Which is the ultimate laptop? A lot of people might be tempted to point their fingers at a MacBook. So let me rephrase. Which is the ultimate Windows laptop? Tough one, right? With so many manufacturers in the fray, even Microsoft will not be able to tell you which one is the best. Unless they themselves want to set the standards. And that is exactly what Redmond is trying to do with the Microsoft Surface Book.
Microsoft Surface Book
Never heard of the Microsoft Surface Book? Well, don’t worry. That is because India has been on the back burner when it comes to devices from the Windows maker. Things are changing though and Satya Nadella has brought in the Surface Pro 4 to the country. But I am not sure the Surface Book will make it though, not with a starting price of $1,499. That is almost double the starting price of the Surface Pro 4. Now, you know why you haven’t heard of this one — may be in your subconscious you don’t want to. But then this could be the price to pay for the ultimate laptop.
Specs: 13.5-inch PixelSense (3000x2000p, ~267 PPI) display | 6th Gen Intel Core i7 processor | 8GB RAM | 512GB ROM | Windows 10 Pro | USB 3.0 x 2, SD card reader, SurfaceConnect, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort | 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Price: $1,499 (No India pricing)
What is good?
Before we get to the point of whether this is the ultimate laptop, let’s close one discussion. This is without doubt the best looking Windows 10 laptop. And a lot of it hinges on the hinge, which is close to a work of art – bettered only by the one of the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. If that was like watch strap, this is more like the lid of a submarine, you sort of know it has to last.
The keyboard is good and well spaced out. Often it is the keyboard that takes the brunt when there is any attempt to make a device smaller or thinner, notwithstanding the fact that we use the keyboard the most. Microsoft has made no such compromises. The keys are backlit and have the right amount of travel. I did keep searching for the power button, and that’s when you are reminded that this is a detachable with this little detail being stashed away on the side of the screen.
So it is a detachable and the screen pops out — well, not really — when you press and eject button on the top row of the keyboard. It worked better for me while using the virtual button in the taskbar. Despite this, the device is sturdy and solid, though the entire mechanism of ejecting the screen takes some understanding.
The screen is a stunner, by the way. It was a pleasure watching high-res video on the device. The way the Surface Book is built, it is easy to forget it has a touchscreen. I had to literally pinch myself to use it more. This comes with a stylus, though I did not have it at the time of the review.
The overall performance is really smooth. No issues really, and absolutely no heating. I put the device to test by running multiple desktops, at least two of them with games, and I could still open large Excel sheets or work on WordPress. So this is a mean device when it comes to sheer performance.
There have been a lot of people complaining about battery life on this device. However, the Surface Book lasted well over eight hours for me. I also liked the fact that this has a power adapter that is small and easy to carry around.
What is not that good?
While the design is superb, it is also a bit weird in its own way. There is a considerable gap between the screen and keyboard when the Surface Book is shut. Unless, you want to use this space to stash away some important documents, it does seem awkward to have air and light pass through your closed laptop.
This is also one heavy device. I don’t think any portable convertible should be 1.5 kg as it defeats the purpose of you switching from your laptop.
I had some issues with the keyboard as the layout has been tweaked here and there. When muscle memory kicks in there are a few unintended forward slashes in the sentences.
At this price, and for a device that can be used a tablet, I can’t figure out why Microsoft decided not to add a SIM slot. I guess there is still a lot of laptop hangover in the team that worked on the Surface Book.
The docking system is a bit strange. I was waiting for the tablet to pop-up after I clicked the unlock button on the keyboard and it did not work all the time. On the other hand, it worked all the time I used the virtual button on the taskbar.
Also, there is a small transition that happens when you switch from tablet to laptop mode. This, I think, has to be much more seamless. Now, it is almost like the device freezes for a few seconds and does a small jig.
Should you buy?
I guess the question is will you be able to buy? There are two factors at play here. One is price and the other is availability. The Surface Book is priced at $1,499 in the US and could be priced at high as Rs 1,50,000 in India, if it comes to India that is. My feeling is that given this price point, Microsoft might not be looking towards India as one of the potential markets.
Even if it comes, it will be like a marquee device that will sell in a trickle but get a lot of eyeballs at the stores. And as for the perfect laptop question, I have to say Microsoft has come quite close to answering it with the Surface Book. It should have been more magnanimous with features like SIM slots and speakers though.