It’s been an eventful week in the world of Microsoft. There is a new Windows 11 build for the Dev channel with a bunch of bug fixes, Release Preview Insiders received their first taste of Windows 11 in the way of an optional update to the new OS, the Redmond company announced a bunch of new Surface hardware bringing much-needed upgrades to most of the product line, and much more. Check all this out and more in our weekly Microsoft digest for the week of September 19 – September 25.
Windows 11 in Release Preview, new Dev channel build, more
As is now the case every week, there was a new Dev channel build. Build 22463 brought a bunch of bug fixes, including a fix for the issue that caused the taskbar icons to align incorrectly. While the branch from which new Dev channel builds are being served is not tied to a specific Windows 11 version, the firm has said that many fixes being made will also be brought to the Windows 11 version releasing next month. It does note that newer features for the Dev channel are a while away.
As the OS begins to near its October 5 rollout date, Release Preview Insiders finally got their first taste of Windows 11, thanks to the rollout of build 22000.194. The rollout, just like how recent feature updates have been, is currently optional for eligible users. It will not be surprising to see mainstream users begin receiving the same build when the OS launches on October 5, with there being a few day-one updates bringing bug fixes. Considering that the rollout is staggered, not many eligible users will see the update on day one, which gives the firm time to polish the offering further before expanding the rollout. For those who want to perform a fresh install, the firm also released ISO images for this build.
However, for those trying to install the new OS on unsupported hardware, the company is supposedly planning to get those users to sign an acknowledgment, agreeing that they are installing the OS with the knowledge that they might not receive critical security updates or support. There has been an ongoing discussion about whether the firm will serve updates to users running its latest OS on unsupported hardware. Talking about hardware compatibility, the firm also released the updated PC Health Check app for Insiders, bringing much-needed improvements to the Windows 11 compatibility checking tool.
Continuing the topic of updates, Edge Dev users received their final Edge 95 build which brought the new Windows 11-style visual updates by default. As expected, some elements such as the Mica material are exclusive to those running the offering on Windows 11. Another significant addition was the ability to pick up PDF documents where users last left them.
The Microsoft Teams desktop client is also slated to receive a new capability that will allow adding anonymous users to Teams meetings. This brings another way for users to conduct meetings with vendors or users from different organizations. The rollout of the feature is slated for October, as spotted on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap.
Brand new Surface hardware
Microsoft held its much-awaited hardware event this week, announcing a bunch of new hardware. The Surface Pro 8 brought the first major redesign for the 2-in-1 in over five years. The display is now a 13-inch unit that sports a 120Hz high refresh rate. The device sports two Thunderbolt 4 ports, making it the first Surface PC to support a Thunderbolt port. There is also a new Slim Pen 2 that brings haptic feedback and a new design. The stylus can is housed in the new carbon-fiber sporting Signature keyboard.
As for internals, the device sports Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake chips and can be configured with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of removable SSD storage. The Surface Laptop Studio is available in "select markets" for an asking price starting at $1599.99.
The Android-powered Surface Duo 2 also brings welcome improvements. These include slightly larger 5.8-inch displays that now curve into the hinge area, making for a glanceable notifications panel when the device is closed. There is now a new triple-camera array at the back, bringing ultra-wide, wide, and telephoto lenses, improving greatly on its predecessor. The phone also features support for the Surface Slim pen that can be magnetically attached to the back.
Internals have also seen a significant upgrade, with the top-tier Snapdragon 888 SoC bringing 5G support. NFC is also being added. The Surface Duo 2 is priced at $1499.99 and is available for pre-order in select markets.
The star of the show, however, was the Surface Laptop Studio, a new device in the Surface lineup that replaces the Surface Book brand. Unlike the Book’s detachable top section, the Laptop Studio features a swiveling display that can be placed in Laptop or Studio modes, mimicking devices like the Acer ConceptD Ezel laptops.
The offering features Intel 11th-gen H35 chips and RTX graphics, making it the most powerful Surface device to date. Just like the Surface Pro 8, the Laptop Studio comes with a high refresh rate display and Thunderbolt 4 ports. The stepped design also allows for the Slim Pen 2 to be attached – and charged – magnetically under the keyboard deck. The laptop can be maxed out with 32GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage. The Surface Laptop Studio is available for “select markets" for an asking price starting at $1599.99.
There were a few minor upgrades to some devices as well. The Surface Go 3 was updated with new Intel chips, with the tablet now available with a 10th-gen Core i3 processor. The ARM-powered Surface Pro X, on the other hand, can now be had in Wifi-only flavor for a lower asking price. There were also new peripherals like the Ocean Plastic Mouse made from 20% recycled ocean plastic.
Halo Infinite preview, Sea of Thieves Season Four, and more
Starting off this week’s gaming news is – unsurprisingly – Halo Infinite. As announced earlier this week, 343 Industries opened the next round of technical tests for its upcoming title. The first weekend of the double Technical Preview drop this week brings access to player versus player Arena from the get-go, including Bot Arena from the previous flights. However, Social Arena playlist opens matchmaking only at pre-set times to stress test the servers. You can find the schedule in the news article here.
The first preview closes on Tuesday, the 27th of September, and opens back up on Friday, October 1. The second drop will contain the overhauled 12 versus 12 Big Team Battle (BTB) mode. It must be noted that Bot Arena, Training Mode, Weapon Drills, and Battle Pass elements are accessible through both weekends.
Moving on, Rare announced this week the next major content update for Sea of Thieves, Season Four, which began rolling out on September 23. The update takes players under the waves this time around, bringing new undersea adventures such as new Siren Shrine and Siren Treasury destinations. The studio is also introducing a treasure storage method to transport entire loot stacks from the bottom of the sea to save players from taking multiple trips to transport their loot. The new season also brings 100-level battle pass levels to climb for free and a refreshed premium Plunder Pas.
Those waiting for Alan Wake Remastered were also treated to a comparison trailer showing off the visual upgrades made to the title against the original Xbox 360 version. Unsurprisingly, there is higher resolution rendering, accompanied by better textures, lighting, and more. The title launches on October 5, 2021, and features the base game and The Signal and The Writer story expansions.
Rounding off gaming news this week are the Deals with Gold discounts. Titles from the Assassin’s Creed, Halo, Forza, and Star Wars franchises are receiving major discounts. However, some discounts noted in the piece are exclusive to Xbox Live Gold members.
Lastly, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One September update was announced this week. The release notes mention the recently announced support for Remote Play and cloud gaming on PC via the updated Xbox app. The update also brings an update to the new Chromium-based Edge browser to improve performance and more.
- Chrome 94 launches on Windows with controversial idle detection API
- Xbox 360 Gamerpics available for select Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S users
- VaxApp is a new Microsoft Teams app to help organizations manage vaccination attestation
- Microsoft and SSE form a partnership to make energy more sustainable
- Latest Chrome and Edge updates fix critical memory UAF security vulnerability
We continue with the Closer Look series where we provide a detailed view of the various new components in Windows 11, a comparison of the equivalent feature in Windows 11 – where applicable, and a run-down of the good and the bad. This week, we looked at not one but two areas of the OS – the new File Explorer and the updated Context menus. Check out our complete comparison and let us know your thoughts.
Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.
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