10 (which is supported and serviced until 2025), will also soon be getting its 22H2 update.

Start Menu Updates

With the first version of Windows 11, Microsoft introduced an innovative new design for the Start menu that had been rebuilt from the ground up with simplicity in mind. This was led with some criticism but has been generally well received and is a nice modern touch on what was an aging look and feel.

The biggest news with this update is that users can now create app folders. Creating app folders is simply and intuitive. By simply dragging one app icon over the other, then letting go, Windows will create the app folder, which can then be named re organised and moved around move the folder around in the pinned area of the Start menu. This helps a lot with making the Start menu feel less cluttered and is similar to what we are used too on android and iOS.

Taskbar and Action Centre

Unfortunately, no…. You still cannot move the taskbar from the bottom of the screen to the sides or the top. There has been lots of feedback around this as it’s been possible to move it in all previous versions of Windows. It looks like it’s staying at the bottom (at least for now). Remember you can move the alignment of the start button to the left though!

The biggest criticism filed in feedback hub around Windows11 has been about the Taskbar and the inability to be able to drag and drop files between apps using the Taskbar. This has been resolved and is back in Windows 11 22H2 which makes multitasking with the Taskbar far easier and restores functionality that was previously part of the Taskbar in previous versions of Windows…. Shame it’s taken a year to put it back!

The Action Center has also received a bunch of updates too, including the “focus assist” button, which has moved from Quick Settings into the Notification panel where it makes more sense. As part of the move, it’s also been renamed to “do not disturb.” which also makes more sense. Microsoft has also added a new “focus” timer under the calendar flyout.

The focus timer is now also paired with the Windows 11 Clock app, which can also synchronise with your Microsoft To-Do lists and to Spotify. In this latest update users can now start a do not disturb session (with music) straight from the notification center, whereas previously this had to be launched from the Clock app.

Finally, the Bluetooth action in the Quick Settings panel has been updated with the ability to view and manage Bluetooth devices without having to launch the Settings app first. This brings it in line with other Quick Setting actions like the Wi-Fi and accessibility toggles.

Snap Assist Updates

One the best new features that hit Windows 11 was Snap Assist, which provides a simple and intuitive way of aligning Windows across your display(s).

This update brings and additional way of initiating snap assist. With this update, and in addition to the drop-down snapping menu that appears when you hover a window at the top of the screen, and the ability to drag app windows to the far left or right of your screen, the 22H2 update adds a new “snap bar” menu that drops down from the top middle of your display when you grab an app window to move it.

Snap Assist in Windows 11


The snap bar “peeks” out at the top of your screen when you begin to move an app window (rather than having to take it all the way to the top) and allows you to drag your app window into any of the snapping layouts available.

As before, the number of snap grid options is based on the size and resolution of your display.

File Explorer

File Explorer has received a fair amount of attention in this 22H2 update.

First up, Tabs…. Yes, Microsoft is adding tabs to the File Explorer app, something that have been requested in feedback hub for ages. Just like a Web Browser, you can now open new tabs and switch between them directly from File Explorer without having to open multiple windows.

File Explorer – with Tabs in Windows 11 22H2

Next, there is a new “Home” page that is now shown by default when you open the File Explorer. The layout is still familiar but has some subtle differences such as a new “favourites” and “recent” area that appears below your quick-access folders.

The Home page give you the ability to pin files to the favorites area, which will keep them front and center for ease of access. Additionally, the recents area works similarly to the recommended feed in the Start menu and shows. A history of the most recent opened files. This can be turned off if you don’t want to use it.

Microsoft has also moved personal folders out from the “This PC” section – this now only shows storage and network drives. This means if you want to access your user folders, you need to go to the Home page or the sidebar. Whilst this was tested with Windows Insiders, I suspect some users will find this an odd change, but I guess it does make sense.

The sidebar interface in File Explorer has also been updated slightly. Microsoft have repositioned the Home page and OneDrive folders at the top of the side bar, followed by pinned and most used folders, “This PC” and “Network drives” are at the bottom of the side bar.

OneDrive has become even more integrated into File Explorer with 22H2. It is now possible to set your OneDrive directory as the default home page for File Explorer. This is useful as more people are using OneDrive over personal local storage. File Explorer also now includes a new sync activity indicator in the top right which shows available cloud storage as well as what files are syncing or have recently been synced.

