Microsoft Surface Laptop Review: When the Heart Rules the Mind

Posted on December 16, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 101 Comments

Microsoft Surface Laptop Review: When the Heart Rules the Mind

Released mid-year, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is one of the most attractive and desirable portable PCs of 2017 despite its dated and minimal expansion and lack of 2-in-1 or even lay-flat capabilities.

Viewed within the context of Microsoft’s stated goals for its Surface lineup—which is to create new product categories—the Surface Laptop seems to come up short. It’s just a traditional laptop, after all, and doesn’t offer any 2-in-1 capabilities, as with all other Surface products.

But Surface Laptop is a paradox. The innovation here, which I feel will be very compelling for many users, is the design. Surface Laptop is gorgeous to look at, pleasant to the touch, and a joy to use. So let’s start there.

Design

Thin and light, Surface Laptop cuts a dashing and professional figure that I feel has cross-generational and cross-market appeal. And this is somewhat unique: Surface Laptop should find eager customers among both men and women, with professionals and students, and with the young and the old.

The general design is, of course, familiar. Surface Laptop, like every Ultrabook that’s shipped in the wake of Apple’s MacBook Air, is your basic traditional laptop in how it looks and how you’ll use it.

Surface Laptop is thinner, lighter, and smaller than MacBook Air

At roughly 2.8 pounds, Surface Laptop is lighter than the 3-pound MacBook Air. It’s also thinner, at .57 inches, compared to .68 for the Mac. That said, several PC Ultrabooks best Surface Laptop in each category. The new HP Spectre 13, for example, weighs just 2.45 pounds and is .41 inches thin.

So, what really sets it apart?

First, most Surface Laptop models are available in four color choices—Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold—a unique differentiator over competing products.

The review unit is an elegant Graphite Gold color

To achieve this feat, Microsoft switched from the magnesium material it uses with other portable Surface products to aluminum, which can be more easily anodized to create a colored seal. Yes, that coating can be scratched off, revealing the silver aluminum underneath. But in a month or so of normal usage around my home—I haven’t yet traveled with Surface Laptop, unfortunately—I see only one minor scratch, on a back corner near the hinge.

Microsoft also covers the keyboard deck in an even more unique Alcantara fabric. The firm also uses this material on some Surface Pro Type Covers, and while there were some initial concerns about its durability or resistance to stains, it has held up well so far on those devices.

More to the point, it looks great in each color choice—Microsoft color-matches the Alcantara fabric (like the keyboard and touchpad) to the body color—and feels great on your hands. It’s not a thick fabric, like a rug, but is rather a thin, pleasant-feeling material. As is common in today’s quick-to-criticize world, many will scoff at the need or desirability of such an addition. But I love it. You need to experience it in person and see and touch it for yourself.

Beyond this, there are thoughtful and attractive design touches throughout Surface Laptop. I often complain about the sharp and painful edges of many computers, especially portable Macs, but Microsoft handles the edges on Surface Laptop—especially where the Alcantara meets the keyboard deck ends—in a way that feels right and is not painful. In contrast, the display lid has a laser-like hard edge that looks like it came straight off an Apple product. It gives the device a nice professional look and does so in a place where it won’t hurt your hands as you use the device.

The hinge design is nice, too, and different—and much less complex—than that of Surface Book 2. It provides for a smooth, single-handed opening motion that is quite pleasant.

Of course, the unique Surface Laptop design also comes with some downsides. The key one being that the device is not particularly serviceable because the Alcantara fabric is securely glued to the device. Point being, if you need repairs, you’re probably going to get a refurbished replacement instead. Also, the display cannot lay flat, which is a curious deficiency.

That's as far back as it goes

Display

On the face of things, Surface Laptop seems like a thinner, lighter, and more elegant Surface Book, which is also a 13.5-inch laptop. But there are subtle differences between the components used in each device. And the Surface Laptop display, curiously, is not the same as the unit used in Surface Book (or the more recent Surface Book 2).

Yes, they are both 13.5-inch PixelSense displays with the 3:2 aspect ratio that I find ideal. Both are protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, too. But “PixelSense” is just a marketing term—yes, just like Apple’s “Retina”—that doesn’t mean a specific resolution; it refers instead to the fact that the display offers a very high pixel count, or pixels-per-inch (PPI). The Surface Book 2 display, like its predecessor, provides a resolution of 3000 x 2000, or 267 PPI. But Surface Laptop is “just” 2256 x 1504, or 201 PPI.

This is very much not an issue. In fact, were I simply not aware of the resolution difference between the two devices, I would never have questioned that they were identical. The display is crisp, clear, and vibrant, and ideal for productivity work. The only possible complaint I could raise is that the taller 3:2 aspect ratio could make it a bit more awkward to use in cramped coach seat on a plane. (Were Surface Laptop a convertible, you could simply use it like a tablet in such situations.) I still prefer it.

