Microsoft Surface Book Review: The Ultimate Laptop Get a laptop and tablet without compromising day-to-day functionality.

The Microsoft Surface Book, tablet and laptop all in one. After using Apple computers for the past five years, I was very curious to see how easy it was to transition back. Let’s be honest; the Surface Book aims to get consumers to switch back from a MacBook. Labelled the ‘Ultimate Laptop’, the device is a spin on the classic notebook, press a button, and the screen detaches, becoming a tablet. Is it that simple?

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Years ago, there was enough reason to go for a Mac, no additional security software, OS X, LINUX and Photoshop or the trackpad. Even just a change from Windows, or even a function as simple as the screenshot. From that point, we didn’t give PCs a chance (myself included). We turned our noses up at PC users and laughed. Remember your last mate to make the switch from their lame PC to a Mac; we pitied them, and as bad as that sounds it was true. Over the years, Microsoft has been developing products such as the Surface Book, that never gained much traction. If you’re like me, you have missed a lot of progression regarding Windows and Microsoft products. The Surface Book is a testament to that statement.

Creating something that was aesthetically pleasing was a must for Microsoft when designing the Surface Book. The design team has done a decent job, bar one factor. When closed, the keyboard or base doesn’t sit flush with the screen. The folding hinge creates a large gap between the two. Let’s just assume this design was critical to the success of the overall idea of laptop/tablet. Other than this the Surface Book is clean, modern and desirable.  The keyboard, lock and volume buttons all look and feel great. It retains legacy ports like full-size USB 3 and an SD card slot, unlike Apple’s new MacBooks. However, disappointingly it does not have an HDMI input.

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I worried that Microsoft would try too hard to get the best of both a laptop and tablet, driving both aspects to fall short of what they really should be, this was not the case.  Before we go any further, the Surface Book is primarily a laptop with the tablet being the secondary use, and this is how I used the device.

Being built with 6th gen Intel core processor, it’s perfect for professional software. It provides a full tablet and stylus mode for art and creative work. Photoshop and illustrator run very smoothly, heavily aided by the Surface Pen. The screen was sensational, a 13.5 inch 3000×2000 high-resolution PixelSense display. A 6M pixel screen is a massive step up from the 13 inch, 4.1M pixels Macbook Pro screen. Running a NVIDIA GeForce graphics processor, you will notice the difference just by looking at a regular internet page, let alone images or videos. The trackpad functions just as a MacBook’s would, many of the gestures, shortcuts and features are similar to what you already know. Scrolling, switching programs, zooming and more is easily picked up.  Overall battery life claims to be 12 hours. Having multiple programs open, music playing and other day-to-day functions,  it will get a good 8 hours. Depending on daily usage, it will happily stay on overnight, ready for hours of use the next day.

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Press a button and the laptop is transformed. Lightly detaching the touchscreen to use as a tablet. Alternatively, turning the screen around on the base to use draw mode. This is where the Surface Pen, a standard feature, really comes into use.  Graphic design and sketching apps reach that next level with the stunning display. Touch response is almost perfect with both the Surface Pen and fingers.  I used the Surfacee Pen in tablet mode, finding it to be very decent, in appearance and functionality. The pressure sensitive pen makes drawing and writing a real as possible, even including a rubber, then magnetically attaching to the side of the screen when not in use. The battery life of the tablet by itself is not great, 2-3 hours of browsing and videos. Understandable, as it’s still running Windows 10 as a tablet. Furthermore, you can reattach it to the base, continuing use as a tablet and gaining extra battery life.

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The Surface Book exceeded my expectations during everyday use. I never imagined it could rival a MacBook Pro. Biometric security with facial recognition that remembers multiple faces, eliminating the need to enter a password.  This type of technology doesn’t detract from the battery life as well. When you’re using the Microsoft Surface Book, you are essentially running with two batteries, one in the screen and base. Windows 10 Pro allows iTunes, iCloud and your iPhone to function with the Surface Book and streaming platforms like Spotify are also easy to install and use.  Due to the detachable screen, the headphone jack isn’t located on the base, but the top right corner of the screen if it’s being used as a laptop.  The inbuilt speakers are decent if you’re sitting in a quiet room but may struggle outdoors; this is the case for most laptops.  Screenshotting is made easier with the snippet tool, allowing you to take screenshots in a similar fashion to a MacBook.

Is it the ultimate laptop? Almost. Overall the Surface Book impressed me a lot, actually making me consider a swap from a MacBook. However, starting at $2069 for the lowest model and going up to $4454, you have to fork out for this great device. Mixed in with the battery life and some other minor issues it just falls short of the ultimate laptop. Still, the idea of two devices in one really tickles my fancy, making me very intrigued for the future of the Surface Book and other Microsoft products in general.

Head to microsoft.com/en-au/surface for more info and check out the full specs.

 

 

 

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