Microsoft Puts a Gaming GPU in a Tablet Keyboard
By stuffing a GTX 1060 into the new Surface, Microsoft takes aim directly at the Macbook Pro.
When the Surface Book came out 2 years ago, it got a lot of attention as an option for editors, but the Macbook Pro was still relatively current and powerful and the Microsoft option didn't really take off in a large way in the film market. With the announcement of the Surface Book 2, however, it's obvious that Microsoft is aiming clearly at creatives and has created a tool that filmmakers should seriously consider for their next work machine. The new Surface Book 2 comes in a 13.5" or a whopping 15" size (normal for a laptop but ginormous for a tablet), and is available with GTX 1050 or GTX 1060 graphics cards. We'll repeat since it's so exciting: in the 15" Surface Book 2, you have the option of a GTX 1060, all in a 4.2lb package.
It packs all this power into a tablet by actually putting a ton of the power in the keyboard. The powerful graphic card and a large portion of the battery life lives in the detachable unit on the bottom that serves as stand, keyboard, and trackpad. Want to use it to watch movies on your flight to location or as a tablet for reviewing the script on your scout? Leave the keyboard behind. Want the power to process the video you shot scouting, throw it through Premiere or even Resolve and give it a color pass, and send it on to the rest of the team? Plug in the keyboard and get the extra battery life and most importantly graphics power.
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that you'll be able to buy just the super power keyboard from the SB2 and plug it into the original SB, which is a shame since that level of modular upgradability would be huge, but the technical issues behind that are likely exceptionally complicated. Best of all are the ports you get in the keyboard, with not only a full-sized SD card reader (no adapter needed), and both USB 2 and 3.1 ports, but also a magnetic power adapter. For anyone who desperately misses Magsafe, this alone is a reason to consider switching. The Surface Book 2 can also be charged over USB 3.1, so if you forget your Surface charger at home, you aren't totally stranded if there is a USB 3.1 charger around.
This is not accidentally timed, as the announcement comes in conjunction with the release of several Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets, which are hitting stores starting now and rolling out through the next several weeks. Microsoft Mixed Reality is a push by the Redmond company deep into the VR space, which is an area where others have been struggling, with Nokia leaving the market and Oculus facing continual price drops.
One major hurdle for adoption of VR technology has been machines powerful enough to run the hardware. Even if you find yourself enticed by a $399 Oculus, the realization of how much it'll cost to get a PC powerful enough to run it (and it'll be a PC as Mac continues to drag their feet) can be a major hurdle. Microsoft is hoping to work with manufacturers to get machines VR ready and simultaneously have a plethora of options in the hardware space. The Surface Book 2, which at either its 13.5" or 15" form should be powerful enough to run a Mixed Reality headset, is a versatile option to consider.
On top of that, Microsoft has also expanded support for the Surface Dial, announcing this week at Adobe MAX that Dial support has now come to Photoshop. While the Dial hasn't taken off yet to appear in every post house, it is a simple, well designed interface that demonstrates Microsoft's willingness to explore new options for creatives to interface with their work. The goal is to keep your eyes on the image you are manipulating, without having to constantly move away from your image to use a slider for brush side of opacity or whatever else you want to control. In combination with a pen input, you can dynamically control brush size while you work. Microsoft is creating some truly innovative products here, and finally seems poised to make some real inroads in the creative community.
Surface Book 2 will be available for pre-order November 9th, with the 13.5" version starting at $1,499 and the 15" starting at $2,499, which has the maximum power but only 256GB of internal storage.
Tech Specs (maximum 15" options):
- 8th i7 quad core processor
- GTX 1060 with 6GB of Video Ram
- 16GB RAM
- 267 PPI
- 17 hours of battery life
- USB, SD and USB 3.1 slots
- 256GB (up to 1tb with upgrades) internal storage