The Surface Laptop display is also multi-touch capable and compatible with Surface Pen, Microsoft’s high-performance smart pen. The former capability is a requirement for any modern portable PC, I think, and it works as expected. But Surface Pen compatibility is a throwaway feature: No one will ever use a Surface Pen on a device whose screen cannot lay flat. It’s a non-starter.

Components and ports

Released in mid-2017, Surface Laptop ships with internal components that were common in mainstream portable PCs of that not-so-long-ago day. Which is to say, dual-core 7th-generation Core i5 and Core i7 U-series processors, 4, 8 or 16 GB of RAM, and 128 GB to 1 TB of speedy solid-state storage. (The review unit features a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage.)

Unfortunately for Microsoft, 2017 has been an unusual year for PC processors, and Intel did something unexpected when it released its 8th-generation Core processors in the Fall: It doubled the core count, from two to four, on the U-series chips, dramatically improving performance without really impacting battery life.

So Surface Laptop is disadvantaged, on paper, by this curiosity of timing: It features a less capable dual-core CPU. But this hasn’t been an issue in real-world use, and if performance was your primary concern, you were going to buy a Surface Book 2 or other portable workstation anyway. Surface Laptop performance, in productivity apps like Microsoft Word and Excel, and even in mainstream (non-3D) games like Cuphead, has been excellent.

Surface Laptop (top) is less capable than Surface Book 2, but it’s much more portable

Surface Laptop also doesn’t generate much noise or heat, though the familiar Surface fan noise—a cobra-like hissing sound—does kick in from time to time. I’m very sensitive to this kind of noise, but I never found Surface Laptop unpleasant to use.

Surface Laptop provides acceptable but not quite leading-edge connectivity options—802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 LE—and the Wi-Fi antennas are clearly visible on the outside edges of the keyboard deck to help avoid interference. The 720p front-facing camera is Windows Hello-compatible, of course.

Sound quality from the Surface Laptop’s dual speakers is surprisingly strong, which is especially impressive when you realize that they’re under the keyboard: Whether watching a movie, playing a game, or streaming music from Google Play Music, I was impressed by the crisp, spatial, and loud audio quality. In fact, they sound considerably better than the newer Surface Book 2’s speakers, which is surprising.

Expansion is less ideal. Surface Laptop inexplicably comes with only a single full-sized USB 3.0 port, plus a miniDisplayPort port for video-out, a combo mic/headphone jack, and a magnetic Surface Connect port for power (and, optionally, further expansion via a Surface Dock).

I’ve complained many times about Microsoft’s tone-deaf stance on the modern expansion capabilities of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. But I need to do it again. Yes, the typical Surface Laptop customer will suffer more from the single USB port than they will from a lack of USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. But while few need to drive multiple 4K displays, a Thunderbolt 3-based external dock with GPU could turn Surface Laptop into a real gaming laptop, among other capabilities, and it would further future-proof the device. It’s a missed opportunity.

On the good news front, the headphone jack is in the correct location—near the bottom of the device—unlike with Surface Book 2, where it is inexplicably and awkwardly up by the top of the display.

Keyboard, touchpad, and pen

Speaking of Surface Book 2, Microsoft’s larger laptop has always delivered what I feel is the single best typing experience of any portable PC. And Surface Laptop is very similar: The keys are plastic, as they are on Surface Book 2, but the typing feel and 1.5 mm key pitch are both ideal. The keyboard isn’t loud, like that of the MacBook Pro, but instead provides just the right amount of audible feedback.

The glass touchpad is likewise a success story and a joy to use (as, again, it is on Surface Book 2). It’s not too large or wide, as is the case on many competing products, but is instead right-sized to my preferences. It also performs well, and utilizes Microsoft’s excellent Precision Touchpad technologies to deliver a wide range of capabilities, including multiple, customizable gestures.

As noted previous, Surface Laptop is compatible with Surface Pen. But because that usage makes no sense on this device, I did not test that.

Battery

Surface Laptop surprised me in a very pleasant way when it came to battery life. In fact, I was so sure something was amiss that I checked to make sure I had configured it properly and then ran the test again. Nope, it was correct: Surface Laptop delivered over 13 hours of battery life each time while streaming HD video over Wi-Fi.

How impressive is this result? The larger and dual-battery-equipped Surface Book with Performance Base had previously delivered the best battery life I’d seen in 2017, at 11:30. The previous second-place finisher, the Lenovo ThinkPad 25th Anniversary Edition, which also features dual batteries, clocked in at 9 hours.

