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How the Surface line spec bump looks, and 11 more things happening in tech today
Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Thursday, May 7.
1. New Surface gear: Same-same, but fixed and refreshed
As promised/leaked/rumored, Microsoft rolled out new Surface hardware yesterday, including a new Surface Go 2, Surface Book 3, and headphones including Microsoft’s first wireless earbuds and updated Surface Headphones, plus some peripherals/accessories, including keyboards and more.
- The next-gen products are all refreshed successors, with spec bumps.
- And aside from more speed/more battery life, the updates try to solve little problems or bothersome details in the previous editions, rather than introduce huge new ideas to the line.
Surface Go 2: Less bezel, more power (if you pay)
The original Surface Go was a neat option for a versatile tablet-computer with Windows 10 on board, at a what’s-the-catch starting price. Now it’s better, with less catches, and more battery life.
The Surface Go 2 fixes a lot of what people wanted fixed in the new version, while keeping the overall design (and handy kickstand) the same.
- Bezels have shrunk, increasing the display from 10-inch to 10.5-inch, but it’s a big improvement from what I’ve seen. It’s upped the resolution further to 1920 x 1280 resolution at 220 ppi.
- Much more power in higher-end models: a newer 8th-generation Intel Core M processor is on board for beefier models
- In a tip to the era, there’s also better dual mics for improved audio quality.
- The microSD card allows you to add up to 1TB of storage.
- The Surface Go 2 will be available May 12, starting at $399 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage, although that’s without the $130 type cover keyboard, or the $100 Surface Pen. LTE is another $100.
- And, the $399 still gets you a Surface Go with an Intel Pentium Gold processor, which is a no no.
- It’s pretty underpowered, and even early hands-on impressions have indicated you’re far better off going for the Intel Core m3 model, priced at $629, with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
- Add a type cover keyboard if you don’t already have a Bluetooth keyboard you like, and the $400 Surface Go 2 jumps to more like $750 for a competent device.
- Now this is still a “real” computer, with Windows, Office, Chrome with plugins, and more freedom.
- Reviews of it, and inevitable comparisons to iPads, will be interesting given the boosts here.
Surface Book 3: All about form-factor
The Surface Book 3 looks just like the Book 2: no design tweaks, still in 13.5-inch and 15-inch. Under the hood though:
- This time Microsoft has 10th gen Intel i5 1035G7 or i7 1065G7 processor in the 13.5-inch, and only the i7 on the 15-inch.
- The 13-inch comes with integrated Iris graphics or a discrete NVIDIA GTX 1650 GPU on the 13.5-inch, and a GTX 1660 or Quadro RTX 3000 on the 15-inch.
- There’s also up to 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, up from the 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage maxed-out option in the Surface Book 2.
- A power drain issue in the Book 2 has been fixed, too.
- The Surface Book 3 will start at $1,599, available May 21.
- Notably, Intel CPUs in the Surface Book 3 are 15W chips. In the 16-inch MacBook Pro, the Intel CPUs crank to 45W. That’s going to mean a vast difference if you constantly work your computer hard at max output.
- Microsoft told those it briefed that this was its most powerful device ever, although it’s still a ways off true elite performance. That’s what you get from the tablet-hybrid design which is perfect for some, not quite right for others.
- The form-factor is everything. You’ll need to want it, the 15-hour-plus battery life, and then the rest makes sense.
- I’m keen to see reviews, given it remains a pricey bit of gear.
Other new stuff:
- New $199 Surface Earbuds. Microsoft announced these back in October last year, but no fresh insights on what they’re like, yet.
- The Surface Headphones 2 might be a hit: Microsoft says it has improved audio quality, ANC, and battery life in these, and now rate it at 20 hours of battery life. They start at $249, a full $100 off the previous model, undercutting leaders Sony/Bose.
- Oh, and active noise canceling in the new Surface Headphones 2 was “designed specifically to block out the human voice”. Which was probably ideal for offices, and is now ideal for blocking out all human life that bothers you while trying to get something done at home.
- Final note: all Intel CPUs in the Surface line, with still no AMD options, even as Ryzen 7 shows painfully huge gains for those sticking with Intel.
2. Google drops surprise fourth Android 11 developer preview, shifts release dates but continues with a beta launch event that will happen on June 3, 2020. That’s about a month behind the normal schedule (Android Authority). And here’s George Takei explaining that the Android 11 beta launch is happening online, not at Google I/O (android.com).
3. LG Velvet goes official: A mid-range phone with a surprisingly high flagship price. Reviews should be interesting (Android Authority).
4. Sonos has introduced a trio of new hardware: Sonos Arc soundbar that includes Dolby Atmos support ($799), Sonos Five ($499), the next version of its Sonos Play:5 speaker, and a third-generation Sonos Sub ($699). Shipping June 10, new S2 app coming June 8 (TechCrunch).
5. Loads of iOS apps crashed Wednesday night: Spotify, TikTok, Pinterest, Tinder and other popular iOS apps were crashing due to a Facebook SDK issue (The Verge).
6. How Apple reinvented the cursor for iPad: Apple SVP Craig Federighi gave an interview about iPadOS’s new cursor. It’s a little exaggerated given I’ve heard a few people turn off the morphing animations but generally people like having to be less precise (TechCrunch).
7. Facebook announces first 20 members of its 40 person Facebook Oversight Board, including a Nobel Prize winner, says its decisions on problematic content will be ‘binding’. Let’s see how it plays out (Gizmodo). Here’s the list from Facebook, not on Facebook.com but its own URL: oversightboard.com.
Also: “Why I’m Joining Facebook’s Oversight Board”, from former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger (OneZero).
8. “Google continues to tighten its belt as it enters a ‘difficult’ few months, and that includes telling employees they can’t expense perks like food.” (Business Insider).
9. Uber is laying off 14% of its workforce: 3,700 employees. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will forgo his base salary for the rest of the year (CNBC).
10. Fortnite just keeps going: now has 350M registered players, up from 250M in March 2019; in April, players logged 3.2B hours in the game, and the Party Mode has deadmau5 playing (Dextero).
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