Category: Xbox

Microsoft Display Dock HD-500

First view on the Microsoft Display Dock HD-500 and Windows 10 Continuum for Phones

Some days ago I received my new Microsoft Lumia 950 XL, which is one of the first phones with Windows 10 Mobile. Microsoft also created some new cool accessories, such as the Microsoft Display Dock HD-500. The Microsoft Display Dock allows you to connect your Lumia 950 or Lumia 950 XL using a USB-C cable and adding a keyboard and mouse and connect it to a bigger screen. Windows Universal Apps such as for example, Mail, Outlook, Office, Edge, File Explorer and several others scale up on the connected screen like they would run on a desktop computer running Windows 10. This Windows 10 Mobile feature is called Continuum for Phones and it allows you to use your phone as a desktop PC. This is great for example think about it, you only carry your phone and when you need to do some real work you can connect it to mouse, keyboard and screen and you have a desktop ready to use.

Microsoft Display Dock

Display Dock Connections

The Microsoft Display Dock HD-500 has a USB-C Port for connecting and charging your phone, 1 powered and 2 full-sized USB 2.0 ports to connect keyboard, mouse, USB drives or external drives, a HDMI and a Display-Port for connecting the screen or beamer. The device supports a resolution up to Full HD (1920×1080).

Microsoft Display Dock HD-500 Lumia 950 XL

Continuum for Phones

Continuum for Phones makes it possible to use this feature. Now Continuum for Phone also works wirelessly using Miracast for example with the Microsoft Display Adapter or even using the Xbox One with the Wireless Display App (right now for Preview Members only). You can also connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to your phone, so you can use this feature completely wireless.

Continuum for Phones

Continuum for Phones has also some limitations, right now it only supports Windows Universal Apps and no Win32 apps or old Windows Phone Apps.

Some apps which work with Continuum for Phones:

  • Mail
  • Calendar
  • File Explorer
  • Photos
  • OneNote
  • Excel
  • Word
  • PowerPoint
  • Messages
  • Maps
  • MSN Money
  • MSN Sports
  • MSN News
  • Alarm and Clock
  • Groove Music
  • Movies & TV
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Xbox
  • Facebook
  • Fitbit
  • Cortana
  • Camera

I am sure a lot of developers are working on porting apps to the Windows Universal App Platform and make them available on several devices. Continuum for Phones is one of the best examples how Windows 10 and the Windows Universal Apps will improve the Windows Ecosystem. I think for some people and even employees, Windows 10 Mobile phones could replace the desktop PCs, since you have a lot of great Universal Apps for Mail, Office and other Offices tasks. If Microsoft makes a Universal App for Remote Desktop available you can even have a full desktop, with full desktop apps on your phone while docked to a screen. And with the new Mobile device Management options in Windows 10 Mobile, this can be perfectly managed by enterprises. They can also implement the Microsoft Windows Store for Business on Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile.



Windows 10 Task View

The best Windows 10 Features – Why you will love Windows 10

Since the first release of the Windows 10 Preview in the Insider program, I was using the Technical previews on my Surface Pro 3, and it is excellent how Microsoft is improving Windows 10 over the last several months based on research and feedback from the Windows Insider program.

In some days, on July 29, Microsoft will release Windows 10 to the public, and here are some reasons why you will love Windows 10:

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge Browser

With Windows 10 Microsoft released a new browser called Microsoft Edge (before Project Spartan) which is amazingly fast and brings a lot of new features to the table such as Cortana Integration, Web notes which allow you basically draw your notes on websites and share them and Microsoft also promised to enable browser extensions. Secret: you can also switch from a Light Theme to a Dark Theme.

You can also check out the new edge insider preview here: Microsoft Edge Insider

Task View & Virtual Desktop

Windows 10 Task View

Most of the IT Pros reading this blog already knew about Task view in the previous version of Windows using WIN + TAB, but only a few other users did know about these features. Microsoft not only improved the Task view, but Microsoft also promoted it much better with an icon in the Taskbar.

In Windows 10 WIN + TAB does not only offer you Task View it also allows you to create and switch between Virtual Desktops. With Virtual Desktops, you can now finally create multiple workspaces on your PC, which should bring you the productivity boost you need. Secret: You can switch between different Desktops using the Shortcut: CTRL + WIN + ARROW (LEFT and RIGHT).

Hyper-V

Hyper-V vNext Runtime Memory Resize

Microsoft builds Hyper-V directly into the Windows Client since Windows 8. This is great if you want to run Virtual Machines on your Windows Client. Windows 10 Client Hyper-V brings you the excellent performance and features Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V will bring you. Of course, some features are only available in the server build of Hyper-V, but you get some great features such as Enhanced Session mode to copy & paste between your PC and your Virtual Machine. Secret: Windows 10 will allow you to run Hyper-V and use Connected Standby at the same time.



