Microsoft believes they have cracked the perfect laptop, are they right?

by Andrew O’Connor

microsoft review

After much anticipation the Surface Book is finally with us. Despite officially being released in late 2015, stock of this much sought after device is only now readily available – almost a year later! Over the last month I have used the Surface Book as my primary device and put aside my Surface Pro.

To give a small background, I was very much a ‘Mac fan’ before I set eyes on the Surface Pro just over two years ago. Since then, my older white MacBook has been gathering dust. I did and still do love the Surface Pro, enough so to put my Mac roots to one side and once again embrace Windows.
It goes without saying how excited I was to get my hands on the Surface Book and I hope this small review will help anyone considering a new Ultrabook or high end laptop in the near future.

On first look I was very impressed, what stood out most to me was the incredible display. This has been echoed by nearly every person I have shown the device to. It becomes all the more impressive when you detach the screen from the base keyboard and what you are left holding is an incredibly lightweight, high powered tablet! The weight of the screen really is remarkable especially considering the specification of the device as a whole. The standard base model comes with a Intel i5 processor(sixth gen), 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD with a starting price of roughly €1,500. The most powerful spec boasts Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD and commands a price tag of around €3,00. That is quite expensive but it has to be remembered that Microsoft are claiming these to be twice as powerful as the MacBook Pro which we all know has stood as one of the kingpins of the high end laptop market for quite some time. A very bold claim for a device that weighs only 1.5KG and boasts a detachable Ultra High Definition touchscreen(13.5″ touchscreen 3000 x 2000).

Milled from two solid blocks of magnesium, the Surface Book feels sturdy and has a very striking futuristic look and feel. The design sets it apart from anything we have seen before with its dynamic fulcrum hinge which flexes as the screen is lifted open/closed.

This again lends itself to the futuristic design but this creates a small gap in between the screen and keyboard when in a closed position. The Dynamic Fulcrum hinge lets Microsoft make the keyboard dock lighter, with the hinge acting as stability for the heavier tablet/screen. It also helps the screen sit further away from the user in laptop mode, without having to extend the footprint of the device. That means a smaller computer that feels larger once it’s actually in use.

Microsoft uses a glass trackpad with Surface and it has a similar look and feel to that of the MacBook Pro which is great news for Surface fans. My only qualm about the Surface Pro 3 is the plastic trackpad which is just not to the standard of a glass one in the Surface Pro 4, I find myself using a Bluetooth mouse regularly which is fine but it’s nice to have both options. Overall it’s a very impressive design that will certainly catch the eye of any passers by.

Microsoft Surface Book 1

For all its good looks, the Surface Book’s performance does not disappoint. More expensive Surface Book models incorporate a custom-built discrete Nvidia GeForce GPU. This sits beneath the keyboard , while the Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU is in the screen section, integrated with the CPU and available for use in tablet mode. Microsoft have managed to fit a dedicated GPU in this 13” laptop, a feat which Apple have not managed to achieve as only the 15inch MacBooks have the optional dedicated GPU. This means that for maximum performance the base keyboard needs to be attached. There’s no restriction on what you can use when in tablet mode, although you’ll obviously get less graphics performance without the discrete GeForce GPU in operation. The Surface Book has broken all sorts of benchmark speed record, thanks to its hot new Intel Skylake and Nvidia GeForce chipset.

The 13.5-inch Pixel Sense screen is outstanding, its 3,000-by-2,000-pixel resolution (267ppi) delivering sharp, clear and bright images with rich text. The screen is sized to have two working documents open side by side, and when undocked from the keyboard the relatively large tablet becomes an excellent device for consuming media in both landscape and portrait orientations(‘clipboard’ as Microsoft has named it).

The Surface Book has two batteries, an 18WH unit in the tablet and a 52WH unit in the keyboard, giving a total of 70Wh in laptop mode. Microsoft claim you’ll get up to 12 hours of video playback using both batteries, or 3 hours in tablet mode.

Microsoft Surface Book Front 2

If you’re looking for an Ultrabook just to serve your mobile computing needs, then the Dell XPS 13 is your most economical choice. However if you are looking for something that bit more special then the Surface Book is my pick.
If you were to remove the screen’s ability to detach, the Surface Pen, the-cool-factor of the dynamic fulcrum hinge and just about everything that makes the Surface Book unique, you would be still left with terrific laptop
Incorporating all the extras from the tablet capability, the incredible accuracy of the Surface Pen and the engineering feats of the hinge/screen – they all serve to enhance the experience, rather than detract. Both the Dell XPS 13 and MacBook Pro are fantastic devices and well worth the purchase in their own right. But if you want an excellent laptop that does that a bit more, then the Surface Book is my pick.

Please feel free to call myself or any member of the sales team to discuss the Surface Book further.