Microsoft’s Surface Book Looks Like the Ultimate Hybrid PC
Along with a more-powerful version of its Surface Pro laptop/tablet hybrid, Microsoft today unveiled a brand-new addition to the Surface lineup. Microsoft’s Panos Panay described it as the “ultimate laptop,” and the spec sheet, at least, seems to bear that out. It’s also the first time Microsoft has made a laptop on its own.
And spoiler alert: It also detaches from its keyboard to become a standalone Surface tablet.
The Surface Book, a machined magnesium alloy laptop with a 13.5-inch, 267ppi screen and high-powered internals, looks as premium as any other laptop on the market, including Apple’s MacBook Pro. When used as a laptop, Microsoft says, it’s also twice as powerful as Apple’s workhorse, even though it’s just 0.51-0.90 inches thin and weighs 1.6 lbs. Like the MBP, the Surface Book tops out at 1TB storage and 16GB of RAM, but it’ll cost you; the base configuration of 128GB storage and 8GB of RAM starts at $1,500, while a fully loaded Surface Book runs north of $3,000. Preorders begin on October 7, and ships on October 26th.
You don’t have to just use it as a laptop, though. The Surface Book’s display detaches from a unique “dynamic fulcrum hinge,” an innovative way to bend that thankfully locks rigidly in place. Because of the hinge’s curve, though, it’s impossible to close the laptop all the way, which might rankle the especially orderly. Tablet mode becomes possible because the battery and Intel Core processor are built into the screen half of the hybrid laptop, while that high-powered GPU is in the keyboard base. The idea is that you’d use the device in laptop mode, while connected to that graphics processor, when playing games, editing video, or typing. When you want to use it as a less-powerful clipboard-size tablet, it detaches from that GPU-packed base for lighter tasks. You can also re-attach the top half of the device display-side up for “draw mode,” which gives you access to that GPU and screen at the same time, albeit with a little more bulk.
When in more traditional laptop mode, Surface Book’s keyboard, has a backlit chiclet-style board and a keyboard that Microsoft touted as “perfect,” and that did feel very good in our brief hands on time. It has short travel that feels long, solid resistance, and manages to be whisper quiet. The new laptop also has a multitouch glass trackpad, an underrated necessity that’s stymied plenty of capable PCs in the past, which feels smooth and gives a satisfying click. Microsoft also claims 12 hours of battery life in laptop mode and three in tablet mode, but your mileage will obviously vary depending on usage.
The result, according to Microsoft’s Panay, is the “thinnest and most powerful PC ever created.”
The new laptop will also work with the Surface Dock unveiled during the Surface Pro 4 demo, but it also has a pair of USB 3.0 ports built in. The main I/O connecting is a USB-C connection to the Dock, and Panay demonstrated its transfer speeds by zipping a 3GB file over it in about five seconds. Microsoft’s certainly taken the lead on Windows 10 laptop design. Now it just needs its manufacturing partners to follow.