Xbox Music

12 reasons to use Xbox Music

This week Apple launched their own music streaming service called Apple Music to compete with others like Spotify and other services. One service which is not really known by the public is Microsoft Xbox Music, which is not only a streaming service but also has a bunch of other features as well.

The all-in-one music service

Xbox Music allows you to buy songs and albums or subscribe to Xbox Music Pass for unlimited access all your devices. Xbox Music is the only service that brings you millions of songs to discover, stream, download and own for your tablet, PC, Xbox phone, and the Web. It’s all the music you love, every way you want it

Xbox Music Pass

Xbox Music Pass

With Xbox Music Pass, get unlimited access to millions of songs. Stream or download as much as you like. Listen on your PC, tablet, phone, Xbox, and on the web. The Xbox Music Pass costs $9.99/Month and comes with a 30 days free trial.

Xbox Music Pass Features

Music across all your devices

Xbox Music Andorid Xbox Music iOS

Xbox Music works on your PC, tablet, Xbox 360, Xbox One, the web, and your phone, including Windows Phone, iOS, and Android devices.

Sync all your playlists across your devices

Using the Xbox Music service does sync all your playlists on all your devices over the air. No more syncing devices using cables.

Offline Available

You can not only stream songs to your devices, you can also download them to listen offline. This is perfect when you are on a plane or somewhere where you don’t have internet access.

Stream your own music from OneDrive

Xnox Music OneDrive

With Xbox Music and OneDrive you can stream your own music you already own on every device directly from OneDrive. Just upload your songs to the OneDrive Music folder and they will be available on all your devices.

Xbox Music Webplayer

Xbox Music Web Player

If you are not using your own computer, or you have a device where Xbox Music isn’t installed, you can simply logon to the Xbox Music Web Player to play songs in the web browser. This is perfect when you are the your friends computer and want to play some of your favorite playlists.

Radio Stations

If you like a song or an artists and you want to discover similar music you can simply use the Radio feature, which creates custom stations based on the artists you love.

My Music

Xbox Music not only works with streamed songs, it also manages music on your local devices as well. Easily manage and play all of the music from your collection right in the Xbox Music app, including songs purchased from iTunes or other services, playlists created with Xbox Music, or albums ripped from CD’s.

Xbox Music Store

The Xbox Music Store gives you 24/7 access to one of the largest music catalogs on the planet with over 18 million songs. Buy full albums or just your favorite songs.

Unlimited skipping

With an Xbox Music Pass subscription, enjoy unlimited skipping when listening to radio stations.

Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile

Xbox Music Universal App 2

With Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile, launches a new cool Universal Windows App for all your Windows devices.

 

 



Microsoft Windows 10 January Event

Windows 10 arrives July 29

Microsoft yesterday announced that Windows 10 will be launched on July 29. For most of us it will be a free upgrade from Windows 8.1 or Windows 7. If you want to know more about the upgrade path you can check out my previous post about the Windows 10 Editions and Upgrade Paths.

You will get the update via Windows Update or Microsoft Update so make sure you have installed the latest updates for your system. Some users already got a Windows 10 update notification.

Windows Insiders which are testing the Windows 10 builds right now, will also get the update on July 29 and maybe some other builds between 10130 and the official release.



Microsoft Band

My Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health User Review

Back in November I finally got my Microsoft Band after spending a lot of time try to find one in different stores in the US. Since then I have used my Microsoft Band every day and I was waiting for the first big update and the release of the Microsoft Health Dashboard to write my first review on the Microsoft Band since the web dashboard was one of the most critical and most important feature for the Microsoft Health platform. Yesterday Microsoft finally released the first major update to the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health with a lot of improvements such as the new Health Dashboard and a Developer SDK Preview.

I was reading a lot of reviews from different only magazines which were trying to review the device, but in my opinion have never really used it or are just wearing some Apple glasses. Let me try to review some of the features of the Microsoft Band and how I use them a little bit differently from the professional reviewers. Of course since I am focusing a lot on the Microsoft platform I am not really neutral, as Swiss people normally are, but I try to give you a good review on the product.

What is the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health

Microsoft Health Cloud

When I was reading some of the reviews done by professionals, I really saw that they didn’t really get the point of the device. Microsoft is advertising the Microsoft Band a fitness band and not as a smartwatch, even the Microsoft Band got a lot of smartwatch features, which by the way are really good, it is a fitness tracker which helps you to collected more and more health data about yourself. The devices was made my some “fitness geeks” inside the Xbox division and what they in my opinion did, was creating a device for themselves. And this is why the Microsoft Band actually an absolutely great device, because it is made from people with passion and not from a marketing research team. As mentioned this is a fitness tracker but of course with some really great smartphone features.

