Testing Windows 10 Continuum has been something I’ve wanted to do since, well, the second it was announced. Today I got to play with the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL and I took the opportunity to get it running over Miracast for a completely wireless Windows 10 Mobile, extended screen experience. For someone like me, interested in highly integrated mobile computers, this was a groundbreaking moment.
I have a Surface Pro 4 with Core i5, Type Cover keyboard and docking station with me now and I’ve just finished the first of a set of videos for Notebookcheck (see it in the Surface Pro 4 review here) and come away, as you’d probably expect, impressed. One of the first things I did, however, was to put the new Type Cover keyboard on my Surface Pro 3. The ‘upgrade’ is significant and is one of a number of considerations to be made if you’re thinking of making the jump from Pro 3 to Pro 4.
The usual suspects got their Surface Pro 4 devices before anyone else and have been allowed to publish their reviews. I think you can skip many of them to be honest but one stands out. No, it’s not my review (I was 6 months behind the curve with my Surface Pro 3 review,) it’s the Anandtech review. It’s jam-packed with good information.
It seems that the world and her husband have written their thoughts on what could happen at the Microsoft Windows 10 event on October 6th. My thoughts on Surface Pro 4, anchored in engineering rather than floating with rumors, are here. The poll results so far say that 50% of readers, given the option of having both a 12-inch and 14-inch Surface Pro 3, want a silent 12-inch model based on Core M and a high-powered 14-inch model based on 6th-gen Core U-series processors. If that were to be the case on Oct 6th it means that a 12-inch Surface Pro 4 won’t out-perform Surface Pro 3 in high-power scenarios. But there’s enough ‘showtime’ potential in the new Core M to keep anyone happy. Maybe it’s time to take ‘Pro’ to a higher level?
It took 9 years of waiting and 2.5 hours of keynote to get there. Microsoft just demonstrated the ultimate ultra-mobile, cross-platform PC experience – A combination of Windows 10, Universal Apps and Continuum on a phone running a Universal app that adapts the UI as it moves from phone to big-screen. One device, one OS, one app, multiple screens. If this strategy works then it’s likely to mean the death of the consumer Windows Desktop and completely change the consumer PC market. It also opens up the desktop screen to ARM-based devices. There’s a lot to think about here.
Everyone that has reviewed the Surface 3 so far has been fairly confident that it can be a laptop replacement. Actually it can’t until you buy the keyboard for it but in terms of performance it’s not bad. The issue is that the previous generation Atom arent that much slower. If you look closely at the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows version) you’ll see a product that makes the Surface 3 look way overpriced.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows
I’m using the Yoga Tablet 2 as the Surface 3 comparison for a number of reasons. It’s got a 1920×1200 10.1-inch (not 10.8-inch) IPS screen, a stand (continuously variable) and it weighs 629 grams which is just 7 grams more than the Surface 3. There’s 2 GB of RAM inside and a 1.3-1.8Ghz Baytrail-T processor. The battery is a huge 34 Wh which is 25% bigger than that in the Surface 3. Storage is small at 32GB (compared to 64Gb and much more usable space on the Surface 3.) The port choice is comparable although there’s only one micro-USB 2.0 port. It doesn’t have AC WiFi, it’s only a 32 bit version of Windows and there’s no digitizer layer.
In the USA there’s about $180 price difference. In Europe, where the Surface 3 is more expensive and the Yoga Tablet 2 is cheaper you’ll save yourself €250 and you’ll get the Bluetooth keyboard thrown in for the €349 total price saving around €380 over a base Surface 3 and keyboard. Half the price!
I do agree that the Surface 3 is unique and that nothing directly compares to it but if you’re looking at the entry-level model of the Surface 3 and are not interested in the digitizer then the Yoga Tablet 2 is the better value product.
I love the Yoga Tablet 2. The design is great, the screen pops and the keyboard is good (I had hands-on at MWC and CeBIT) and I like the battery hump because it’s a great way to hold the device. I’ve ordered it twice, and cancelled the order twice. I’m really close to buying one now just to compare in detail to the Surface 3 but you can see all the detail you need in this Notebookcheck review and I’m probably just looking for an excuse to buy it.
