A Month With the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6

Posted on January 21, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Microsoft Surface with 43 Comments

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6 are two of the fundamental pillars of the Surface brand. Surface Pro represents Microsoft’s Surface line better than any other — it was a unique tablet that paved the way for many new forms of devices. Not only from Microsoft, but Apple, Google, HP, Lenovo, and others.

And the Surface Laptop was Microsoft’s entry into the regular laptop market. It’s precisely the opposite of the Surface Pro — it’s a regular laptop that doesn’t do crazy things. It doesn’t turn into a tablet, a desktop, or any of that. It’s just a laptop.

I have been using both the Surface Laptop 2 and the Surface Pro 6 for more than a month at my university. Microsoft targets both of these devices at students, and they are very similar in many ways. And yet, there are some vast differences between them too. After using the devices for a while, I really know which one I would prefer as a student, however.

Here’s my experience with the Surface Laptop 2 and the Surface Pro 6. Disclaimer: this is just my experience, it’s not a full, technical review, and your experience could vary.

Let’s talk about the units I have first. Microsoft sent me the platinum Surface Laptop 2 with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. It’s not the entry-level model, but it’s also not the most potent variant either. And that goes the same for the Surface Pro 6 unit — I got the new black variant of the device, which comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB  of RAM, 256GB of storage, a Type Cover and a Surface Pen.

Surface Pro 6 is supposed to be as powerful as a laptop and as portable as a laptop. It gets both of that right…almost. The Surface Pro 6’s 12.3-inch display is just big enough for a device like this. The screen is surrounded by thick bezels that completely destroy the device’s looks, but as long as you can ignore those bezels, you will love the design. And with the new matte black finish, the Surface Pro 6 actually looks really great. At first, I thought the black finish would make the device look cheap, greasy, and not-so-premium, but it really does help the device look premium, and it feels great in your hands. And as for the 12.3-inch display, you will get solid vibrant colors and deep blacks that make everything look gorgeous, especially when you are watching TV shows and movies on Netflix.

All of that is pretty good, but when you want to actually get some work done, the Surface Pro 6 starts struggling. And that’s not because of a weak processor or the lack of more RAM — it’s actually because of the device’s form factor.

When I took the Surface Pro 6 into a lecture to take notes, I didn’t realize it wouldn’t fit on the desk in my lecture hall. They are not very wide, but that worked just fine for the Pixelbook when I reviewed it a few months ago, or even the Surface Laptop 2 and my MacBook Pro. But with the Surface Pro, the kickstand is the problem. Even with the kickstand at the steepest mode, I just couldn’t fit the Surface Pro 6 into the desk to be able to take notes. So I thought I’d use it on my lap, but that’s not very comfortable either. The Surface Pro is very clumsy to use on your lap — in fact, the keyboard is almost impossible to use on your lap if you want to get actual work done. It does the job if you need to make a quick edit or quickly check something on a document, but for more extended periods of usage, using the device on your lap won’t be much of an option. The kickstand is both a good and a bad thing for the Surface Pro.

The small form factor often turns out to be the main problem leading to clumsy experiences on the Surface Pro. If you are taking notes from a document or merely researching online, for example, you have to constantly go back and forth between your browser and something like OneNote. I found myself switching between apps quite a lot when taking notes because you can’t really fit much content side-by-side when you have OneNote for taking notes and Edge for research. This is not necessarily a problem with the Surface Pro 6, but you should be aware of the fact that you don’t get much room for work on small form factor devices like the Surface Pro 6. And I’m sure that’s the same case for similar devices like the iPad Pro. If you are coming from a real, full-fledged laptop, that could be a problem.

The keyboard on the Surface Pro 6 is impressively excellent — it’s a small keyboard with the keys very close to each other, but considering it’s just a typing cover, the keys feel really good to type on. The Type Cover may not have changed all that much over the years, but it has undoubtedly come a long way. One thing I am not a fan of is the size of the trackpad on the type cover — and that’s understandable, considering the small factor of the Surface Pro. But I do feel like Microsoft could really improve this thing a whole lot more — the trackpad isn’t particularly impressive, it’s just…meh. And when you are coming from a mainstream laptop like I was from the MacBook Pro, the trackpad feels really awkward to use.