I have several more PCs to test before the end of the year. But as of today, Surface Laptop has delivered the best battery life that I’ve measured in 2017.

On a side note, I will address an obvious if mistaken complaint about this kind of battery test—that it “bears no relation to how people actually use computers.” That is untrue. This is very much how people use computers, and the only time most would need this kind of battery life is while flying great distances. I skew the test by streaming the video over Wi-Fi, and not using local playback, and I feel that this is a nice compromise between an artificial benchmark and non-measurable real-world use.

Software

Controversially, Surface Laptop comes with Windows 10 S, Microsoft’s artificially limited OS. The good news is that you can upgrade quickly and easily to Windows 10 Pro, and that you can do so for free. I expect virtually all Surface Laptop customers to perform this upgrade because they will not otherwise be able to run Windows desktop applications—Google Chrome, Adobe Photoshop, and the like—or install third-party drivers for scanners, printers, and other peripherals. Even Microsoft’s own Surface Precision Mouse will not work completely on Windows 10 S because its configuration software is desktop-based.

With an eye towards taking one for the team, I tried to use Windows 10 S, I really did. But it is a complete non-starter, and after a few weeks of (virtually) hitting my head against the wall, I finally did what all Surface Laptop users will do and gave up, upgrading to the far more capable Windows 10 Pro.

Beyond the curious operating system choice, Surface Laptop is about as clean as any Windows 10 PC can be; Microsoft, as you may know, bundles a ton of useless crap in all versions of Windows 10, so Surface Laptop does include that, but you can at least remove the truly objectionable stuff.

Pricing and configurations

Microsoft offers five Surface Laptop models, three of which are available in multiple color choices.

The entry-level model, which features a Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of solid-state storage, costs only $999. But it is also available only in a single color, Platinum, which looks similar to other Surface PCs. You should avoid this model: Aside from the lack of color choices, which I feel is a key benefit of Surface Laptop, 4 GB of RAM is simply not enough to future-proof this purchase. Whatever your needs, be sure to get a PC with at least 8 GB of RAM. It’s 2017, and any new PC should last at least 4-5 years.

If you can afford $300 more, you will get a lot more: The same Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, and your choice of colors, which include Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold. $1299 puts this PC firmly in the premium category, of course, and not everyone can afford such a purchase. But at this trim level, Surface Laptop will be far more future-proof and more able to withstand the demands of the next several years. This is the model I reviewed, and the one I would buy with my own money.

Microsoft also offers three Surface Laptop models that are based on the Intel Core i7 processor. But I don’t feel they’re worth the added expensive. For example, the $1599 model provides the same specs and color choices as the $1299 model, aside from the Core i7 processor, which also comes with Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 integrated graphics. That’s a lot of money to pay for such a minor upgrade.

For $2199, you get 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage, and those same color choices. But the highest-end model, which features 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage at a cost of $2699, only comes in Platinum. Strange.

In my view, the $1299 model is the sweet spot of the Surface Laptop model lineup: You get enough RAM and storage for several years of active duty, and a choice of colors, which I feel is critical. This model easily justifies the additional $300. But the step up to a Core i7 processor and slightly better integrated graphics does not. Stick with the $1299 version.

Recommendations and conclusions

What’s interesting about Surface Laptop is that its appeal falls firmly on the emotional side of the decision-making curve: You will buy this device because of its stunning design, which manages to be both pretty and professional looking. And not for its components, which are nothing special, with a previous-generation and dual-core CPU and lackluster expansion.

But that’s what makes Surface Laptop special. I often hammer on Microsoft for its backwards view on device expansion, and yet I love this laptop. Surface Laptop is, well, just a laptop. And yet it is so much more. It will draw jealous comments from others, especially Mac users. It will make you feel good, carrying it, and using it, and even when it is just sitting on the table, inert.

This is a product I wish to use every day, and in instead of PCs that offer superior components and are, on paper, better values. But there is no value quite like attraction. And Surface Laptop is one of the few PCs I’ve used that triggers a truly emotional response.

Surface Laptop is highly recommended. You’re going to love it.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Sleek, gorgeous design
  • Color choices
  • Alcantara fabric
  • Excellent display
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Excellent battery life
  • Surprisingly strong speakers

Cons

  • Minimal and dated expansion
  • Can’t lay flat
  • Windows 10 S

 

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Comments (101)

101 responses to “Microsoft Surface Laptop Review: When the Heart Rules the Mind”

  1. Avatar

    GT Tecolotecreek

    "The one thing Apple’s providing now is leadership in colors. It won’t take long for us to catch up with that, I don’t think." – Bill Gates, commenting on iMac in colors debut, circa July 2000


    Only took 17 years, guess it was a hard computer science problem. LOL

  2. Avatar

    TEAMSWITCHER

    The MacBook Air is a great comparison, too bad it's also Apple's oldest design still selling. The new 12" MacBook is now the every-man's (and every-woman's) MacBook of choice. The Core-M processors are plenty powerful to format web pages, run spread sheets, create documents, and even edit a short videos in Final Cut Pro. All in a form factor that makes the Surface Laptop look kinda ... "last-gen."

