Microsoft Surface Book with Performance Base Review

Microsoft Surface Book with Performance Base Review

Microsoft’s Surface Book with Performance Base fills an interesting niche in a crowded model lineup. It redefines what it means to be a high-end Surface Book, edging the product into mobile workstation territory. And it does so while providing even better battery life.

Of course, there’s a lot of history with Surface Book. I’ve reviewed two Surface Books so far—a Core i5 model with no discrete graphics and a Core i7 model with the original dedicated GPU. Between those two reviews, of course, Surface Book (and Surface Pro 4) suffered from prolonged and very public reliability problems. And that experience weighs on this new model, as it does on my impressions of the device.

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That said, my experience with Surface Book with Performance Base has been largely excellent and trouble-free. Aside from a misguided (and self-inflicted) adventure with the Windows 10 Insider Preview—which left me unable to control the display brightness until I reset it back to its factory state—this PC has proven itself to be an able companion.

And to be clear, this isn’t a new version of the product, per se. Instead, Performance Base represents three new models of the original (late 2015) Surface Book lineup. By which I mean, each of these new Performance Base models combines the same Intel “Skylake” Core i7-based Clipboard tablet module that Microsoft first offered in late 2015 with a new version of the keyboard base that provides a speedier dGPU and more battery. What separates each of these three new models is different RAM and storage configurations, and higher price tags that range from $2400 to $3300.

(If you’re confused by the Surface Book lineup, you’re not alone: I explained the differences between each model back in October.)


Surface Book with Performance Base retains the interesting but somewhat controversial design of the original models, but with a few subtle differences. That is, it is a largish 13.5-inch laptop with a removable screen, called the Clipboard. It is not an Ultrabook by any measure, and isn’t thin or light, weighing in at 3.8 pounds, not including the power adapter. (Which is larger on Performance Base models too.)

This design has a few ramifications.

Functionally, of course, Surface Book is a 2-in-1 PC because you can remove the screen—the Clipboard—and use it like a large tablet. 2-in-1 PCs are not unusual these days—frankly, we’re kind of swimming in them—but Surface Book’s design is in fact unique.

That is, most 2-in-1s fall into one of two categories: Detachable PCs, which are tablets (like Surface Pro 4 and its many clones) that can transform into pseudo-laptops with a keyboard cover, and convertible PCs, which are laptops in which a non-detachable screen can in some way rotate back around the device, turning into a very large and heavy tablet. Each of these designs has its advantages and disadvantages, and each will appeal to users with different needs.

But Surface Book offers a new take on a 2-in-1: Here, we have a true laptop form factor, with a hardware base that contains the keyboard and touchpad, various ports, a battery, and, in the case of Performance Base, a dedicated graphics processing unit, or dGPU. So the functionality it provides is unique—the Clipboard is bigger than your typical detachable PC, but it’s also lighter and thinner than a convertible in tablet form—and offers an interesting middle ground between other types of 2-in-1s.

The Surface Connector for the screen also features positioning tabs

That said, Surface Book will still appeal to those who need a laptop for most tasks, but only occasionally need a tablet. By way of comparison, detachable PCs are typically smaller and very portable, and offer a fairly even divide between tablet- and laptop-type form factors. And convertibles are basically just laptops that will only very occasionally be used as tablets, given their bulk. (The real appeal of convertibles these days, I think, is more about their ability to transform into tent and presentation form factors, basically for content consumption, not creation, purposes.)

Put another way, Surface Book is correctly optimized for most use cases, I think. That is, it is nearly ideal as a laptop, though the top-heaviness of the design means the screen can’t tilt back as far as is the case with most true laptops.

This is the maximum screen angle

And in Clipboard mode, Surface Book presents a large but comparatively usable tablet, complete with active pen support, that can be used for true content creation tasks. Surface Book is likewise unique in that you can actually attach the screen backwards, giving you some other interesting form factors, including that tent mode that convertibles offer, and a neat, angled writing surface for those who really do use Surface Pen regularly.

I mentioned that Surface Book is controversial, however, and that’s because its unique design also necessitates a teardrop-shaped “hole” that sits near its weird tractor tread-like hinge when the device is closed.

Related to this, all Surface Book models are a bit top-heavy, with a thicker (and heavier; remember, its detachable) than usual screen that is necessitated by its 2-in-1 design. The internal design of this hinge is no doubt a technical feat worth cheering, but 18 months after Surface Book first debuted, I still find the resulting hole to be somewhat ugly, weird, and unnecessary. And I fully expect that hole to either disappear or at least become smaller if and when a Surface Book 2 appears.

But Surface Book with Performance Base is stuck with that hole. Fortunately, I do have some good news to share: Over a long period of time using a few different Surface Book models, I never once experienced my greatest fear for this hole, that material of some kind would fall inside and somehow mar the exposed screen or keyboard areas. And with Performance Base, that hole has actually gotten a bit smaller.

