Microsoft Introduces Surface Headphones 2 and Surface Earbuds

May 11 2020, 02:10
In a surprise announcement, Microsoft anticipated the launch of four new Surface hardware products, including a new version of the Surface Headphones - the over-ear design with ANC, unveiled in 2018 and very discretely launched in 2019 - and the launch of the promised true wireless Surface Earbuds. Obviously, the new Surface Headphones 2 and the Surface Earbuds are intended to "complete Microsoft's Surface experience, helping users to find focus wherever they are and stay connected."

Among the new products unveiled by Microsoft there was also the new Surface Go 2 (a tablet/laptop hybrid), Surface Book 3 (laptop), and accessories designed to be used anywhere like the Surface Dock 2 and the multi-port Microsoft USB-C Travel Hub. For Microsoft - still very much an office-oriented company - these should all make sense with the new Surface Headphones 2 and Surface Earbuds, because there is nothing a user wishes more than working on Excel sheets while listening to polka favorites.

Microsoft says that the Surface Book 3 is its most powerful laptop ever, "designed for professionals who need desktop-level performance from anywhere." This might be true, before the user opens Microsoft Teams. In compensation, this new laptop finally introduces a USB-C connector (USB 3.1 Gen 2 with Power Delivery), side by side with 2 x USB-A connectors (also version 3.1 Gen 2).

The new Surface Book 3 provides up to 50% more performance than the previous generation Surface Book 2 and up to 17.5 hours of battery life. It is available with a 13-inch or 15-inch display, and it offers 10th Generation Intel Core processors and a choice of discrete NVIDIA GeForce GTX or Quadro RTX GPUs. RAM can now be expanded to 32GB. Prices for the Surface Book 3 start at $1599 and will be available starting May 21.

The Surface Go 2 hybrid tablet is a lightweight design, that now offers a larger 10.5-inch PixelSense display, improved battery life and up to 64% faster performance than the original, with 8th Generation Intel Core M options for the first time. It was mainly designed for videoconference calls (and meetings) since Microsoft added Studio Mics, a dual microphone solution that increases voice clarity and reduces background noise, combined with a 5MP front-facing camera. There's also a new Camera app for the rear-facing camera to make it easy to scan documents and whiteboards. Paired with Surface Pen, the Surface Go 2 allows distance learners and remote workers to draw diagrams, marking up documents or working through math equations. The Surface Go 2 starts at just $399 and will be available starting May 12.

Headphones 2
With the Surface Headphones 2, Microsoft updates its premium (and so far only) headphones, now available in two colors — Light Gray and new Matte Black. Designed for users on the go, at the office or relaxing at home, the lightweight Surface Headphones 2 are as comfortable as the original version, while sound quality is now "enhanced with Omnisonic sound," but Microsoft provides no additional details. The 40mm drivers apparently remain unchanged. The dial with 13 levels of adjustable noise cancellation continues to be the main feature - like in the original - while the other on-ear dial allows adjusting the volume. The outside area of the headphone housings feature touch controls for the user to stop/play music, take calls, or activate a personal assistant, etc.

Battery life seems to be the main improvement, allowing for up to 20 hours, or listen to almost an hour of music with just a 5-minute charge - and full charge (USB-C) in less than 2 hours. Microsoft also says the noise cancelling features have been improved, and that is probably due to new advanced microphones that also support calls and text dictation. As stated, these are the headphones for the fanatics of Microsoft Office, allowing users to "talk rather than type" with dictation in Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint. But Microsoft now specifically highlights the possibility to "block out or amplify human voices."  

Microsoft also explains that the ear cup design was updated to rotate 180 degrees for greater comfort when worn around the neck. More importantly, the Surface Headphones 2 are now priced at $249 ($100 less than the original model) and will be available starting May 12.

Surface Earbuds
The Surface Earbuds - the first true wireless earbuds from Microsoft - are a very original proposition, with their large, round, white surfaces in the ear designed to provide "intuitive touch controls for music, calls and more, all without a screen." As with the Surface Headphones 2, the sound is also described as rich, immersive Omnisonic sound. Battery life supports eight hours per single charge, and all-day use with the included wireless charging case. 

But of course these are Microsoft's vision of true wireless earbuds, designed for "innovative Microsoft 365 experiences that help you stay productive throughout the day," always with intuitive touch controls. "Swipe, touch, and tap to adjust volume, take calls, get assistance, manage your calendar, reply to emails, capture to-do's and control presentations in Windows 10 with PowerPoint." Like the Headphones 2 the Earbuds now allow users to "touch and hold" to activate any personal digital assistant.

On the technical details we learn that the Surface Earbuds was designed with four anchor points, so each earbud sits securely in the ear - being available with three sets of interchangeable silicone ear tips for a stable fit. In terms of frequency response, Microsoft explains that the Surface Earbuds feature "the Surface Omnisonic sound profile with custom-designed drivers and precision tuning inspired by listening to the world’s best live music venues and most advanced audio equipment." Each earbud features two advanced microphones that "block out background noise while amplifying your voice."

The Microsoft Surface Earbuds are priced at $199 and will be available starting May 12.
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