Inking on the Surface Pro 6 is amazing, that’s all I have to say. If you tend to write a lot, draw a lot, or do a creative degree, this thing is a no-brainer. Microsoft has perfected inking on the Surface Pro 6 ever since the original edition of the device. Inking on the Surface Pro 6 feels incredibly natural, intuitive, and there’s barely any limitations. The software and hardware connect beautifully when it comes to inking on the Surface Pro 6, so much so that I wonder whether this is actually a Microsoft-built product. The company has a whole array of apps and services that are packed with inking features. The Windows Ink experience, which is integrated into Windows 10 itself, is perfect for sketching — it’s not something professionals would use, per se, but for novices like me, this tool is perfect.

And then there is Microsoft Whiteboard. This app is mostly for Office 365 subscribers who wish to collaborate on a digital whiteboard in real-time. And it’s perfect for taking notes and working with others. Just a day before a test I had, for example, I used Whiteboard to practice some Natural Deduction questions. The note-taking experience is mind-blowingly natural, and it literally just works. The real-time aspect of Whiteboard makes things even more impressive when you find out you can work with others on the same whiteboard — and when I was revising with a friend over Skype, Whiteboard came in really handy. The only real problem was that my friend had a MacBook — and so, she wasn’t able to actually ink on the whiteboard because Apple still refuses to put touchscreens on their laptops in 2018.

OneNote, one of Microsoft’s flagship apps, makes the inking process even better. It really shows how inking can be so powerful with features like Ink to Math, Ink to Text, Rewind, and Replay, etc. OneNote brings together the same inking features from other Microsoft apps and experiences and makes it even better.

And all of that applies to the Surface Laptop 2, and basically any other Windows 10 device with a touch screen and a pen. The experience isn’t as natural on the Surface Laptop 2 because you can’t lay the device flat and work on the touchscreen, so it’s much better on the Surface Pro 6 because of the ability to use the device as a regular tablet.

Microsoft’s software and its continued work on digital inking really help the Surface Pro 6 shine, though the company still needs to do a lot on the software side of things. I often found myself scrambling with the Touch Mode enabled on Windows 10 — the user-experience is plain confusing, clumsy, and annoying to use. If Microsoft wants users to use the Surface Pro 6 as a laptop and a tablet, that definitely needs to change soon. The touch mode in Windows 10 has been neglected for a long time, and although that’s no secret, Microsoft really needs to focus on the touch mode in a future version of Windows 10. There are loads of tiny problems and a ton of room for improvement here, especially when you compare it to something like iOS 12 on the iPad Pro.

And then there’s the Surface Laptop 2.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop was a fantastic device, and the new Surface Laptop 2 is exactly that, but better. I love the design and build of the Surface Laptop 2. I am not sure if Microsoft changed the unibody of the device or the manufacturing process, but the build and design of the Surface Laptop 2 will definitely catch some attention from others when you are pretending to get some work done at the coffee shop. The build and design of the Surface Laptop 2 goes head to head with industry leaders like the MacBook Pro when it comes to build quality, and Microsoft’s got themselves a winner here.

An interesting part of the Surface Laptop line that I continue to be hesitant about is the Alcantara fabric. I wasn’t a big fan of the Alcantara fabric on the original Surface Laptop, and I continue to have that exact same view on the Surface Laptop 2. The fabric always makes me feel like there’s some tiny dirt on the device that’s going to stain it, even though there is nothing. And the fact that you have to extra careful about gets kind of tiring over time.

Look, I am not saying that Alcantara is a bad idea. Some of my friends were definitely really impressed by the fabric itself, and they thought the look and feel of the fabric was quite cool, mostly because that was lacking on their Macs. And that may exactly be what Microsoft is trying to do — have a unique edge over its main competitor to grab customers’ attention.

The Alcantara fabric may not be as problematic on the new black edition devices, but on the platinum Surface Laptop 2, that’s definitely not the same case because it’s so much easier to see spots and get this beautiful device dirty. I understand what Microsoft is trying to Alcantara, and it’s welcome to stay — but I wish there was an option to get these Surface devices without the Alcantara for those who prefer plain aluminium.

Surface Laptop 2 fixes everything that’s wrong with the Surface Pro. It’s a regular laptop, for one, so it’s not clumsy at all. The display on the Surface Laptop 2 is bigger, too, meaning you have a lot of work space and less of the constant switching between apps. But the Surface Laptop 2 has its own problems — you can’t lay it down flat to ink on, so you are very constrained on inking if you do plan to do it a lot on your device.