  3. Avatar

    Bats

    It's kinda ironic. For a laptop that is has a Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of solid-state storage, costs only $999....why isn't Paul screaming "Microsoft you're pricing it wrong!"


    Also, this is an old topic. Why is Paul writing about this now and again?

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Bats:

      $1000 is a great price for a PC of this quality. I realize not everyone can afford it. My points about cost are related to value not just price.


      If you're wondering why I'm writing about Surface Laptop six months after it was announced, it's because Microsoft finally let me review it. I'm not sure why they kept me hanging on this one---I got the new Pro right away for review---but they did.

  4. Avatar

    Jules Wombat

    Sorry, I am pretty sure "It will draw jealous comments from others, especially Mac users" is entirely False.

    Most people just see it as a Windows laptop with a carpet.

  5. Avatar

    paulc543

    Please get back to us regarding the Alcantara when the laptop has the equivalent of 1 to 2 years of full-time use. That's about when my "normal" laptops start showing the first signs of noticeable wear, and I typically get 3+ years from a device before donating it to a family member.


    I'm still not sold on the Alcantara retaining it's appearance over the long haul, and unlike metal/plastic laptops that end up just looking worn after a few years, I have to think Alcantara will end up looking down right disgusting after that amount of time.


    Reviews after a month or two of use just can't sufficiently judge something like this. Personally, this issue alone is a deal breaker. Perhaps I'd feel different if I (had the resources) to upgrade my systems every year, but I don't.

  6. Avatar

    jwpear

    Few questions:


    1. What's the screen brightness like on the Surface Laptop? I've gotten a few Dells recently and they're not as bright as older laptops we have. I understand this may impact battery life, but there are times when it is desirable to set the brightness higher--working by a bright window or outside. I just got my wife the XPS 13 (HD screen version) during the MS store black Friday weekend and am disappointed by the screen brightness (Dell claims 400 nits). Maybe there's some adaptive feature I need to turn off? I bought a Dell Inspiron last year about this time and its screen also has limited brightness. Sort of understand on the Inspiron, but not on the premium XPS. Comparing both of these to our 2012-era XPS laptops (XPS 12 and XPS 15z).
    2. What's the expected battery cycle count? I can't find this in the specs. I know they claim 1000 cycles on the SP3/4/2017. And I have to say, the battery capacity in my SP3 has held up well. I noticed that Dell claims the battery cycle count for the XPS 13 is just 300--incredibly disappointing for a premium device. But the XPS 13 is, at least, serviceable.
    3. Is this thing going to be serviced in 3-4 years? There is no way we're going to be able to service this at home (battery) or locally. Will Microsoft support it with reasonable service prices in 3-4 years if a battery or keyboard needs to be replaced?


    I am still tempted to purchase one of these while it is still on sale for $200 off. I think my wife would enjoy the 3:2 screen. I still use a 10 year old Del UltraSharp monitor at home because I love the taller screen. There's just something nice about a taller screen for creative work--like putting on a comfy old shirt.

    • Avatar

      longhorn

      In reply to jwpear:


      https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Microsoft+Surface+Laptop+Teardown/92915


      • This laptop is not meant to be opened or repaired; you can’t get inside without inflicting a lot of damage.
      • The CPU, RAM, and onboard storage are soldered to the motherboard, making upgrades a no-go.
      • The headphone jack, while modular, can only be accessed by removing the heat sink, fan, display, and motherboard.
      • The battery is difficult and dangerous to replace, giving the device a limited lifespan.


      iFixit score 0/10. Planned obsolescence.

      • Avatar

        jwpear

        In reply to longhorn:

        I remember reading that when they first released. Had forgotten. It's scary. If I could get five years out of it, none of this matters. I'm just not entirely confident I will. But then again, my SP3 i7 is going strong at just over three years.


        I don't know why MS can't make their devices more serviceable. That's a great feature worth paying a bit more for. I'll say, the XPS is much more serviceable.


        So, I was a Band 1 and 2 user. I don't think MS would abandon the Surface line like they did the Band. Anything is possible. But MS did ultimately pay me for the Band 2 after the strap failed and they were unable to service.


        I ordered a Surface Laptop today to take advantage of the $200 off sale. I'll check it out thoroughly and compare to the XPS 13 I got on Black Friday. My wife will ultimately decide which to keep--XPS or Surface. It'll be her computer.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to jwpear:
      1. I need a way to formally measure brightness but I find this to be very bright. According to Laptop Mag, this display is 361 nits, which is brighter than all of its mainstream competition.

