Microsoft Surface Hub 2: Everything you need to know

Microsoft’s Surface Hub is an interactive whiteboard for the modern board room or classroom. It’s huge, detailed and offers all the smart functions of a contemporary, connected system. Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2 should take that formula and improve upon it. With a release date that is slated for the not-too-distant future, Microsoft has almost four years of hardware and software improvements to bring to bear with its new TV-like display.

Whether you’re thinking of adding one to your conference room or want to take a peek at the most expensive singular system Microsoft sells to the general public, here’s everything you need to know about the Surface Hub 2.

Availability and pricing

The latest information we have on a launch date for the Surface Hub 2 is the one Microsoft gave us in the fall of 2018. There are two versions of the Hub 2 in the works. The first, the 2S model, will be released in the second quarter of 2019, so somewhere between spring and summer. Even as we enter that rough timeframe though, Microsoft hasn’t made it any clearer to us when we can expect the new display(s) to arrive, although it may want to launch it before the Dell competition in April.

The 2X, Microsoft’s next-next generation Surface Hub, won’t appear on the market until 2020. The 2S will be upgradeable to a 2X, we’re told, with the ability to swap in a new “processor cartridge” that should just snap into place on the back.

As for pricing, Microsoft hasn’t made any firm commitments, but we would imagine pricing will be within the same sort of range as the original Surface Hub. The first-generation device went on sale at $9,000 — after a $2,000 price hike during development — with the top-specification model with the larger, 84-inch screen, retailing for as much as $22,000.

Technical specifications

Although Microsoft has touted some changes in the way the new Surface Hub 2 devices will work, the most impactful change will be the upgraded internal hardware. Giant strides have been made in processing, memory, and graphical power in recent years and Microsoft will be able to take full advantage of them.

Microsoft suggested in early 2018 that the 2S and 2X would have 50.5-inch displays. That works out at 4.5-inches and 33.5-inches smaller than the different configurations of the original Surface Hub. However, with the ability to attach multiple Surface Hub 2s together, Microsoft offers a more expansive and customizable whiteboard system than the first-generation devices.

The display in both Hubs is described as “4K+” though how much beyond 4K’s 3,840 x 2,160 resolution remains to be seen. Apple and display firms like LG, have offered “5K” monitors for a couple of years now, so it may be we’ll see something around that resolution, though in a 3:2 ratio. 8K is a possibility, but that technology is not only extremely expensive, but requires an enormous amount of graphical horsepower to run.

The new Surface Hub will still need a reasonable GPU to push the many millions of pixels a 4K+ panel would sport. Especially if it ends up being have a 120Hz refresh rate, like the original Surface Hub. That first-generation device sported an Nvidia Quadro K2200. It seems likely that a modern Surface Hub would sport a modern Quadro graphics card. Perhaps not one of the new Quadro RTX cards, which were only released in recent months, but at the least a Pascal-based Quadro cards like the P2000 or P4000.

This would likely be combined with an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU from the eighth-generation, with 16 or 32GB of DDR4 memory. Considering how cheap SSD pricing is today, we wouldn’t be surprised to see half a TB or more of storage.

Other enhancements we have had confirmed by Microsoft include improved microphones and speakers for better audio, and the implementation of a 4K camera for greater clarity when conferencing.

Windows Core OS

“Core OS” is new modular operating system Microsoft has been developing. It takes pieces of Windows 10, but reimagines them for new devices that might exist outside the traditional Windows ecosystem. So far, there are two iterations of Core OS we’ve seen. The first was used on the HoloLens 2, the second edition of Microsoft’s mixed reality headset.

The next will be in the Surface Hub 2X, once it’s released. The software is codenamed “Aruba,” but it will be known as HubOS and is part of the Core OS family in that it retains some familiar elements of Windows 10. The taskbar and most of the interface is centered, even to the point where the screen can be flipped while keep things in place in an interesting feature called “dynamic rotation.” It also features a shared desktop, where inking and file sharing can be accessed by multiple accounts.

The Hub 2S, though, won’t launch with Core OS pre-installed.

Ease of use

Outside of hardware and software improvements, Microsoft has championed other quality of life enhancements with the Surface Hub 2S and 2X. They will reportedly be far lighter and leaner than their predecessors and easier to mount on the wall. They can also be wheeled around on Steelcase stands.

The 2X will be able to clip together in configurations up to four strong, offering enormous screen space for various applications, the ability to run presentations alongside multi-video conference calls, and more. 2S owners will be able to upgrade to the 2X through the use of what Microsoft calls “removable processor cartridges.” It’s said to be easily accessible and allows for simple upgrades as well as servicing over time. That may mean that the 2S and 2X will receive further hardware upgrade options of its own over the years to improve performance and capabilities.

Microsoft also touts major software improvements with the Surface Hub 2 range, including deeper integration with its Teams chat application, and the Whiteboard app, which itself is integrated with the Bing search engine and supports intelligent ink. The 2S and 2X will also work across multiple devices, allowing integration with other Windows 10, Android, and iOS devices for collaborative meetings and presentations.

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