The keyboard on the Surface Laptop 2 is better, as well. I actually love the Surface Laptop 2 keyboard even more than the keyboard on my personal laptop, an early-2015 MacBook Pro. And if the keyboard on the Surface Laptop 2 beats the old MacBook Pro keyboards, you can be sure it easily beats the latest MacBook Pro without the competition even showing up. The keys are perfectly spaced, the key travel is right at the sweet spot, and typing on the Surface Laptop 2 is simply bliss.

The same applies to the trackpad on the device, and although it’s nowhere near as perfect as the MacBook Pro trackpad; instead, it’s a decent competitor. I have previously bragged about how much I love the force touch trackpad on MacBook Pros, and I really wish Microsoft or other Windows OEMs copied that feature from Apple. It would really make trackpads like the one on the Surface Laptop 2 significantly better.

Another area where the Surface Laptop 2 shines is the speakers. Oh my god. This thing sounds amazing for a laptop. My MacBook Pro comes nowhere near the Surface Laptop 2. The sound quality, the volume, the audio range is amazingly done on the Surface Laptop 2. From a technical point of view, the speakers are even more amazing when you consider the fact that the sound is coming through the Alcantara fabric. And even then, Microsoft has somehow managed to make the audio output sound amazing on the Surface Laptop 2. If I am asked to choose a favorite part of the Surface Laptop 2, the speakers would be an easy winner.

Warning: the music played in the following video contains NSFW language. 

Working on the Surface Laptop 2 is a really good experience, too. The device is powerful enough to get most of the work I need to get done without any hiccups, and the performance is smooth throughout. You obviously wouldn’t want to get this device if you need to perform compute-heavy work like video rendering or gaming: Choose wisely. I did install Forza Horizon 4 on this thing just to see how it would play, and it wasn’t as pleasant as I hoped for — the game took ages to load and that’s, of course, not surprising. But the takeaway here is that the Surface Laptop 2 will work (more than) just fine when you are doing basic things like browsing the web, watching Netflix, reading emails, etc.

And it worked just fine for more advanced things like web development or design. I wrote some basic Java scripts on the Surface Laptop 2 and also did a bunch of web development work on the device for a few weeks, and everything worked smoothly. Visual Studio Code runs perfectly on the device, so you wouldn’t have any problems with that — and if you use more advanced IDEs, that won’t be a problem either, as things like JetBrains IntelliJ IDEA worked just fine for me on the device.

Both the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6 are really good at some other things, too. Take Windows Hello, for example. Windows Hello really makes logging into your device much easier and quicker. And as a student, that’s more helpful than I would have expected it to be. When you are late to a lecture, opening up your laptop and logging in can be quite annoying when you are already behind on some notes. Windows Hello takes the annoying part of having to enter your password out and logs you in almost instantly. And it’s simply amazing,

The accuracy of Windows Hello is almost always perfect, and it gets better when you train it on your different looks (glasses on, glasses off, etc.). Windows Hello is one of those things that are incredibly helpful but you don’t actually notice them because that’s how they are designed to work. And when you move to a device that doesn’t have the same tech, it feels really outdated and out of place. When I moved back to my MacBook Pro after a few weeks with the Surface Laptop 2 and Pro 6, I waited for it to log me in automatically — only to realize that I have to enter my unnecessarily long password manually and there is no Windows Hello smiley face on this thing.

Battery life on both the devices is pretty good, even though they aren’t anything out-of-this-world. The Surface Laptop 2 lasted slightly longer for me every day, but it definitely didn’t last for the whole 24 hours, and that’s probably because I usually did a lot of compute-heavy work on the device instead of just browsing the web, reading emails, etc. On the Surface Pro 6, the situation is very similar with the battery life, but I often found the device getting quite hot under heavy load. Watching Netflix on these things — especially on the Surface Laptop 2 with its amazing speakers — is a really good viewing experience, by the way.

Microsoft Edge has also been a notable point in my experience. I completely relied on the default Edge browser throughout the entire month instead of using something like Google Chrome, which is actually something I install as soon as I set up a new device. This time around, though, I wanted to give the Edge browser a try. And in all honesty, I was quite surprised with the browser’s performance. For regular browsing, reading emails, watching YouTube, browsing Reddit, etc., Edge works just fine. It’s turned out to be a pretty decent browser for me, and I was actually pleased with the experience overall. Edge still lacks all the browser extensions you get on Chrome, so that is still quite disappointing. And the F12 developer tools that’s borrowed from Internet Explorer is simply a real pain to use to date, and as a web developer, that’s the main big dealbreaker for me. But if you are a regular student who doesn’t need all these advanced features, Edge will work just fine. At the end of the day, though, that might not mean much in a year’s time since Microsoft is soon going to use Chrome’s browser engine on Edge.

