After showing us the evolution of the current Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro 7, plus the new Surface Pro X lightweight version, Microsoft decided to end its event with a look towards the future. Enter the Microsoft Surface Neo, a dual-screen foldable that, while not due on shelves until Holidays 2020, has already got a grip on our imaginations.
At is core, the Surface Neo is a pair of 4:3 9-inch LCD Gorilla Glass-reinforced displays connected together. The hinge is made with 60 micro co-ax cables, and is capable of 360-degree flexibility just like the Surface 2-in-1s we’ve seen for years. The frame is 5.6mm thin on all sides, and weighs 655 grams, so it shouldn’t be too obnoxious to use despite the double thickness when folded up or extra length and width when expanded out.
We got a look at the compatible accessories too. The Neo’s pen and keyboard are magnetised to the back of the case, where they also charge wirelessly. The pen looks like it behaves much as Microsoft’s current styluses do, but the keyboard is a bit more special. It can lock onto the bottom display when the Neo’s in a laptop configuration in two places. If it’s flush with the bottom edge, you get the ‘wonder bar’, which contains typing shortcuts and emoji for convenient messaging, or it can become a drawing space for your stylus.
If you don’t want to use it as a productive area, we were also shown how you can dock a full screen video player in either half of the bar with a button tap, letting you continue your viewing session while working on something more productive and immediate. You can alternatively have the keyboard up against the hinge, in which case you get a virtual trackpad to aid your navigation without a separate mouse.
All of this runs on a dual screen version of Windows 10, Windows 10 X, that allows you to use two apps at once, launching in whichever window you selected it in, while sending linked pages to the other screen to continue your work flow as it was.
Equally, you can use one app spread across both screens, a mode Microsoft has named ‘spanning’. When you do this, the Neo pops the app into a specific layout to aid your usage of the apps, for example expanding your email inbox into a list of emails and a reading pane. Microsoft say this will all be supported in Windows and Office apps, so all your key programs will be Neo-ready come next year.
There wasn’t much concrete hardware information for the Surface Neo, but we did learn that the Neo will run on a Intel Lakefield Hybrid CPU, which is allegedly half the size of a normal PCB thanks to innovations both on Microsoft’s part and with its partners.
If the Surface Neo is too large for your needs, then perhaps the Surface Duo is more your thing. Despite the small size and mobile capabilities, Microsoft don’t want you to think of it as a smartphone, but as just another member of the Surface family. Made with a pair of 5.6-inch displays, it looks and behaves just the same by the looks, except in a pocket-size format.
Yes, it may be a year away and not worth getting excited about yet, but Microsoft has set the pace for the next generation already by showing off the Surface Neo early, with just enough information to set our heads spinning. It’s going to be a long twelve months...