Finally, there is an updated “open with” dialog design too which is more in line with the rest of the Windows 11 design. It works in the same way as the old one, just like looks like it was built for Windows 11.

Touch Enhancements

The Touch Experience has also been improved for users with touch-first devices like Surface Pro. Windows 11 removed the dedicated “tablet mode” interface that touch users were used to on Windows 10 last year and replaced it with enhancements to the desktop interface to make it easier to use with touch. With the 22H2 updat3, there are new gestures that enable access to common system areas such as the Start menu and Control Center with the swipe of a finger as well as new gestures for things like switching, closing, and snapping apps.

  • Start menu: Swipe up from the bottom middle of the screen.
  • All Apps: Swipe right in the Start menu.
  • Control Centre: Swipe up from the bottom right of the screen.
  • Switch between open apps: Three finger swipe left or right in the middle of the screen.
  • Task View: Three finger swipe up in the middle of the screen.
  • Minimise all apps: Three finger swipe down in the middle of the screen

New Native Apps

A number of the stock apps have also been updated and a major new one added.

Task Manager has been updated for the first time since Windows 8 and brings with it a brand-new design that brings it in line with the rest of the Windows 11 design language.

New Task Manager in Windows 11 22H2

The updated Task Manager introduces a new sidebar along the left which is home to all the different tabs that Task Manager has always featured. From here you can access system processes, performance, app history, start-up apps, users, details, and services tabs right from the hamburger menu.

Common actions such as “end task” and “run new task” have been moved to the top right corner, just below the window controls and Microsoft has also updates the graphs in the performance tab match your system accent colour.

Microsoft has also added two brand new apps with the also the 22H2 update.

Clipchamp is a new video editing tool that Microsoft acquired last year that is now a Stock Windows 11 app. The app is good IMO and provides good video editing tools. It is simple and intuitive to use to create videos, tutorials etc., for corporate, home, or social media. There’s is a paid tier and free tier, with the paid option offering many more stock video, music and animated effects as well as free cloud storage.

Clipchamp App in Windows 11 22H2

Secondly, the Family Safety (also available on iOS and Android) is now available as an app on Windows 11. This is a web app, which simply points to the online Microsoft Family Safety services where you can add family members, track their location, approve purchase requests, share Office subscriptions, and monitor usage and activity across all apps and services including Xbox games.

Enhanced Accessibility Features

Microsoft is now stranger to accessibility features across their products and services.

22H2 update brings live captions, which can be enabled on any content. The live captions work across all Windows and with any app and even works without an Internet connection.

Microsoft has added a new voice access feature that enables full control your Windows PC using just your voice and is powerful, simple to use and accurate (in my testing anyway).

When voice access is enabled, a narration bar appears along the top of the screen, which then let’s you use your voice to navigate all of Windows. Key commands such as “open Start” or “scroll Edge”, “Open Word”. You can also use your voice to move the cursor to specific points on the screen, type sentences into text boxes and much more.

Summary

In all a solid bunch of updates to mark the One Year Anniversary of Windows 11. For me there is still (as there was in Windows 10) many UI inconsistencies to work on, but Microsoft are getting there and the enhancements to Start Menu and Taskbar are very much welcomed.

If you have feedback on anything in Windows 11, then I encourage you to file your feedback in the Feedback Hub. The engineers and programme managers take the feedback seriously and it is reviewed and listened to. You can get to Feedback Hub, from Windows 11 by pressing 🪟and F.


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Should every organisation be considering Windows 365?

Windows 365 has just celebrated its first birthday – but what is it and why is Microsoft betting big on Windows 365 to help improve the employee experience, tighten security, and provide better agility for employees?

Businesses globally are once again being hit head on with challenges unrivalled in recent business history. Employee churn-rates are at record levels presenting unique business challenges, whilst the continuing shift in the workforce from centralised offices to home working has increased the number of “work locations” exponentially. Combined with the on-going global supply chain shortages, and logistical difficulties in procuring, preparing, and shipping new devices to employees makes onboarding new employees more challenging than ever. The continuing need to provide employees with a secure, professional, corporate desktop environment is pressuring IT to make decisions that can impact process, security, governance and above all employee satisfaction.

