Microsoft Surface and Copilot Event: Everything announced including new Surface laptops, Copilot+ PC and more

Microsoft just couldn't wait until Build actually started to drop some major news.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Microsoft just couldn't wait until its Build developer conference properly starts tomorrow to drop some knowledge bombs. The company held a pre-Build event on Monday that wasn't livestreamed for the public, but it made some major announcements on the AI and Surface fronts.

Its vision for so-called AI PCs is taking shape with Copilot+ PCs, which are designed to run many generative AI processes locally instead of in the cloud. Along with its own Surface systems that will adopt this format, several other manufacturers are making Copilot+ PCs too. Microsoft also detailed some of the upcoming AI features for Windows 11.

The big news coming out of this event is Microsoft's vision for AI-centric PCs. Microsoft's take on this is the Copilot+ PC.

To qualify as a Copilot+ PC, a system will need to have neural processing unit (NPU) performance of at least 40 TOPs (trillions of operations per second) and have 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage at minimum. This is so the PC can run generative AI processes locally rather than via the cloud. That's a strategy we've seen in some recent flagship smartphones, such as Google Pixel devices.

Microsoft says it has completely reimagined the Windows PC to run on a new infrastructure that combines the CPU, GPU and NPU. It's working with several partners to make this happen, including chipmakers AMD, Intel and Qualcomm as well as laptop manufacturers.

The company claims Copilot+ PCs are 58 percent faster than the M3-powered MacBook Air. The systems will be able to run dozens of multi-modal small language models locally, which will power features like a new standalone Copilot app.

Microsoft unveiled new business-focused Surface devices a couple of months ago and now the latest consumer models are just about here. Of course, these are among the first Copilot+ PCs.

The new Surface Laptop has thinner bezels and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite chipset. It comes in 13.8-inch and 15-inch sizes. Microsoft says it's over 86 percent faster than the last-gen Surface Laptop 5 and comes with up to 32GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage.

The switch to Arm architecture should help make the laptop more power efficient. Microsoft claims the 15-inch model will run for up to 22 hours on a single charge while playing videos locally and up to 15 hours while actively browsing the web. The Surface Laptop starts at $999 and will ship on June 18.

Meanwhile, the Surface Pro will have a snazzy OLED display option for the first time. It's said to be 90 percent faster than the previous generation and you seemingly get up to 14 hours of local video playback on a single charge. Sadly, the only ports you'll get are two USB-C ones.

A version with an LCD screen starts at $1,000 and it comes with a Snapdragon X Plus chip, 256GB of storage and 16GB of RAM. If you want the OLED display, pricing starts at $1,500. Bear in mind that if you want a physical keyboard, you'll need to buy that separately. The new Flex Keyboard costs $350, or $450 if you want to bundle in a Surface Pen.

We've had some brief hands-on time with the Surface Pro as well.

Third-party OEMs are joining the Copilot+ party. Samsung, ASUS, Lenovo, Acer and Dell are among those who've already revealed their first models.

HP has a couple too in the form of the Omnibook X and the Elitebook Ultra, and we've already had the chance to go hands-on with the former. The company is also taking the opportunity to rebrand its systems under a single label called Omni, so say goodbye to Spectre, Pavilion and Envy.

While some of the snazzy new Windows 11 features (which we'll get to in a moment) weren't available to check out in our initial time with it, we felt like HP had taken a small step backward in terms of design aesthetics. Although it has a headphone jack, the dual USB-C and single USB-A port setup may not be enough for your needs. Meanwhile, the Omnibook X runs on a Snapdragon X Elite and HP claims it can run for up to 26 hours on a single charge while playing local video.

The Omnibook X starts at $1,200 for a model with 1TB of storage. The Elitebook Ultra will run you at least $1,700. Both will ship on June 18.

Since Qualcomm's chips use the Arm architecture, that of course means Microsoft is doubling down on Arm-based Windows 11. The advantages of Qualcomm's chips are clear — they by and large offer improvements in terms of efficiency, cost and battery life.

But Microsoft's previous attempts at getting Arm-based Windows to thrive haven't panned out. We had major concerns about the Arm-powered Surface Pro 9 back in 2022, so much so that we couldn't in good conscience recommend it. Microsoft has had a couple of years since then, so maybe it has finally figured out how to make the most of Arm.

To that end, Microsoft has redesigned Windows 11 with AI and Arm in mind. AI APIs are now built directly into the operating system. Windows 11 is getting a new kernel and compiler, as well as an emulator called Prism to run x86 and x64 apps. Prism is said to be 20 percent faster than Microsoft's previous emulator.

As for apps that'll run natively on Arm-based Windows 11 after Copilot+ PCs start shipping next month, of course all of Microsoft's core software is included. Third-party apps including Chrome, Spotify, Zoom, WhatsApp, Blender, Affinity Suite, DaVinci Resolve and many of Adobe's will run natively on Arm too.

Sample of Microsoft’s Recall feature, showing a timeline of recent activity on a PC.

So, with all that said, what exactly can you do with these fancy new machines?

A tentpole feature of Copilot+ PCs is called Recall, which is a bit like a supercharged version of Timeline from Windows 10. The idea is to help you find something you've engaged with on your PC at some point in the past using natural language prompts. So, if you can't remember many details about a nifty patterned sweater you saw on the web months ago and now wonder if you might want to buy it, you can describe the item using text inputs or your voice and Recall can hunt for it.

The tool can also tap into your emails, documents and chat threads to find the information you're looking for. Microsoft says the data Recall looks at will stay on your device and not be used to train its AI models.

Microsoft is jazzing up Copilot too with a redesigned app that you can leave as a sidebar, turn into a standalone window or view fullscreen. You'll be able to drag items into it from elsewhere in Windows, so if you want to ask it about something you read in a Word doc, you can simply plop that in.

Cocreator has been around for a while in a limited capacity, but now Microsoft is infusing that feature into Microsoft Paint for everyone. The image generation tool is getting some new options too, including a grimace-inducing creativity slider, because we all know that's how the creative process works. Sigh. Anyway, this will let you determine just how much you want AI to adjust your original work.

Elsewhere, it's claimed that Live Captions will be able to translate dozens of languages into English in real-time, no matter whether the video is live or pre-recorded. Restoring old images in Windows Photos may be a cinch thanks to an option called Super Resolution.

Lastly for now, (because there will surely be more Copilot+ features on the way), Microsoft has revealed its own upscaling tech for games. As with similar solutions like NVIDIA's DLSS, Auto Super Resolution taps into AI and aims to upscaled graphics and boost refresh rates without diminishing performance.

Catch up on all the news from Microsoft's Copilot AI and Surface event today!

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