Original Surface Book model (top) and Performance Base (bottom)

The reason for this, interestingly, is the extra battery and improved dGPU that Microsoft added to the base. So the keyboard is actually angled slightly more than with previous models, providing more room for the extra battery and the new dGPU, and for the latter’s new cooling system, in which heat is vented out to the back, behind the keyboard, and onto the hinge. The keyboard angle is not noticeable in daily use—I was curious if it would somehow improve the already-excellent typing experience, but no—and is in fact barely noticeable unless you really know to look for it.

These vents channel heat out of the Surface Book Performance Base

The unique Surface Book design also means that all of the expansion ports—two full-sized USB 3 ports, a miniDisPlayPort, a full-sized SD card reader, and a proprietary Surface Connect port for power—are in the base. (OK, there are actually two Surface Connect ports: A second such port connects the Clipboard to the base as well.) The Clipboard screen part only includes one port, for the headphone jack, which is badly positioned at the top right of the display, meaning that your headphone cables will always fall onto the screen while you’re trying to watch a movie. This port should be on the bottom, not the top, in other words.

The appeal of any hardware design is of course subjective. But I find Surface Book to be professional-looking and attractive overall, despite my issues with the hinge-created hole and the mistaken headphone jack placement. This is a great-looking device, and while many were probably eager to see if Microsoft would update its initial Surface Book design by late 2016, it has held up nicely. It’s also been incredibly durable: Unlike with some smudge- and scratch-attracting laptops, my various Surface Books have retained their factory-fresh newness over time.


The display of the Surface Book with Performance Base is unchanged from previous Surface Book models, and it is housed in the removable, tablet-like Clipboard as before. And that’s just fine with me: This is one of the best mobile displays I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve come to love its capacious size, 3:2 aspect ratio, and very high resolution.

Let me put some numbers to that, though to be honest, all you need to do is look at the thing to fall in love with it. Surface Book with Performance Base—like all Surface Book models—provides a 10 point multi-touch and Surface Pen-enabled 13.5-inch display running at an unbelievable 3000 x 2000 pixels. That’s 267 pixels-per-inch (PPI). By comparison, a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro offers a resolution of just 2560 x 1600, at 227 PPI.

Following in Apple’s Retina footsteps, Microsoft brands this display as PixelSense. This word is both a thoughtful throwback to the Surface team’s roots—as you may recall, the original Surface device was designed by a company called Perceptive Pixel, which Microsoft acquired—and a way of describing a screen in which the pixels are so tightly packed together that the human eye cannot differentiate them from a normal usage distance.

And on that note, PixelSense isn’t just marketing: Once you have experienced a gorgeous high DPI display like this, going back to mere Full HD-type resolutions is painful: Your eyes won’t be able to unsee the jaggy text and blotchy graphics that are suddenly so obvious, and so disagreeable, on such displays. Surface Book’s PixelSense display is a revelation.

It’s also the “right” size, at least for me. As you may know, I prefer larger displays on portable PCs, and this year in particular has seen a nice resurgence in large 15-inch displays with such devices as the Dell XPS 15 and HP Spectre x360 15 (both of which I’m reviewing now as well). But those larger laptops are bigger and heavier, whereas Surface Book, even in Performance Base form, cuts a better compromise, I think. Despite having a display that is “only” 13.5 inches—maybe it’s the aspect ratio—there’s something just perfect about this design. Assuming you’re looking for a laptop form factor, of course.

Components and ports

Internally, all Surface Book with Performance Base models feature the same 6th generation dual-core Intel Core i7-6600U “Skylake” processor. This is the same processor that was available with certain Surface Book models starting in November 2015, and while they may have seemed leading edge at the time—Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 were in fact the very first mainstream PCs to ship with Skylake parts—that is no longer the case. In the many months since that original release, Intel has shipped 7th generation “Kaby Lake” CPUs, and those parts are now in use by virtually all of Surface Book’s competitors.

But this is perhaps less problematic than many would have you believe. The performance and energy efficiency advantages of Kaby Lake over Skylake are modest at best, for starters. And if you consider the reliability issues that dogged Surface Book for several months in late 2015 and early 2016, you can see why Microsoft wasn’t particularly interested in taking a chance on swapping out the internal parts for this midstream refresh.

On that note, there’s also an argument to be made that Skylake is now a known quantity, that Microsoft’s extensive experience fixing those issues has resulted in a product that is now well-tested and reliable. My experience with this device suggests that this is the case: Unlike with my previous two Surface Books, a Core i5 model with no dGPU and a Core i7 model with the original dGPU, Performance Base has worked well and has been consistently reliable.

