Microsoft Surface Hub 2S you can touch
"You want the Surface Hub 2S in your office."
Light, tactile design
Easy to move
The battery has a lifespan of up to two hours
Stunning 4K + touchscreen
Hub 2S cannot rotate like Hub 2X
The Surface brand from Microsoft stands for premium mobile PCs. The Surface Pro is the template that all other PC tablets follow, the Surface Studio is the envy of other all-in-one devices, and even the Surface Laptop has led PC manufacturers to a more coherent design and unusual materials. Microsoft is now paying the same attention to the office with the Surface Hub 2S.
This is only the first step in Microsoft's master plan, and the actual goal is brought into focus. Surface isn't just a premium brand that influences the design of Windows devices. It is a tool to develop the company's vision of tomorrow's workplace.
Let me get this out of the way; You won't buy the Surface Hub 2S. At $ 9,000, this is an extremely expensive device that is designed for business use and offered at prices. You don't need this at home – but you will want it in your office.
Jeremy Kaplan / Digital Trends
The size of the Surface Hub 2S was the first thing I noticed. It's much smaller than the original Surface Hub, which is available in 84-inch or 55-inch versions. The weight has been reduced by 40 percent to 61 pounds, and the screen size is now only 50 inches (one size fits all). Although the Hub 2S can be wall-mounted, it is said to sit on a mobile easel made by Steelcase called The Roam, which reinforces the perception that it is a smaller, more nimble device. This fulfills an important goal for Microsoft: collaboration.
For companies that want the wow factor, there will be a larger version, but Microsoft has closely monitored the details and I haven't had a chance to pick them up.
Megan Solar, director for Microsoft Devices, led me through the scenario Microsoft had in mind when building the smaller, more mobile Hub 2S. "This is your canvas for collaboration," she said. "I can create whiteboards while also viewing live video in teams from a remote location, while you can project a file from your phone that we don't have that can put it all on the digital screen and participate."
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
It was of course possible to work together on the previous hub. However, there were drawbacks due to its size (and the way it is mounted flat on the wall like a TV). A more traditional presentation style was promoted, with one person using the hub at a time. It could also be mistaken for a simple television, and that seemed to inform how people used it. Yes, it was an interactive collaboration tool, but it didn't look like it.
I wanted to grab it immediately, drag it across the room, draw on it.
The new Hub 2S is a more tactile device, and I felt that from the moment I stepped into it with a room, I If you make the screen smaller, it becomes more intimate, while placing on an easel invites you to interact. I wanted to grab it immediately, drag it around the room, draw on it – to the horror of Solar and the rest of the Microsoft team, who had not yet finished their presentation.
The easel has wheels and, as already mentioned, the Hub 2S is much lighter than its predecessor. It's a seemingly simple change that takes a lot of hard work. Here's the trick. The Hub 2S can move, but can also be used as a digital whiteboard. The wheels offer just enough resistance to stay in place during use, but not so strong that moving becomes a task. I didn't notice the movement of the Hub 2S when I bumped and bumped the screen, but it slipped effortlessly when I tried to move it to a new location.
The easel is great, but it's not the new hub's secret weapon. This is the battery that is cleverly hidden in the fabric-covered shelf of the easel. According to Microsoft, it is valid for up to two hours and can be fully recharged in 90 minutes.
If you add the battery, you can transport the Hub 2S as you like. This is related to the collaboration. In contrast to a wall-mounted display, this device can be moved and positioned wherever it is most convenient for the group. And if you need to take the Hub 2S out of a conference room – perhaps because a meeting is working overtime – it can come with you.
Grab a pen and go to town
The Surface Hub 2S is smaller than its predecessor, but something is bigger. The pen – more precisely the Surface Hub 2 pen. It has been redesigned with a simple, chunky look that mimics a whiteboard marker.
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
This makes sense for the Hub 2S not only because it is easy to grip and use, but also because it is easy to recognize. The smaller pin of the original hub was easy to miss, but the Hub 2 pin is always in sight. Like the Surface Pro and the Book, the Hub contains 2S magnetic points that can be used to attach the pen when not in use. They don't cover every inch of the bezel, but they do come close. Battery life shouldn't matter, either, as the Hub 2 Pen has a life of 12 to 24 months when powered by the AAA battery.
According to Microsoft, the Surface Hub 2 pen is not backwards compatible, but will be compatible with other Surface devices in the future. You can also use current iterations of the Surface Pen with the Hub 2S, although Microsoft was not yet ready to determine which ones would be compatible.
The Surface Hub 2 Pen looks simple and chunky and mimics a whiteboard marker.
