Surface Hub 2S hands-on: Cutting-edge collaboration

Microsoft today gave the first public preview of its forthcoming Surface Hub 2S, which is now officially launching this June for $8,999. Joining Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay on stage was Steelcase, who had a significant role working with Microsoft to build the Steelcase Roam stand for the giant collaborative display.

Microsoft and Steelcase spent a lot of time putting into context the Surface Hub 2S noting why it's so essential for modern businesses. Specifically, while technology can always help people perform better, it's also about the team working together. Panay remarked about this shift in workplace habits and Microsoft's role in making it happen smoothly:

People are spending more time collaborating than ever before. Companies know this, embracing it. Great business run on people connecting. Teamwork is the most powerful tool for success. That is the critical tool. At Microsoft, we want to make innovation in a way that moves people forward.

Looking at the Surface Hub 2S and it is easy to grasp how useful it can be in an open office environment. The 50-inch display (and an 85-inch one coming in 2020) runs at 4K lets four simultaneous video-conference calls each run at full HD. Due to the size of the display those callers look life-size making the whole experience that much more personal.

Surface Hub 2S

Surface Hub 2S (Image credit: Windows Central)

The secret sauce though for Surface Hub 2S is the massive battery that is nicely hidden in the Steelcase Roam. That battery lets users unplug the display and roll it around to other areas in the office where needed. With enough juice to last about 100 minutes (give or take) and the ability to fully recharge in under 90 minutes, the tech makes Surface Hub 2S a mobile collaborative display. That's vastly different from the original Surface Hub, which was not only more massive it had to be professionally (and permanently) mounted.

The other secret weapon is the Hub's modular computer. While display technology can last ten years, there's no reason to assume CPUs should. By just yanking the module from the back – with no tools or even line of sight is necessary – the Hub's computer can be upgraded and replaced without disrupting the rest of the device. That's important for companies plunking down at least $9,000 for the hardware.

Panos Panay

Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay today in NYC revealing the Surface Hub 2S. (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

That modularity should be a hint at how Microsoft sees the future of computing going for some scenarios and could very well apply to future iterations of Surface Studio where the concept also makes sense. That same modularity will later let Surface Hub 2S devices upgrade to the new "2X" experience, presumably powered by the forthcoming Windows Core OS.

The 4K camera is no slouch either having a surprisingly good low-light ability due to the large and open lens. The camera connects through USB Type-C with two guiding pins and a magnetic base. These features let the camera click into place on the side or top of Surface Hub 2S with no wires and no effort.

The Hub's pen also now uses the same pen protocols as the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, and Surface Book. Latency and parallax have been significantly improved, and the new etched matte screen makes writing on the display feel even more natural.

Running apps side by side (or even triple stacked) was fast, fluid, with no lag thanks to the Core i5 processor. While there are no discrete graphics akin to NVIDIA at no point did the Surface Hub 2S suffer from lag. Instead, it was very responsive and behaved as you would expect.

Despite the seemingly high price tag Surface Hub 1 did very well for Microsoft. So much that the company decided a year ago to alert businesses that Surface Hub 2 was coming in mid-2019 so that they can better budget themselves and not look to grab the older version. Surface Hub 2S fixes and advances the overall concept of a collaborative display and then some.

Panay noted that they see Surface Hub 2S doing what laptops did for the desktop PC – giving users a new way creative, collaborate, and empower users. From what we saw today it looks like they have achieved that.

See Surface Hub 2 at Microsoft (opens in new tab)

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Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I wish I could give it a shot.
  • It's great to watch how Microsoft is now collaborating with the actual customers who make them one of the most financially successful American companies. It's obvious to those who choose to look that they are crafting tech for their paying customers. Thankfully they aren't "listening" to the current batch of Windows press who liken the company to bumbling also-rans. At least Windows Central has their eyes open to the real movement at the company. Great coverage.
  • I don't need a Surface Hub, like I don't need a Studio. I would not mind to have the money to buy them for no other reason than just have them, they are so sexy.
  • @Daniel_rubino Great video. Nicely done. I work for a company that has 10+ Surface Hubs V1. Unfortunately, they are NEVER used. They are literally just sitting off to the side in conference rooms and are not used. It's unfortunately. The Surface Hub 2's form factor is great! We've discussed using them as a team and everyone `gets it`. They look interesting and the approachability is great. It's not just a TV. Looking forward to using them. WPC - keep up the good work!
  • Thanks and interesting about not being used. I can see a problem anytime you get a new tech there has to be a concerted effort by the company to integrate them into employee workflow. Kind of like getting a Fitbit - if you don't start using it for health -> gym -> feedbak -> improve health -> improve gym it's just a step counter.
  • Yes. Workflows are a big problem. In our case, the issue is physical access/gatekeeping to the Surface Hub's. Many of the Surface Hubs are `owned` by business units(bu). If you're not in the BU, access is hard/impossible. Hubs were located in conference rooms that were restricted. This was not the future of teamwork.
    The form factor in Hub2 will be a great improvement. They appear to be easy to move around. The resemblance to an easel make it very approachable. Crossing my fingers!
  • The enterprise can be frustrating. Sounds like a situation I experienced in the late 1980s early 1990s at NASA. All the junior engineers used Macs and we could easily share info between centers (NASA is configured around centers--Johnston, Kennedy, Marshall, Goddard, etc.) with other junior engineers. However, all the managers used PCs and we could not share info with our managers. There is a reason NASA is bloated, expensive, slow, and unresponsive to new technological developments. But that is outside the jist of the Surface Hub As time moves along and companies move to more cloud-based solutions with better CRM solutions, the enterprise will have to reconfigure their organization and change accounting/budgeting structures. Unfortunately, if you have been climbing the ladder and tech threatens your position on the latter, you may try to "lock" away the tech.
  • Speaking from anecdotal experience in enterprise (not as an IT person, but regular employee) I often see how the actual effort or perceived effort to learn new tech being a barrier for adoption.
  • From a new tech adoption perspective, I've had most success with a bottom up approach. Ideally, early adopters are identified as `uplifters` for the rest of the team. The Uplifters role is to promote and push the adoption to the rest of the team. SCAN, TRY, SCALE works really well. Also, moving away from Windows 7 works too :)
  • I hope this does very well, leading to more companies looking to build larger touch screens that support active styles. Bringing down the price for them and bringing them to my house.
  • looking forward to Surface Hub 2S All-Digital Edition
  • OK I laughed, I admit it.
  • Getting closer to that home/kitchen version that I saw a concept video of 7-10 years ago. Keep it up! I've been saving!
  • I work in academia and this seems useful for both collaboration and presentations. When I do a presentation or teach, I almost always use my Surface Pro and a wireless display adapter (which I got for free, lucky me), project to the classroom projector, and ink on my slides or in OneNote. That works and has its advantages. But inking directly on the screen is very natural (like using a whiteboard), and it means students or collaborators feel invited to scribble something on the screen, too. So I'm excited to try this out one day.
  • Are you using OneNote Class Notebooks? Surface Hub 2's and OneNote seem like a natural fit.
    Whiteboarding between 2 or more Surface Hub 2's would be interesting to see? I'm thinking/hoping the Microsoft stores will have Surface Hub's on display soon.