Microsoft Surface Duo 2 stops by the FCC before its debut later this week

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Surface Laptop 4 long-term review: If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway

The Next Web 31 December, 1969 - 06:00pm

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The Surface Laptop 4 isn’t the most exciting laptop I’ve ever reviewed. Testing it gave me a serious case of déjà vu; its design has barely changed since I first went hands-on with the original in 2017. The most obvious exterior change on my 13-inch review unit — other than being a different shade of blue — is that it comes with a USB-C port instead of a Mini DisplayPort. That’s it.

And yet I still consider this laptop to be near the top of its class. A few quibbles aside, it’s one of the easiest to recommend laptops on the market. I don’t think Microsoft can get away with another year of this design, but starting at $999, the Surface Laptop 4 is still one of the prettiest, most pleasant to use laptops money can buy. Here are some of the reasons why.

Sometimes newness for the sake of newness is overrated. As the saying goes; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I came into this review preparing a big eye roll at the few changes, but every time I switch to the Surface Laptop from other devices I’m testing, I can’t help but get a little giddy.

Video banking might be the end of branch managers

Despite an ‘old’ design by tech standards, the Surface Laptop 4 is still one of the prettiest laptops around, although I’m admittedly biased toward blue gadgets.

I’m equally biased by the Alcantara material. I don’t care if it can get a little dirtier than metal with your grubby hands. The Ice Blue Alcantara on my model feels luxurious when typing in a way no other laptop feels (the soft-touch finish on the Dell XPS 13 is nice, but not quite there). In any case, it gets way less dirty than you might expect. Even after several months, there’s just a slight hint of wear.

When I think about what I really want Microsoft to change, only a few things come to mind. Smaller bezels would be nice, especially on a device like this which does not turn into a tablet and doesn’t need the space to have somewhere to grip.

Alternatively, keep the bezels, but give the Surface Laptop a 360-degree hinge. To be honest, I can’t imagine Microsoft doing that, but the lack of a tablet mode does significantly limit the utility of the Surface Pen.

Still, there are still very few laptops out that match the Surface Laptop on the design front, even though they’ve had the time to catch up.

So many mainstream laptops tend to have an annoying bottom-firing speaker design. I don’t like it. It means the sound is inconsistent, varying depending on whether you’re using the laptop on your lap, your bed, or a table. Rarely does it actually sound good.

The Surface Laptop 4 instead fires sound up through the keyboard. That seems like a recipe for disaster, but somehow it ends up sounding pretty great, by laptop standards anyway.

Granted, I didn’t get as technical about it as I do with actual speaker reviews, but to my ear, it has a balanced, warm tonality that is a nice contrast from the usual tinny and/or boomy sound you’ll find in other laptops. I never get it when laptops have various automated EQ presets for things like movies, games, and music. That’s dumb. Good speakers are just good speakers. You just need to create decent sound without all the gimmicks.

One of my pet peeves with laptops in this category is that they tend to force you to pick either a 1080p-ish display or a 4K-ish display.

I think 1080p on a 13-inch display is a pixel-fest by modern standards. Some people claim you don’t need higher resolution on a display this size, I’ve never seen a 1080P display on anything larger than a tablet that I didn’t think looked fuzzy.

Meanwhile, 4K displays, many of them OLED, tend to eat through battery life like nobody’s business.

For some reason, very few laptop manufacturers actually try to strike a balance of resolution that’s the right pixel density for the display size. Apple is one of them, and Microsoft is another.

The 13.5″ Surface Laptop 4 comes in at 2256 x 1504 (201 PPI), and it’s just about perfect. I wouldn’t mind a little higher pixel density, but it’s just about at the point of diminishing returns. Increasing the resolution further would lead to barely noticeable gains in sharpness while draining more battery.

It also has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which is the best aspect ratio.

Mind you, it’s not perfect. The display isn’t the brightest or most vibrant you can get, but color calibration and contrast is on point and generally competitive with others in this category while striking a better balance on resolution. I also appreciate that whether you choose to save money on a low-end configuration or opt to max out the specs, you’re still getting the same great display.

While most of what I mentioned before applies to earlier Surface Laptops, the Surface Laptop 4 benefits significantly from its new internals.

The Surface Laptop 3 felt a bit like it lagged behind its competitors in terms of performance especially with the AMD variant that was based on older technology than the competition.

On my Intel Core-i7 equipped review unit with 16GB of RAM, it flies through everyday tasks with nary a hiccup, and as with all Surface products, it is mercifully free from the bloatware that occupies many other devices.

