While it wasn’t a complete surprise—I tweeted the basics of this device a few days back—Microsoft’s new Surface Book takes the firm’s tablet line into new territory with a unique 2-in-1 design.
Microsoft describes Surface Book as “the ultimate laptop. But it is, of course, not a laptop. Instead, it is a new take on the now-traditional Surface form factor, a tablet screen with an attachable keyboard base. That said, it does differentiate from other Surface tablets in some key ways. The screen, at 13.5-inches, is much bigger than previous Surface tablets. And the base is a full hardware keyboard, like a laptop, that contains all of the device’s expansion ports.
From that description, you may think that Microsoft has answered a long-running request to create a Surface Ultrabook. Sadly, it has not. The Surface Book is—frick it, I’ll just say it—ugly, with an awkward design due to its admittedly unique (looking) hinge. This detracts somewhat, I think, from the stated goal to create a no-compromises device.
The weirdest bit is that it never closes flat. If you close the screen normally over the keyboard (as you would with a laptop), there is a teardrop-shapped hole towards the base through which air, dust and liquid can get in. Same deal when you fold the screen back over the back of the device, though the bulge in that configuration at least makes for a nice writing angle.
If you can live with the awkward look, however, the Surface Book is packed with goodness. Like any 2-in-1, it’s versatile, and can be used in laptop, “clipboard” (read: tablet), and “creative canvas” (read: really thick tablet with bulge) modes. It utilizes 6th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, can hold up to 16 GB of RAM, and can be configured with up to 1 TB of storage. It can also be configured with a second, discrete NVIDIA graphics chip, which sits in the keyboard base. Microsoft claims it is 50 percent faster than a MacBook Pro.
The screen is 3:2 like Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3, and offers a resolution of 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI). Battery life is rated at 12 hours. 8 GB of RAM is the minimum, and it ships with two USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized SD card slot, the SurfaceConnect port (for power and dock; this is compatible with the new Surface Dock too), and mini-DisplayPort. There are two cameras, but no word on Windows Hello. (It doesn’t appear so.)
Pricing is heady, as you would expect for this class device: $1499 and up. You can preorder Surface Book starting on October 7, with deliveries starting on October 26. My guess is that a fully-configured model will cost well over $2500.
So what’s it like? In a brief hands-on session at the announcement event, I found it to be very laptop-like, actually. The keyboard base is solid, and when connected to the tablet top, with its innards, it seemed very stable and not all that all top-heavy. The hinge looks weird, but works.
I will want to spend some time with the keyboard and trackapd before I know for sure. But now I’m wondering if this is a viable Ultrabook replacement despite the bulky and weird shape. I’ll be getting one for review soon, so I’ll let you know as soon as I can. For now, I imagine a future version that is more svelte and lacks that weird teardrop. Until then … we’ll see.
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