Design
Where form meets function
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It’s easy to assume that each time Microsoft brings out new hardware that it’s attempting to go toe-to-toe with Apple, but it’s not quite true and affects the way we see Microsoft products.

For sure, they don’t help the situation by adopting an Apple-like website, with Apple-like fonts, and Apple-like product presentations, but the company actually makes most of its money selling software and cloud services.

With the pressure off of selling hardware, Microsoft is targeting more of a niche market with its hardware than ever before — and we, as consumers, are a whole lot better off for it.

Take yesterday’s unveiling event as an example. Microsoft unveiled a load of great new products, including an astonishingly high-spec PC, an updated laptop, a completely reworked operating system, and a couple of smaller gadgets that it hopes will revolutionize the creative industries.

To some they’ll seem a bit gimmicky, a bit unnecessary for the average user, but to those who use computers for specific design purposes, the message is clear: Macs are over, and PCs are once again the go-to choice for creative types. In a time when people are wondering what port or feature Apple will axe next, some of these products could turn out to be very savvy releases indeed.

Here’s all you need to know about them.

Surface Studio

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The biggest announcement was a gorgeous 28″ 4K desktop PC named the Surface Studio. It looks a lot like an iMac, but with even smoother curves and a shiny, polished finish. Interestingly, its screen (which is touch enabled and capable of showing 1 billion different colors, FYI) can be swung down to rest on the desk at a 20-degree angle using a “zero-gravity” hinge.

It’s aimed at artists, architects, designers and anyone else who creates extensively on the PC — but the price may put off those learning their trade or studying at university. Prices start at $2,999, but for that you’re getting an Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 2GB Nvidia GPU — as well as an interesting new gadget called the Surface Dial…

Surface Dial

At first glance this new input device looks like something you’ll use a few times only for it to gather dust at the edge of your desk, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it really could speed up your workflow. The device provides haptic feedback and users twist it to select items from an on-screen menu — for example, a color picker or, more simply, for dialing through pages of a lengthy Word document.

If you use it in partnership with the Surface Studio, you can even place the dial directly onto the screen for contextual software control.

The Dial will be out in November for $99.99, but comes free with the Surface Studio.

Surface Book

Microsoft didn’t unveil a brand new Surface book laptop, but it did announce plans to release an upgraded model with a cutting-edge Intel i7 processor and a bigger, 16-hour-lifespan battery. The Surface Book i7 will be available in November for a rather intimidating price of $2,399.

Windows 10: Creators Edition

Microsoft is calling Windows 10 the final version of Windows to ever be made, but while we wait for whatever is coming next, it’s about to get a huge update set for early 2017.

Dubbed the “Creators Edition,” it includes the addition of 3D creation tools (including a nifty way of inserting real-life items by scanning them with your phone’s camera) live-streaming and custom tournaments for the Xbox, and a messaging overhaul that puts “people at the center of the Windows experience” by allowing them to send text messages from their PC (no prizes for guessing where they got that idea from).

The focus really is on 3D, though, and a classic Windows program is the biggest benefactor — Paint. The software, now known as Paint 3D, will be capable of creating, editing, and manipulating 3D models, and of sharing them directly to social media. PowerPoint will also be able to import the models, making those slide transitions slicker than ever.

Virtual Reality

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If all that wasn’t enough, Microsoft also announced its first attempt at virtual reality with VR headsets for Windows 10. The headsets will start at $299 and run the same Windows Holographic platform as the HoloLens. HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and Acer will all also be making headsets.

One of the most exciting moments in the event came when Microsoft showed how this new product will work, with the user standing inside a VR “house” with various everyday computer functions projected around them.

In other tech news, we pitted the iPhone 7 head-to-head with the Google Pixel.

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