Microsoft has announced its new Surface Hub 2, marking a major refresh for the product and the first since it debuted three years ago. When Microsoft unveiled the Surface Hub back in 2015, it positioned the device as ideal for collaboration, with wide-angle cameras embedded in the body, an integrated Core i5 or i7 Haswell CPU, a 1080p or 4K resolution, and a 120Hz refresh rate. The product came in two flavors — 55-inch and 84-inch. According to Microsoft, the device has been an enormous hit since then. While never intended for high-volume manufacturing, the hardware has reportedly sold briskly and remains popular thanks to its combination of cameras, video conferencing support, and ability to function as a whiteboard.
The Surface Hub 2 that MS announced today is best thought of as a refinement and update to the original, rather than a reinvention of the wheel. It’s currently not expected in-market until 2019. The new flavor uses a 3:2 aspect ratio to bring it into line with other Surface devices and has a 50.5-inch rotating mount, rather than the larger 55-inch or 84-inch equipment of the original. The support for larger surfaces comes courtesy of a new portrait or landscape mode that allows the end user to stack the devices up to four deep, for a much larger surface in aggregate than what was possible with Surface Hub the First. And Microsoft is also debuting an easel for mounting the device, allowing it to be repositioned more easily within a conference room or as part of a discussion.
New features include a 4K screen (previously only available on the 84-inch model), 4K cameras, and multi-user sign-in, allowing multiple users to simultaneously log into the system. Microsoft describes this feature as: “multiple people can authenticate in the same Surface Hub 2 workspace, allowing them to simultaneously access their documents and ideas, merging them with the ideas of their teammates – and making collaboration as natural as meeting at a whiteboard.”
Call me old-fashioned. I remember when we shared documents via USB sticks and email, and ideas via talking in the same room. I know, I know. I’m a Luddite. But in all seriousness, the ability to collaborate like this in person, with an upgraded device with better cameras and some genuinely nifty screen-sharing options is a step forward for 21st century teamwork.
There’s no word on other device features, but based on the specs of Surface Hub 1 we can expect a Core i5 or i7 CPU and either an Intel integrated GPU — or, as seems more likely, a professional Nvidia solution. The 4K version of the 2015 Surface Hub used an Nvidia Quadro K2200, so MS might stick with Nvidia in the Hub 2. It’s already partnered with Nvidia on devices like the Surface Studio and the Surface Book, which makes it more likely it’ll opt for Team Green as opposed to Team Red. While Surface Hub used to built in the United States, that’s no longer true; the device is now built in China.
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