The Microsoft Health platform on the other site is where all your health information collected come together. The platform is not only made for the Microsoft Band but for other vendors as well which can integrate into the Microsoft Health platform. Since I am using the Microsoft Band I started wondering why I didn’t use a device or service like this earlier. We collect so much data about our environments but we do not really measure our health data and try to understand it. With Microsoft Health and the sync to the Microsoft HealthVault you can now get all your health data in one place. I also bought a Fitbit Aria smart scale which sends information about my daily weight to the Microsoft HealthVault. With the Microsoft Band and the Microsoft Health platform as well as the HealthVault I can now collect all my Health information and analyze them in one place.

Fitness Tracker and Workouts

Microsoft Health Dashboard Calories Observations

The most important feature of the Microsoft Band is to measure your fitness and health. The Microsoft Band comes with a lot of sensors and functionality to measure your health, and it shows you have active you were. With the Microsoft Band you can keep track of different kinds of workouts such as running, cycling or just general workouts. I use it a lot when I play badminton to keep track of my heart rate and calories burned. All the data gets synced to the Microsoft Health platform so you can review it on your Microsoft Health apps on Windows Phone, Apple iOS, Android or on the new Microsoft Health Dashboard.

  • 24-hour heart rate monitor: Gives you a better understanding of your calorie burn, sleep patterns, and peak and resting heart rate so you can perform at your best.
  • Run: Whether you’re on the treadmill at the gym or outdoors in the rain or sun, you can view your run summary on your band with personalized metrics in the phone app including pace splits and heart rate.
  • Cycling: With the latest update Microsoft supports now a specific mode for cycling, which not only keeps track of your heart rate and calories but also on speed and your route using GPS.
  • Steps: Set a goal and track your progress. Microsoft Band calculates the calories you’ve burned and the distance you’ve traveled each day.
  • Built-in GPS: Measures the distance you’ve run and tracks your pace and route. Save your favorites to retrace your steps and challenge yourself later.
  • Calorie tracking: Count the calories you burn each day. View daily or weekly stats, set goals, and receive a virtual “high-five” when you reach them.
  • Guided Workouts: Fun and challenging workouts from fitness partners like Gold’s Gym, Shape, and Men’s Fitness with exercise prompts on the band and much more in the app.
  • Goal setting: Challenge yourself by setting daily step and calorie goals. Microsoft Band notifies you when you meet them so that you can stay motivated.
  • UV monitor: Get a quick read of the UV Index while you’re out and about.

Sleep Tracker

Microsoft Health Dashboard Sleep Summary

I think one of the coolest and most interesting features is the sleep tracker. When you are going so sleep you just start the “sleep mode” and the Microsoft Band will check how long it took you to fall asleep, who long you slept, how many times and when you did wake up, how your heart rate was during that time, if you were in restful or just light sleep. So you can really find out how good or bad you sleep and probably can try different things to change your sleep behavior.

Smartwatch features

Microsoft Band Smartwatch

As I wrote before, Microsoft is advertising the Microsoft Band as a fitness band and not really as a Smartwatch, but it really is a Smartwatch and I think was one of the smartest moves in the whole campaign. When I hear the word smartwatch I always think about gadgets which will replace our old school watches and I don’t think this will happen in the short term. Probably this is because I am Swiss but I think watches are not just some gadgets to show you some time, they are more kind of personal jewelry. Don’t get me wrong I am not just talking about expensive watches, even cheap watches can be jewelry and help express yourself. I am not saying that we won’t use smartwatches, because for some scenarios they really make your life easier, but I think they will be more of an addition to our watches we already have, instead of replacing them. For example on my right arm I wear a normal Swiss watch and on the left arm I wear the Microsoft Band where I had my Nike Fuelband before. So form a marketing perspective I like the word and the concept of additional “bands” a lot more, than thinking about smartwatches replacing our existing watches. But this is just my personal opinion.