One interesting thing I noticed on both the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6 is the way the display brightness is adjusted. Both the devices’ displays are well lit as you’d expect, but when they automatically adjust depending on the lighting condition around you, it can be a bit distracting. The change in brightness is very sudden, not smooth at all, and it often distracted me. I even noticed the brightness changing when switching between different apps, and it got annoying at one point. I don’t dislike the fact that the brightness is adapting at all — I just wish the change was a lot more swift and harder to actually notice.

And let’s not forget the lack of USB Type-C. Look, I have no problems with having no Type-C ports, but the Surface Connect is not well designed. Functionality wise, it gets the job done — but it’s not comfortable to use. It’s a magnetic connector like the old MacBook Pro charging cables, but the shape of the Surface Connect makes it so that it’s really awkward to plug the device in. It’s a weird problem that I started noticing with both the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6, and I’m sure it’s the same case for other Surface devices as well. It’s not exactly easy to plug your device in with the Surface Connect like it is with Apple’s MagSafe chargers on the MacBook, where it plugs the cable in magnetically really quickly and smoothly.

Then there is Windows 10. The operating system has come a really long away since 2015, and Microsoft has done a great job at improving the OS itself. But I still feel like Windows 10 is incomplete in many ways. Especially when you compare it to macOS, from a consumer perspective, Windows 10 feels rough.

The OS is full of inconsistent design — take the dark theme, for example. macOS introduced a dark mode years after Windows 10, and macOS’ dark mode is already significantly better than Windows 10’s. And that’s only part of the problem — the pre-loaded apps that Microsoft puts in Windows 10 are a disgrace. Microsoft continues to pre-load these apps and pin tiles for games like Candy Crush that ruin the first-run experience of premium devices like the Surface Laptop 2 and Pro 6. And Microsoft’s Surface line is meant to be an inspiration for other OEMs, so if Microsoft doesn’t do anything to remove these idiotic bloatware additions from its own products, best believe other OEMs are going to do worse things. And when you are spending $1000 or more on a laptop, you shouldn’t get such bloatware. Not in 2019. Microsoft simply doesn’t get it, in this case.

That’s really all you need to know about the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6. Both the devices are really similar, and there isn’t a lot to differentiate between the products. Hardware wise, these are fantastic premium Windows machines that could do with some minor improvements here and there, but there’s always room for the next-gen. Microsoft has done a great job with both the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6, and the company’s original vision is slowly coming into realization. It’s about time Microsoft got some credit for all the innovation it’s introduced in the Surface line, and both the Surface Laptop 2 and Pro 6 are good indicators of that. They really do carry on the Surface reputation, and take it to the next level with improvements throughout.

But of course, you are here to find out if you should get the Surface Pro 6 or the Surface Laptop 2. If you want something small and easy to carry around, the Surface Pro 6 should be a no-brainer. It’s perfect for people who prefer portability, and if you are a student doing some sort of creative degree, the Surface Pro 6 is probably the best option in the market. Inking really shines on this thing.

If you are looking to get a lot of work done and dive into a degree like Computer Science, the Surface Laptop 2 is the better option. The build quality is amazing, and if you don’t care much about inking, the Surface Laptop 2 is the best option without a doubt. The keyboard is perfect for typing long assignments, doing research, the display is great, and the speakers are amazing for when you are listening to music or watching something.

And that brings it down to my one last opinion: Microsoft really should build a 2-in-1 Surface Laptop for the Surface Laptop 3. Look, the Surface Pro is really amazing for what it’s supposed to do — inking on the device is amazingly natural and other parts of the device works really well. And the Surface Laptop 2 is equally good, but it does a lot of things better than the Surface Pro. And more importantly, it’s not clumsy because of a kickstand.

So, if Microsoft built a Surface Laptop that gets rid of the kickstand from the Surface Pro and something you can completely lay flat, I think we would have a solid winner. And no, that’s not the Surface Book — the Surface Book is quite bulky and expensive, and the ability to take the display off and use it as a tablet is, frankly, a gimmick.

