5 Reasons To Buy Microsoft’s Surface Laptop – Forbes
I’m still working my way through my full Surface Laptop review, but here’s a teaser: it’s good.
So good, in fact, I’m reasonably certain that Microsoft should’ve started its foray into hardware here, rather than arriving at the Laptop after the more usual Pro and Book.
In any case, there are a few good reasons to make the Surface Laptop your next computing purchase – and few solid reasons not to. Here are my top 5.
It’s a fine lookin’ piece of kit
There’s an often employed concept in sports called ‘marginal gains’. In essence, athletes – and their coaches – seek to improve their performance by making small, fractional, percentage gains in training in the hope that they cumulatively add up to a dramatic performance improvement.
That’s very much how I see Microsoft’s attitude towards hardware design. Demos and briefings are now dominated by the Microsoft representative drawing my attention towards concealed hinges, speaker position adjustments, rounded off edges, balance and fan positioning.
Individually, this type of tinkering probably isn’t worthy of note. Combined, they produce a laptop that’s perhaps one of the most aesthetically pleasing I’ve ever reviewed. For its first go at a non 2-in-1 computer, Microsoft is knocking on Apple’s door.
Simple stuff like the lid opening without the base moving, or the feedback from the keys that sink in to a Goldilocks depth, make the Surface Laptop a delight to use.
Where it falls down is the shocking lack of physical connectivity. With only a mini display, Surface dock and USB port to its name, the Laptop is unforgivably disconnected from modern life. Where’s USB-C? Or even a microSD slot?
Quick off the blocks
A Core i5 and 8GB of RAM, combined with a stripped down OS, means the Surface Laptop boots-up in roughly 20 seconds, which is approaching Chromebook levels. Obviously this is a new computer, so it’s going to be quick either way. But a laptop that’s running Windows, booting up this quickly, is impressive.
Microsoft says that it will remain that fast, no matter how long you’ve had the device, which is thanks to the new Windows 10 S. I haven’t had the device long enough, or will have it long enough to test that properly. But early results are positive.
Constant and intermittent use of the Surface Laptop throughout a work day meant I didn’t need to reach for the charger by the time I closed the lid at 7pm. That’s 10 hours of (not constant) use, on medium performance and medium brightness.
Getting through an entire day, and part of the evening, without having to charge is impressive. 10 or so hours, however, is not the 14.5 hours promised. I’d be interested to know how Microsoft reached that figure – presumably by rendering the device near unusable by turning off all useful functionality. Regardless, this is one of the longer lasting devices on the market.
Speakers and keyboard
The Surface Laptop’s keyboard takes a leaf out of the Surface Book’s, um, book. There’s just the right amount of feedback from the keys that are perfectly spaced. The large display also means a large keyboard and trackpad, so there’s space to rest your palms as you type. The Surface Book and Surface Laptop comfortably have the two best keyboards I’ve ever used.
Microsoft has also added a new texture to the experience for those that care about what their palms are resting on: Alcantara. It’s apparently the same material used in car seats, which Microsoft says is waterproof and durable. It’s divided opinion amongst my friends, some saying the rough, fury material looks out of place against the smooth aluminium. I’d have to agree. The Alcantara looks like it could become tatty over time, we’ll have to see.
Another smart keyboard feature is the speakers, which sit underneath the keys. Sound is pumped through the spaces in the keys, which delivers an impressively crisp and loud sound. There’s a clear lack of bass, but then that’s the case with most laptop speakers.
What Microsoft has built here is the all-rounder device its Surface range has desperately needed. The Surface Book is a hugely expensive powerhouse for power-users. The Surface Pro is more tablet than laptop.
But the Surface Laptop is the laptop Microsoft should’ve started off with. It ticks most boxes in design, performance and battery life without having an annoying or unnecessary USP like the other two. It’s just a good, bog-standard laptop. Which, in the Windows laptop market, is painfully needed.
Things to consider
With that said, there are some glaring issues that need to be considered if you’re ogling the Surface Laptop as your next purchase.
Chief amongst them is price. The entry level model costs an eye watering $999. For a laptop with fairly average specifications, that’s aimed at people who want to watch Netflix and type words on occasion, that’s a lot of money.
Particularly when you consider that you’re getting Windows 10 S with the device, not Windows 10. Windows 10 S is a streamlined, heavily restricted version of Windows. What that means is you can only download software from the Microsoft store, not from the web. That means no Steam games and no Chrome browser. You can, however, upgrade to full Windows 10 for free (until October this year, after then it will cost) but you won’t be able to go back to 10 S after. A permanent upgrade might mean you’ll lose some performance.
Jay McGregor is the editor-in-chief of the YouTube channel, Point. He also reports for The Guardian, TechRadar, BBC Radio and others. Follow on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/PointReport