The Microsoft Band comes with a lot of smartwatch features:

  • Text Messaging: Get your text messages right on your wrist.
  • Calls: See incoming call and voicemail notifications on your band.
  • Calendar: Microsoft Band stays in sync with the calendar on your phone, reminding you of important events throughout the day so you can be where you need to be.
  • Email: Monitor and preview email activity right on your band, so you don’t have to pull out your phone in the middle of your lunch date.
  • Smart notifications: Choose which alerts you get on your wrist. Change the notification settings on your phone and your Microsoft Band will match.
  • Watch mode: Turn on “Watch Mode” to always display today’s time and date without pressing any buttons.
  • Facebook & Facebook Messenger: Stay up to date on Facebook without having to check your phone. Get the latest posts, comments, photo notifications, and personal messages on your band.
  • Twitter: Tweets, mentions, retweets, messages, new followers. Set your preferences on your phone and see it all on your wrist.
  • Cortana: If you’re using Windows Phone 8.1, you can take notes and set reminders with your voice using Cortana personal assistant.
  • Weather: Get real-time weather conditions and a 5-day forecast to plan your week.
  • Finance: Create a watch list for select stocks in your Microsoft Health app. View the latest ticker activity right on your wrist.
  • Starbucks: No need to reach for your wallet. Enjoy coffee on the go with your Starbucks card ready to scan at arm’s length.
  • Timer & Stopwatch: Time your laps or your entire workout with the stopwatch. Set alarms to wake up silently or remind you to go for a run.
  • Do-not-disturb mode: Tap the icon on your band to turn all notifications off.

The features are great and they are not just here, they are well optimized for a device on your arm wrist. In my daily life I only use some of the features which are integrated. For example I really like the notifications you get from calls, messengers and text messages. For example if I receive a call during a meeting with a client, I can quickly check my wrist and see if the call is important or not and I can quickly answer it with a text message for example “I will call you back”, or just press it away, without having to take the smartphone out of my pocket. Another feature I like is the Cortana integration. Cortana on your Windows Phone knows when your next meeting or flight is and helps you keep track of that by reminding you to leave to catch the flight or meeting. Another use case I use the Microsoft Band a lot is when I login to somewhere using Two-factor authentication, where I get a security code send as text message, which I can now see on my wrist without using my smartphone.

Overall I like the smartwatch features which are integrated but they are not my primary use case for the Microsoft Band or any smartwatch, since there are a lot of things a lot easier to do when you are using your smartphone.

Design and Hardware

Microsoft Band

Let’s talk hardware and design. Well Microsoft did a great job fitting all these sensors inside the Microsoft Band, but of course adding so many sensors make the thing look bulky and the flat screen should be probably replaced with a curved screen. But basically that is all the criticism I have for the hardware design. The weight is absolutely okay and if you have used other fitness tracker before it makes not a difference. Microsoft promises around two days of battery life, for me it is most of the time even more. This is okay but of course I have used the first version of the Nike Fuelband which I had to charge every 4 weeks in average, and I thought charging my band every two days would be hard, but it wasn’t. Since the Microsoft Band only takes a couple of minutes to charge the first 80% this is enough, so I charge it during the time I take a shower.

Software

Microsoft Band Windows Phone App

With software comes all the beauty to the platform. Microsoft offers the Microsoft Health App to sync your Microsoft Band with your phone and with the Microsoft Health Cloud for Windows Phone, Android and iOS. In my opinion the app is great and helps you quickly find things. Of course the app wasn’t the best place to make long term analytics, but for this you have the new released Microsoft Health Dashboard in the web.

Microsoft Health Dashboard

Microsoft Health Dashboard Steps Summary

We had to wait for that, but Microsoft finally released the Microsoft Health Dashboard yesterday. The Microsoft Health Dashboard app is a web console if you will, where you get all the information coming from the Microsoft Band. You have different kind of views to view a specific day, week or month and compare your data. You can get a simple view of the steps and workouts you made or even an overview about your sleep behavior.

Microsoft HealthVault

As mentioned the Microsoft HealthVault is where all your health information comes together. Microsoft HealthVault is a trusted place for people to gather, store, use, and share health information online. Since the latest update you can now setup Microsoft Health to sync data directly to the HealthVault. For me the HealthVault becomes more and more interesting especially if I try to get more data in there such was weight information. For this I bought a Fitbit Aria Smartscale which uploads data to the HealthVault.

Availability

The Microsoft did lunch the Microsoft Band back in November 2014 without a big announcement. Microsoft just released it and made it available in the Microsoft stores months before the Apple Watch will be available. Unfortunately there are two problems, first of all the Microsoft Band is only available in the US and even there it is still hard to get since it is most of the time out of stock. You have to get on some waiting lists and wait to finally get it. One the software site Microsoft released the Microsoft Health app for basically all the mayor smartphone platforms such as Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

Feature Requests

I am pretty happy with the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health, but of course I have some ideas and wishes for future releases.