Gaming performance on the Intel model has increased significantly thanks to the Iris Xe GPU, but it’s still not a device you buy for huge framerates in AAA title. Still, at least you should be able to play most games at lower resolutions and settings.

This isn’t a laptop you get for performing the most intense workloads on the go, nor will it stand out tremendously from other laptops with comparable intel or AMD parts. But likewise, it won’t be left behind, and subjectively, it seemed to maintain its performance well over extended usage.

Microsoft is giving laptop buyers more choice than they usually get in terms of processors. You can choose between several Intel and AMD configurations, which gives you significant flexibility based on your budget and your intended usage.

While I didn’t get to test the AMD version of the Surface Laptop 4, benchmarks and user impressions of that model have been far superior to its predecessor. In particular, it appears to excel in battery life and multi-threaded performance, while the Intel option is better for gaming and has more memory and storage options.

Keyboards are a personal thing, but the Surface Laptop 4 is simply my idea of a perfect laptop keyboard. It’s quiet, it’s clicky, it’s responsive. t feels nice.

Heck, I like it more than many a desktop keyboard I’ve used. It’s better than the one even on the Surface Book 3 too. Coupled with the Alcantara material, it’s a writer’s dream.

I love it. As far as I’m concerned Microsoft could keep the keyboard exactly the same on the Surface Laptop 5 and I’d still be happy.

(And the trackpad is pretty neat too — I think the best one you’ll find this side of a MacBook.)

Microsoft claimed it added an hour and a half to the Surface Book 13’s battery life, and indeed, it feels like it can get me through a workday more easily than before. Unless I was doing a lot of work in photoshop and lightroom, I rarely had to charge the laptop before the end of a workday.

It’s not the longest-lasting laptop I’ve used, but it should outlast most 4K laptops out there with barely a visible hit on display quality. It’s the benefit of that ‘goldilocks’ display resolution and careful optimization by Microsoft.

Microsoft claims the Intel version will go for 17 hours, which is big old ‘lol, no’ from me, but 7-10 hours, depending on your workload, is pretty realistic; I tend to run on high brightness too. Mind you, the AMD version should last even longer, as it has more careful power management when unplugged. Microsoft claims it’ll last 19 hours, so it should get an extra hour or so over the Intel variant.

As much as I like the Surface Laptop 4, it’s not my daily driver. That honor goes to the Surface Book 3, not just because of the GPU, but because for me using the device in tablet mode is essential. I use the stylus for writing notes in OneNote, editing photos, annotating sheet music, solving math problems, etc. Plus, it’s just nicer to watch movies with the screen pushed forward.

It makes me wish Microsoft would come up with a reasonably priced Surface Laptop that had some kind of 2-in-1 capability. The Surface Book is too expensive for most people, and although the Surface Laptop supports does support the Surface Pen, it’s very awkward to use in this form factor. There’s usually very little compromise to a flippy hinge — the HP Spectre x360 14 is also one of the nicest laptops I’ve used too, convertible or not.

Also, because I don’t know where else to put it in this review: I also wouldn’t mind a few more USB-C ports on the next revision.

Still, a lot of people just want a plain-old traditional laptop that looks nice, feels nice, and is generally hassle-free in terms of performance and battery life. Though it’s a little dated by its bezels, it’s a testament to the strength of the original design that the Surface Laptop 4 still looks and feels so good. At the end of the day, it’s the overall experience that matters, not how ‘new’ it is.

The Surface Laptop was never really broken, but Microsoft has ‘fixed’ it enough to make it a better buy than ever.

TNW is a Financial Times company.

Predictions for the Fall 2021 Surface event 💻

Windows Central 20 September, 2021 - 10:12pm

With iOS 15, you can finally FaceTime between Android and iPhone. Here's how

Gizmodo 20 September, 2021 - 01:00pm

In iOS 15, you can join a FaceTime call from your iPhone, Android or Windows device.

Non-Apple people have a reason to celebrate: The days when you needed an iPhone, iPad or Mac to join a FaceTime video call are all but over. In a move widely seen as Apple's answer to Zoom video calls, the software giant has made it possible for people who have Android phones and Windows laptops to hop on FaceTime calls -- no iPhone required.

Read more: iOS 15's most exciting new features

Here's how to join FaceTime calls with iOS 15, no matter what device you're using.