The dGPU in Performance Base is, of course new. When Surface Book debuted in late 2015, Microsoft offered a few models with an NVIDIA-based dGPU. That dGPU provided 1 GB of RAM, but Microsoft declined to specify the part, leading testers to benchmark it and compare the results against NVIDIA’s GPUs of the day. What they discovered is that Microsoft was basically utilizing a GeForce GT 940 chipset, which was even then fairly low-end.

In my testing of that original dGPU version, I found that it enabled those Surface Book models to play modern games, if barely, while utilizing lower-than-desirable resolutions and quality levels. So there’s a certain amount of extra utility there, of course. That said, Microsoft was quick to point out that these devices were aimed at productivity needs—massive spreadsheets and databases, image and video processing, and so on—and not games.

Surface Book with Performance Base turns things up a notch. These devices pack an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M dGPU with 2 GB of RAM. Which, yes, is not exactly a “new” part, but then it’s important to remember than its successor, utilizing NVIDIA’s new Pascal architecture, didn’t debut until CES in January. Put another way, as with the CPU, Microsoft is going with a known-reliable part when it comes to graphics too. My take on this is that reliability is job one, given the history.

Back in January, I offered a first peek at Performance Book’s gaming acumen, noting that this new device specifically targets gaming, thanks to feedback from customers. The new dGPU offers “two times more graphics,” as Microsoft’s Panos Panay says it, “doubling the performance” over the previous dGPU models.

I’m not sure about the specifics of Panay’s claims. But Surface Book with Performance Base can play many modern games, like Gears of War 4, Quantum Break, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, and even do so effectively if you don’t mind bumping down the quality a bit. (Your best off using NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience app to do this for your automatically.) Compared side-by-side with the previous dGPU-equipped Surface Book, the differences are startling: Surface Book with Performance Base provides smoother, faster performance and noticeably superior graphical quality in each of the games I’ve tested.

But compared side-by-side with a beefier gaming laptop, the dGPU in Performance Base shows its age. This isn’t really a gaming rig, of course, and it cannot handle 4K resolutions at all: The 3DMark Fire Ultra benchmark, which measures your PC’s readiness for 4K gaming, indicated that the performance of this device at such resolutions was about 1/10th that needed to meet the requirements of HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, for example.

I’m going to write-up a comparison of the gaming performance of the various laptops I’m currently testing soon. But put simply, don’t buy Surface Book with Performance Base to play games, as there are far more powerful portable PCs to be had that can do so with better performance and graphics quality. These run the gamut from true gaming laptops like the HP OMEN 17 to workstation-class laptops like the Dell XPS 15, which feature more modern and powerful internals.

Looking past the dGPU—and its new cooling/thermal system, which I’ve found to be nicely quiet unless you’re hammering on it with a game, which is to be expected—little else has changed internally. These high-end Surface Books can be configured with 8 or 16 GB of RAM, as before, so there’s no 32 GB option, which I find odd. It skips over the 128 GB entry-level SSD and offers 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB storage choices, and as you’d expect of this class of device, these are speedy PCIe-based parts. (The review unit is a high-end model with 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage.)

As noted, all of the expansion is in the keyboard base, which is fine. As a late-2015 design, however, Surface Book with Performance Base lacks USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 compatibility, meaning that it cannot take full advantage of the performance and expansion benefits of that more modern platform. Instead, Surface Book’s Surface Connect port, which is used for both power and to connect the Clipboard/display to the base, is USB 3-based, but using a proprietary connector. This is all kinds of bad—you can’t drive two 4K displays at 60 fps, for example, even when docked—and I fully expect Microsoft to switch to USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 for the next generation Surface Book.

And before you get too weepy-eyed over Surface Connect, it’s also worth pointing out that this terrible proprietary connector’s magnets sometimes result in the connector attaching to the outside of Surface Book rather than making an actual connection. Meaning that, yes, if you’re not paying attention, you may not actually be charging Surface Book. This used to be much more common on early Surface designs, but it still happens. I can’t wait until Microsoft gets rid of this outdated and flawed technology.

Keyboard, touchpad and Surface Pen

Thanks to its larger battery and those new dGPU thermals, the backlit Surface Book with Performance Base keyboard is more angled upwards to the back when compared to the keyboard on previous models. But I have not noticed a difference in the typing experience, which is great as Surface Book has always provided what I believe to be the ideal portable PC typing experience. You simply cannot find a better keyboard on any portable PC. (That said, the HP Spectre x360 15 offers an interesting challenge, and it is possible that that device’s keyboard is just as good. I’m still testing it.)

Likewise, the glass touchpad on Surface Book with Performance Base is unchanged from previous models. Meaning that it, too, is best in class: This is the best touchpad you can find on any Windows PC, period. And now that Apple has ruined its own touchpads, the Surface Book touchpad is the best in the industry too.

