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Microsoft's Surface Hub 2 is practical: a collaborative PC for the future

Microsoft has been obsessed with giant touch screens for many years. Sometimes, the company creates a video about the future in which everyone in the office is involved in large screens installed on the walls. It seems to be really far, but this future has now begun to come with Surface Hub 2.

At the most basic level, this is a big screen for the conference room, which will be downloaded in the 50- and 85-inch versions, but Microsoft is really much more important. It is intended for meeting rooms in the future, where people are expected to participate on the screen instead of just sitting and watching a presentation. Certainly it does not look like your typical boring television, which you will see today in the meeting room.

"The unique thing about Hub, compared to the remaining Surface line, is that it's not a PC," explains Microsoft Hardware Designer Ralf Groene, in an interview for The Verge. "It's really a computer that belongs to space."

At the Microsoft campus, I visited Surface Hub 2, all the additional accessories and a special modular processor cartridge that Microsoft has created to upgrade my hardware in the coming years. Surface Hub 2S (yes, 2S is the official model number) will be available in June for $ 8,999.99, and if you want any additional accessories, it will take almost $ 12,000.

The future is not cheap.

We can say that Surface Hub 2 is a well-designed machine. Compared to the original Surface Hub, it now looks and feels like real Surface hardware and is much more surprising than competitors like Google Jamboard.

Microsoft decided on a 50-inch (3840 x 2560 pixel) display with a typical 3: 2 aspect ratio, compared to the 55-inch 16: 9 panel that the company used on the original Surface Hub. The new aspect ratio means that you can rotate this portrait mode, which is ideal for conference calls, as well as allowing you more vertical space for drawing, presenting, or viewing documents.

Compared to the original, the frames are much thinner – more precisely 15.5 mm – and Microsoft did some work to improve the stylus of the stylus and improve the glare that can be found on typical conference room displays.

I was most surprised at how thinner it was than the original Surface Hub, about 60 percent thinner. You can mount it on the wall or use a stand to bring it to conference rooms or open-type rooms. Microsoft collaborated with Steelcase in the design of stands and wall mounts, both available separately to $ 1,449.99 for the stand and $ 249 for wall mounting.

There is also a battery that can be inserted into the stand housing, which gives you about two hours of battery life on the go. You can then turn off the surface perfectly, as you would have on your notebook, and then slide it into a meeting room or elsewhere. The battery extension, such as the stand, is sold separately for $ 1,400.

For Surface Hub 2, Microsoft also manufactured a dedicated 4K camera powered by USB-C, and can be separated from the top to secure it from the magnets to the side of the screen. Because Surface Hub 2 is designed to surround it, Microsoft even created a special mechanism for the camera, so if you crash into the door, the camera will not be removed.

Because this is actually a full computer and not just a big screen, Microsoft has a lot of hardware. There is Intel Core i5 processor with Intel 8, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB M.2 SSD and Intel's UHD Graphics 620 graphics processor. This means that there are also many PCs available: one standard USB-A, USB-C, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI input and Mini DisplayPort. You can connect devices to use them as a monitor, and Microsoft intends to sell them separately as a single monitor without all the hardware on your computer, but the company does not forecast prices for this model. yet.

The most interesting aspect of all this hardware of the computer is how Microsoft plans that Surface Hub 2 owners will upgrade the device over time. Next year, the Surface Hub 2X processor cartridge will be available, which will include an upgraded graphic processing unit that will allow companies to compile four of these screens together. This upgrade cartridge keeps the processor, RAM, and GPU inside – essentially the entire computer is stored for storing – and you can insert it in the back of Surface Hub 2.

This processor cartridge will also allow some more interesting changes to the software that Microsoft enters into this device, including the ability to rotate the screen. We have seen that Microsoft displays this rotation of the screen and looks much smoother than the one currently in Windows 10. t Microsoft does not yet announce the price or exact availability for the upgrade cartridge, so we will have to see later on how will compare with the price of the node 2.

Most of the more interesting parts of the Surface Hub 2 software will not be available until next year, so I could not try any of them. Surface Hub 2 will be shipped in June with the same modified version of Windows 10 (Team), currently available on original Surface Hub machines. Microsoft says that this is because companies want to buy new hardware and have annual budget plans, but it's also likely because the software is not yet ready.

Nevertheless, here are all the usual applications that you expect on Surface Hub, but are limited to Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform Applications (UWP). There is an impressive Whiteboard application that will automatically edit your manuscript that will work on Windows 10, iOS, Android and the web, so everyone can enter and join the Whiteboard session. Microsoft teams are also here for conference calls and conventional Office applications, such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. You can sign up like any Windows 10-based computer and access the OneDrive documents you've just worked on and meet via Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams.

If your all-in company is in Office 365, like many others, then it's a natural companion. Surface Hub 2 feels like a fast PC, but optimized for touch input and pen on a larger screen. The ability to drive around the office could bring some more interesting meetings than you probably used. But the really impressive parts of Surface Hub 2 will not come later.

Turning the screen, deploying up to four of the 50-inch versions alongside the side and some smart ways to use more Surface Hub 2. Microsoft has shown how two people can sign up for Surface Hub 2 to simultaneously use the fingerprint reader and access both of their individual OneDrive documents to participate or share in the meeting. Hardware is definitely easier to work more collaboratively, but these changes to the software will turn this into a device for future appointments.

"It's very capable, technology is amazing, but I think that what makes people participating is much more exciting than industrial design," says Groene. This could be true, but now you have to wait and see the game. Until a 2-fold upgrade occurs, it's really hard to tell how many differences Surface Hub 2 will make for meeting rooms.

Hardware is undoubtedly impressive: Microsoft has made Surface Hub 2 much more portable and mobile with its choice of hardware, which will in itself improve meetings and co-operation in offices.

This is software that will identify the real potential of this device, and much of it is now just a promise. For several months, Microsoft has been deploying software updates to the node, all of which are part of the increased effort of Windows Core (WCOS) within Microsoft to modularize the operating system, which acts as a clever method for smart hardware.

Microsoft has been building WCOS and its composite shell (C-Shell) for many years, and both efforts will allow Windows to work on new hardware, such as Surface Hub 2. This would make Windows more flexible for different screen sizes and even hardware equipment. "Pocket-sized" double-screen dual-screen device or customizable and foldable displays that appear in the smartphone room.

While the current modified version of Windows 10 for Hub 2 will not run traditional (win32) desktop applications, Microsoft says that these traditional desktop applications seem to be able to work on Surface Hub 2X.

As long as there is no 2X cartridge in 2020, companies are offered an insight into the future with hardware, which should be improved with age due to more modular design and software improvements. This is an unusual proposal today, but Microsoft expects companies to pay a steep price of $ 8,999.99 if they want to part of the company's future promises.

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