Once you grab the pen, you can immediately use it to draw on the Hub 2S. There is a stripped down version of Windows 10 running that focuses on certain apps like whiteboard and Microsoft Teams apps. However, software from the Microsoft Store can also be installed. Solar and other Surface employees declined to label this version of Windows (we had heard it called "Core OS" before), but it's slimmer than even the unfortunate Windows 10 S. It came with a Handful of collaborative apps developed. including those used by Microsoft Teams.
Whatever it says, you don't have to sign in to use it. However, if you need access to your files, this is available. The device automatically times out after use and clears local storage to ensure privacy while your work is stored in the cloud.
Integration with Microsoft Teams and the company's other cloud services offers several advantages. You can send a file from your smartphone to the Hub 2S without having to bring a laptop or go back to your desk. You can also import photos of a real, physical whiteboard taken with a smartphone and then convert them to a virtual whiteboard in the whiteboard app. This feature called InkGrab bridges the gap in offices where a Hub 2S fleet is combined with old school whiteboards.
While the Hub 2S only ships with its slimmed-down version on Windows, it can actually run Windows 10. Instructions are available for owners wishing to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. Microsoft believes this will be the exception to the rule. However, artists and designers may want a Hub 2S to be used as an oversized version of Surface Studio rather than as a collaboration tool.
The focus is on the display
I can understand why an artist wants it. The 50-inch 4K + Pixelsense display, like the screens of previous Surface devices, is a real eye-catcher. It has an aspect ratio of 3: 2 with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,560 and looks crystal clear. Microsoft's displays have consistently performed well in our previous reviews. Although I had no way to do measured tests, I expect the Hub 2S to give strong results in terms of color accuracy and contrast. Sharpness is the strongest feature. Fine fonts looked perfect even when I was only a few feet away from the device.
Thin, modern bezels surround the display. They are only 15 millimeters thick, which I found somewhat surprising. Large touchscreens sometimes stick to large frames, arguing that users need a place to grab the device, and previous Surface devices (including the Pro) were chunkier than some colleagues. If you keep the bezels narrow, the Surface Hub 2S stands out as modern, refined and elegant.
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
Parallax is reduced to a minimum by connecting the display glass directly to the touchscreen. This technique is critical to the pen experience as it reduces the distance between the pen tip and the touch screen itself. Scribbling on the Hub 2S really feels like drawing on a real whiteboard.
Audio was not ignored. The Hub 2S has a beam-shaping 8-element microphone array for high-quality conference audio. Thin speakers are located in the bezels – they are practically invisible – and deliver a strong sound thanks to a bass module hidden behind.
A modular 4K camera rounds off the experience. Thanks to the connections on each flank, it can be attached to three sides of the screen. It is also designed to solve itself in the event of malfunctions. This may seem strange, but is supposed to protect both the connection and the display. Remember that the Hub 2S is mobile and therefore has to tolerate unintentional encounters with doors and walls.
Ask your office manager to buy it
Assessing the Surface Hub 2S is difficult. At $ 9,000, it's not exactly affordable and isn't meant for home users. Yes, it runs on Windows – but it's more of a business tool, less of a personal computer.
However, as a tool, it is promising and can change your life even if you never own it. My time with the Surface Hub 2S made me think Microsoft was up to something. Companies of all sizes love to talk about collaboration, but the conversation is usually just that. The Hub 2S is different. All common assumptions about what sitting in a room with your employees should look like are questioned. The result is a device that is far more accessible and intuitive than any smart display I've got my hands on.
Dan Baker / Digital Trends
If anything makes interested companies hesitate, it is the Hub 2X, the follow-up model presented by Microsoft at the same time. The Hub 2X offers everything the Hub 2S offers, but with an additional trick. It spins. Oddly enough, the Hub 2S ships with the physically installed rotation mechanism, but is disabled. Microsoft allows owners to upgrade the Hub 2S to the Hub 2X when it is released by purchasing a new computing module that slides back and unlocks the rotation.
This is a strange way to introduce the Hub 2S, although it may not be that relevant. It's easy to fix it on the rotating screen. But after using the Hub 2S, I think it could be a niche feature that looks cool but is not often used.
The real story is Microsoft's decision to transform the hub from an impersonal, TV-like, wall-mounted slate to tactile hardware that invites you to touch – and move. It is a pleasantly analog version of a digital device that has the chance to achieve its ultimate goal of changing the way you work.
Microsoft will release Surface Hub 2S and Steelcase Roam in July for $ 8,999.99 (for North America). Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific region will see it in July. The Hub 2S includes a Surface Hub 2 pen and a Surface Hub 2 camera. The Steelcase Roam easel and the APC battery are sold separately.