Microsoft refreshes its Surface PC portfolio including Android-based Duo 2

Microsoft is introducing eight new, Surface-branded devices and peripherals. There's a new high-end laptop, the next version of its flagship 2-in-1 and the second version of its dual-screen Android phone, among others.

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft's usual fall Surface launch is virtual this year. But that isn't stopping the company from rolling out a slew of new and improved devices, including a new Surface Laptop Studio (successor to the Surface Book); Surface Pro 8; Surface Go 3; and an Android-based, second-generation Surface Duo dual-screen device. Most of the Windows-based devices will be available starting October 5, the day Microsoft launches Windows 11. The Duo 2 will be available starting October 21. Preorders for most of the new Surface products start today in select markets.

During the virtual event introducing the devices, Chief Device Officer Panos Panay highlighted the ways that Windows 11 will unlock new features in the Surface PCs that are coming, especially in the areas of touch and inking.

Here's what the Surface team is announcing today, September 22:

Surface Laptop Studio: Microsoft has finally acknowledged that few people wanted a workstation-quality PC that let them also detach (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) the display and use it as a tablet. The company instead has created a successor to the Surface Book 3 -- and a replacement for the Surface Book line -- that doesn't include a detachable tablet; the tablet piece of the system is connected and moved around via a woven fabric hinge so that it can be used in "studio mode," "stage mode" and other points in between.

Surface Laptop Studio is aimed at developers, creative pros, gamers and anyone else who wants the power of a desktop with the portability of a laptop. The Laptop Studio comes with 11th Generation Intel Core H35 and NVIDIA GeForce RTX GPUs. It has two Thunderbolt 4 ports and still includes the Microsoft Surface Connect power port.

The hinge feels flexible but durable in my very brief hands-on time with it. The 4-pound Core i7 model actually felt lappable, as well -- not top-heavy like Surface Book devices. I did find the display to be a bit bouncy when it wasn't quite flat. The display is 14.4 inches, and a Surface Slim Pen 2 fits (and charges) under the keyboard and "Precision Haptic" touchpad. Microsoft is saying to expect 18-19 hours of normal-use battery life; I'm going to halve that number and predict it'll be closer to 9 hours for me (which still would be great if it pans out).

Surface Laptop Studio starts at $1,600 and will only be available in the U.S. and Canada to start. It won't be available outside the U.S. until early 2022. The Slim Pen 2 -- which, in conjunction with Windows 11, provides tactile/haptic signals to make drawing and writing more natural, is another $130. Microsoft is using the Slim Pen 2 to show off the ways that it has improved inking in Windows 11. (Microsoft isn't providing a date right now as to when the Slim Pen 2 will be available.)

Surface Pro 8: This is the latest edition of Microsoft's flagship 2-in1 device and is sort of a combination of the Surface Pro 7 and the Surface Pro X in design. The 13-inch, 120Hz display has thinner bezels, but the device's body is still thicker than the ARM-based Surface Pro X. Microsoft execs say the Pro 8 is the biggest leap forward, design- and spec-wise, for the Surface Pro since Pro 3.

The Pro 8 includes two Thunderbolt 4 ports and no USB-A ports. It comes with an 11th Gen Intel Core processor. It includes a 5MP front-facing camera, 10MP-4K rear-facing camera and dual far-field Studio mics. The Surface Slim 2 Pen fits and charges inside the new Surface Pro Signature Keyboard. Microsoft says up to 16 hours of battery life for Pro 8, so I'm guessing for me it would be more like 8 (based on my own real-life battery rule).

Surface Pro 8 starts at $1,100, minus the keyboard cover, which is priced separately and usually around $160 or so. The Slim Pen 2 is an additional $130. Surface Pro 8 with LTE Advanced is coming in 2022, officials said.

Surface Pro X: Microsoft is adding a new SKU of its Arm-based Surface Pro. In addition to the existing LTE-based Pro X, there's now also a new Wi-Fi-only model, which is slightly cheaper. Microsoft officials said they expect this model to appeal to people who use the device in certain, Wi-Fi-enabled locales (like home, school or work) almost exclusively.

The Wi-Fi-only model starts at $900. The pen and keyboard are sold separately. Initial availability of the Wi-fi-only model will be in the U.S. only starting on October 5.

Surface Go 3: Microsoft has been including more powerful processors with each iteration of its entry-level Surface Go device. The Go 3 is no exception. This new model will offer either an Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y or Intel Core i3-10100Y processor. Other than that, the Surface Go 3 form factor looks like the previous Go models. It's 1.2 pounds (without the keyboard), has a 10.5-inch touch display, and has 1080p cameras. Microsoft says it gets up to 11 hours of battery life, so I'm betting it'll be more like five to six hours for me in real-world situations.

If you were wondering whether S Mode is still a thing, yes, the stripped-down version of Windows that can be upgraded for free continues to exist and Windows 11 Home in S Mode is the OS that the Go 3 will ship with, preinstalled, for consumers. In commercial channels, users will have the option of going with Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro on the device. And Microsoft still has eMMC storage listed on its spec sheet for the low-end models, so buyers beware.

The Wi-Fi-enabled Surface Go 3 starts at $400, minus the keyboard cover and pen, which are sold separately. Surface Go 3 Wi-Fi SKUs will be available in many markets starting today, and general availability will begin on October 5. Surface Go 3 LTE SKUs will be available in the US and Canada starting in December 2021 and other markets starting in early 2022. 

Surface Duo 2: The rumors were true. The Surface Duo 2 has a much better camera, bigger displays (5.8 inches each, rather than 5.6), NFC support and a better processor (Snapdragon 888 with 5G support) than the original Duo launched last year. That rumored bump from the triple-lens camera is real, but not as prominent as some fear, especially when the Duo 2 is encased in a case and/or bumpers.

The Duo 2, which will ship with Android 11, comes in white ("Glacier") or black ("Obsidian") and starts at $1,500, which is $100 more than the original Duo was priced to start. General availability begins October 21 in select markets.

Microsoft also announced today a new mouse called the Ocean Plastic Mouse, which is made of resin that includes 20% recycled ocean plastic. It starts at $25. And there's a new Surface Adaptive Kit from Microsoft's Inclusive Tech Lab that includes stickers for labeling keys, indicating ports and even opening devices. This kit will be available later this year, officials said.

Update: The Surface Laptop Studio, Surface Pro 8, and Surface Go 3 will all offer options for business users to install Windows 10 or 11. (Thanks to Tero Alhonen for the tip.)