It might sound funny, but the Surface laptop is one of the most conventional devices Microsoft has created. It’s not a tablet with a kickstand, or a laptop with a detachable screen – not something weird and ‘game-changing’. It is just trying to fit to be the thing you want. The Surface laptop has enough power for you to use, but is also light enough to be carried around. It comes with a great screen, good keyboard and without an insane price tag. In other words, it’s the obvious laptop people need, with an obvious name.
It does have a fairly limited OS, people will say, and they will be right. However, Microsoft leaves a way to rectify this issue. But let’s put that aside for now and begin our review of the laptop that doesn’t need any gimmicks to be a great device.
Display and build
First of all, most people probably think it kind of looks like a MacBook Air. That’s not entirely true, although the similarities are there. Most of the physical dimensions of the device look almost the same as the classic wedge shape we see in Apple’s laptops. But instead of soft curves, Microsoft opts for angularity, giving its device a unique appearance. Also, the Surface laptop comes in different colors and has this bizarre fabric keyboard.
Obviously, it natively works with the Surface Pen, though you need to buy it separately. Microsoft has made these features part of the OS, rather than certain apps. The screen wobbles a bit when you write on it, so it’s a good idea to use it for quick things. It’s also a bit problematic to open the laptop with one hand, while it’s sitting on a table. Balance is probably a tricky thing, but it feels like Microsoft could do a better job here.
Surface Laptop: Specs and battery
The Surface expectedly boasts top specs. The latest Core i5 or i7 chips, configurable RAM (up to 16GB) and storage, Intel HD 620 or Iris 650 for graphics and so on. The best thing about it is the display. The laptop sports a big, vivid, crisp and beautiful 13.5-inch touchscreen. Microsoft likes to use a 3:2 aspect ratio on its products, and it honestly feels good to use. The screen is taller so you don’t have to scroll as much to see the rest of websites or documents. Needless to say, it has everything you expect to see from a premium device.
The basic laptop starts at $999, but we expect people to invest the additional three hundred to get a better model. We are talking about a version with a Core I5, 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD. It’s probably the most optimal variant for a daily driver. When we say ‘daily driver’ we mean it’s not really suitable for serious video editing or gaming. The laptop can easily handle everything else, and heavy multitasking is also not a problem.
The battery life is also quite good. Microsoft claims it’s up to 14.5 hours for local video playback. Under very heavy use, it’s actually closer to 7 hours, but you can easily squeeze additional 2-3 hours with the right settings and fewer apps in the background. The only caveat here is the lack of ports, like USB-C or an SD slot. That’s quite annoying, to be honest. Furthermore, there’s a single USB port (there’s one more on the power brick for charging another device), a mini DisplayPort and a headphone jack. That’s it.
That Alcantara fabric
The Alcantara-covered keyboard is, perhaps, the only thing that is ‘unconventional’. Yes, Microsoft has used it before, but people are still not used to the fabric. Most say it feels a bit weird – in a good way though. They also believe it’s not the best choice because it’ll wear down, get stained or greasy after prolonged use. Microsoft itself says it requires care like a luxury product, which isn’t exactly reassuring. The company recommends that users ‘wipe it with a lint-free cloth dampened in mild soap and water’ when they want to clean it. Microsoft also says ‘it ages beautifully, growing richer and darker over time’. Huh.
Another thing to consider. The fabric is attached to the keyboard in a way that creates a tiny gap around the seam of the laptop when it’s closed. Will the ‘soft feeling and premium look’ outweigh the flaws? It’s up to you to decide, but we hardly think of it as ideal.
Windows 10 S
As we said before, the Surface laptop runs on a ‘new’ OS, Windows 10 S. What makes it different from a standard Windows 10? You can only use applications from the official Microsoft Windows Store. That limitation is good for Microsoft and is actually beneficial for users too. It’ll be easier for the company to verify every app to avoid malware. Better security and better performance make a better experience in the end. Ultimately, though, the trade-off is so NOT worth it.
The Windows Store has so few apps it’s not even funny. The ones it has are actually worse than their counterparts, available on Apple devices or the full version of Windows. To add insult to injury, you cannot change the default Edge browser. Even if you somehow manage to install Chrome or Firefox, you will have to copy links. That just sounds horrible.
Microsoft has actually tried to mitigate some of the pain. For example, if you download and try to install an app from the web, Windows 10 S won’t let you. Instead, it will offer you to search for the same (or similar) web in the store. Sometimes, it will pop up a direct link to the app (or an equivalent). But since the Store doesn’t have a lot of apps, to begin with… You get the idea.
Apparently, Microsoft forces the 10 S on users to coerce devs into getting their apps into the store. Yet, there’s a good news for buyers. You can actually upgrade to full-fledged Windows 10 Pro for free for a limited amount of time. The option will be available at least until the end of the year. There’s no turning back though, once you approve the transition. Unless you are willing to completely reformat your device.
The Surface laptop is a totally capable machine. Microsoft has found the right balance between power, mobility, utility, and design for most people. It comes at a slightly higher price, though than its competitors. Make no mistake, though, it’s not exactly a technological breakthrough. As we said before, it’s the obvious laptop, suitable for you daily needs… with a piece of carpet to spice it up.
If you are sure you will upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, buy it. Yes, there are cheaper laptops, or more powerful. But they will force you to make more uncomfortable compromises than the Surface Laptop.
Source: The Verge