  • Platforms – Microsoft has now several Health Platforms and apps, such as Microsoft Health, MSN Health, HealthVault and Xbox fitness, to just count a few. It would be great if they would move MSN Health and Xbox Fitness to the Microsoft Health platform.
  • Xbox integration – As mentioned, on your Xbox One you get Xbox Fitness, which is btw great especially if you are using Kinect. Microsoft should make Microsoft Health available over all platforms and integrate the in a single data store.
  • Friends – It would be great if you could add friends using the Microsoft Health to compete with them in workouts or other goals.
  • Badges and Competitions – Would be great if Microsoft would build something like an award system for the Health platform, so you get awarded for workouts and more.
  • Hardware – Even I like my first version Microsoft Band, it would be cool to have a v2 which has kind of a more improved design.
  • More Hardware – It would also be great if Microsoft also offers other products, such as smartscale and other health related gadgets.

Conclusion

Microsoft did a great job with the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health. They not just created a cool gadget, they really created a product which helps people tracking their health and get more productive. I have used other trackers before like the first version of the Nike Fuelband and I also bought some Fitbit stuff for my parents, since Fitbit is available in German language. I have to say that I totally get the best experience in features and usability with the Microsoft Band, it is easy to use and configure and it shows you the information you need in optimized way.

 




Microsoft Windows 10 January Event

What’s next for Windows 10

Microsoft yesterday held the January event about the next generation of Windows and showed some great new features of Windows 10. If you have watched the Windows 10 webcast, you have seen that Microsoft announced and showed a lot of new stuff yesterday. In this post I do a quick summary about this Windows 10 event. Spoiler alert, since this was a consumer event, there were no news about Windows Server or System Center.

Windows as a Service

Well the first great news yesterday was that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade in the first year for Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 7 users. After that Microsoft tries to keep the install base very up-to-date to make it easier for developers to develop and deploy new apps to customers.

New Windows 10 Experience

Windows 10 Expierence

Joe Belfiore demoed some great new features and the experience you get with new Windows 10. One of the great things you will see that there will be just one version of Windows 10, everything should be one platform. He also demoed the new Action Center and the new Start menu.

Continuum Mode

Windows10 Continuum

Continuum Mode was announced back in September. Continuum helps two-in-one devices to switch between different modes such as desktop mode with mouse and keyboard and tablet mode using touch input. So you always get the best experience when using the device.

Cortana

Windows 10 Phone Laptop Cortana

Another big news was the release of Cortana for Windows. Cortana is the personal digital assistant you already know from Windows Phone. Microsoft also showed some great improvements and how Cortana can make your life easier.

Windows 10 for phones

Windows 10 Phone

Microsoft also announced that Windows 10 will be coming to phones and small tablets.

New Browser

Windows 10 Spartan

Microsoft officially showed a new browser called Project Spartan, which will bring the latest web standard to the Microsoft web platform and some other cool features like digital inking and Cortana integration.

New universal applications

Windows 10 Universal Apps

Microsoft bring several universal apps to the Windows 10 platform like a great new Photo, Video or Music apps. This apps are running across several devices such as phones, tablets, desktops, TVs and the Xbox One.

Office universal apps

Windows 10 Universal Office

Not only Windows integrated apps are coming as universal apps, Microsoft is also releasing a touch-friendly version of Office as universal app which will run Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint across different devices types.

Xbox app

Windows 10 Xbox App

Microsoft also demoed a new Xbox app on Windows 10. The Xbox App will allow you to get your Xbox experience to Windows 10. This will bring multiplayer across devices (PC and Xbox One), Game DVR, Game streaming (from Xbox One to PC) and DirectX 12.

Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft HoloLens

One of the biggest things Microsoft announced yesterday was the Microsoft HoloLens which is the world’s first holographic computing platform. With Windows 10, holograms are Windows universal apps and Windows universal apps can work as holograms, making it possible to place three-dimensional holograms in the world around you to communicate, create and explore in a manner that is far more personal and human.

Surface Hub

Surface Hub

Microsoft yesterday not only announced a new device called HoloLens, they also announced a new device called Surface Hub, which is basically a 84-inch touch screen with multi-touch and multi pen input, including Skype for Business and some great whiteboard technology.

Feedback is really important

Windows Insider

Microsoft did talk a lot about the Windows Insider Program and the feedback they are getting from a lot of people around the world.

