Microsoft Plants Its Hardware Flag: First Look At The Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 And The Rest Of Its New Gear

Microsoft, The Laptop Vendor?

Meet Microsoft, your friendly neighborhood hardware vendor.

Microsoft Tuesday unleashed its first-ever laptop computer in the form of the Surface Book, signaling its ambitions to become an all-out device kingpin that broadly challenges the likes of archrival Apple as well as longtime hardware partners Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo. The software behemoth also took the wraps off the Surface 4 tablet and new Lumia phones, along with updates to its Microsoft Band 2 fitness band, game console Xbox One and augmented reality HoloLens goggles. The product blitz, including the new Surface 4 tablet, was expected; the unveiling of the Surface Book was not, with Microsoft making the surprise move to expand the Surface line into the laptop arena just four weeks after signing on HP and Dell to resell its Surface tablets. Microsoft says the new products will be available through authorized resellers as well as Microsoft stores and select retailers, but there's no word yet on exactly which channel partners will have access to the devices. Surface tablets currently are available through only a limited group of 4,500 resellers.

Here is a look at Tuesday's most important Microsoft product revelations and their standout features.

Surface Book

With the introduction of the Surface Book, Microsoft is planting itself squarely in the lane of not only its nemesis Apple, but also all of its key OEM partners who sell Windows-based laptops. And Microsoft, it seems, isn't pulling any punches, with Panos Panay, Microsoft's corporate vice president for devices, calling Surface Book "the ultimate laptop." Surface Book will be available for preorder Oct. 26. Staring at $1,500, it will go toe-to-toe with Apple’s high-end MacBook Pro. Key features are a 12-hour battery life, a discrete Nvidia GeForce graphics processor and a 13.5-inch diagonal display that packs 6 million pixels. The Surface Book will feature Intel’s 6th Generation Core m, Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

A 2-In-1 With Speed

Panay boasted that the Surface Book is "ounce for ounce, pound for pound, the fastest 13-inch laptop ever made." The laptop is actually a 2-in-1 laptop that features a unique dynamic fulcrum hinge. The screen portion of the Surface Book includes the main CPU and the body includes the discrete Nvidia graphics. With this design, you can snap off the display and use it as a Surface-like tablet.

Surface Pro 4

The new Surface Pro 4 will have a 12.3-inch display, an upgrade from the Surface Pro 3's 12-inch screen. The Surface Pro 4 has a starting price of at $900 with 16 GB of storage or can be configured with up to 1 TB of storage. Microsoft claims the Surface Pro 4 is 30 percent more powerful than the Surface Pro 3. The tablet will feature Intel’s 6th Generation Core m, Core i5 and Core i7 processors.

Surface Pro 4, Accessories

The Surface Pro 4 will ship with an updated Surface Pen that has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity with a digital eraser on top. The pen will come in five colors -- silver, gold, black, red and blue -- with a battery life of 1 year. The pen will have interchangeable pen tips that mimic a ballpoint pen, a pencil or a fountain pen.

Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 4 Type Cover6

The Surface Pro 4 has a new keyboard (compatible with Surface Pro 3) that has a trackpad that is 40 percent larger than the previous Surface Pro 3 model. Microsoft said the Surface Pro 4 has a redesigned mechanical keyboard that delivers more fluid typing. A pro version of the Surface 4 also includes a fingerprint reader.

New Lumia Phones

Microsoft also unveiled new Windows 10-powered Lumia phones -- the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. The 4G LTE smartphones boast faster focus and crisper images and videos even in less-than-optimum conditions, Microsoft said. Central to the Lumia phones is Windows 10, which Microsoft says will be a boon to users looking forward to consistency of platforms and applications across multiple devices.

The phones will become available in November.

Lumia 950 XL

The top-of-the-line 950 XL is 8.1 mm thin, runs Windows 10 and has a 5.7-inch Quad HD display. The 950 XL ships with 32 GB of storage and can be expanded up to 200 GB. Specs also include a rear-facing 20-megapixel camera and 5-megapixel, wide-angle 1080p front-facing camera. Pricing for the 950 XL, before carrier subsidy, is $650.

Lumia 950

The Lumia 950 also runs the Windows 10 operating system and has a 5.2-inch Quad HD display, is 8.25 mm thin and comes with 32 GB of storage -- expandable to 200 GB. The camera includes a rear-facing camera with a 20-megapixel sensor and a front-facing 5-megapixel wide-angle 1080p camera. The 950 has a price tag of $550, before carrier subsidy.

Continuum And Microsoft Display Dock

One of the cool things you can do with Microsoft's new Windows 10 phones is use them as portable PCs. Because they run Windows 10, you can connect them to Microsoft's Continuum and Microsoft Display Dock, sold separately. The dock allows you to connect your phone to a monitor, keyboard and mouse so you can literally use the Lumia phones just as you would a basic PC. With the introduction of Continuum, Windows 10 apps -- including Microsoft Office apps -- scale to their desktop size with more desktop screen real estate.

Microsoft didn’t disclose pricing or availability of the Continuum and Microsoft Display Dock.

Microsoft Band 2

Microsoft's new fitness band features a revamped, curved, 32 mm-by-12.8 mm AMOLED display; is Cortana-enabled; and comes with a new barometer sensor for measuring altitude. Cortana integration now allows you to reply to texts and set reminders with just the touch of a button. The fitness band can go 48 hours between charges and can be fully charged in 1.5 hours.

Sensors include: Optical heart rate sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, gyrometer, GPS, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, galvanic skin response, microphone and barometer.

The Microsoft Band 2 will run you $250 and can be preordered Oct. 6 with retail availability Oct. 30.

HoloLens Gets 'Mixed Reality Entertainment'

The big news with HoloLens, Microsoft’s augmented reality goggles, is that developers for the first time will be able to buy kits starting early next year for $3,000. Microsoft demonstrated some new HoloLens tricks, including "holograms you can hold." This feature allows you to adorn your body with a hologram. In the stage demonstration, someone playing an augmented reality game shooting aliens with a gun is worn on the player's right hand.

Xbox One Updates

Xbox One is set to get new gaming features in November including Xbox One Backward Compatibility, which allows you to play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. This free update that brings backward compatibility also allows you to play those Xbox 360 games on Windows 10 through game streaming from Xbox One to Windows 10. Microsoft also announced holiday specials including an Xbox One Elite Bundle or the Xbox One 1TB Holiday Bundle.