      2. That is a great question. I will try to find out.

      3. Also reasonable. There is no real servicing to be had here, I think. I bet it's all replacements.

    • Avatar

      will

      In reply to jwpear:

      If you are interested and like what you see, then I would recommend it.

  7. Avatar

    will

    There is one area that I disagree with Paul on and that is that the i7 version is a good performance bump over the i5 version. Not only do you get a good processor bump, you also get the Intel Iris graphics as well as a faster SSD drive. If you take a look at the review on notebookreview.net you will see how it compares and outperforms even the Pro i7 in some ways. The only issue they had was thermal throttling, but the other bumps in performance made up for it.


    The extra cost is worth it.

    • Avatar

      jchampeau

      In reply to will:

      The extra cost is worth it to someone who runs performance testing software or reads reviews of people who do and equates value with higher performance. But for people who don't know what a processor core is or what SSD stands for and just want to use Chrome, Word, Excel, Skype, etc., to get work done, the extra cost probably isn't worth it because the time it takes Word to launch on the $1299 machine is roughly the same as the $2199 machine.

  8. Avatar

    CRoebuck

    My first comment here after many months lurking. I just bought the i5/8/256 Surface Laptop after becoming frustrated with my MacBook Pro 2017 TB (13 inch). It's on it's second screen (scratched by the keyboard) and it's second keyboard (scratched screen obviously AND stuck keys). The laptop arrived yesterday and was in my bag waiting to be setup. Today I was on site with a customer (freelance software developer) and the MacBook decided today was the day to die. Totally, nothing, dead as a......dead thing. Surface was drafted into duty in a hurry and it's performed like a trooper and boy does this keyboard feel like luxury after low travel. I thought I like the low travel until I spent the day typing on this. Heaven.


    So, thanks for the honest review of the Surface Laptop as it was this that lead me to make the purchase in the first place.

  9. Avatar

    mortarm

    >...not worth the added expensive...

    Or the expense.



  10. Avatar

    Max Leibman

    Paul, I suspect the scratch by the hinge may be a manufacturing defect (or the result of one)--I have a nearly identical scratch on my Surface Laptop (blue, in my case). It is in the same spot as yours, and I noticed it on day one. I've also had mine for just over a month, and I have traveled with it, and no other scratches have materialized.

  11. Avatar

    Prebengh

    I have the MacBook Pro 2017 and due to a sale I recently bought the Surface Laptop in platinum as well.

    Regarding your comment on the laser sharp edges that are MacBook like, I have to say you are indeed far off. The edges on the MacBook are pleasant to the touch whereas the Surface Laptop are very sharp, I almost think you can use it to cut things with it.

    And although you might argue that the Alcantara is nice to the touch, it is not a sight to behold, at least not in grey color.

    • Avatar

      Max Leibman

      In reply to Prebengh:

      The grey Alcantara is definitely not very inspiring. I think Microsoft is doing themselves no favors by shipping grey display models to retailers like Best Buy. The gold, blue, and red all look much better, in my opinion. They are somewhat muted/weird colors, so I think even they will be polarizing. But they all are more interesting than the "Platinum."


      I do agree that the edges on the Surface Laptop are the sharper ones. I kind of like it, though--it looks sharp, in the other sense, and I feel like I have a good grip on it when I pick it up.

  12. Avatar

    JBarretta9

    I just returned a Lenovo Yoga 920 for the Surface Laptop. The Yoga is technically superior with a faster processor, ram, and ssd, but I had WiFi issues. It wouldn't stream video in HD even after I updated drivers and the BIOS. They keyboard sounded hollow and the 1080p screen looked bad compared to the ASUS Zenbook 3 (coil whine and fan noise) I returned to get it. I looked at the white HP Spectre at Best Buy the TouchPad had turned yellow and the screen is too upright. The X360 has the overly wide TouchPad with Synaptics drivers. I still think OEMs get the details wrong which I hope the Surface solves.


    I got the laptop at $200 off to match the Yoga on price at Best Buy. I hope I didn't make the wrong decision even though on paper I did.

  13. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    Those who want thin & light need to live with no user-serviceable parts, even needing to ship their laptop off to a service center for a few weeks if, say, the battery needs replacing. If one wants to be able to replace parts, one needs to accept heavy laptops. Myself, I'd take a Dell Precision over a Dell XPS any time, but I'm odd. Not sure if any other OEM bothers with laptops for wannabe body builders.

  14. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    Any PC like this is a waste of money. They'll be out of date in 6 months, and knowing MS, full of bugs and badly supported. I would *never* buy an MS made machine with my money. MS should stick to mice and keyboards - simple enough for them not to screw up.


