Microsoft has expanded its Surface Pro and Book line-up to include an ultra-light laptop – the Surface Laptop.
Where does it fit in the expanding Surface family?
It has a larger 13.5”, 2556 x 1504 screen than the 12.3”, 2736 x 1824 Surface Pro (2017) and is the same size as the 13.5”, 3000 x 2000, Surface Book. It, like the new Surface Pro 2017, uses Intel 7th generation Core i5 or i7 processors.
Why a Surface laptop?
Some feel more comfortable with a traditional clam shell style laptop – something that can sit on your lap – instead of a tablet with a kickstand and detachable keyboard.
While the Surface Pro created the hybrid 2-in-1 category this laptop, and the Surface Book will help redefine the laptop category with its 3:2 screen ratio.
Omnisonic Dolby Audio Premium
3.5mm combo jack
Full sized USB-A 3.0, mini-DisplayPort (4K), Surface Connect (will also be compatible with recently “speculated” USB-C charging dongle)
Wi-Fi AC, Dual band, 2 x 2 MU-MIMO
308.1 x 223.27 x 14.48 mm
1.25kg (i5) and 1.28kg (i7)
Rated for 14.5 hours video playback at 50% screen brightness
Aircraft aluminium and Alcantara fabric (in some markets and configurations also Graphite Gold, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue)
i7/16/512GB $3299All prices include 1-year Office 365 personal subscription (purchased prior to 15/10/17) and free Windows 10 Pro upgrade (to 31/12/17).
Student, Academic and volume pricing available
The nice white box with blue highlights has the laptop and a 15V/2.58A (38.7W) Surface “ribbon” charger with a 5V/1A USB charge port.
Setup is typical of the Windows 10 – it will ask you about security and privacy and it will work without any enabled.
It follows Surface design cues, it is very light, and the screen section of the unit is very thin and able to be lifted with one finger – very “aluminium/grey” with grey Alcantara fabric on the keyboard. There are other colours as well.
How does it perform?
Windows Store does not have the usual test software and as an upgrade to Windows Pro was out of the question all I can say is that there was plenty of power from the i5/8GB/256GB review unit.
Wi-Fi AC was excellent. In theory, it can reach 867Mbps but in practice, this was about 350-450Mbps at 20 metres from the router.
Boot times were impressive – from cold boot to Windows Hello login in under eight seconds and warm boot in under two seconds. Windows Hello added a less than a second.
The Alcantara-covered keyboard has a 1.5mm throw and that is good for touch typists. There is a little key bounce like the Pro detachable keyboard. Using the standard touch-type test, I achieved 95% (of my normal) with no appreciable difference in error rate.
The Alcantara fabric is a hard-wearing material used in premium automotive use as a durable, longer lasting alternative to leather. It should wear very well, it repels moisture and should stand the test of time.
The oversized trackpad supports 5-finger touch e.g. pinch, zoom, etc., – it is responsive and great as it will move the cursor from top right to bottom left in one swipe obviating the need for a separate mouse.
The 13.5” is the same size as the Surface Book and bigger than the 12.3” Pro 2017.
The 3:2 ratio is great for work things like documents and spreadsheets. Native 16:9 content (movies) can be “zoomed” to fill the screen eliminating the top and bottom bars.
It works well with the Microsoft Pen (I have an older 1024 pressure level version) for drawing – less so for note taking as you can’t use it as a tablet.
The Realtek High Definition Audio provides 2.0 sound from dual up-firing speakers located below the keyboard. It gives reasonable separation and provides Dolby Audio decoding. It is loud and clear enough for personal listening or a movie in a hotel room.
Bluetooth and analogue feeds to test equipment showed a clean 20Hz-20kHz signal.
If you are not familiar with Hello it is all about using your face to log in. The unit as a special IR camera alongside the web camera that does facial recognition and checks the image is from a human rather than a photo.
While it is not mandatory to use it – give it a go and you will find it is as fast as typing in a password or pin. I had 100% success with this.
A 1080p video loop at 50% did indeed deliver 14.5 hours. On a 4K video at full brightness, it achieved nine hours. For mixed office use, you can count on 9-12 hours.
The Surface Laptop comes with Windows 10 S (W10S) installed.
W10S is leaner, faster to boot, has better battery life, and should be less prone to virus/malware introduced if apps were allowed from outside the Store.
The only downside is that it can only install apps from Windows Store or special corporate or education stores set up inside that. It is like Apple products only being able to load apps from its app store.
Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro until the end of this year and after that for $79. The Pro version allows it to join a domain – important in enterprise use. After a week of use, I managed to find all the apps I really needed.
Hardware wise it will suit ordinary (chose the i5) to power (i7) users. It is a very functional, light, thin notebook that will please Surface users who are prepared to pay for a premium product. To many, it is the answer to Surface Pro “lapability” issues.
Light and thin
Great build quality and attention to detail
Amazing 100% sRB screen (only slightly bettered by the Surface Book)
Great performance from i5 or i7 but get 8GB RAM
Windows Hello is fast and convenient (makes up for no fingerprint reader)
5-hour battery life (on video test) and 12 hours of general office use
Full-size USB-A 3.0 and an optional dock for dual monitor and other expansion
Mini-DisplayPort – inexpensive dongle to HDMI
Upgrade from W10S to Windows Pro free until 31/12/17
TPM chip for enterprise security/management
No USB-C but a charge/data dongle coming soon
No microSD card but then it supports USB-3.0 and external SSD drives
No Pen supplied – that is a cost issue yet this device and Windows Ink is made for it!
I like it. I would likely take the free upgrade from W10S to Pro as I am a power user but I can see where it makes sense in education and other environments. Perfect for students!