The other reason I won’t buy it now is because you’re going to see newer Atom X7 and X5-based tablets soon. While I don’t see much CPU and disk performance increases on a clock-for-clock basis we have to remember that the 14nm process used on the X5 and X7 frees up some Turbo Boost headroom. The Surface 3 can Turbo Boost to 2.4 Ghz meaning that Web activities are going to be noticeably quicker than on the classic 1.8 Ghz Atom Z3000-series. 4GB RAM is probably also worth waiting for…unless you need it now in which case there’s only one choice. The Surface 3 is unique when it comes to RAM and storage options and the excellent accessory range. Maybe we should stop comparing it to anything and just hope that it stimulates OEMs to launch a good range of competitors later this year.
I’ve read a number of first impressions posts today that show the Microsoft Surface 3 (Intel Atom X7, Windows 8.1) has gone out to reviewers in the USA. A few more pieces of the puzzle have been slotted into place and there’s now a huge race to get the first full review out. Don’t expect the first reviews to be too in-depth (battery life tests might have to be added later!) but do expect some performance results and thoughts on-screen and keyboard. We’re also looking out for the Surface 3 eMMC SSD speed test results but in the meantime, at least we have the first performance test results and the battery capacity.
Some people came away from Mobile World Congress wanting the Samsung Galaxy S6. Others were blown away by a VR headset from HTC. Me, I came away from MWC thinking about the new Microsoft universal folding keyboard. This Bluetooth keyboard is an amazing bit of engineering and I had two chances to check it out at MWC. The videos are below.
Microsoft universal folding keyboard. My estimate: 120 grams / 0.3 pounds
The new Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is tiny and desirable, but pricey. Here’s my hands-on thoughts and video.
If there’s one sub-thread that has existed throughout the last 9 years of UMPCPortal it has to be mobile keyboards. PDAs generated a reasonable market for folding, rolling, laser-projected and even fabric keyboards but it hasn’t been until recently that the market picked up again with practical engineering, materials and features. I run a Microsoft Wedge keyboard across a number of tablets and am currently typing this article on a Type Cover with a Surface Pro 3. It’s that Type Cover technology that appears in one of the lightest keyboards I’ve seen since my all-time favorite, the Samsung Q1 UMPC keyboard. The Microsoft universal folding keyboard is incredibly light and although it has a slightly split keyboard I like the layout.
The key sizes are slightly smaller than you get on a Type Cover but not by much and there’s dual Bluetooth connectivity option for switching between two devices. My guess is 120 grams in weight but I could be wrong. Microsoft haven’t made the weight official yet.
What Microsoft have declared is an integrated a battery that lasts for three months, auto-shutdown on close, a spill-resistant design and a total height, when folded, of 11.5mm. Naturally, the Bluetooth HID profile support means it’s going to work across many, many devices and that includes some of those old PDAs!
There’s a problem though. Where simple portable Bluetooth keyboards start at around $20, this one is going to set you back just under $100. That’s more than a low-cost Windows 8, 8-inch tablet PC!
Surface Pro 3 is an amazing piece of engineering. Even with the keyboard it’s one of the most powerful self-contained PCs by weight and with 5-6 hours of working battery life, fast storage and a digitizer it doesn’t cut corners. We’d all like to see a full SD card slot and for it to run a little cooler under load but unless you’re really doing a lot of ‘lapping’, it’s a true notebook replacement. Now that the Intel Core M has been launched we have an idea of what’s possible for 2015. Core M or Broadwell-U are highly likely to be in the Surface labs already as Microsoft try to work out where the next super-tablet should be positioned but there are other options too. Could Cherry Trail play a part in Surface Pro’s future?
Update: The Surface 3 has been launched. Based on a Cherry Trail CPU and 10.8-inch screen. Prices start at $499. See all the details here.
It’s exactly 12-hours after the launch of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 as I start to write this article. I’ve spent a number of hours hours researching and making notes on this unique product and have come to one main conclusion. Microsoft has a superbly engineered product in the Surface Pro 3 but it’s too early for mainstream 2-in-1 customers.