 

Some facts

  • The next Windows 10 Preview will be available next week
  • Project Spartan will not be included in the next preview release
  • The first Preview for Windows 10 for Phones will be available in February
  • HoloLens will be released in the Windows 10 timeframe

 



Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

First Impressions of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Over a week ago, I finally got my Microsoft Surface Pro 3, and I will try to cover my first impressions in this blog post. Two years ago, I replaced my notebook with the Surface Pro, and one year later, I replaced the Surface Pro with the Surface Pro 2. I have used both devices as my primary work devices for work as a consultant, at university, and at home. The Surface is the perfect work device since I travel a lot. With the Surface, I replaced my notebook, my desktop, and my tablet with one single machine. I always had one complaint about the Surface, and this was the screen size. If you travel and you work 8-10 hours in front of a 10-inch screen, you start thinking about a bigger screen. Lucky with the Surface Pro 3 Microsoft changed that. Now the Surface Pro 3 got a 12-inch screen, and they also changed the ratio from 16:9 to 3:2, which makes a massive difference in terms of space on the screen. I love the new screen size, it is absolutely perfect and still not too large for traveling. But let me jump back to the review.

Technical Specifications

Surface Pro 3 Specifications

First of all, I got the I7 version with 265GB of storage:

  • Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Size: 292.1mm x 201.4mm x 9.1mm
  • Weight: 800 grams
  • Screen: 12” ClearType Full HD Plus
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1440
  • Aspect Ratio: 3:2
  • Touch: Multi-touch
  • Battery Life: Up to 9 hours of web browsing
  • Storage and RAM: 64GB or 128GB storage with 4GB RAM and 256GB or 512GB storage with 8GB RAM
  • CPU: 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family (i3, i5, i7)
  • TPM chip for enterprise security
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth® 4.0 Low Energy technology
  • Full-size USB 3.0
  • microSD™ card reader
  • Headset jack
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • Cover port
  • 5.0-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 5.0-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Stereo microphones
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby® sound
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Magnetometer
  • Surface Pen
  • 36W Power supply

Design and Durability

Surface Pro 3 with Pen

For me, a great device includes three different things, design, features, and a great ecosystem for applications and accessories. And this was one of the reasons why I was an Apple user for a long time because they offered great design, great hardware features, and they had an ecosystem were software and hardware worked perfectly together.  Microsoft does not disappoint with the Surface line. The first and second generation was already great, and the third generation does not stop there. With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft could finally make the device a lot thinner and than before. The device now has a larger 12-inch screen and a new 3:2 ratio instead of the 16:9 ratio before. This makes a huge difference if you hold the device in portrait mode to read something or browse the web, and it also offers you a lot more space on the screen. Another change Microsoft did was to change the color from the dark VaporMg from the Surface Pro line to the silver color of the Surface 2. I am still not sure which color I like more, but both look great to me. After the size and the color, the third big change is the new kickstand. The new kickstand does not only offer two positions like the Surface Pro 2, and you can now put the Surface in any position you want.

As always, the build quality of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is just impressive. As a former Apple product user, I am thrilled with quality, design, and the durability of the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft sends a clear message here to his partners and competitors about the quality of tablets and notebooks. Everything seems to be at the right place, and all buttons and the whole chassis is feeling very “high-class”. I like the size and dimensions of the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 3 is not only thinner as the Surface Pro 2, but it is also lighter. The Surface Pro 3 is 9.1mm thin and 800g light, which makes it a lot more portable than most ultrabooks out there but, of course, heavier than most tablets.

Display and Audio

Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

For a tablet, the display is the key component, and Microsoft did a great job with the Surface Pro 3. I already liked the screen of the Surface Pro 2, but the new screen is just amazing. Not only do I like the new high resolution (2160 x 1440) and the aspect ratio of 3:2, I also love the colors. One of the most underestimated features of the Surface Pro line is the integrated digitizer pen, which allows you to use digital ink.

The Surface Pro comes with a digitizer pen, which is perfect for taking notes with OneNote and other stuff. As I mentioned, I am using the Surface Pro at work and university. At university, I am using the pen mostly to take notes and mark some important stuff in documents and PDF files. At work, I am not only using it to take notes, but it’s also great during workshops or presentations, where you quickly want to draw something instead of using a whiteboard or a flipchart. And for all iPad or Android users, this is not just a normal Pen which buses capacitive touch, which is just a simulated finger, this is a digitizer pen which only works with special displays and for example offers pressure sensitivity and automatically deactivates touch input during your writing so you can place your hand on the screen.

The new pen also adds a OneNote button. If you press the OneNote button once you open up a new page in OneNote even if the Surface is locked. This feature helps you if you have an idea you want to write down quickly. If you press the OneNote button twice, you will be able to quickly mark the spot on your screen and quickly take a screenshot and save it to OneNote. This feature is just one of the examples where Microsoft brings together there products and services for better customer experience.

Microsoft again improved the audio on the Surface Pro 3. And it is excellent if you want to watch a movie in the hotel room and it is pretty much better than on any other notebook or tablet I have used. But still, if you are a music lover, you better get some headphones or external speakers.