Microsoft are betting big with Windows 365, since it can help organisations significantly reduce the time it takes to provide new employees with access to their corporate desktop environment from days or weeks to minutes without compromising security. What’s more, unlike traditional on-premises Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environments, Windows 365 (which is a new category of cloud computing, known as Cloud PC, simplifies the entire provisioning process and user experience.

In conjunction with the Enterprise Security Group, Microsoft recently carried out a TEI study which found that by leveraging Windows 365 Cloud PC, organisations can significantly lower the cost of providing access to an organisation’s end user computing environment whilst improving security and employee satisfaction. The ESG report also revealed that Windows 365 can provide a “typical organisation” with an overall annual benefit of up $7,271 per user for small businesses and up to $6,765 per user for companies with over 1,000 employees.

What is Windows 365?

In short, Windows 365 unlocks a new category of hybrid personal computing, called “Cloud PC” that delivers Windows from the cloud. It aims to provide a hybrid approach to providing client computing by utilising a cloud service that is not tied to any specific hardware.

Image (c) Microsoft

Windows 365 combines the power and security of Windows 10 or Windows 11 with the scalability and versatility of cloud to provide a personal, reliable, and familiar work/desktop environment on any supported physical device. If want to see it in action, you can head over to Microsoft’s YouTube video here.

Similar in concept, but different to VDI technology, Cloud PCs are one of the newest Microsoft cloud solutions to come to market. Cloud PCs are optimised for business and user agility, are highly secure, persistent to the user and are billed on a per-user, per-month model that simplifies the cost and infrastructure complexity of client computing environments and on-premises VDI solutions.

The report by ESG validated that Windows 365 provides capabilities that address nine of the ten business challenges identified by IT leaders.

Source: ESG Complete Survey Results, End-user Computing Trends, February 2022.

SIMPLE, COST EFFECTIVE, POWERFUL, SECURE – Windows 365 works by giving each user a dedicated Cloud PC (of a chosen specification) that runs their own individual Windows 10 or Windows 11 desktop environment while providing an extremely simple-to-manage ecosystem all managed via Microsoft’s Endpoint Manager toolset which is used to manage the rest of the physical desktop or laptop estate. For users, this means they can bring their existing device and instantly be presented with a familiar and powerful end-user computing experience either while they “wait” for their replacement or physical device or instead of waiting for IT to procure, provision, and image a new corporate device. In turn the ESG report finds that Cloud PC technology provides an effective solution for organisations of any size and sector, which are working to meet the complex needs of a hybrid or remote workforce.

Benefits of Windows 365 Cloud PC

Cost Predictability

The ESG report, concludes that Windows 365 delivers a combination of lowered costs, eliminated costs, and a predictable fixed cost model which can provides significant financial benefit in several areas.

  • Lower costs: Shifting to Windows 365 lowers and eliminates costs in several areas, including VDI licensing, server operating systems, remote desktop licensing, storage, management, power and cooling, license management, VDI management, procurement, and end-of-life costs.
  • Fixed-price model: Windows 365 Cloud PC pricing is based on a simple per-user, per-month model which that allows organisations to match computing and storage needs to individual user requirements. There is value in being able to project costs in business. Most VDI pricing models are based on consumption, which, while this may initially seem like an advantage, most organisation often find that their monthly charges extend far beyond projections when usage spikes unexpectedly.
  • Ability to cross-charge services: Organisations that charge internal or external business groups fees for licenses, hardware, or services will find that the Windows 365 predictable cost model makes it much easier to allocate specific costs in a granular and predictable way, especially when compared to the capital-intensive purchases needed to facilitate on-premises VDI or DaaS.

Business and User Agility

With employee churn-rates are at record levels, continuing delays in supply chains and with more employees, contractors and temporary staff being permanently remote, getting new employees up and running as quickly as possible is a big challenge. Windows 365 allows companies to provide highly secure Cloud PCs running Windows 11 on their device within minutes verses hours, days, or weeks.