There’s so much to like about this touchpad, and as a Windows user, this isn’t something I get to gush over very often. It’s the right size, for starters—Apple, especially, but even companies like HP are super-sizing touchpads for dubious if imaginary reasons these days—and it’s buttery-smooth. Perfect is a tough word. But it is ideal. And that it is backed by Windows 10’s excellent precision touchpad configuration software is just the icing on that celebratory cake.

Like other Surface Books, Performance Base includes a Surface Pen, Microsoft’s well-regarded active pen. Surface Pen supplies over 1,000 levels of pressure sensitivity. It also provides excellent latency, which is basically a measure of the lag between pen tip-based movements across the screen and digital ink appearing in whatever software you’re currently using. Put another way, it works like a real pen, pencil, or brush, and provides a very natural feel.

Readers who are disappointed with my lack of focus on Surface Pen will remain so, however, sorry. Despite my background as a professional artist, I have no particular need for Surface Pen and do not use it regularly. But I think my needs/wants here actually mirror the general populace: Few people actually use this kind of accessory, despite Microsoft’s multi-year effort to drum up interest. Those who do need such a thing will no doubt be enthralled by the quality and usefulness of Surface Pen. And apologize for not having more to say on that topic.


After the improved dGPU, the biggest change in Performance Base is its larger battery, when compared to previous Surface Book models (both those with and without a first-generation dGPU). So I was curious to see whether this battery—which adds almost half a pound of weight—would improve battery life overall, or whether the power requirements of the new dGPU would offset the gains somewhat.

The difference is dramatic. In a good way.

In my testing of Performance Base battery life—which I’ve had to do under artificial conditions because of the last minute cancellation of a lengthy series of flights to Africa—I consistently achieved about 11.5 hours of life over several tests.

While these tests were indeed artificial—in that, yes, they involved Full HD video playback using the Movies & TV app that comes with Windows 10—I still feel that they represent a real world result, as I was streaming these videos over Wi-Fi, and not using downloaded files. I’m performing similar tests on all of the portable PCs I’m currently reviewing, and if it makes sense to publish a single battery life comparison, I may do so.

Regardless, Surface Book with Performance Base has provided excellent, all-day battery life in regular use.


Surface Book with Performance Base includes Windows 10 Pro, which makes all kinds of sense. It provides the user with access to Microsoft’s business-focused capabilities, of course, but also power user and developer features like BitLocker, Bash, and Hyper-V.

Of course, Windows 10 is a double-edged sword in this regard, too, as it comes bundled with a crazy amount of outright crapware, not to mention intrusive advertising and other annoyances. That’s not the fault of the Surface team, but Surface devices have typically offered a Signature PC-like experience, and things are changing at Microsoft, and not for the better.

Surface Book does bundle a few utilities, like the mostly worthless Surface app, which is only useful for configuring the pressure sensitivity of Surface Pen, a feature that should simply be included in Windows 10 Settings. And a few apps, most of which are not completely objectionable, though some might deem them as unnecessary bundleware, if not outright crapware. Fair enough, but they are at least easily uninstalled.

Pricing and configurations

While Surface Book is a premium family of products, the Performance Base models move the pricing needle even further upward.

I’ve already provided a deeper overview of the entire Surface Book family. But at a high level, it may help to divide the various models into three groups: Those without a dGPU, those with a first-generation NVIDIA dGPU (with 1 GB of RAM), and the Performance Base models, with the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M dGPU with 2 GB of RAM.

“Base” Surface Books—those without a dGPU of any kind—range from $1500 to $2000, depending on the configuration. Those with a first-generation dGPU range from $1900 to $2700. And the Performance Base models? You’re looking at $2400 to $3300.

As noted, all Performance Base configurations feature a 6th generation dual-core Intel Core i7-6600U “Skylake” processor and that NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M dGPU with 2 GB of RAM. What differs as you move up the price range is the RAM and storage configurations. You can configure a Surface Book with Performance base with 8 or 16 GB of RAM—again, there’s no 32 GB option—and with 256, 512, or 1024 GB (1 TB) of SSD storage.

I tested the most powerful Surface Book version, a Performance Base model with 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage. But even given some of my developer work, this configuration is overkill for my own needs.

Recommendations and conclusions

Surface Book with Performance Base provides Microsoft with a neat mid-stream upgrade, a sort of “1.5” release that improves on the original models while not really changing the design. The question, however, is whether you need such a product. And whether it warrants its lofty price tag.

Asking some additional questions will help provide some context and help with your decision. The most obvious:

Does Performance Base offer enough improvement over other Surface Book models to justify the extra cost?