Ports and Internals

macbook-air-surfrace-pro-3

The Surface Pro 3 has a full-size USB 3.0, microSDXC card slot, a headset jack, a Mini DisplayPort, and at the bottom a Cover port for the Type Cover 3. Of course, also the older Covers work perfectly, but they don’t match in size. The positions of the ports have changed a little bit from the Surface Pro 2. The great thing here is that Microsoft moved the Mini DisplayPort to the upper right side, which allows you now to use that port even you have docked the Surface into your docking station. So you can easily use 4K displays at the same time.

One the power adapter you get another USB port for charging other devices like your phone, so you can still use your USB 3.0 on the Surface for other things.

Heat and Fan Noise

The Surface Pro 3 comes equipped with a powerful 4th generation Intel i3, i5, or i7 processor. For myself, I got the i7 version, and if you run some heavy workloads, the device gets a little hot. You can feel a little bit of temperature on the backside, and you can get some fan noise. In normal conditions, the Surface stays cold, and you can’t hear anything from the fan. I think the heat and the fan noise are the results of the new and thinner design.

Wireless

The wireless performance on the Surface Pro 3 seems to be great with no issues or troubles at all. I really can’t wait to get one of the Miracast adapters to stream my display to a beamer or another display.

Type Cover 3

Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover

One of the great features of the Surface product line are the covers. With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft also released the Type Cover 3 which is the successor of the Type Cover 2 and is even thinner. Microsoft is claiming there are a lot of optimizations in Type Cover 3, and the two you will see are the size that matches the Surface Pro 3 now and the new trackpad. The new trackpad is key here, it is bigger and a lot better than the trackpad of the Type Cover 2. They changed it back to hard plastic and made it clickable again, which feels a lot better if you work with it, but it does look better than the first version of the Type Cover. The new Type Cover 3 comes with backlit, which makes it perfect if you are working low light conditions like the Type Cover 2. The backlighting is automatic and turns off if you are not using it. If you hover over the keyboard with your hand, the Type Cover will automatically turn on the light again.  They also added new color options two the lineup, and the Type Cover 3 is available in purple, red, blue, cyan, and black.

Again the Type Cover is one of the must-have accessories if you want to use your Surface as a laptop replacement. It works pretty well with the build-in kickstand.

Battery life and Performance

Surface Pro 3 Lumia 930

The first thing I realized when I did start the Surface Pro 3 was that this thing is a screamer. The performance seems to be amazing, but since the Surface Pro 3 is using the same generation of Intel chips, I don’t think there is a huge difference between CPU performance. I think the key difference could be that Microsoft is using faster SSD storage in the Surface Pro 3 than in the previous generations. Since performance never was an issue for me, I still like the new performance boost. With the new core i7 version, you should not only get more CPU power, but you should also get some more graphics power.

Microsoft is claiming that you get up to 9 hours of battery life, which for me, is a little more than with the Surface Pro 2. In my first test, I think I am pretty close to getting this 9 hours. But what impresses me, even more, is the Connected Standby or InstandGo features, which allows you to wake up the Surface Pro 3 within a second. In my first tests the I charged the Surface on Friday and worked during Friday, Saturday and Sunday around 7-8 hours, and the battery life was okay until late Sunday evening. But to get exact numbers, I still have to run some more tests and see how it behaves in day to day usage.

Camera

Finally, Microsoft also upgraded the front-facing camera to a 5-megapixel camera like the Surface 2 already had, but the Surface Pro 2 didn’t get. For me, this gets even more important if you do a lot of Conference Calls via Lync or Skype, for example.

Software and Accessories

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station

Software is where everything comes together. Windows 8.1 works perfectly on the Surface Pro 3, and I like the mix between touch and keyboard usage. I use it as a tablet with touch apps and can run full desktop applications like Office to get real work done. I love the combination of different Microsoft Services, such as Skype or Lync, for communication. But where the real power comes together is with OneDrive and OneNote. The new Surface Pen and OneNote are already a perfect combination. You can press the OneNote button on the Surface Pen, and OneNote opens instantly, and you can start taking notes, even if you are not logged. The notes from OneNote get sync via OneDrive on all your devices like your phone or desktop pc. Microsoft is not only bringing software services together but they now also integrate hardware.

Microsoft also offers a lot of different accessories like display or Ethernet adapters, which you need to work efficiently. But they also offers some great accessories like the Type Cover 3 which allows you to use your Surface Pro 3 together with the built-in kickstand as notebook replacement or the Surface Pro Docking Station which enables you to dock your Surface if you are at home or in the office and connect automatically to external displays, external hard drives, keyboards, and other stuff. These two accessories complete the whole story of the Surface Pro 3.