  • Time to employee enablement: The time from when a new employee, temporary worker, or contractor is hired to when they are fully onboarded with their corporate device often takes time, leads to the employee getting a second-hand device, or means it delays their onboarding time. Leveraging Cloud PC technology can, however, means that organisations can now provide new starters with a new Windows desktop is under an hour, allowing them to security access their work environment from any supported device that the new worker wishes to use, even if it is only a temporary situation.
  • Enablement of temporary/seasonal workers – The cost in both money and time to empower short-term workers with a company work environment is often high, and either inhibits an organisation’s willingness to employ temporary works or worse, means they are forced to compromise on security due to the time to procure and provision a device. With Windows 365, temporary workers can quickly be provisioned so they have immediate access to the corporate environment while safe in the knowledge that all intellectual property stays secured within the corporate environment, and that the Cloud PC can be immediately removed at the end of the contract period.
  • Efficient IT Management – When compared to the effort required in procuring, preparing, and delivering laptops to users or even configuring and deploying virtual desktops with traditional VDI platforms, deployment of Cloud PC technology like Windows 365 can result in a 46% reduction in IT effort.
  • Ability to use any device – Windows 365 allows IT to provide workers with a highly secure, Windows 11 desktop on any supported device even though the host device may not be capable of natively running the OS. This is also great for “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) scenarios for employees who may just be starting or have shifted to working from home or short-term workers such as interns, contractors, and consultants.
  • Increased ability to react quicky to seasonal demand – The ability to get a secure, corporate desktop to users quickly is one of the barriers to rapid enablement. Windows 365 Cloud PCs empower businesses to immediately create and decommission desktops to react to opportunities that might be ignored in other DaaS or VDI environments.
  • Equality with the employees – The mindset of the workforce has changed from “May I have a job?” to an attitude of “What are you willing to do to keep me as an employee?”. Treating all employees as equals and providing them with a premium, professional-grade work environment is two of the key criteria for ensuring employee satisfaction. With Windows 365, employees can access a highly secure, personalized Windows 11 work experience through their Cloud PC, regardless of location or available device.
  • Merger and acquisition (M&A) scenarios – Mergers and acquisition events take months, even years, to align the separate work environments that result in an M&A to the same access and security postures. This limits potential cooperation between the entities and delays the full realization of value for the event. The ability to rapidly assimilate the new entities to the existing EUC solution accelerates the time to value and reduces the cost and risk of running parallel environments. The time to combine these two work environments into one can be significantly reduced by using Windows 365 Cloud PC.

Improved Security Posture

Employees and contractors today are working outside conventional environments and often on hardware that was never intended to be on corporate networks. The result is an increased risk of security breaches and data loss and, in many cases, missed business opportunities. ESG has found that organizations that adopt Windows 365 can help enhance their security posture in the following areas.

  • Inclusive, Secure, yet Flexible remote work – Cloud PCs can enable a hybrid workforce in a highly secure manner, even if those workers sometimes or always do their work on devices that aren’t expected to have direct access to corporate networks. Windows 365 Cloud PCs offer a layer of isolation that provides strong protection for the work environment and helps prevent data leakage or loss, with configurable options for how the Cloud PC interact with available physical device.
  • Business continuity and governance – As we know, COVID-19 forced almost every business to suddenly rethink, re-shift and re-prioritise their approach to remote work in a matter of days – doing all they could to get devices, repurpose old kit, leverage employee’s personal devices and ramp up VDI deployments, VPN and remote access tech to enable their people to work, often at the expense of usability, security and governance. As the future of this now unfolds into the hybrid workplace we see before us, technology like Windows 365 becomes a viable BC/DR solution. In short, Windows 365 could now be a vital cornerstone of a business continuity strategy and one that minimises disruption, maintains security and governance and provides a smooth transition for users.
  • Immediate on-boarding and offboarding of employees/contractors – The cost of PC recovery in the event of an offboarded employee or contractor is high and can take weeks in today’s expanded work environment. Interestingly, IBM estimates that 44% of breach events are caused intentionally by disgruntled employees who have been terminated but still have access to company hardware and resources. One of the benefits of Windows 365 is that as well as near instant provisioning, it also allows for the immediate removal of access to the Cloud PC along with all company data.
  • Protection of company data – the FBI estimate that 1 in 10 laptop devices will be lost or stolen during their lifetime, with the risk and financial exposure per event estimated to be between £25,000 and £45,000. Since Windows 365 Cloud PC devices store no data on the host device, a lost or stolen Cloud PC can be limited to the cost of the hardware and can be instantly accessed on another device, meaning no loss of productivity and no risk or loss or theft or corporate data.