A 2-in-1 Surface Laptop 3 with a 360-degree hinge could really be a huge success for Microsoft. It would bring the best of a regular laptop and the Surface Pro together into a solid package that lets you get work done, and doesn’t disappoint when you want to ink on it, or simply use it to binge-watch Bird Box.

A 2-in-1 Surface Laptop 3 needs to happen, Microsoft.

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Comments (43)

43 responses to “A Month With the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6”

  1. agizmo

    I've given up in the tablet mode in Windows 10. Instead, there is an option under Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard to show the on-screen keyboard whenever a physical Keyboard isn't present. With this turned on Windows will show the keyboard whenever the Surface typecover is dettached or folded behind the device. You get the advantage of the keyboard automatically popping up when needed, but still get the desktop experience which isn't bad to use with touch.

    Also, wouldn't Microsoft say the Surface Book is they're 2-in-1 device for people, despite it being in a higher price bracket?

  2. Michael_Miller

    Computer manufacturers are loathe to cannibalize their own product lines. That's why Apple has not offered touch on their MAC OS devices as they seek to differentiate tables from laptops, etc. That also may be the reason why the Surface laptop is not two in one as it may cannibalize sales on the SP line. In time that may change but for now, some product differentiation is important. Read the "Innovators Dilemma".

  3. casualadventurer

    I have often heard that the Achilles heel of the Surface line is the kickstand guarantees the device is not "lapable", and I've never understood this. When I have a small desk -- or just my lap -- and I'm not writing a novel but just taking notes, I remove the keyboard altogether, forget about the kickstand, lay the device on my lap and use the onscreen keyboard. Onscreen keyboards are a non-starter if one is writing at length but for taking notes it works just fine. Try it out and let me know what you think.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to CasualAdventurer:

      Would love to agree with you about the touch keyboard, but I can't because the touch keyboard in Windows is painfully dumb. There are far too many instances where the keyboard will cover the text field I'm trying to type into. Sure there are workarounds, like switching to the phone-sized keyboard and sliding it around. I shouldn't have to do that. The OS should be smart enough to resize everything and shift things upward so that the keyboard doesn't overlap the app you're typing into. This works fine on Android and iOS, not so in Windows.

  4. digiguy

    I have Surface 2, 3 and pro 3 plus a surface clone (HP Elite X2). What I can say is that if you don’t use the tablet part, especially in portrait mode, you better go with a laptop. I do because of my work but I guess most people don’t and they have a laptop with a broken hinge...

    I fully agree on the convertible laptop. I have been saying this here and elsewhere for a while. There is simply NO yoga device with a 3:2 screen (absolutely none) on the the market... And I agree that the book is not that and will NEVER be. It’s nice if you want the GPU but if you don’t it’s just too bulcky and heavy. My experience is that heavy laptops become glorified desktops...

    I hope Microsoft can make something light like Samsung is doing with it Notebook pen line but with a 3:2 screen and at least a USB A port (Samsung remove all USB A ports this year...)

    • Simard57

      "I fully agree on the convertible laptop. I have been saying this here and elsewhere for a while. There is simply NO yoga device with a 3:2 screen (absolutely none) on the the market..."

      Very much agree with this comment. I have the HP Spectre-360 but wish it were 3:2. I simply do not understand why the market doesn't offer choices in this way. There are so many different models, why not add 3:2 as a choice as well?

  5. brettscoast

    Very comprehensive post Mehedi

    They're both gorgeous looking devices, I'm not that fond of the alcantara fabric either but MS have done a decent job with it.


    The Surface Laptop really does need a 360 degree hinge to be sensible and practically usable with pen.

    In my view, that is all they got wrong with it.

  7. VancouverNinja

    Hi Mehedi,

    We cannot find the Microsoft Whiteboard app for the Mac - ..."my friend had a MacBook — and so, she wasn’t able to actually ink on the whiteboard because Apple still refuses to put touchscreens on their laptops in 2018."

    Can you let me know how we can locate it?



  8. thebigbaddog

    You are asking fo a two in one. They already offer the surface book 2, which allows detach and flip the screen to be able to ink or you can detach entirely. I guess you should review one of them, sounds like the sweet spot.

    I agree with the windows 10 bloatware, it is ridiculous, and agree with the touch experience, needs improvement. Make sure to use the fly out menu to force it into touch mode.