And is there some other computer, from a major PC maker like Dell, HP, or Lenovo, that offers the same quality, performance, and utility, but at a lower price?

These are more complicated questions than is immediately obvious, and of course your needs and wants will differ from mine. But it’s important to remember that Surface Book is unique in the world of 2-in-1 PCs in that it is a real laptop with a removable screen that can be used as a tablet when needed. The Surface Book is very much laptop first, tablet second.

That alone has interesting ramifications for your potential usage. With a typical detachable PC like Surface Pro 4, the tablet part is the PC. That is, all of the “guts” of the PC—its processor, graphics, RAM, and storage, but also its battery and expansion ports—are all in the tablet part. In Surface Book in general, and in Performance Base in particular, these internal components are actually spread between both the tablet (Clipboard) top and the hardware base. There is battery in both, for example, and a dGPU in the base. So when you detach the Clipboard, you can’t use the dGPU. And the battery life is much lower, something like 3 hours. (I’ve not tested this since the original Surface Book, but this piece hasn’t changed in Performance Base.)

For me, the ability to detach the screen is not particularly interesting, except in certain unusual circumstances. That is, I’m never going to use Surface Book like a tablet. But I have on very rare occasion seen the need to detach the screen and flip it around so that it is on “backward.” This is useful if you wish to watch movies in a cramped airplane seat but still want to take advantage of the device’s full battery life, for example.

But that is a nicety, not a requirement, and some PCs have lay-flat or 360-degree convertible designs that would let you accomplish the same thing.

Point being, you should shop around. I would personally compare any Surface Book with three product families: The HP Spectre x360 (which comes in both 13- and 15-inch variants), the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Carbon Yoga (which both feature 14-inch displays), and the Dell XPS 13, XPS 13 2-in-1, and XPS 15. Each offers a premium design, and each can be configured for much less money than a Surface Book with Performance Base. Some—like the XPS 15, in particular—can be had with an even higher-end processor, RAM, and dGPU options than the Microsoft product.

I’ve reviewed some of these products, and I’ll be reviewing the 15-inch HP Spectre x360 and Dell XPS 15 soon. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, of course. But each is also truly excellent. As is the Surface Book with Performance Base.

On that note, the Microsoft Surface Book with Performance Base is a well-made and nicely designed premium PC with truly useful features and incredible battery life. As a writer, I find myself particularly drawn to its excellent display, keyboard, and touchpad. You could save some money by looking at lower-end Surface Book models—or the competition—for sure. But you would be hard-pressed to find another PC with this combination of elan and utility.

Surface Book with Performance Base is highly recommended.



  • Gorgeous 3:2 PixelSense display
  • Versatile, attractive and durable form factor
  • Excellent battery life
  • Superior keyboard and precision touchpad


  • Expensive
  • Slightly big and heavy
  • That weird hole
  • Unclear if the dGPU warrants the additional cost


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Conversation 40 comments

  • jim.mcintosh

    11 March, 2017 - 1:55 pm

    <p>Glad to see you had a "misguided (and self-inflicted) adventure"&nbsp;&nbsp; It makes me feel better to know I'm not alone.&nbsp;</p><p>I just had one of those &nbsp;with my Lumia 929 &amp; the &nbsp;Fast Ring and haven't yet got over the "you idiot" phase…</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      11 March, 2017 - 2:22 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#89839">In reply to jim.mcintosh:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yep. 🙂 If I'm being honest with myself, most of the problems I have are self-inflicted.</p>

      • Simard57

        13 March, 2017 - 12:30 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#89841">In reply to Paul Thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>As Jerry Pournelle used to say, you make those mistakes and write about them so we do not have to.</p><p><br></p><p>I miss Choas Manor</p><p><br></p>

  • ChristopherCollins

    Premium Member
    11 March, 2017 - 2:04 pm

    <p>What I would really love when they do a refresh is a dGPU model that could be an 'X-Box Edition'… Something for the gamers and other graphically intense users… Seeing as they only need to make a base for that, it could make for an interesting addition to the product lineup. Just get AMD to provide a mobile GPU version of something as close as possible to Scorpio.</p><p><br></p><p>Even if it rendered at a lower resolution and had a high quality upscaler, I honestly think it would sell.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      11 March, 2017 - 2:23 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#89840">In reply to ChristopherCollins:</a></em></blockquote><p>Funny, was literally just thinking about that as I attached an Xbox Wireless Adapter to a laptop: This should just be built in. And there should be a gaming SKU/base that favors GPU perf over battery life. </p>