What’s your experience of Windows 365?

As always, I’d love to hear your experiences, thoughts, and feedback on this – please leave a comment in the boxes below.


To read more about Windows 365, you can also check out Microsoft’s official FAQ

Surface Laptop Go 2 – “Hands on” Review

Last year, I reviewed the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go. Now, after a couple of weeks of use as my “temporary” daily machines, this is my review of the updated, 2022, Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 which starts from just £600 in the UK (about $US 700).

You can also check out my video review here:

TL;DR

So – in short, the 2022 edition of the Surface Laptop Go 2 is a fantastic device for anyone in an admin role, those who travels a lot, work in education, front-line, sales etc., that needs a “good” overall performer (for email, web, office apps, bit of Netflix or Paramount+, etc.) but isn’t a “power user”. Laptop Go 2 is sleek, fast, affordable, portable, and easily powerful enough for most productivity tasks at home or work.

Image of Surface Laptop Go 2
Surface Laptop Go 2

INTRODUCING “LAPTOP GO 2”

Version 2 of the Surface Laptop Go 2 – is every bit similar in shape, size, look at feel than the original but improves on it in several ways (under the hood). Inside, we now get an 11th Generation Intel Core processor alongside Intel Iris Xe graphics [last year’s model had the 10th Gen processors and Intel UHD graphics).

Microsoft say that the battery life in this model has also been slightly increased, partly owing to new Operating System Efficiencies in Windows 11 along with the lower power consuming 11th Gen chipsets.

LOOK AND FEEL

Laptop Go 2 weighs in at just 1.13kg and measures just 278.2mm x 206.2mm x 15.7mm – making it beautifully compact and lightweight and ideal for both students or anyone who travels or commutes a lot who are looking for something small, light but functional to take back and forth on the daily commute.

As you come to expect with a Surface Device, Laptop Go 2 is sleek and stylish. It comes in four colours including the standard Platinum, Ice Blue, Sage, and Sandstone. The model I tested was the Platinum model which is made of lightweight aluminium and has the familiar mirrored Microsoft logo on the lid.

When you open the clam-shell lid, you are presented with a full-size rubberised plastic keyboard, which Microsoft claims “provides 30% more key travel than the MacBook Air and a large trackpad. Being a more “budget friendly” device, there is no backlighting on the keyboard and the trackpad doesn’t have haptic feedback like the new Surface Laptop Studio debuted.

The power button (which does light up), also serves as a fingerprint sensor which you can use with Windows Hello to unlock the laptop.

Connectivity-wise, you get the same ports as on the Surface Laptop and last year’s Laptop Go 1 – a Single USB-C port (which supports 4K video), Single USB-A port, 3.5 mm headphone jack and the Surface Connect port which it uses for charging. You also get Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Note: the USB-C port doesn’t support charging like many new laptops, so you’ll need to keep using the Surface Connect Port charger which comes in the box.

The screen on the Surface Laptop Go 2 has a 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen display with a resolution of 1536 x 1024p and a 3:2 aspect ratio like that found on most of the newer Surface family. The display is bright, clear, and sharp with great colours and black blacks – event in direct sunlight. Don’t get me wrong, Surface Laptop Go 2 is not intended for professional-level graphics or artwork, but it is more than good for viewing documents, web pages or watching videos. It also doesn’t support use of the Surface Pen, which is of course another cost saving thing.

The Webcam – is tiny and located between two small spatial microphones on the top edge of the screen. Unlike the “bigger” versions of Surface, this does not support Windows Hello and is only a 720p. This is the one area I wish Microsoft hadn’t “saved money” on as webcam quality is important in the new world of hybrid and remote work. I’m also so used to the Windows Hello Camera and personally prefer it over the fingerprint reader. Microsoft say that the camera on the Laptop Go 2 is an upgrade on last year’s model and features a “new camera module providing improved brightness, contrast and colour balance“.