    Totally disagree on comments about the type cover.they have had 4 iterations, and they have mostly gotten better. This one is nearly perfect. I find the track pad great, prefer it strongly over the mac pro

    The comments about removable battery, nobody does that in a tablet or premium laptop anymore. I run a surface pro 3, and the battery has no issues after 4.5 years.

    I recently left Microsoft after 22 years to try something new. The lapability is an issue for the surface pro because of the weight distribution. 95% of the weight is in the display, not the keyboard, so you can't put it back far enough on your lap to solve the problem. I flip the keyboard under the stand to better distribute the weight. I have spent years using the type covers, and I believe that having a swing or slide addition to the type covers to provide better weight distribution would allow for the type covers and surface pro to be much more lapable.

  9. wp7mango

    Given that both Lenovo and HP do such a great job with 2-in-1 design, such as the HP Folio and Lenovo Yoga, it doesn't really make sense for Microsoft to create something similar. Microsoft have achieved their goal of persuading OEMs to innovate in successful new form factors.

    I'd be very interested in your review of the HP Folio.

  10. jbiggs

    Nice article. Based on your use of them, would you select one of them over your current MBP and/or the latest MBP? I have a MBP now but have tried the SurfacePro in the store. I love the pen and touch screen, but I dislike the tablet mode and other things about Windows. I don’t do any design - just basically office work. My boss has given me the choice of buying either for my next laptop.

  11. Necron

    You can use your Apple Watch to automatically unlock your macbook when you open the lid

  12. psh_vt

    I've had a Surface Pro 3 for many years and I don't understand the problem people have using it on their lap. It's better than a laptop in some ways -- the screen is more stable for touch (it doesn't wobble at all because of the kick stand); the heat of the device is on the screen, not the legs; it's easier to fit in small spaces like airline seats; it's also comfortable to use with your legs crossed -- the kick stand fits over your crossed leg and gives you a chance to change positions during longer work sessions.

    I used it in lap-mode much of the time and found it just as easy to work that way as on my desk. When I work on the computer at home, I'm split about 50-50 between a nice plush easy chair and a home office. I never had any problem doing "actual work" on it, often for long stretches of time on that nice easy chair.

  13. michael_babiuk

    Good article, Mehedi. My best wishes for your continued school success.

    Your article is a prime example of illustrating the well known pros and cons associated with the classic "toaster/refrigerator" debate or, stated another way, are two separate devices optimized for their specific tasks better than one device performing those functions. Since you mentioned a few Apple products, allow me to offer my mobile solution for consideration.

    I'm a believer in separate devices optimized for their functional capability and also having a capability to seamlessly combine in a significant synergetic productivity increase.

    Packed into a lightweight and compact tomtoc premium laptop sleeve are my new 13 inch MacBook Air (retina), a 9.7 inch iPad (sixth generation-Apple pencil capable) tablet/case, an Apple Magic Mouse, a SanDisk 1TB Extreme SSD, an Apple Pencil (first generation), Astro HQ's Luna Display thumbnail sized USB-C dongle, an iPhone XS Max/w leather case folio and all the necessary cables. The system weight of all those items is a tad over five and a half pounds.

    For digital inking, the iPad 6th generation model using an Apple Pencil is very capable while the MBA offers quite an acceptable level of laptop capability (see Paul's review of the new MBA).

    Combined with Astro HQ's software and hardware, the iPad can function as a wireless external secondary display for the MBA while also retaining its capability to operate iOS apps on the iPad concurrently. Also, with current macOS and iOS operating system functionality, communicating and sharing data back or forth between the MBA and the iPad is seemless.

    Throw in the external USB-C SSD, my iPhone plus a dongle or two and basically all computational requirements or contingencies are covered - once again in a mobile system about 5.5 pounds in weight.

    • wp7mango

      In reply to Michael_Babiuk:

      The problem with the toaster refrigerator analogy is that it conviently ignores successful real word multi-function devices, such as...

      Radio Alarm Clock

      Microwave Oven

      Fridge Freezer

      Phone camera



      I'm a believer in a single 2-in-1 device, rather than carrying multiple devices. If chosen carefully, it will meet the users requirements, especially with new form factors appearing.

      For me, the Surface Pro is perfect. But I'm also very interested in the new HP Folio.