    Our company recently bought 5 SP4's (not my choice). Out of the box, one was broken, one developed a screen fault, and one had a duff keyboard. We will not be buying any more.

  15. Avatar

    digiguy

    Apart from color choice, the new samsung notebook 9 beats the SL in every department (power, battery life, weight, ports, flexibility: screen can go flat, usb c changing, including with phone chargers, upgradability, etc) and is as good in a couple of others (great sound, great screen, yes it's 1080p, but unless you put you nose on the screen it's gorgeous, better than the surface pro 3 screen, which is already a treat of the eyes). We don't know the price for the 2018 model yet, but base on the past years pricing, I bet it will be cheaper than an equivalent SL... I got the 2017 16GB ram version for $999 an man that's the best money I have ever spent.

  16. Avatar

    Simard57

    have ANY other OEMs adopted 3:2 for their screen choice?

    is this a screen supply issue? I think MS has shown the utility in that ration but they alone provide it.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to Simard57:

      Apple laptops are 16:10 (5:8 for those of us trained to reduce fractions) except for the 1" Macbook Air which is 16:9. Google's Pixelbook is 3:2 as was its predecessor the Chromebook Pixel.

      I suspect OEMs minimize costs by standardizing on as few components as possible, which means one and only one aspect ratio.

  17. Avatar

    markatcristorey

    Excellent review and you nailed the whole heart over head thing. I've had a Surface Laptop for half the year now, and it's my favorite laptop I've ever owned. It's probably not the greatest value or absolute best specs, but there's something to the overall experience that has a value all its own. The keyboard is fantastic, and the trackpad is the best I've ever used. I travel weekly all over the country, and the size is perfect. The alcantara has been a non-issue, and I do get lots of comments from coworkers about how much they like the look and feel of it. And for me, the pen input actually is useful to do a quick sketch of something during a webinar or meeting. The ports haven't mattered at all to me . . . but I do love having the Surface Dock available. I've had some experience with just about all the premium laptops out there right now - Macbook Pro, XPS 13, X1, Surface, and this is my favorite (followed by X1).

  18. Avatar

    dontbe evil

    next version should be 360 degree

  19. Avatar

    Jeff.Bane

    I cross shopped my newish Surface Laptop against other "13 inch" laptops like the HP which I really liked, but there is a breed of what I'll call "giant bezel" 13 inch laptops and it's just no contest. I LOVED the Spectre 13 especially the ceramic white finish but if you want to see what I'm talking about, take a sheet of paper and mark off the screen of the HP then hold it up against the Surface Laptop (or Surface Book). The screen loses a TON of real estate because of that giant bottom bezel. The screen is technically a 13 but it's wide and stubby, not good at all. Surface wins in this case to me, plus all that Paul mentioned.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to Jeff.Bane:

      You need to factor in the aspect ratios: Surface laptop 3:2, HP Specter 16:9. A cynic (which I volunteer to be) would speculate that 16:9 laptops need huge bezels to accommodate the needed keyboard+trackpad depth.

      At 16:9, a 13" screen would be roughly 11 1/3" x 6 3/8". 6 rows of keys 3/4" deep including separation from keys in other rows, gives 4 1/2" for keys, and 6 3/8" - 4 1/2" = 1 7/8". That's not enough for trackpads. Hence screen bezels needed to make keyboards + trackpads usable.

      OTOH, at 3:2, a 13" screen would be roughly 10 13/16" x 7 7/32", and 7 7/32" - 4 1/2" = 2 23/32". Still need a bezel to accommodate a reasonable trackpad, but much less bezel.

      Maybe 15" or larger 16:9 laptops could have much smaller bezels, but 13" screens need at least 1.5" of combined top and bottom bezels for usable keyboards. From my perspective, that means all laptops under 15" should be 3:2 rather than 16:9, but I realize I'm in a tiny minority.

  20. Avatar

    mclark2112

    When the heart rules the mind

    One look and love is blind

    When you want the dream to last

    Take a chance forget the past


    i couldn’t help it...

  21. Avatar

    Waethorn

    What was the material that they used on the Surface RT/2 Touch Cover? The material on that started to show wear within 6 months of average use (the keys and trackpad were unusable before the warranty was over).

  22. Avatar

    glenn8878

    Microsoft needs to make a mobile PC as opposed to a portable PC like the Surface Laptop. Yet, they always miss the mark with features and UI discrepancies. The Surface Laptop is not that desirable without the ports and folding flat features, which other PC companies have no problem fulfilling. Nonetheless, the focus should be placed on Surface Pro with more mobile features and UI enhancements.