      • ChristopherCollins

        Premium Member
        11 March, 2017 - 4:12 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#89842">In reply to Paul Thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Well, we know they read the site, so I will hope for the best. It just makes so much sense with the Windows 10/XBox cross platform push. I think they missed 'some' sales by not offering the base separate. Do a trade in on bases and use the trade ins as refurbs/warranty replacements.</p><p><br></p><p>I am excited to see what they come up with for SB2. I'm also glad they waited to get Kaby Lake right (I hope that is what they were doing).</p><p><br></p>

        • MacLiam

          Premium Member
          11 March, 2017 - 5:38 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#89863"><em>In reply to ChristopherCollins:</em></a></blockquote><blockquote>Concur. The performance base isn't enough by itself to make me buy an entire new Book since the one I have had for a year remains one of the best computers I have ever owned. My inclination is to wait for Book 2 and see if the improvements are enough to tempt me into a replacement. But if MS provided a base-only purchase option, or a trade-out offer as you describe, there's a chance I would go for it.</blockquote><blockquote>Still, I'm not sure I would consider one of the Performance Base models even if I didn't have a high-end (but not biggest) SB already. We ought to be fairly close to SB2 availability, and if they look good enough to wait for, I suspect I would. I have been an early adopter of various new devices in the past, but I don't have to rush to be among the first at the checkout counter every time. </blockquote><p><br></p><p><br></p>

      • Chris_Kez

        Premium Member
        11 March, 2017 - 9:08 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#89842">In reply to Paul Thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>I do expect Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2 will include native support for Xbox controllers. I'd be pleasantly surprised by a gaming base, but do expect they'll also talk about mixed reality compatibility when the Surface line is refreshed.</p>

  • Mike Turner

    11 March, 2017 - 7:37 pm

    <p>Surely if you don't like the headphone position in tablet configuration then you just turn the tablet upside down…</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      12 March, 2017 - 9:39 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#89875">In reply to Mike Turner:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>I explained that. But that doesn't help when you're in laptop mode, which I am about 100 percent of the time.</p>

      • Mike Turner

        12 March, 2017 - 4:44 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#89942">In reply to Paul Thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Apologies if you explained it, but I didn't/can't see the reference. I must admit I use wireless headphones and so I don't come across the problem at all. The lack of USB port in the clipboard, on the other hand, is far more annoying.</p>

  • Chris_Kez

    Premium Member
    11 March, 2017 - 9:22 pm

    <p>Paul, is there a story behind your reluctance to try out drawing with the pen despite your natural talents and background? It's like a Division I basketball player who finishes that last tournament game then never steps on the court again.</p><p>You're passing on an opportunity to really further differentiate your reviews from most of the other mainstream tech press.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      12 March, 2017 - 9:44 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#89885">In reply to Chris_Kez:</a></em></blockquote><p>It's not a reluctance, it's a disinterest. I just don't need/want it, and don't feel I have much to say about this peripheral. I recognize that some people like/need/use it. I'm just not one of them.</p>

  • rameshthanikodi

    11 March, 2017 - 9:46 pm

    <p>there is nothing quite like this product on the market. The closest you can get is the 15" Yoga 720, which has active pen support, a screen you can flip, and a dGPU (gtx 1050). But its 15", so when you want to use it as a tablet, you end up with an excessively large canvas instead of a the more elegant 3:2 clipboard you get with the surface book.</p><p>People looking for just a laptop with a good dedicated dgpu should take a look at the Dell XPS 15 inch. It's more compact than other 15-inchers and comes with a GTX 1050 + an i7-HQ quad core processor which will give you way better performance than this surface book. Another good option would be of course the Razer Blade with the GTX 1060, but you don't get <em>Dat Screen </em>(tm) from Dell.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      12 March, 2017 - 9:39 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#89892">In reply to rameshthanikodi:</a></em></blockquote><p>I'll be reviewing the Dell XPS 15 soon as well.</p>

      • rameshthanikodi

        13 March, 2017 - 6:54 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#89941">In reply to Paul Thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Looking forward to it Paul!</p>

  • Narg

    11 March, 2017 - 11:02 pm

    <p>I'll admit. why not get this setup.&nbsp; It's sexy as all hell.&nbsp; Probably the most sexy machine for sale today.&nbsp; But, few, if not extremely few will require the true flexibility of a machine of this caliber.&nbsp; For most that buy this, a far better laptop will do 99.9% of what they need done.&nbsp; Including discreet graphics.</p><p>Negativity aside.&nbsp; I appreciate this machine, for all it's worth.&nbsp; But after a few installations of it in the wild, I have a hard time recommending it over other much more capable machines, depending highly upon the need and use.</p><p>P.S. I like the hole….</p>

  • RobertJasiek

    12 March, 2017 - 1:01 am

    <p>Although no review can cover everything, reviews on expensive mobile devices must also consider battery replacement (service) and general repairability as to cost and guaranteed period of availability. Is the product good for 6 months or 6 years? It is advertised to replace a notebook / PC but does it have its lifespan? –robert jasiek</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      12 March, 2017 - 9:38 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#89907">In reply to RobertJasiek:</a></em></blockquote><p>How exactly would I review the long-term reliability of a battery after less than two months of use?</p>