Conclusion

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station

Now, what can you expect from the Surface Pro 3? The Surface Pro 3 is a high-class work machine that can transform to different devices such as a tablet or notebook, and with the Surface Docking Station, you can even replace your desktop. For me, the Surface Pro 3 replaced three devices. It replaces my notebook, which I need to get work done, and I also use it as my tablet at home or when I watch movies on flights or in the hotel. At home, I got the Surface Pro 3 docking station, which allows me to use two external displays. Of course, if you are looking for just a tablet or just something to replace your iPad, the Surface Pro 3 is probably not the right device for you. But if you like to replace your classic notebook and your tablet with one device, the Surface Pro 3 is just the best machine available right now.



Microsoft Azure Update at Build 2014

At the Build Conference 2014 Microsoft already announced a lot of new stuff for the whole Microsoft or IT ecosystem. There is absolutely no time to cover all the changes and announcements Microsoft has made in the past 2 days. So I will just focus on the things I care about.

  • Prior to the Build Conference Microsoft announced that Windows Azure will be renamed to Microsoft Azure. This will show how Microsoft is not only building on top of the Windows platform, they also have opened up for other platforms an solutions a long time ago. One example for that maybe was the announcement of supporting Oracle Software in Microsoft Azure around a year ago.
  • Mark Russinovich announced some great new changes to Microsoft Azure IaaS. You can now capture and deploy images, you can Puppet and Chef as well as PowerShell DSC support, to configure you server environment. An this is great for developers, some of the features will show up directly in Visual Studio. Microsoft also did some work on the Networking site which was really important, for example you can now change the subnet for Virtual Machines.
    Microsoft Azure Announcements
  • Microsoft also launched a lot of new preview features like Azure Cache and a lot more. What I love the most is the new Microsoft Azure feature called Azure Automation. Azure Automation allows you to automate the creation, monitoring, deployment, and maintenance of resources in your Azure environment using a highly-available workflow execution engine. Orchestrate time-consuming, error-prone, and frequently repeated tasks against Azure and third party systems to decrease time to value for your cloud operations. This is basically Service Management Automation (SMA), which was released with System Center 2012 R2 as a on premise version, now running up in Microsoft Azure. For those how haven’t heard about SMA, SMA is a new automation engine and Runbooks in Service Management Automation and Microsoft Azure Automation are Windows PowerShell workflows.
    Microsoft Azure Automation
  • Microsoft also release a new preview of the Microsoft Azure portal. Since Microsoft released a huge number of new features in Azure, the “old” management portal didn’t really fit the requirements anymore. The new Azure management portal helps you to be much more organized and is using a lot of new concept like “blades” to help you navigate through your Azure environment. The new dashboard also gives you a quick overview about the Microsoft Azure datacenters and there service status, and the new touch friendly dashboard also allows you to customize it for your need. You can check it out on portal.azure.com
    New Microsoft Azure Portal
  • I am not a developer but I was really impressed what Microsoft did for developers. They are just generating a huge numbers of new opportunities with their new platforms not only in Microsoft Azure using IaaS, mobile Services or PaaS, Microsoft also announced a new concept of Universal Apps which allows developers to write apps which run on Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox One. Some days ago Microsoft also showed the new Kinect v2 hardware which I hope developers will use to write some really cool stuff. If we have a lot back at Microsoft Azure, what I really liked about the new Portal is the  integration of Team Foundation Server or “team projects”.
    Microsoft Azure Team Projects

This are just a few of the cool new things Microsoft announced at Build 2014, there is a lot more which is definitely worth to talk about.



Like my Hyper-V Applicance (Xbox One)

During my trip in Seattle last November, Amazon delivered my Xbox One. During the holidays, I finally had time to play with it and check out the games I got. Well my first impression was how fast this thing is. I really love the concept of the three Operating System in one box where you can switch fast and easily switch between games, apps and TV. And btw that’s is where Hyper-V or some of the Hyper-V technology comes into the game. This makes it easy to switch between the different platforms.

Xbox One

Xbox One Games

 

The hardware is really high quality and I really love the design of the hardware as well as the design of the software which looks pretty much the same on Windows and on Windows Phone. And the possibility to snap apps is also a great addition especially with Skype or Internet Explorer.

Xbox One Controller

 

I also love the integration between the Xbox One, tablets and phones via Xbox Smartglass. There is still some improvement which can be done but some of the first games do a pretty good job.

Xbox One Smartglass

Looking forward to get some Xbox GamerTags.