  23. Avatar

    navarac

    Nothing compelling here for me. How a bog standard laptop design can be gorgeous is just plain silly.

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    mclanasa

    I’ve had the surface laptop since day one and I have loved it. I loaded Pro as soon as I got it that’s the only downside. I travel a lot for work and it’s held up well. Battery has been great and no power issues seems to sleep fine It never gets hot.

  25. Avatar

    ibmthink

    The real special feature of the Surface Laptop is the 3:2 screen, it is one of the first and so far few pure laptops with this screen format, which is better for reading or coding (while 16:9 is superior for video).


    As many PCs are primarily devices for productivity these days, I think this format should be used in more devices, particularly business laptops. Hopefully, devices such as the Surface Laptop and Matebook X create some movement in this market.


    > Speaking of Surface Book 2, Microsoft’s larger laptop has always delivered what I feel is the single best typing experience of any portable PC.


    What about ThinkPads? :-)



    • Avatar

      Polycrastinator

      In reply to ibmthink:

      Really only if you are unitasking - which to be fair is how the majority seem to work - but I find the moment I’m trying to have multiple things on screen, for instance if I’m working on some systems remotely and also want reference materials side by side, taller aspect ratios hobble me. I want the width because I want things side by side and it gets cramped with a 3:2 screen. I stay firmly in the “16:9 is better for productivity,” camp.

      • Avatar

        hrlngrv

        In reply to Polycrastinator:

        . . . taller aspect ratios hobble me . . .

        I see this a lot.

        Split a 3:2 screen in half with 2 windows left-to-right, and each window has 3:4 aspect ratio, which falls between the aspect ratios of US letter and European A4 paper sizes. Split 16:9 in the same manner, and each window has 8:9 aspect ratio, slightly taller than Post-it notes.

        From my perspective, 3:2 is always better than 16:9.

        ADDED: for 13" screens, half a 16:9 screen would be roughly 5 2/3" x 6 3/8" while half a 3:2 screen would be roughly 5 3/8" x 7 7/32". For 3:2 that's less than 1/3" less width for 13/16" more height. Seems a very reasonable trade-off to me.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to ibmthink:

      Agreed on the screen.


      ThinkPad typing experience is excellent, as are many HPs now. But there is something just perfect about Surface Book.

  26. Avatar

    Billzeal

    I've said it before and I"ll say it again .Paul you are among the best in the business in writing excellent product reviews. When you really like something your enthusiasm comes thru in your writing like no other I know.

  27. Avatar

    skane2600

    I suspect Microsoft would sell more of these if they just shipped them with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed. Their whole Windows 10S strategy is backwards - the first units should have been inexpensive models made by OEMs. Then if the market showed significant interest in Windows 10S, MS could offer a premium device.


    Of course if MS really believed in Windows 10S as the "future of Windows" they would not have provided an upgrade option especially a free one. A true "future" OS would be the best possible version - there wouldn't be anything better to upgrade to.

  28. Avatar

    Usman

    "It will draw jealous comments from others, especially Mac users."


    Pretty much has been the case for me, touchscreen, windows hello and pen support has been the thing that sets it apart from those Mac users, biggest issues in the dev community was lack of bash, but with WSL, that argument has been put to rest.


    So far liking it, just being cautiuous of not ruining the carpet.

  29. Avatar

    Polycrastinator

    I recently got the opportunity to request a laptop for work, replacing my current 6 year old desktop, So with a docking station. I wanted to be able to go to Surface laptop, but with quad core available elsewhere, and missing Thunderbolt for a system which will spend a lot of its time docked, I ended up concluding it wasn’t going to work for me. Which is a real shame, but I went with the Spectre 13 instead.

    I understand Microsoft not wanting to get into the upgrade cycle bandwagon, but in this case, those 2 missing features are really a liability.

  30. Avatar

    Dave Lane

    I recently got my wife a Surface Laptop with the i7 to replace an old Surface Pro 3. I had purchased her an XPS 13 with the 8th Gen i7 and that had weird issues where it would just go to a black screen and start booting. When it was working, it was nice, but the Surface Laptop seems just as fast and much more stable. My wife likes the 3:2 vs. 16:9 form factor much better as well.


    With holiday specials, points and sales I was able to get the Surface for a little less than the XPS in the end, so it has been a good move there as well. She's even used the pen a few times and she loves being able to when needed. It's kind of like having touch. Once you have it, even if you only use it once a day, you want to be able to touch, type, write or mouse with your apps and content.


    I have a Surface Book and I find myself eyeing the Surface Laptop quite a bit for it's size and form factor. It just 'feels' right.

    • Avatar

      shameermulji

      In reply to TexaClone:

      "I have a Surface Book and I find myself eyeing the Surface Laptop quite a bit for it's size and form factor. It just 'feels' right."