      • RobertJasiek

        12 March, 2017 - 10:05 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#89940">In reply to Paul Thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>1) Only researchers etc. have facilities to simulate long term use. You cannot do it.</p><p>2) As a tech journalist with good contacts and access to reports, you can evaluate experiences of others with earlier versions of models.</p><p>3) You can inform about device guarantees or their absence; available service treaties with conditions, lifespan, inclusion of battery exchange service; manufacturer promises for battery lifespan, duration in years of availability of replacement batteries, same for repair; or absence of such; cost of repair, battery exchange service or, if not offered, cost of whole device exchange.</p><p>In summary, many manufacturers want us make believe that repair or battery exchange will never be necessary. You can offer your opinion about how realistic that is for different usage scenarios incl. that of intended long-term use as a PC or terminal replacement.</p>

        • Paul Thurrott

          Premium Member
          12 March, 2017 - 4:02 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#89946">In reply to RobertJasiek:</a></em></blockquote><p>It's normal for modern laptops/portable PCs to have non-replaceable batteries, so this hardly seems worth mentioning, sorry. I could do lots of things. I'm not sure I have anything to offer here.</p>

          • RobertJasiek

            12 March, 2017 - 4:56 pm

            <blockquote><em><a href="#90004">In reply to Paul Thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Of course it is your decision what you emphasise in reviews. Let me just point out the following. a) I am an example of a reader who does not find covered his topics of major device aspects (reflectance, period of availability of replacement batteries, battery duration at maximal brightness outdoors). b) There are tech journals (c't) or sites (DisplayMate) always covering some such aspects because they share my view that one must not simply accept current low standards of manufacturers as to these aspects but insist on change for better quality and service. (You have the same spirit for other aspects, such as criticising crapware.)</p>

  • derylmccarty

    Premium Member
    12 March, 2017 - 3:04 am

    <p>Agree with several of you that the SB is the finest computer I have owned. I do use the tablet and pen a fair amount as a member of various community boards and commissions. And I am of an age that written notes make sense and typed notes do not make it into the brain. </p><p><br></p><p> I have had only one problem of note, the right side latch would uncouple a bit and give all kinds of warnings and whistles. I could force it back down but after a while it would unlatch again. After one particularly annoying set of "reseats" I may have accidentally tapped the edge of the tablet a bit too vigorously but to my surprise out popped a fingernail from the latch "hole". Never another problem. </p><p><br></p><p> There is an issue Paul mentioned a few reviews ago that at the time (in my home office in winter darkened Washington) I thought was superfluous: the keyboard (I think he was reviewing the new ergo Surface keyboard which I also own) did not have enough contrast nor is it backlit. I find that same true of the SB. In dim light, no problem since it is backlit, and even in twilight the KB when the KB is not lit, the contrast is fine. But in bright lighting (am visiting mom in Hawaii this week) or in twilight with the backlighting on I cannot distinguish a single key. Perhaps there ought to be a way to color and "not select" backlighting depending on the ambient lighting. The screen contrast, OTOH, is fantastic even in the bright Hawaiian sun. (NOTE: not at the beach. First because you should keep beach fun and computer fun separate. Second, I don't ever want to test whether sand and any part of a $3199 computer go together.)</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      12 March, 2017 - 9:41 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#89915">In reply to derylmccarty:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yeah, keyboard backlighting really does seem to work better and at more times of day when the keys themselves are black/darkly-colored. On this device, the silver HP's, and more PCs, the gray color of the keys is less than ideal for backlighting.</p><p><br></p><p>The latch issue is interesting. On my previous Surface Book I may have experienced something similar to that where the screen would seem a bit detached on one side and you could see light through there. </p>

  • JC

    12 March, 2017 - 4:17 am

    <p>Good review, but not interested. There are cheaper alternatives out there for the general population. Who spends $3000 every year to get the latest hardware? </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      12 March, 2017 - 9:38 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#89916">In reply to JC:</a></em></blockquote><p>Every year? I assume some people are new to Surface Book.</p>

      • JC

        12 March, 2017 - 12:08 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#89939"><em>In reply to Paul Thurrott:</em></a></blockquote><p>To quote you in you first review back in October 2015… 'But you can spend over $3000 on a Surface Book if you want copious amounts of RAM and storage, not to mention a Core i7 processor and/or the discrete NVIDIA graphics.'. And to Quote you again in November 2016… 'Microsoft’s Surface Book with Performance Base and Surface Dial are now available for purchase. Surface Book with Performance Base starts at $2400 and maxes out at $3300, depending on configuration.'</p><p><br></p>