Image taken from Teams Call on Surface Laptop Go 2
Image taken from Teams on Surface Laptop Go 2

Low light and bright backlight quality was handled well, but the image did feel a little grainy at full screen – I think I’d still prefer at 1080p webcam though – feels like a compromise we don’t need.

SPECS, PEFORMANCE & BATTERY

SPECIFICATIONS
The device I’ve had on loan, is powered by a Quadcore, 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, the Intel Iris Xe graphics chipset and 16GB RAM along with a 256GB SSD.

Like all Surface’s Laptop Go 2 is available in both consumer and business editions. The business version ships with Windows 11 Professional and providing enhanced secure features including Secured-Core   security features, which includes a dedicated physical TPM 2.0 chip (rather than virtual TPM in firmware which the consumer model has).  
Choices are otherwise limited in these more budget friendly devices, and Microsoft simply give you options over how much RAM and SSD storage you need.

The entry level unit has 128GB SSD, but only 4GB RAM and no fingerprint reader.

PERFORMANCE
Spoiler
– Laptop Go 2 is not designed to compete with the bigger members of the Surace family like the Surface Laptop, Surface Pro or Studio when it comes to raw power, and graphics performance, but it did do a decent job of everything I threw at it. Throughout my week of testing, I had multiple apps open, including Teams, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook and used it a few evenings for watching a few films and even tried out Clipchamp to edit one of my son’s YouTube “clips” he’d made all without feeling like I was using an under-powered device. I even managed a bit of Minecraft on the device as well as playing TrainSimWorld 2 and Forza Horizon using Xbox Streaming – more on that later!!

BATTERY LIFE
Microsoft states that Laptop Go 2 provides up to 13.5 hours of ‘typical device usage’, but my loan device lasted about 25% less than that – 9hrs 16mins in fact of constant use in my usual home working test scenario:

  • Connected via Wi-Fi.
  • Screen Brightness set to auto.
  • Bluetooth connected headset, keyboard, and mouse.
  • Mix of normal daily use – no special tests – 8-10 Teams Video Calls (camera on), Core Office desktop apps and some social media apps and web browsing.
  • Connected to 4K Ultrawide screen via Surface Dock v1.

This is, I would say the main area of disappointment compared to the advertised specs – as I think you’d still want to take a power adapter out with you – “just in case”.

9 hrs isn’t awful but it’s nowhere near the “up to 13.5hrs”.

One day Microsoft will get this bit right and maybe when (if) they shift to ARM based chipsets for Laptop Go and Surface Go we will see battery life closer to what Apple manage to squeeze out their “M” chip-based devices. performance out of the battery.

XBOX GAME STREAMING

So – this was never going to be the best experience, but while on holiday on the Isle of Wight (if you haven’t been – you should go by the way), I wanted to test Xbox remote play on our Xbox One X (I know I know, where’s the Series-X!). My first test was done running on NowTV broadband (70Mbps or so).

On returning home yesterday, I then recreated the scenario from my desk, streaming from the same Xbox (which is in the same house). The experience was pretty much the same.

In summary, for fast framerate games like this, I’d say “it works pretty well”. Game play was surprisingly good. It did struggle with the odd refresh glitch and jittery in places on high frame-rate games (I was testing it with Forza Horizon 4) but overall and given the spec of the Surface Laptop Go 2, was more impressed than I thought I’d be. The video below show’s how this played out.

Xbox Cloud Streaming – Forza Horizon 4

ROUNDING IT ALL UP

Battery life aside – Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 is a great all-rounder device for students, consumers or business users that are on more of a budget or than need something new and modern, gorgeous, and premium in feel that is both ultra-portable, and good enough for everything a “typical user” needs.

If you are big into gaming, (see above) big graphics/design and art, or you are a number crunching, coding, power-user then, you’ll want to look at the high-end devices like the Surface Laptop Studio or Surface Book 3 – though you can “get buy” when travelling if you need a game-fix and want to play remote or cloud play with the Xbox App.

Check on the hands-on video review here:


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Microsoft Defender “top of the class” for ransomware detection and blocking.

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.