The key here isn't that the FaceTime app is coming to Android and Windows. It's that you'll be able to jump on a FaceTime call using a link, so long as the person scheduling or starting the call has an Apple device and an Apple account. If you're an Apple user and have downloaded iOS 15, here's how to get a FaceTime call started with those on Android or Windows devices. 

Create a FaceTime link on your iPhone to share with others on Android or Windows devices. 

1. Open the FaceTime app on your phone. 

2. Tap Create Link

3. A screen will slide up from the bottom that says FaceTime Link. You can click Add Name to enter a name for your chat. 

4. On the same screen, you'll see options to share the link through text, email, Twitter, calendar or other apps you have on your phone. Or, you can copy and paste the link yourself. 

5. To join the call yourself, tap the name of the chat you just created, and tap Join

6. When the Android or Windows user clicks the link, it will take them to a waiting room where you can allow them to join the call by tapping a check next to their name. 

To join a FaceTime call on an Android or Windows device, all you need is the link sent to you by the person with an Apple device. You don't need to download a separate app. Here's how to join a FaceTime call through a shared link. 

1. Open the FaceTime link from wherever it was shared with you. 

2. The link will open in your browser (you'll need the latest version of Chrome or Edge). Enter your name, and tap Continue

3. The screen will say "Waiting to be let in," until the person who invited you approves you to join the call. 

Apple noted at WWDC in June that even on the web, FaceTime calls are always end-to-end encrypted. 

For more, check out these FaceTime tips and tricks and everything else to know about iOS 15.

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Surface Duo 2 passes through the FCC with 5G, NFC, and wireless charging support

The Verge 20 September, 2021 - 06:09am

Microsoft will announce its new foldable Android phone on Wednesday

Windows Central reports that the dual-screen Android device has been spotted in FCC documents published last week. The documents mention “Wireless Power Transfer,” but it’s not entirely clear whether the Qi standard will be supported for wireless charging here. Windows Central speculates that the Surface Duo 2 may include support for inductive charging for the Surface Pen instead.

The FCC documents also confirm 5G and NFC support, both of which were missing from the original Surface Duo. There’s also a mention of ultra-wideband (UWB) support, which could mean the Surface Duo 2 will connect to accessories that support the standard.

Microsoft’s Surface event will kick off at 11AM ET / 8AM PT on September 22nd. We’re also expecting a Surface Pro 8 with a 120Hz display and Thunderbolt support, a newly designed Surface Book 4, a Surface Go 3, and an update to the Surface Pro X. We’ll be covering all the announcements live, so stay tuned to The Verge for all the latest Surface news.

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Surface Duo 2 gets certified with wireless charging, 5G, and UWB support

XDA Developers 20 September, 2021 - 12:30am

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Just a few days prior to the rumored launch, the Microsoft Surface Duo 2 has been spotted on FCC documents, hinting towards some possible features. Microsoft is expected to announce the Surface Duo 2 on 22 September during an event where they’re announcing new Surface PCs. The Surface Duo was Microsoft’s unique smartphone announced almost two years ago and came with two displays attached by a hinge that allowed it to fold open and shut. This year, we’re expecting Microsoft to bring some noteworthy changes and improvements to the Surface Duo 2 and fix the shortcomings of its predecessor.

While there hasn’t been too much info about the Surface Duo 2, we have encountered some leaks and reports from time to time that showed off the exterior of the device or gave us a glimpse of how the new camera module would look like. Now, the phone has received FCC certification which means there’s some data in the documents that reveal more specifications and features of the device. Windows Central found that the document mentions the device as a portable handset indicating that the documentation could indeed be for the Surface Duo 2. There were references to the device being tested in the flip and flat states which also fall in line with what you would expect from a folding device like the Surface Duo 2.

The FCC test report mentions the presence of Wi-Fi 6, multi-band 5G connectivity, NFC, and UWB on the device. The report also mentions the presence of a feature called Wireless Power Transfer which may refer to wireless charging. It’s also believed that Wireless Power Transfer might refer to the ability of the device to wirelessly charge the Surface Pen or a similar gadget. Given how thin the Surface Duo is going to be, it might be difficult for Microsoft to add Qi wireless charging since heat dissipation might be an issue.

The Surface Duo 2 is going to be Microsoft’s flagship phone and is expected to come with the Snapdragon 888 SoC, so it only makes sense for the device to have 5G capabilities. We’re hoping that Microsoft irons out all the software issues that were present on the original Surface Duo and improves the overall user experience of the device.

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