It’s often been said that Microsoft is at its core a software company, it’s even in their name Microsoft, but I’ll be damned if they don’t do fantastic hardware. Yesterday in New York City, Microsoft showed off its hardware prowess with devices like the Microsoft Band, Lumia 950 and 950 XL, the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, and the world was wowed.
Bear in mind, it wasn’t just the devices as much as the presentation of the devices that made them exciting. When Steven Elop presented the Lumia 640 and 640 XL at MWC, it was pretty meh. When Panos Panay presented the 950 and 950 XL yesterday, you could feel the excitement coming off him. Do you care about antennas? Don’t care, I was PUMPED to hear that the 950 family had good antennas. Do you care about gigahertz, octa-core, and PPI? Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the Lumia 950 and 950 XL are the best phones and that’s all you need to know. Do you even care about continuum? It doesn’t matter, Microsoft’s presentation team could have presented a Lumia 520 instead and the audience would have clapped just as hard because the presenters had passion. In the world of tech, raw specs are easy to find, but the passion behind a product is what truly sells it.
The Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL are two of the best smartphones available right now. Next to the iPhone 6s and Nexus series, they complete the flagship selection of the major smartphone OSes, and for once, they are competitive. Looking back at the Lumia range, the Lumia 920, 925 and 1020 all fell behind current flagships one way or another. The Lumia 1520 and 930 had problems which prevented them from being completely mainstream devices (the latter shipped 4 months after launch and the former was huge).
Yes, 3D touch is cool, but Continuum is cooler.
In essence, we are looking at the first two Lumia devices that not only manage to match the competition but essentially overshadow them hardware wise. Yes, 3D touch is cool, but Continuum is cooler. 12 megapixels and live photos are OK, but 20 MP and living images is even better. The Google Nexus has some customize back covers and USB C, which is probably cool. The Lumia 950 has all that plus expandable storage up to 200GB (which Windows Phones handle elegantly) Both have fingerprint scanning, Microsoft scans your iris to unlock your device.
It’s the future, and it is here right now.
Unlike the other two devices, I find it really hard to say anything nice about the new Lumia 550. The chassis of the devices look nice, however, the specs are entirely lackluster. I cannot comment much on how good a snapdragon 210 is compared to a 400 and the screen is quite nice. But the device costs more than the 640 and 540, despite offering less in the case of the former and barely equaling the latter. Microsoft would have been better served using the Verizon 735 as a template for its low-end hardware.
The Surface Pro 4 reveal was great. The device was exactly what everyone expected, a powerful, more refined Surface Pro 3 device. Bigger screen? Check. Smaller bezels? Check. Thinner and lighter? Check. Face scanning? Check. Iris Scanning? Check. It’s like Microsoft threw everything, added the kitchen sink and then sent you the plumber as well. After seeing this device, I got the feeling that nothing else came close. The iPad pro is far behind, and the Pixel is best left with the Surface RT. Everything about this new device is great, with the exception of one thing.
If you don’t buy the premise that a tablet can replace your laptop, then the device is irrelevant to you. Luckily for both of you that don’t like the Surface Pro series, Microsoft has made a device that inverts the entire premise.
The Surface is the tablet that can act as your laptop in a stretch and the Surface Pro is the tablet that can replace your laptop, then the Surface Book is the laptop that can replace your tablet. Featuring a 13-inch screen, the same machined metal body as the Surface devices and a classic hinge keyboard, the Surface Book is everything Surface fans who wanted a traditional laptop dreamed of. Most interestingly, it still becomes a tablet like its smaller brothers. If you weren’t sold on Microsoft’s hardware prowess before, then this should just about sell it.
The Microsoft band and Hololens are cool devices as well. I will admit to not being totally convinced by wearable technology, but the devices are solid pieces of engineering – like anything else out of Microsoft’s stable. While I did notice – as many others commented – that Microsoft did not spend so much time on the new Lumias, that was because
almost everything about the new Lumia devices had been leaked. At that point, it would be akin to going through the motions and telling the audience exactly what they already knew.
This is Microsoft’s best product line so far
Overall, Microsoft’s new device portfolio is one of the best offerings by any company at the moment. Now all that’s left is for the software to catch up to it, and by next month we should know the score.