AV-TEST

Top Marks

The tests were carried out amongst 14 of the top anti virus and endpoint protection products in the consumer and commercial space including:

  • Acronis
  • AVG
  • Avast
  • Bitdefender
  • Kaspersky
  • F-Secure
  • McAfee (Trellix)
  • Microsoft
  • Symantec

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:

Microsoft Defender AV-TEST ransomware tests 02-22
McAfee AV-TEST ransomware tests 02-22

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.

Windows 11 Build 22621.169 is rolling out for Release Preview Channel Insiders

After Microsoft released the Windows 11 22H2 update to the Release Preview channel back in June, they have now started to roll out a new cumulative update for Windows Insiders that are running the Windows 11 build 22621 in the Release Preview channel. As you’d expect, this update is mainly focussed on essential bug fixes as we get closer to the formal 22H2 release.

You can visit the official blog site for the full list of changes here.

The major changes / fixes in this build include

  • Fixing the issue which stopped OneDrive working correctly via the file explorer shell
  • Adding support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3 in the Windows client and server LDAP implementations.
  • Fixed an issue with Edge sandbox mode.

How to Join the Windows Insider programme

For instructions on how to join the Windows Insider Program and join your device to the Release Preview Channel, click here.

Microsoft 365 Admin Center now lets admins report on Windows & Office Update compliance

Microsoft Security Logo

Microsoft has unveiled a new “software updates” dashboard in the Microsoft 365 admin center that enables IT to get a simple, unified overview of the installation status of Windows and Microsoft 365 app updates across all their devices. This is currently in preview.

Software update tab in Admin Centre

“Keeping devices current with the latest security updates is an important part of an IT admin’s role. The software updates page in the health section of the Microsoft 365 admin center provides a high-level summary view that informs you of devices that may be behind on taking the latest updates released by Microsoft. “

Microsoft

The software updates page now has a new tab that shows Windows update status and end of service statistics. These charts provide information about all the Windows devices running unsupported versions of the Windows as well as those that reaching the end of support.

There is a separate tab which provides update status for Microsoft 365 Apps.


This new dashboard currently only provides update status for Microsoft 365 apps and the core Windows OS, but they plan to expand this in the future to cover critical on premises servers such as Exchange.

There is currently no ability to drill down into the non compliant devices. To do this you need to head the Security pane or Microsoft Endpoint Manager but I suspect this will be linked by the time it comes out of preview.

You can read the full blog here.

Windows Autopatch is now available for public preview

Microsoft Autopatch

Windows Autopatch, a service to automatically keep Windows and Microsoft 365 up to date in enterprise organisations, has now reached public preview. When officially released (GA), it will be included Microsoft commercial customers with a Windows Enterprise E3 license or higher.


In short, Windows Autopatch automatically allows organisation to shift the management and deployment of Windows 10, Windows 11 and Microsoft 365 Apps including quality and feature updates, drivers, firmware to Microsoft.

What’s the purpose?

Essentially this aims to take the nightmare out of the age-old “patch Tuesday” and promises to be a great time saver for IT admins. With Autopatch, IT can continue to use their existing tools and processes for managing and deploying updates to devices OR can look to phase in or replace this in entirety and with this new “hands off” approach and let Windows Autopatch take care of security, driver and firmware updates.

“Changing the way things get done, even when that change makes things easier, gives pause to most people who run large IT organisations. By joining the public preview, you’ll be able to get comfortable with Windows Autopatch and ready your organisation to take advantage of the service at scale”.

Lior Bela | Senior Product Marketing Manager | Microsoft


The main purpose of Windows Autopatch is moving the update orchestration burden from the IT department to Microsoft. Once deployed, configured and tested, Autopatch should allow the entire effort around planning and managing the Windows Update process (sequencing and rollout) to be taken away from IT freeing up time and resources.

“Whenever issues arise with any Autopatch update, the remediation gets incorporated and applied to future deployments, affording a level of proactive service that no IT admin team could easily replicate,” Bela added.

“Whenever issues arise with any Autopatch update, the remediation gets incorporated and applied to future deployments, affording a level of proactive service that no IT admin team could easily replicate.”

