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Microsoft teases the upcoming Surface Laptop 4 in a new video
by Anmol Mehrotra
Microsoft has been rumoured to be working on the successor to the Surface Laptop 3 that was launched in November of 2019.
Now, the Redmond giant has released a video teasing the upcoming Surface Laptop 4. The one minute 31 second video posted on Twitter and YouTube goes through the story of Surface devices and showcases the existing lineup. In the video, Panos Panay narrates the journey of Surface devices and talks about the engineering and design teams working on the hardware. While the video showcases all the Surface devices, the emphasis is on the Surface Laptop.
Unfortunately, the video ends with a cryptic message that reads "More to come" with no date or a timeframe. Microsoft usually holds a Surface event in the last quarter of the calendar year so expect the same for this year. That being said, the Surface Laptop 4 has leaked on the internet multiple times and we expect Microsoft to launch the it ahead of the annual Surface event. According to the latest leak from German website WinFuture, the Surface Laptop 4 is scheduled to launch on April 27.
The device will come with a Core i5-1145G7 or Core i7-1185G7 on the Intel side and a Ryzen 4680U Surface Edition, or the Ryzen 7 4980U Surface Edition on the AMD side. The processor will be paired with up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. As for the pricing, the base variant is expected to start at around €1,399, with the maxed out variant going up to €2,699.
As usual we will be keeping an eye out for the Surface Laptop 4. Due to the ongoing global pandemic, Microsoft will most likely announce the Surface Laptop 4 via a digital event.
By Rich Woods
Hands on with HP's new Z2 Small Form Factor workstation
by Rich Woods
Today, HP announced its latest Z2 workstations, a new Tower and a new Small Form Factor model. The company was kind enough to send over the Z2 SFF G8, and to be clear, it's not actually the eighth-gen model. HP pointed out that it's changing up its branding to align everything in the Z-series on the same generation. Whenever there's a big branding change, I try to call it out immediately, because as a consumer, you might be thinking that you missed a few generations.
This is my first Z-series machine that I've received for review, and it's the first small form factor type of PC as well. To start with, I kind of love it. I have two monitors on my desk, and I ended up sliding the Z2 SFF underneath my secondary monitor, which is now kind of looking down at me. I don't know if I'll be keeping it in this location (I've only had it for a day at the time that I'm typing this), but I've never had a PC small enough to fit on my desk before. Usually I use a giant gaming tower that sits underneath my desk.
But that's the whole point of a small form factor PC. You can stick this thing just about anywhere, because it's small. And what's good about this machine is that you're not making a lot of compromises, depending on your work flow. Sure, if you want RTX A5000 graphics, you're going to have to go for the Tower, but this guy has a Quadro RTX 3000, which is probably the best I've seen in such a small chassis.
RTX graphics means that it supports things like real-time ray tracing. So if you're doing 3D modeling or something like that, you can do that here. And if the 6GB Quadro RTX 3000 isn't quite enough, you can use ZCentral Remote Boost to access the power from something like a Z2 Tower that's in another location. In fact, if you're on a laptop somewhere, you can use ZCentral Remote Boost to access the Z2 SFF at your desk.
It has a fair amount of ports; as you can see from the labeling, not all ports are equal. Three of the USB Type-A ports are USB 2.0, which is a shame, but that's what I used for the keyboard and mouse. One of them is USB 3.2 Gen 1 for 5Gbps speeds, and the other two are USB 3.2 Gen 2 for 10Gbps speeds. There are also two DisplayPort ports tucked away in the corner, making it nice and easy to connect two monitors. You can also expand it with more ports using expansion cards.
Indeed, this PC comes with PCIe Gen 4, offering double the bandwidth of PCIe Gen 3. That means that when you open up the chassis, which is tool-less by the way as you can see from the switch on top, you can plug in accessories and they'll be faster.
This is made possible by the Core i7-11700K (and the corresponding Intel chipset and motherboard), an octa-core processor with 16 threads and a 125W TDP. Indeed, that CPU sucks down a lot of power, and combined with the Quadro RTX 3000 GPU, that's all powered by a 450W PSU.
This is a pre-production unit, but I still ran a few benchmarks. Note that you should take them with something of a grain of salt, as that's the nature of pre-production hardware.
PCMark 8: Home 3,863 PCMark 8: Creative 6,054 PCMark 8: Work 3,585 PCMark 10 5,618 3DMark: Time Spy 5,382 (CPU score: 11,149, GPU score: 4,932) VRMark: Orange Room 7,494 VRMark: Blue Room 1,544 Geekbench 1,714 / 10,175 Cinebench 1,574 / 12,195 There are also some ports on the front of the machine. Out of the four USB Type-A ports, the two on the left are USB 3.2 Gen 2 and the two on the right are USB 3.2 Gen 1. There's also a USB Type-C port that's marked as Thunderbolt, but it gets 20Gbps speeds. I do love how many ports are on the front of the machine, as it just makes it easier to plug things in on the fly, such as external storage, a headset, and more.
