How Microsoft Can Improve Surface Book for 2017

Posted on January 20, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 52 Comments

How Microsoft Can Improve Surface Book for 2017

Microsoft is expected to unveil a second-generation Surface Book some time in the next few months. With just a few tweaks, Microsoft can make this nearly-perfect device into flawless. So here’s what I’m hoping to see.

Note: Brad and I discussed this a bit on today’s episode of First Ring Daily as well. This is an expansion of that talk.

Move to USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 for expansion. This is the most important change: Microsoft should abandon its proprietary Surface Connect connector (which is USB-based, but uses a proprietary port and offers limited bandwidth and performance). USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 is the future, and Microsoft needs to get on this train immediately.

Kaby Lake processors. Obvious, I know, but it needs to be said: By moving to newer Kaby Lake-generation Core i5 and i7 processors, Microsoft can finally put the reliability issues of the original Surface Book behind it.

Quad-core processor option. This one is probably not possible because the Surface Book’s processor is behind the screen and not under the keyboard where there is more space and thermals. But if Microsoft is serious about making this the ultimate laptop, and about competing with MacBook Pro, this needs to be an option.

Fewer models. Because Microsoft introduced the Surface Book with Performance Base one full year after the device debuted, there are now far too many Surface Book models. But this is easy to fix: Next-generation Performance Base models should simply replace, and not augment, existing dGPU models. Simple.

More ports, better positioned. Today’s Surface Book offers two full-sized USB 3 ports and an SD card reader on the left and miniDisplayPort on the right. I recommend changing this to one USB 3 port and one USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port on the left and two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right. (Brad thinks keeping the SD card reader is key to retaining/gaining professional photographers, but I don’t see that as an issue.) It would be nice if the screen part of the device—the Clipboard—could support at least one USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port as well.

Black keyboard keys. One thing I find very irritating about the backlit keyboards on Surface Book (and HP laptops, too, actually) is that the backlighting is often hard to see against the gray color of the keys. These keys should be black, as they are on Apple’s MacBooks,

Move the headphone jack. The location of the headphone jack today is the worst-possible place it could be, so that when the Surface Book is open normally (in laptop mode) it’s way up at the top right. This means that the cord for your headphones drapes across the screen when you watch a video. Just move it to the bottom right, problem solved.

Fingerprint reader. I remain unimpressed by the speed of the camera-based Windows Hello functionality in the current Surface Book. But the bigger issue is that I prefer a fingerprint reader because it offers an explicit way to sign-in. At the very least, this feature should be optional. But this is the ultimate laptop, right? It can have both.


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