        • Paul Thurrott

          Premium Member
          12 March, 2017 - 4:01 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#89957">In reply to JC:</a></em></blockquote><p>Thanks for quoting me, but I'm not suggesting anywhere that anyone buy a new one of these every year.</p>

    • John Scott

      22 March, 2017 - 9:58 am

      <blockquote><a href="#89916"><em>In reply to JC:</em></a><em> I agree, overall its a nice notebook but for the money I am not sure its the best value. </em></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • G33kDadof4

    12 March, 2017 - 10:00 am

    <p>Thanks Paul! thats a nice breakdown. We bought the dGPU model as soon as it released in 2015 for my wife, she is an architect, uses lots of software like Autocad, Sketchup, Revit, photoshop and such. The unit was brilliant, worked well, if a bit under powered, pricy, but not overly when we expense it as a tool. This new performance base unit is definitely under consideration as an upgrade. I am glad you mentioned the extra weight, that will be a consideration, however, having the detachable clipboard has been well worth the price as she uses it for everything from note taking to sketching. It made her basically paperless almost instantly. It has been right at the bottom end of performance with the demands of the software she is running, but not so much as to make it less useful. This new one with the Nvidia with Pascal architecture may be exactly what she needs. Initial input from people using it are saying that it handles Autocad exceptionally well as it is designed for workstation graphics applications and makes a geforce card function more like a quaddro. (In my opinion, Autocad is an old program that isn't well written, doesn't really utilize multi core processors or hyper threading and instead just relies on the video card to carry it) I only wish they had a trade in program or something…</p>

  • will

    Premium Member
    12 March, 2017 - 10:42 am

    <p>Paul, I read that the Surface Connector is actually something other than USB and actually closer to Thunderbolt 3 per a <a href="; target="_blank">Reddit </a>post.</p><p>I am just curious what the correct answer is :)</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      12 March, 2017 - 4:03 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#89954">In reply to will:</a></em></blockquote><p>It's USB-based, according to what Microsoft told me.</p>

      • will

        Premium Member
        12 March, 2017 - 9:34 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#90005"><em>In reply to Paul Thurrott:</em></a></blockquote><p>I believe that you are right. </p>

  • BoItmanLives

    12 March, 2017 - 5:41 pm

    <p>They still haven't dropped that ugly hinge.. </p>

  • VMax

    Premium Member
    12 March, 2017 - 8:59 pm

    <p>For what it's worth, what I would consider to be the form factor of the Surface Book (a proper laptop with a removable screen, not a tablet-with-keyboard-cover arrangement) isn't unique – Lenovo's ThinkPad Helix was launched in early 2013, and the Helix 2 went on sale a year ahead of Surface Book's announcement.</p><p>That's not to say there aren't important differentiators in the form factors – primarily, Helix doesn't have the gap whilst SB has a larger display with a better aspect ratio. But the concept is very similar, it isn't unique to Microsoft.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      13 March, 2017 - 10:34 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#90048">In reply to VMax:</a></em></blockquote><p>It's unique if no one has ever heard of or seen a Helix. :)</p>

  • Narg

    13 March, 2017 - 9:06 am

    <p>I disagree on the Surface Connect take here Paul.&nbsp; It's not flawed, and not outdated.&nbsp; Still widely preferred by many because it works so well.&nbsp; Just use the light on the connector to know if you are properly connected or not.&nbsp; Do you find that light on USB connectors?&nbsp; Nope, and they too can have connection problems, even when they appear good from a slight glance.&nbsp; I'd much prefer a magnetic connection over USB for power and special functions, any day.</p><p>And, if you don't believe magnetic power plugs are popular, then why do these get 850% funding?&nbsp;; One of many such projects, not to mention dozens of similar devices already for sale on Amazon and eBay.</p>

    • Simard57

      13 March, 2017 - 12:31 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#90082">In reply to Narg:</a></em></blockquote><p>I appreciate the magnetic connection each time I trip over the cord and it pulls out instead of flinging my SP3 across the room</p><p><br></p>

    • derylmccarty

      Premium Member
      22 March, 2017 - 3:04 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#90082"><em>In reply to Narg:</em></a> I also think that the Surface Connect is not a flawed product. I like the mag hold, especially the "deeper blade" version of the SB and SP4 vice the original one on SP1, 2. However, I don't like the placement of the connector on the base. It should be separated from the MDP by several more cm so that I can use a second monitor AND charge the base at the same time without having to buy a Surface Dock which I think not quite ready for prime time. </blockquote><blockquote>Paul – could you measure the new versus old SB base and see if they increased the separation it is hard to tell from the picture.</blockquote><p><br></p><p><br></p>

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