      • michael_babiuk

        In reply to WP7Mango:The Surface Pro or the HP Folio are fine computers - I owned the original Surface Pro (with all the accessories - even the battery case keyboard - grin) and several other surface devices before going to the Apple ecosystem primarily.
        But don’t confuse “acceptable or very VERY good” functionality for optimized functionality. I will use just one example you gave but this rebuttal logic applies to all your examples.
        Take the your phone camera (or the Smartphone) example. Now, regarding the camera function, as good as modern camera subsystems (and its associated software) are, a dedicated 35 mm DSLR or Mirrorless Camera always provides better photo capability because that stand alone modern digital camera is optimized for its picture taking functionality.

        • wp7mango

          In reply to Michael_Babiuk:

          The original Surface Pro was poor in comparison to the Surface Pro 3. I had the SP Pro 2, so I know exactly where the problems were. However the SP3 was the design which changed everything, and allowed me to finally enjoy this form factor.

          Your camera example, whilst valid, doesn't take into account that modern smartphone cameras are now so good that they arguably produce similar or better results for the average user than a DSLR, and it fits in your pocket. That's why fewer people are buying dedicated cameras. Again, being an owner of Canon DSLR, I can relate to this in that I now rarely use it because my Huawei Mate 10 Pro is awesome for 99% of my usage scenarios. Smartphones are now optimised for photography. When a multi-purpose device becomes so good at a specific task, there is very little advantage in opting for a dedicated device. But it's ultimately all about choice.

  14. bassoprofundo

    Agreed on the need for an x360 style hinge... I moved to the 1st-gen Surface Laptop from the SP3, and having the true, tablet-style, keyboard-out-of-the-way view option is the one thing I really miss and that keeps it from being the perfect device for me.

  15. Ed

    I've got both the HP Spectre x360 and the Surface Book. I have to agree with Mehedi. I find myself favoring the 2-in-1 factor over the book. It's much faster, for me at least, to change form factors (i.e. tablet or laptop) and it feels more durable. When I go to detach/reattach the screen on the Book I always feel like I need to be careful and not break the pin connectors.

    However, neither one quite has the smooth trackpad experience of my MB Pro, I wish they did.

  16. glenn8878

    The compromise is buying a competitor laptop that folds over. Microsoft Surface can never be the complete solution. Just too many compromises that other companies seem to solve. I just went to a Microsoft Store in Costa Mesa. Sadly, there’s nothing interesting to see. It would be amazing if they can offer Android Phones. At least there will be a reason to stop by.

  17. RobertJasiek

    The review overlooks the two most important aspects: missing replaceable battery, missing (option for a) matte display. A replaceable battery is essential for long use of the devices. A matte display is essential to transform the would-be mobile devices into mobile devices. I want mobile devices that I can use for a long time. Current Surfaces are none.

    • digiguy

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      Sadly replacable batteries are more and more rare, especially in tablet PCs. However a matte display can be done easily with a matt screen protector, so this is not a big deal. Almost all my laptops and tablets (between 15 and 20 devices...) have matt screen protectors if they were not matt to begin with ..

      Having said that batteries are becoming more durable and even after 4-5 years you often still have 80% of the initial capacity...

      • RobertJasiek

        In reply to digiguy:

        Duration of batteries is lottery: you do not know in advance whether you have bad luck with your device. 80% can mean a desire to replace a battery depending on one's needs.

        Which matte protector has been tested for which surface and which stylus so that the stylus works as well as directly on the tablet? Which combinations does Microsoft approve (none)?


      In reply to RobertJasiek:
      If you do not use your Surface on battery the system can be used for decades just fine. It is important to Microsoft that the computers have non-replacable batteries because they are the things which can wear out, and otherwise the computers are solid-state now and so people would never buy new ones if the battery did not die, and as a result sales would tank and innovation would cease and the product would die, and so we are required to accept non-replacable batteries to ensure people buy a new Surface at intervals, though this does not mean one has to use the battery nor wear it out, and my own Surface Pro systems still have new unused batteries and I just plug them in all the time so that I can use them for decades.

      Using batteries is only for people who can afford to buy a new Surface every number of years, but if you can't afford to, then just treat the computer like a normal computer and plug it in before using it.

      • RobertJasiek

        In reply to SYNERDATA:

        With replaceable battery (and matte display and CPU without Spectre / Meltdown), I would buy a Surface (or similar tablet / detachable by OEM). Without replaceable battery, without guaranteed lifetime and without battery replacement service for a reasonable price, I buy none. Microsoft wants to earn 2 or 3 times due to non-replaceable battery but what it actually earns is 2 or 3 times from those willing to buy new whenever the battery becomes weak and nothing from those not willing to spend that much in the long term and waste ressources of the environment.

