It may be more than a week until Black Friday, but the big-name companies are already releasing details of the money-saving deals that will be available. Microsoft is one such company, and today it has revealed price cuts for Surface devices, the Xbox One S, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and more.
As well as offering savings of $329 off the Surface Pro i5 256GB, Microsoft also shares information about savings available from its partners -- including up to $300 off Windows 10 laptops.
We've known for a while that a 4G LTE model is going be introduced in the Surface Pro range, and today, at the Future Decoded event in London, Microsoft officially announces when it will be available.
Microsoft says that Surface Pro with LTE Advanced, as the new version is formally known as, will start shipping to business customers in December. It comes with global connectivity and fast transfer speeds, thanks to a Cat 9 4G LTE modem.
Just a few days ago, Microsoft revealed details of the Surface Book 2 which is due to launch in November. But before the device is even available, it has been dealt a blow by Consumer Reports.
Earlier in the year, the review group said that problems with reliability meant that it was impossible for it to recommend any Microsoft laptop or tablet. Now Consumer Reports says that this extends to the Surface Book 2, meaning that the device will not be recommended.
Microsoft is set to begin shipping its second generation Surface Book in November and says it wants to offer the power of a desktop with the versatility of a tablet.
Surface Book 2 will be available in both 13 and 15-inch versions, weighing in at 3.38lbs and 4.2lbs respectively, both will have a PixelSense Display with multi-touch, plus Surface Pen, and Surface Dial on-screen support. The 15-inch version will have nearly seven million pixels -- 45 percent more than a MacBook Pro.
Microsoft Surface computers are rather nice, but sometimes Panos Panay and team get a little wacky when describing the design process. Look, I get it, Panay is passionate about his job, and that is respectable. But come on, creating Surface devices isn't exactly like painting the Mona Lisa.
Today, Microsoft announces that some Surface accessories will soon be available in a new aqua color. Now, I suppose the color is decent, although it reminds me of a hospital. It is the type of color you paint the rooms of an assisted-living facility for the elderly. As Microsoft describes the process of selecting the color aqua, however, you would think they cured a disease -- the explanation is hilariously pretentious.
Even though Microsoft is not making a lot of money by selling Surface devices, it is hard to imagine that the PC line will be put out to pasture by 2019 because of it, as some top industry executives believe. It plays too big of a role in the PC ecosystem to be killed off.
As I explained in the article discussing those claims, we should not look at Surface "as a standalone effort, but rather as part of a long-term strategy" through which "Microsoft is not only making high-end Windows devices more attractive, it is also encouraging its partners to come up with better designs." Unsurprisingly, my view is mirrored by Surface chief Panos Panay, who calls those claims the "tabloid rumor of the week."
It is difficult to imagine what the PC market would look like today had Microsoft not introduced the Surface RT and Surface Pro back in 2012. The software giant created a category, set the benchmark for high-end productivity-oriented tablets, and pushed rivals, like Apple, to compete in this space.
Despite this, Canalys CEO Steve Brazier and Lenovo COO Gianfranco Lanci believe that the Surface line will be put out to pasture by 2019. Why? The Surface business is not a huge money-maker for Microsoft, making it harder and harder to justify the cost to produce new devices and the low margins involved.
Speaking at the Ignite 2017 conference, Microsoft said that the LTE version of the Surface Pro will be available to purchase on December 1. This is not the first time we have heard about the cellular-enabled Surface Pro, but now we have a date to look forward to.
While the on-sale date is just over two months away, we may well learn more about the Surface Pro LTE at Future Decoded in London next month. Leaks from an online retailer have revealed what specifications will be available.
Microsoft's upcoming event in London, called Future Decoded, will have Panos Panay, the Surface head, as one of the keynote speakers, fueling speculation that the tech giant will unveil the new-generation products part of its hardware line at the end of next month.
Microsoft has already unveiled two new Surface devices this year, the Surface Laptop and the new Surface Pro, but it has yet to reveal a successor to the Surface Book or Surface Studio.
The latest device to be announced by Logitech is the Logitech Craft keyboard -- a wireless keyboard with a dial that's remarkably similar to the Surface Dial. It's so similar, in fact, that it's hard to imagine that Microsoft's lawyers aren't stroking their chins and wondering what to do.
Logitech refers to the new hardware as an "advanced keyboard with creative input dial," and the main target audience is people working with Photoshop or other design ventures. Of course, the company wants to appeal to as many people as possible, and points out that the dial -- known as the Crown -- is also useful in the likes of Word and Excel.
The Surface Pro, the newest device in the Surface range, has received a firmware update, its third since being released in mid-June, which officially introduces support for Windows 10 S.
When Consumer Reports announced that it was dropping its "recommended" status from Surface devices, Microsoft was quick to defend itself. While the software giant disagreed with the move, saying it doesn't believe the "findings accurately reflect Surface owners' true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation," a leaked internal memo shows high return rates for Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book.
While it's certainly true that return rates have dropped over time, the information contained in the memo goes some way to explaining the decision taken by Consumer Reports. The memo also shows that Microsoft is ready to communicate with the ratings group and encourage it to "reverse [its] findings." The company is prepared to go on the offensive to defend its reputation.
Chuwi is not a particularly well-known brand at the moment, but the company is starting to carve out something of a name for itself. We've already seen a handful of low-cost tablets and laptops from the Chinese brand, but its upcoming LapBook Air looks especially interesting.
That the name blends elements from the MacBook Air and Surface Book is no mistake -- this is a laptop designed to compete with both. Chuwi claims the full-metal chassis is "just like touching the real MacBook," but it's the incredibly thinness that's the real head-turner here.
Earlier today, Consumer Reports caused a huge controversy by pulling its "recommended" status from all Microsoft Surface laptops and tablets. While I personally swear by the consumer-focused organization for its coverage of vehicles and appliances, I take its computer coverage with a grain of salt. After all, it infamously panned the 2016 MacBook Pro for poor battery life, even going so far as to say Chrome provided longer usage than Safari -- totally wrong, by the way. It turns out Consumer Reports's testing of the MacBook Pro was flawed and it later reversed course, recommending the Apple laptop after all.
With all of that said, I was obviously a bit dubious of its criticism of some Surface machines. In my experience, the Surface hardware is extremely well made and owners are generally satisfied with the computers. That's not to say they are perfect -- quite the contrary. Actually, they have been prone to bugs that were later fixed (mostly) with firmware and driver updates. Despite those issues, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any Surface product. Obviously Microsoft and Panos Panay -- father of Surface -- would share my disagreement with Consumer Reports. To solidify that, Panay has now penned a response titled "We stand behind Surface."
Poor reliability means Consumer Reports no longer recommends Microsoft Surface -- or any other Microsoft laptop or tablet
Influential reviewer Consumer Reports says that it no longer recommends Microsoft Surface tablets and laptops. The consumer group says that poor predicted reliability for the Surface range means that it is pulling its "recommended" tag.
More than this, Consumer Reports goes on to say that it "cannot recommend any other Microsoft laptops or tablets." Recent studies suggest that a quarter of laptops and tablets from Microsoft will present problems for users within two years of ownership.