I also want to give a shout-out to the keyboard and mouse that come with this PC, because they're actually decent. Well, particularly the keyboard is decent. Typically, when it comes to desktops, the in-box keyboard and mouse are absolute trash. It's like companies just put together the absolute bare minimum.
Both the keyboard and mouse actually look pretty stylish, which is a good thing. The mouse does feel cheap when you use it though. It's one of those that's so uncomfortably light that a lot of times, when you take your hand off of it, it will still move a bit. It's not great.
I'm really looking forward to spending some more time with the Z2 SFF, as it seems like a really great machine so far. I don't think that I'll be doing a full review of this machine, since it's a pre-production unit for hands-on and first impressions purposes only. Still, I'm going to play around with it for a while.
By Rich Woods
HP refreshes its Z2 workstations with 11th-gen processors, PCIe Gen 4, and more
by Rich Woods
Z2 SFF Today, HP is introducing the new Z2 Tower G8 and Z2 Small Form Factor G8. Note that these aren't actually eighth-generation products; HP is just aligning all of its Z workstations on the same number now.
There are a few things that are new here, notably Intel's 11th-generation 'Rocket Lake S' CPUs, which come with a host of improvements. They have a new core architecture, but more importantly, they come with support for PCIe Gen 4, which has double the bandwidth of Gen 3. That means that you can add faster, well, everything.
“Today’s rapidly changing work environment has cemented the PC’s role as a critical productivity tool,” said Jaejune Kim, Corporate Senior Vice President of Memory Marketing, Samsung. “With applications growing in complexity and file sizes increasing exponentially, PCIe Gen4 SSDs offer a big step up in performance. We’re proud to partner with HP on the design in of our PM9A1 SSD into HP’s newest performance platforms to maximize the technology benefits for an improved user experience.”
Z2 Tower The CPUs used are up to a Core i9-11900K, which is Intel's top-end chip. It has eight cores and a 125W TDP, and in fact, that also means that it's unlocked for overclocking if you get down like that. That high-end CPU is included in both the Tower and SFF models of the Z2, and there are also Xeon W configurations.
There are also some new GPU options, including up to a Quadro RTX A4000 or A5000 in the Z2 Tower, which comes with a 700W power supply. Naturally, there are more restrictions to the size of the SFF model, which has a 450W PSU, but that still comes with up to Quadro RTX 3000 graphics. Indeed, HP says that it's one of the only ones offering RTX graphics in a small form factor desktop.
Both the Z2 Tower and Z2 SFF will be available in May, starting at $1,179 and $1,169, respectively.
Microsoft plans to add chat bubbles support to Teams
by Anmol Mehrotra
Microsoft is working on a new feature that should help users send and receive messages with ease while on a Teams call. The upcoming chat bubbles feature will allow users to follow messages while being on a call.
The Redmond giant recently update the Microsoft 365 Roadmap to include chat bubbles. Microsoft notes that chat bubbles are currently under development right now. The company gave the following explanation on how they will work.
Microsoft first announced the feature last July and is planning to roll it out to Teams users soon. According to the Roadmap page, the feature will roll out to Teams users in May 2021. It is not clear if the feature will work outside Teams, allowing users to follow a conversation on Teams and use another app simultaneously.
Apart from the aforementioned feature, Microsoft is also working with third-parties to make electronic attestation easier as well as add support for replies to individual messages. Moreover, the company will soon allow users to lock meetings, set Breakout Room timers and more. Microsoft has also added multiple new entries to Microsoft 365 Roadmap that are aimed at improving the polls feature by using AI and the company is working on letting users spotlight up to seven users and translate PowerPoint slideshows. Lastly, Microsoft is also working on Breakout Rooms and bandwidth management improvements for Teams users.
Microsoft confirms Nuance acquisition for nearly $20 billion
by João Carrasqueira
Over the weekend, reports emerged that Microsoft was considering an acquisition of Nuance Communications, a company focusing on cloud and AI products, specifically for healthcare. It hasn't taken long for an official confirmation, as Microsoft has now announced that that's acquiring the company in an all-cash transaction valued at $19.7 billion, including Nuance's net debt. That values each share at $56, a 23% increase over their closing price on Friday, April 9.
Nuance's products include Dragon Ambient eXperience, Dragon Medical One, and PowerScribe One, all of which are speech recognition services powered by Microsoft's Azure. In fact, the acquisition of Nuance follows a partnership between the two companies back in 2019, when the companies brought the Dragon Medical software and Microsoft's Azure solutions together to "transform the doctor-patient experience".
Nuance's healthcare-focused products are very widely used across the United States, with 55% of physicians and 75% of radiologists relying on them. But the company does more than healthcare, also offering solutions in the field of AI and customer engagement, such as helping with Apple's Siri virtual assistant.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella commented on the acquisition, saying:
The transaction has been approved unanimously by the Boards of Directors at both companies and is expected to close by the end of the 2021 calendar year, though the financial effects will mostly be felt in fiscal year 2023 for Microsoft. Mark Benjamin will continue to serve as CEO of Nuance and report to Microsoft's Scott Guthrie, vice president of the Cloud & AI group at the Redmond company.