Microsoft announces $999 Surface Laptop 2, $899 Surface Pro 6

Key Points
  • Microsoft announced a new Surface Pro convertible laptop at a press conference in New York City on Tuesday.
  • There's also second-generation Surface Laptop and Surface Studio products. 
  • The Windows 10 October 2018 Update is available now.
Microsoft's Surface Pro 6 convertible laptop, which starts at $899.
CNBC | Todd Haselton

Microsoft announced several new Surface-brand devices, including a new Surface Pro 6 convertible laptop, during a press conference in New York City on Tuesday.

The company also announced the availability of the next version of its Windows 10 operating system.

The new Surface Pro 6 bears a striking resemblance to previous Surface Pro models. The latest one offers up to 16 GB of RAM and a solid-state drive with up to 1TB of storage. And this marks the first-ever quad-core processor in this type of laptop, Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay said at the event.

Microsoft announces new Surface Pro 6
Microsoft announces new Surface Pro 6

The Surface Pro 6 includes new Intel eighth-generation processors and are 67 percent more powerful than last year's model, Panay said, with up to 13.5 hours of battery life and an 8MP rear camera. The 12.3-inch device starts at $899.

Unfortunately, as usual, that price still doesn't include the cost of a keyboard required to turn the tablet into a laptop, so expect to pay at least another $100 if you want full notebook functionality.

The new computer comes more than a year after Microsoft announced the Surface Pro -- last year's laptop/computer hybrid. Following that launch, in the fall of last year, Microsoft announced the Surface Laptop, the Surface Studio and the Surface Book 2. In July, Microsoft announced a smaller, more affordable version of the Surface Pro computer, called the Surface Go.

On Tuesday Microsoft also announced the Surface Laptop 2, which is a more traditional clamshell laptop with a touchscreen. The new product remains very similar to the original model that came out last year, offering the same 13.5-inch display, but it includes Intel's eighth-generation processors, which delivers an 85 percent performance boost -- along with a quieter keyboard. Microsoft says the battery on the Surface Laptop 2 will last up to 14.5 hours. This product starts at $999.

Microsoft's new Surface Laptop 2, which starts at $999
CNBC | Todd Haselton

Both the Surface Laptop 2 and the Surface Pro 6 will be available in a new color called matte black, not just the blue, burgundy and platinum options that were offered before. The insides of the devices will feature the "alcantara" fabric covering that Microsoft has previously used.

Microsoft also pulled the cover off the Surface Studio 2 adjustable all-in-one desktop PC, the successor to the original Surface Studio that first launched in 2016. "More of the high-end graphics you need, more of the brilliant screen," as Panay said. You'll be able to play Xbox games with wireless controllers on the device, whose display spans 28 inches. That size is the same as the original model, but Microsoft has bumped the sixth-generation Intel processors up to eighth-generation ones and is claiming a 50 percent boost in graphics performance, with help from Nvidia silicon. Microsoft is calling the Surface Studio 2 its fastest Surface ever.

Microsoft's Surface Studio 2 all-in-one PC.
CNBC | Todd Haselton

The new PC can be configured with a solid-state drive with up to 2TB of space, Panay said. Plus, the display is 38 percent brighter than the first model. This device will be expensive with a starting price of $3,499.

Additionally, Microsoft is showing off an entirely new product, which it's calling Surface Headphones. They're over-the-ear wireless headphones that tap into Cortana, Microsoft's smart voice assistant. That means you can ask questions about the weather or the traffic to work, or you can ask Cortana to start playing music.

There are eight beam-forming microphones that are meant to capture the clearest sound, for phone calls and voice commands. You turn a dial on one of the headphones to enable acoustic noise canceling. By turning the other headphone's dial, you can adjust the volume.

Microsoft's new headphones
CNBC | Todd Haselton

These aren't the first voice-assistant headphones. Apple's AirPods are equipped with Siri, while Bose and other companies have shipped headphones with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built-in. Microsoft said the new headphones will ship later this year for $349.

Microsoft said in its Q4 2018 earnings report that Surface revenue increased 25 percent, largely driven by those products, explaining why the company continues to invest in its Surface portfolio of computers.

On Tuesday Microsoft also introduced Surface All Access, a new way to pay for Surface devices, while also getting Office 365, support and benefits from the Microsoft Store. You can pay $24.99 per month for 24 months to buy the Surface Go and a Type Cover attachable keyboard, for example.

Microsoft said it's starting to take orders for the Surface Pro 6, Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Studio 2 in "select markets," with more availability later. The Surface Headphones will be available in the U.S. and the United Kingdom in time for the holidays.

The Windows 10 October 2018 Update is available starting today. It includes a few nifty features, which early adopters, or as Microsoft calls them, insiders, have been able to try out in recent months ahead of this broader release. You can wait for Microsoft to inform you that the new version is ready for your computer through Windows Update, or you can hit Start and manually start installing the update by typing in "Check for updates" and click that option when it pops up. (If you're using a Windows 10 PC for work, ask your IT administrator when you can have the update.)

Earlier this year Apple included a dark mode as part of the latest version of its desktop operating system, MacOS Mojave. Windows is getting its own spin on a dark theme with this new OS update. It appears in the File Explorer, along with things like the dialog boxes for saving and opening files. If you navigate to Settings > Personalization, you'll be able to switch on this Windows-wide dark theme.

A cloud-powered synced keyboard is also now part of Windows. You can see a history of what you've copied to your clipboard by hitting the keyboard shortcut Win-V. You can even pin things for faster access. And it will be available through all devices that have this new version of Windows.

Microsoft is also making its SwiftKey virtual keyboard part of the core Windows touch keyboard When Microsoft first acquired SwiftKey in 2016, the technology was mainly about providing a better keyboard for Android and iOS devices. SwiftKey uses AI to try to predict the word you're trying to enter as you type or swipe. You can go to the Typing Insights part of Settings to see information about your typing in SwiftKey.

And the Your Phone App lets you access text messages and photos on Android phones right from your Windows 10 PC.

There are several other changes in Windows 10 October 2018 Update, and you can find a full rundown here.

Microsoft's Surface Pro is here and it's really expensive
Microsoft's Surface Pro is here and it's really expensive