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Hands-on review: Microsoft Surface Book

03 Mar 2016

Microsoft’s Surface Book is a sleek, responsive and intuitive - albeit slightly expensive - laptop/tablet hybrid.

The Surface Book has a sleek and lightweight design, which allows for maximum portability. It has a curved, segmented hinge, much different to a standard laptop, called a ‘dynamic fulcrum hinge’.  The hinge was very smooth when opening and closing the lid.

The model I reviewed had an i7 processor in it, which made it extra fast and responsive. Apps ran very smoothly on it due to the processor and 16GB RAM, which makes it a very useful laptop for productivity/multitasking. It also has a reasonably big screen for a laptop, at 13.5 inches (34cm), with a 3:2 ratio.

Obviously, one of the most stand-out features of the Surface Book is that it’s a hybrid. The touchscreen can simply detach from the keyboard and be used as a standalone tablet. Swipe to the left and the option pane will appear, which even has an option for ‘Tablet Mode’ that removes some distinctive features of a desktop and adds some more tablet-friendly buttons. It’s very easy to reattach the screen to the laptop as the clips are magnetised, so it just clips right back on.

The stylus was very easy to set up. During the Windows 10 set-up process, it asked me to press and hold the button on the stylus for 5 seconds and that was it, I could start using the stylus right away. The stylus was very responsive with no lag at all. If a certain screen was less stylus-friendly, I could simply scroll with touch, although I found that certain panes on some websites wouldn’t respond to touch so I had to use the stylus to scroll through them.

The screen had a nice high contrast and was very easy to see stuff on. Transitioning between using the keyboard, stylus and touchscreen was smooth and seamless. I could tap a text box with my finger or stylus, and then start typing away on the physical keyboard.

If I tapped a text bar/box with the stylus, a digital keyboard automatically popped up that I could either use my finger or the stylus with. The digital keyboard had three different formats; handwrite with the stylus (this was surprisingly accurate  ̶  I handwrite like an 8-year-old, and it understood me perfectly), full keyboard along the bottom, or a split keyboard (half the keyboard in the bottom-left, other half in the bottom-right). I could easily transition between all three keyboard formats by simply tapping the keyboard option, then selecting one.

The charger was rather unique. Rather than being circular, it was elongated, with the charging part of it along the side at the tip, and it actually attached with a small magnetic pull, just like the screen.

The Surface Book also surprised me with its ability to charge very quickly. It only took 15-30 minutes to charge to two-thirds, and that lasted for a good couple of hours just browsing the Internet and watching YouTube videos.

If you get the optional discrete graphics card option, most modern games will be playable on medium-high settings, and you would be paying about the same price that you would pay for a gaming laptop, so it’s certainly a potential option for someone looking for a mid-range gaming laptop, as it will be able to do much more than that as well. However, it’s gaming capabilities are certainly not as good as you can get for a mid-range gaming laptop, so it would be worth looking at other, potentially better options.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the smooth, responsive and seamless experience of using the Surface Book as both a laptop and a tablet. It was very easy to pick up and learn just by playing around with it, and it never froze, crashed, or lagged. It is however, a rather luxury device, with the cheapest model starting at $2,749, and I believe the one I used was priced at $4,500.

Pros
Sleek design with a smooth and easy transition between laptop and tablet, very responsive and easy to setup with fast charging.

Cons
Expensive

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