Microsoft is launching a host of productivity accessories geared for remote work.
Microsoft’s Modern Webcam (US$70) is just one of several peripherals introduced Tuesday alongside the Surface Laptop 4, including the Microsoft Modern USB Headset (US$50), the Microsoft Modern Wireless Headset (US$100); the Microsoft Modern USB-C Speaker (US$100), and the Surface Headphones 2+ for Business (US$300).
In light of how the pandemic has made remote work the norm for many, Microsoft’s new peripherals make sense. Both of the new Modern headsets are Teams certified—and, in a twist—include a dedicated Microsoft Teams button. Webcams have become essential equipment for videoconferencing, while Microsoft’s noise-cancelling Surface Headphones were designed with noisy offices (or homes!) in mind.
Microsoft Modern Webcam
Microsoft already has vibrant, 1080p webcams in Surface and Surface Book devices. The affordable Surface Laptop's integrated webcam is just 720p, however, so Microsoft’s Modern Webcam provides an upgrade opportunity. It offers a 1080p resolution, an integrated privacy shutter, and an optional mount for either your laptop or a tripod. HDR and auto-exposure are other highlights.
The challenge Microsoft’s Modern Webcam faces is that there are already dozens of inexpensive 1080p webcams on the market, lacking Microsoft’s name recognition but piling on similar features, at least on paper. (Microsoft has an older Lifecam lineup, but none of those webcams offer greater than 720p video.) The Modern Webcam does boast some Microsoft-specific touches, including a new True Look “facial retouch” feature and Teams certification.
Surface Headphones 2+ for Business
Historically, Microsoft’s peripherals business has been oriented around mice and keyboards. Beginning with the original Surface Headphones, and now with three new headsets, Microsoft has moved assertively into the audio business.
A year ago, Microsoft introduced the Surface Headphones 2, an upgrade to the original Surface Headphones. The purpose behind the Surface Headphones line was always focus: By tuning out the outside world, you should be able to get more done. Microsoft’s original Surface Headphones offered sixteen levels of noise cancellation. The new wireless Surface Headphones 2+ offers thirteen levels, the same as the Surface Headphones 2. The headphone are optimised for voice, and have been integrated with Microsoft 365 apps like PowerPoint to provide automatic translation. They include a dedicated Microsoft Teams button as well.
The Surface Headphones 2+ appear to weigh about the same as their predecessors, at 290 grams or 0.64 pounds, and use the same 40mm driver. They also appear to support the same dial controls for active noise cancellation and volume, as well as tap to mute. Passive noise cancellation ranges up to 30dB, while active noise cancellation goes up to 40dB. Microsoft says you’ll be able to charge the Surface Headphones 2+ fully in less than 2 hours, providing up to 15 hours of Teams calls and 18.5 hours of music listening. Active noise cancellation will lower that number, but Microsoft isn’t saying by how much.
Microsoft Modern USB Headset and Modern Wireless Headset
Microsoft’s $50 Modern USB Headset and $100 Modern Wireless Headset are cousins, though they differ in slight ways beyond their connectivity. Both headsets are Microsoft Teams-certified and include a dedicated button to launch a Teams call. However, both differ in how you can mute calls: While the Modern USB Headset includes a dedicated mute button, users mute the Wireless Headset by raising the boom mic. Both include status LEDs to indicate whether the mic is muted.
The Modern USB Headset uses a USB tether, measuring about 39 inches in length, with a USB-A connector at the end. The headset provides up to 91dB of sound output via a 28mm speaker driver.
The Modern Wireless Headset connects via Bluetooth, with the same speakers as the USB Headset. The improvements here include a noise-cancelling mic, as well as the freedom from cables. The Wireless Headset can be charged fully in 2.5 hours, with up to 30 hours of talk time on a Teams call, or 50 hours of wireless music listening.
Modern USB-C Speaker
Roughly a year after Microsoft decided to remove the Cortana functions from the Harman/Kardon Invoke, Microsoft has introduced a Cortana-less USB-C speaker for both Teams meetings and music playback. The small (5.43 x 2.8 x 1.1 inches) speaker includes a pair of omnidirectional mics for Teams calls, and a 50mm speaker for music playback. It, too, has a Teams button. It’s not wireless, however—yes, that means no Bluetooth—and connects via a 26-inch USB-C cord directly to a PC.