[HANDS ON] Microsoft’s Surface Book

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A couple of weeks ago Microsoft stepped into the fray to launch its first own-branded laptop, the Surface Book, and we managed to get a hands-on experience with it right in Microsoft’s backyard in Redmond.

Immediately, the first thing that you’ll notice is just how light it is, with its slender 312.3mm x 232.1mm x 22.8mm housing weighing in at 1.5kg when the keyboard and screen are connected to each other.  Compared to the new MacBook Air, it is 500 grams heavier than the 11 inch version, and just under 200 grams heavier than the 13 inch model.

Naturally, the two separated are even lighter apart, and it is very easy to see why this would appeal to designers and people who would use the screen as a tablet. What will also appeal to designers, is the stylus that is included. This snaps magnetically to the side of the screen; it’s novel, but we think it won’t be long before the stylus goes missing, as there is no real space to store it safely.

The screen is held in place with what Microsoft calls muscle wire. This is a very fancy term for a hinge designed to lock in place through carefully crafted wedges on the casing.

The wedges also prevent the screen from flipping back on itself, so if you want to lay it flat on a surface, you would have to detach the screen, turn it around, and snap it back in.

The muscle wire that keeps the screen and keyboard attached.
The muscle wire that keeps the screen and keyboard attached.

Oh, and the screen doesn’t just pop off. Here, you have to press a button on the keyboard that releases the clips, and only then can you carry it around. The same needs to happen if the screen has been flipped over.

In terms of tech specs, it has a 13.5 inch PixelSense display, Solid state drive for storage, 6th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, and you have the choice of 8GB or 16GB RAM of memory.

In terms of the keyboard, it’s your stock standard chicklet keys found on many thinner laptops today. In comparison, it’s almost identical to Lenovo’s Yoga series. With that said, the keys are appealing to the touch and they are well spaced apart. The track pad is as iffy as any trackpad, but it does the job just fine.

In conclusion, it’s an admirable approach from Microsoft, but whether it is enough to entice people away from their current products is still to be seen. It’s a Surface tablet with a sturdy detachable keyboard – that is pretty much it. We still wouldn’t say no to one, though.

Microsoft hasn’t had much luck with launching the products in South Africa either, so whether the Surface Book will be launching here is still to be seen.

We will definitely let you know once we have confirmation if it does.

The Microsoft Surface Book launches from $1500 on October 26.

Charlie Fripp is a guest of Microsoft in Seattle for its Microsoft Underground tour.

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.