Lior Bela | Senior Product Marketing Manager | Microsoft

How to enable Autopatch

Windows Autopatch devices must be managed by Microsoft Intune for this to work and Intune must be set as the Mobile Device Management (MDM) authority or co-management must be turned on and enabled on the target devices.

As you’d expect, there are a handful of steps needed to enable the preview and to enrol your Microsoft 365 tenant into the Windows Autopatch public preview:

  • Log on to Endpoint Manager as a Global Admin and navigate to the Windows Autopatch blade which is under the Tenant Administration menu – this will only be visible if you have the right licenses deployed.
  • Using an InPrivate browser window, redeem your Autopatch preview code
  • Run the readiness assessment, add the required admin contact, and add the devices you want to enrol in the service.
  • Tick the box, to allow Microsoft to manage updates on behalf of your organisation.
Allowing Microsoft to manage updates for your organisation

Microsoft provides regularly updated instructions on how to add devices to your test ring and how to resolve common errors such as “tenant not ready,” “device not ready” or “device not registered.”

Microsoft also provides detailed instructions (and video) on how to add devices to your test ring and how to resolve the status of “tenant not ready,” or a status of “device not ready” or “device not registered.”

Microsoft YouTube video on enabling Windows Autopatch

How Autopatch works

The Windows Autopatch service automatically splits your organisation’s device estate into four groups of devices described by Microsoft as “testing rings”.

  • Test Ring: Contains a minimum number of devices for test purposes
  • First Ring: Contains ~1% of all endpoints (think of this like the early adopter ring)
  • Fast Ring: Contains ~9% of devices
  • Broad Ring: Contains the rest of the devices.

The updates are deployed progressively, starting with the test ring and moving to the larger sets of devices following a validation period in which the system and IT can monitor device performance and compare it to pre-update metrics through End Point Analytics.

Autopatch rings. Image (c) Microsoft

Autopatch also features a nifty, feature called “Halt and Rollback” that block updates from being applied to higher test rings or rolled back automatically. This is key for critical dates or projects which may be impacted by updates or where quality errors are detected in the Test Ring updates.

What about Patch Tuesday and Critical Updates?

Microsoft will continue to deliver monthly security and quality updates for supported versions of the Windows on the second Tuesday of the month (commonly referred to Patch Tuesday or Update Tuesday) as they have been to date. These will be delivered by Autopatch also.

For normal updates, Autopatch uses a regular release cadence starting with devices in the test ring and completing with general rollout to broad ring.

Any updates addressing a critical vulnerability, such as Zero Day threats, will be expedited by Windows Autopatch with a aim to patch all devices immediately.


Microsoft provides further info in the Windows Autopatch support documentation, including details on service eligibility, prerequisites, licensing and features.

Microsoft has created an awesome mashup of the latest Surface and Windows 11 innovations

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.

Check it out below!

Surface Laptop SE – hands on video-review

Surface Laptop SE

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.

Unveiling – Surface Laptop SE

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!

Typing Experience

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 .

Display

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.

Battery Life

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.

Multiple App launching

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 Final Thoughts

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.


Ready my similar posts…

Surface Laptop Studio Hands-on Review

Surface Laptop Studeio Image

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).

Surface Studio Laptop in ‘Laptop Mode’

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.

Surface Laptop Studio in “Studio Mode”

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.

Surface Laptop Studio in ‘Stage Mode’

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.

Left: Original Surface Pen | Middle: Surface Slim Pen | Right: Surface Slim Pen 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 Pen Slim 2 storage and charging

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.

Battery Life

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.

Pricing

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.

Model CodePrice (Ex VAT)
i5/16GB RAM/256GB SSDTNX-00004£1,126.90
i7/16GB RAM/512GB SSD/NVIDIA G-FORCE RTX A2000ABR-00004£1,425.42
i7/32GB RAM/1TB SSD/NVIDIA G-FORCE RTX A2000AIC-00004£2,239.31
i7/32GB RAM/2TB SSD/NVIDIA G-FORCE RTX 3050AI5-00004£2,131.43
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!

Summary

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.


Faster adoption and higher satisfaction than ever… That’s Windows 11

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.

More Personal Computing earnings (Q2 FY2022)

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.

What we might see in Windows 11 during 2022

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.


Finally… Happy new year everyone.