        For a self-built PC running 10+ years, I spend ca. €75 incl. OS and monitor per year on average. For a Surface Pro, the expected average expense depends on whom to believe concerning battery duration. User reports range from 1/2 year to 5 years. Therefore, using the geometric mean, the expected average expense for a €1000 Surface Pro is ca. €630 per year, or 8.4 times my average expense for a PC. Plainly unreasonable, regardless of how large the error of this estimate might be and regardless of the extra value of a multi-purpose device!

        Think of washing machines. They should last roughly 10 years. Everybody needs one and their manufacturers exist, although they do not sell everybody a new machine every few years just because, say, the water flow fails and repair would be impossible by design. Currently, the design of mobile devices is throw-away as soon as the weakest component fails. Such only works because some consumers feed greedy manufacturers and legislations are too slow to regulate new product categories well. Would you buy an e-car if you had to throw away it as soon as a non-replaceable battery fails? You would rather defend your right at court, and you could because laws give you your right.

        Treat a mobile device like a cable-connected PC as soon as the battery sucks? Uhm, no, this is absolutely not the major operating mode I buy a mobile device for. I need no bad excuses to buy badly constructed devices nevertheless.

  18. JimmyFal

    To think Microsoft has abandoned mobile devices one would have thought that they would have doubled down to improve overall touch capability in the "interim" to the next mobile device. Maybe they have something up their sleeve, but I have learned not to count on that stuff lately.

    I was insulted when Panos came on stage and introduced a Surface Laptop that did not have a fold over screen. That thing looks almost perfect to me, and WTF is going on with that? Anyway my biggest reason for sticking with SP5 is I can park the thing on top of my steering wheel while parked, a fantastic way to work in the car, and the kickstand and form factor make working with pen a dream device.

    I would have liked to see a photo of your inability to park it on the student table. That seems incredible that it would be that hard. Nice review. Microsoft makes the best hardware, and they should have began doubling down on touch and UI the day they dropped mobile.

    I should add, that I am also traveling now for the next 2 months with a Surface GO LTE (plus 2 Surfaces). This thing is fantastic. I am puzzled by why I can use my Windows phone as a car navigation device no problem, but the Go struggles with staying on the road. LOVE this device, and can't wait till it has a Qualcomm chip. Perfect for pulling out the map during a long road trip.

  19. michaeleps5

    Quick correction, the black Surface Pro keyboard is NOT the Alcantara Signature Keybord (they don’t offer one in black), it is just MS’s traditional fabric keyboard

  20. dcdevito

    Great write-up! I just recently purchased a Surface Pro 6 and mostly agree with your points. I will say, though, that I like the kickstand and "studio mode" and also have no issues with "lapability". Couldn't agree more on tablet mode :(

  21. will

    Great write up Mehedi! I believe your points are spot on with the exception of the last part on a 2-in-1 laptop. I agree Microsoft should do something there and not sure what it should be. The Book covers some of those but the laptop is a nicer, easier form factor. Maybe the book needs to become a better 2-in-1 and the laptop need to be able to go flat? Plus they need to move to TB3 for external GPU support if nothing else.

    Either way way great write up and I believe this alone is worth a trip to Ignite 2019 from Paul and Brad!

  22. cheetahdriver

    Interesting. One of our employees is a recent graduate who used the SP3 through school. I asked her about it and she said she loved it because she could record and take inking notes at the same time. She thought that was a much more natural progression. I will have to ask what program she was using though.

  23. solomonrex

    I appreciate this 'long term' review, something that car magazines/blogs have long had but I rarely see in tech. Paul has some similar content, sometimes, but in the gated community iirc.

    I do think that your writing needs some polish, there are too many occasions where you contradict yourself, and immediately. Pick a direction even if you're not sure, stick to it, it will be more compelling. Just … Do what Paul does, really. But, still, good piece.

  24. chriswrightxo

    I think the Brydge keyboard may sort out the use on a lap issues? I use a Brydge with my Pixel Slate when I need to use it on my lap and it's very good. I see that they do a keyboard for the Surface Pro 6. Of course it is extra cost but it may help if money isn't too much of an issue.