      From a hardware standpoint the Surface Laptop is beautiful & well-made. The downside is price. In this day and age, especially when I intend to keep my PC's for at least 5 years, I'd want at least 16GB RAM. This means that, where I live I have to order it with the Intel i7 CPU & 512GB SSD. Here in Canada, that goes for $2,799 before tax and does not inlclude extended warranty. Add taxes and extended warranty and I'm paying into the mid-$3000s.


      An equivalent 13" MBP (without Touch Bar) is around $400 less than that.

  31. Avatar

    RobertJasiek

    The tiny arrow keys make the keyboard unusable.

  32. Avatar

    Jeffery Commaroto

    Does switching from S to Pro impact the battery at all? I am really curious about how that will effect ARM performance in the future. This seems like a device that would be a good indicator.

  33. Avatar

    Travis

    I had a choice to make between this and 8th gen intel spectre x360 which also comes with a pen. I went with the hp. It was cheaper for better specs. Still waiting for it to arrive. Hope I made the right choice.

  34. Avatar

    bbold

    Totally agree, Paul. Great review. I have a base model Surface Laptop, and while I do have other laptops that are faster, they're not as fun and light and easy to use as this awesome laptop. I use mine every day, it's such a joy to use. My fabric palm rest even got a smudge dirty (I noticed after all these months of use.) I got a damp cloth and made it like new very easily. So the fabric truly is easy to keep clean, too. This truly is a great student laptop, I can also vouch for that. Upgrading to Pro is a must, I also agree. My school wanted us to download Adobe Reader DC and the only version in the store is Touch Acrobat which doesn't even work. Had to upgrade to Pro, didn't look back. More options are a good thing. If Microsoft can integrate outside apps somehow into S, I'd consider using S again. Considering you can turn this option on or off (to download outside apps) with Pro, this makes the upgrade a no brainer. A+!

  35. Avatar

    bulls96

    great review Paul and well worth the wait.

  36. Avatar

    will

    We have several of these at work and people love them. I would like to see a SKU with Pro for business. For the 2018 model I would like to see the switch to TB3 and the obvious processor bumps as well as a dark grey color option, but the silver color hides nicks easier.

  37. Avatar

    MacLiam

    The laptop is the only Surface model I have never had a real desire to own. I agree it is beautifully designed, and as a social tool it will undeniably be as good an icebreaker in a coffee shop as a yellow lab in a dog park. But the Book just speaks more loudly to me for a tool in this class because of its additional physical flexibility and, with the Book 2, more powerful internals. So I don't see myself actually buying one -- but if through some error a rich distant relative decided to send me one as a Christmas present, I would keep it and find a way to make some use of it alongside the other Surfaces in the stable.

  38. Avatar

    Bdsrev

    "with a previous-generation and dual-core CPU" the processor is not previous generation and you should remove this line. The current so called 8th gen processors are made on the exact same manufacturing process and have the same micro architecture. Don't believe me and want proof? Go to the tech specs page for the Surface Book 2: because of Intels idiotic marketing, the Surface Book 2 gives you the option of 7th Gen Intel Core or 8th Gen Intel Core . Obviously Microsoft would not offer 2 different generations of processors in the same product, it's just Intels ridiculous marketing confusing matters. The true 8th gen processors are built on 10nm process and come out in 2018

    • Avatar

      digiguy

      In reply to Bdsrev:

      Man, you are trying to invent your own definition of generation. A generation is not a change in architecture. Even with the tick-tock system that was in place for years your statement was wrong. Now it's even more as we have moved past that. A change in architecture can take several generations, even 4 or more. And the move from 7th to 8th gen is the biggest leap in power since the introduction of (2nd gen) Sandy Bridge...

      • Avatar

        Bdsrev

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        the processors in the Surface Laptop and Surface Book 2 are the same gen, the only difference is core count. Core count does not make it an 8th gen processor. Intels next microarchitecture doesn't come out until very late 2018 or 2019, and 10nm shrink of current microarchitecture doesn't come out until early next year, unless there is another delay. It's not right to make readers think they are buying a previous-gen processor in the Surface Laptop

        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to Bdsrev:

          Is there really an industry consensus on what constitutes a new generation processor? Obviously with an informal use of the word "generation", a newer device with additional cores would qualify. It's not as if the number of cores is irrelevant to a potential buyer.

    • Avatar

      Waethorn

      In reply to Bdsrev:

      The 8000 series offer more cores and/or more models with Hyperthreading for the same costs as the 7000's.

  39. Avatar

    [email protected]

    Very supportive gadget because. Today, heart attack and heart disease is a leading cause of death... One in every four dies because of heart problem means, about 610,000 people die of heart disease.


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