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Microsoft’s budget Surface Laptop that’s still not cheap, and more tech news

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Friday, 2 October 2020.

1. New laptops: Microsoft’s new Surface line

Microsoft unveiled the Surface Laptop Go, and gave the Surface Pro X an update, further building out Microsoft’s Surface lineup.

So, does any of it matter? Let’s take a look.

surface-laptop-go

Surface Laptop Go:

  • The new Surface Laptop Go features a 12.4-inch touchscreen display, 10th Gen Intel CPU, starts at 4GB RAM and 64GB eMMC storage options, with “13 hours” of battery with “typical device usage”, plus fast charging, and the good Surface keyboard, and 1.1kg.
  • It also goes back to Windows 10 S, and the display is 1536×1024, which isn’t quite 1080p resolution.
  • But it is trying to be affordable, starting at $549, which pushes it against the world of Chromebooks and iPads and Macs for educational purposes, or cheap portable options for those who need it too.
  • Probably no one should buy the $549 option, which features unacceptable specs in 2020. That means it’s really a $699 device: for that, you get double the RAM at 8GB, and 128GB SSD storage, and Windows Hello, and a fingerprint reader in the power button. Please, pass the $549 option over, and please petition companies to stop releasing new products “starting at” attractive prices, only for those devices to be unbuyable.
  • At the top-end, prices rise to US$1,120 for 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, but only for business customers
  • It fits somewhere above the Surface Go, with its 10-inch tablet form starting at $399. The Surface Go 2 started at $729, but you had to buy a keyboard for $130.
  • That places the Surface Laptop Go in the middle. Yes, finally, Microsoft has a budget laptop.
  • And yet it’s still a pricey option. Yes, Surface build quality is premium, and the form-factor and post-sales experience seems to be good. The tooling is worth something, just like it is with Apple.
  • But the Dell XPS 13 can hover around this $700 price on deals for a very competent laptop. I see it on sale right now for $784 with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and a vastly better display.
  • Heck, even the 13.5-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 has been on sale for $700 with the Core i5-1035G7 CPU, 8GB RAM/128GB SSD.
  • I still expect the Surface Laptop Go to be useful at the $700 range, because a Microsoft mass-market Surface will appeal. But it would’ve been way better if the $549 device was, in any way at all, up to 2020 specs.

Surface Pro X

New Surface Pro X:

  • The improved Surface Pro X now features a Microsoft SQ2 processor, and starts at US$1,499.99, with 16GB RAM/256GB SSD, available from October 13th in North America, Australia, India and Japan, and more widely on October 27.
  • That processor has been widely reportedly to be Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G, just without 5G. The Gen 2 features the Snapdragon X24 LTE modem, better AI performance, and support for newer standards of Wi-Fi (although still not Wi-Fi 6) and Bluetooth, along with better image processing for sharper webcams, but doesn’t appear to be any faster per se.
  • There are new finishes and colors for the keyboard, too.
  • Microsoft now says it has 15 hours of battery, up from 13 hours.
  • But running the Arm-based processor still means app compatibility issues. Microsoft did announce earlier in the week that it is expanding its emulator support to include 64-bit x64 apps, and announced as well that that Edge and Teams are now optimized for Windows on ARM.
  • What I’m missing here is the price jump. The Pro X was already viewed as expensive in the model that started at $999. Now, we’re starting at $1,500 for this model, and the $1000 SQ2 option seems to be missing, and you have to add a keyboard for $104?
  • Hm.
  • We’re going to need to see if the SQ2 really offers more.

2. Get the new Chromecast for free when you sign up for as little as one month of YouTube TV ($65) Android Authority).


3. Patent: Apple is working on self-healing coatings for future foldables (Android Authority).


4. Google will turn selfie retouching off by default with new Pixel phones (Android Authority).


5. HP’s new Spectre x360 14 laptop has a 3:2 aspect ratio plus a Thunderbolt 4 port hiding in the corner (The Verge).


6. Can the Pixel 5 camera still compete using the same old aging sensor? (Good headline, but the answer is almost definitely. Turns out sensor hardware outside of physical size may not matter as much as we’re encouraged to believe…) (The Verge).


7. Facebook is opening its experimental predictions app to all users (Engadget).


8. Going in-depth with Nintendo’s augmented reality Mario Kart RC car …and the $99 per Kart price (Ars Technica). Speaking of racing: Honda will quit Formula 1 to focus on fuel cell and EV technology (Engadget).


9. Streaming Netflix 4K on macOS Big Sur requires a Mac with a T2 security chip. Why? The T2 chip has processing chops, too (Apple Terminal).


10. Linus Tech Tips somehow got an Apple Developer Transition Kit with the new Apple Silicon, and is planning on tearing it down and benchmarking it (Twitter).


11. “Have we ever found live specimens of a supposedly extinct species?” (r/askscience).


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