Microsoft Surface Book Review

Microsoft launched its first ever notebook, the Microsoft Surface Book and the company is claiming it to be the “Ultimate Laptop”. This premium notebook is currently retailing at $ 1,349 in US (approx INR 91,000) and is available at the official Microsoft Website. The Surface Book can transform into a tablet with the push of a button, and its magnetically attached pen lets you take notes and draw with high precision. Plus, unlike Apple’s 13-inch machine, you can get powerful discrete graphics inside the Surface Book.

Design

If you look at the design, the Surface Book is a bit different than other notebooks. Body of the notebook is made of a sturdy magnesium, the squared shaped chassis of the laptop comes in light silver. The odd-looking fulcrum hinge looks like it has treads, but to be better, they expand when you lift the display and contract when you lower it.

Image Source: Thurrott.com

Image Source: Thurrott.com

This hinge helps to evenly distribute the weight so the touch display doesn’t topple over when opened. The Surface Book felt a bit top-heavy at first, but it works brilliantly. Though, the screen doesn’t sit flush with the keyboard when the lid is closed but rest of the design is beautiful, complete with a subtle but and shiny Windows logo on the lid.

Image Source: PC World

Image Source: PC World

The left side of the Surface Book houses two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader, while the right side has a Mini Display-Port and a Surface Connect port, which is for power and connecting to the optional dock. The only down-point with the design is the placement of audio jack which is located at the top part of the design.

Image Source: Microsoft.com

Image Source: Microsoft.com

As a laptop, the Surface Book is fairly light, weighing 3.34 pounds. The model with discrete graphics tips the scales as 3.48 pounds, which is the same as the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Still, there are other 13-inch systems that are lighter, including the Lenovo Yoga 900 (2.6 pounds) and non-convertibles such as the Dell XPS 13(2.7 pounds) and the MacBook Air (3 pounds).

Keyboard, Touch-Pad and Touch Pen

The keyboard on the Surface Book is better than average. Keys are placed at a 1.5 mm of travel that makes it a comfortable platform to type on. However, the keys are a bit mushy when compared to the keyboard of MacBook Air. In terms of special keys, the Surface Book’s layout has nearly everything including back-lit keys, volume keys with the exception of brightness controls. You have to use the Action Center on the display to toggle the brightness.

Image Source: Windows Central

Image Source: Windows Central

The glass touch-pad on the notebook quite good. Navigating the desktop felt silky smooth while moving the cursor, though scrolling on websites stuttered slightly. But the Surface Book did an excellent job interpreting various gestures, including three-finger tap (for launching Cortana) and three-finger slide (for switching apps).

Image Source: Winbeta.org

Image Source: Winbeta.org

Integrating a Touch Pen with the notebook is one of the best feature of Surface Book. It just magnetically snaps to the side, so you’re much less likely to lose it, and it performs handy shortcuts when you press the button. Click it once, and you’ll launch OneNote. Press and hold the button, and you’ll be able to speak queries and make other verbal commands to Windows 10’s Cortana assistant.

Display

The Microsoft Surface Book features a 13.5-inch display with a resolution of 3000 x 2000 pixels and is undoubtedly best in class. Registering 387 nits, the Surface Book is about as bright as the 13-inch MacBook Pro (389 nits, 2560 x 1600 pixels) and brighter than the Toshiba Radius 12’s sharper 4K display (338 nits, 3840 x 2160). The Surface Book also outshines the XPS 13’s panel (295 nits, 3200 x 1800 pixels).

Image Source: Engadget

Image Source: Engadget

The display reproduced 98.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut on our testing and scored 0.57 on the Delta-E accuracy test (0 is best for less errors). That edges out the MacBook (91.2 percent, 1.2 Delta-E) and the XPS 13 (96.6 percent, 5.1 Delta-E). Only the Radius 12 is more colorful (99.8 percent) in this price range, and it’s just about as accurate.

Graphics, Audio and Cameras

The Surface Book comes with an Intel HD 520 GPU while the top-end model of the notebook features an Nvidia GeForce GPU based on the company’s Maxwell architecture. The latter chip is designed to deliver better performance in thin-and-light designs, especially in apps like Adobe Illustrator and Lightroom. Gamers should also see a boost in performance.

Positioned on the tablet portion of the device, the speakers on the Surface Book are bit okay. They are not too loud or powerful, but the full volume on the Surface Book is enough to fill a medium sized room. So, don’t consider it as a deal breaking.

Image Source: PC Mag

Image Source: PC Mag

The Surface Book features a 5 mega-pixel front camera with Windows Hello feature. It also features an 8 mega-pixel rear camera. Both the cameras does their job pretty well.

Performance

The Surface Book is powered by Intel’s sixth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, that comes with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage. There is also a variant with Core i7 CPU, discrete Nvidia graphics, 16 GB RAM and 512 GB of storage for $2,699. However, you can get a discrete GPU starting at $1,899.

Now, the Surface Book is a swift performer overall. The notebook didn’t face any lag while playing games like Asphalt 8 or swapping between dozens of Google Chrome Tabs while streaming a 1080p video. Though the notebook sometimes freezes up when the Windows is updated to latest version. It that situation, you need to restart the notebook by long pressing the power button.

Image Source: The Verge

Image Source: The Verge

The Surface Book scored 6,814 on Geekbench 3 benchmark test. That easily beats the early 2015 version of the Dell XPS 13 (5,653 with fifth-generation Core i5 CPU) and Toshiba Radius 12 (5,779 with sixth-gen Core i7 CPU). However, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display scored a higher 7,113. The Surface Book with discrete graphics and Core i7 scored 7,279 on Geekbench 3, topping the MacBook Pro.

Image Source: Laptop Mag

Image Source: Laptop Mag

The PCIe SSD flash drive in the Surface Book is speedy, too. The system completed our file transfer test with a rate of 318.1 MBps. That’s not as fast as the 13-inch MacBook Pro (386 MBps), but it blows away the XPS 13 (154.2 MBps) and Radius 12 (141.4 MBps). A bit surprising, but the SSD in the discrete-graphics Surface Book turned in a slower 283 MBps.

The Surface Book stayed mostly cool in the lap, but the tablet portion can get pretty warm. As per the Laptop Mag battery test, after streaming a Hulu video for 15 minutes, the touch-pad, underside and the area between the G and H keys all registered below 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but the bottom back of the tablet and right side both surpassed 100 degrees.

Battery Life

Microsoft claims that the Surface Book’s battery can last for 12 hours of video playback, but as per the Laptop Mag battery test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi on 100 nits of screen brightness. The laptop lasted for a very impressive 12 hours and 29 minutes. That easily beats the 13-inch MacBook Pro (12:09), and it more than doubles the endurance of the Toshiba Radius 12 (5:17). The non-touch version of the XPS 13 lasted 11:42, but the touch-screen model fell below the 8-hour mark.

Image Source: Tech Times

Image Source: Tech Times

Verdict

Microsoft’s Surface Book is undoubtedly a fantastic machine which is not only beautiful, but also as powerful as other notebooks out there in market. The sharp and colorful display, powerful Intel’s processor and fast SSD PCIe storage makes this notebook deliver one of the best performance in both laptop and tablet mode. Also, the inclusion of Touch Pen gives you an extra feature to draw, sketch or perform fine photo edits. There are no certain deal breaking flaws in Surface Book, though considering its starting price, you can get a MacBook Pro with 13-inch Retina Display which is priced lesser than Surface Book. But for a change, Surface Book is surely one of the best notebook out there in market.

Also Read: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review

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