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Surface Book review roundup: What top critics think of Microsoft’s first laptop

Published Oct 21st, 2015 12:53PM EDT
Microsoft Surface Book Review Roundup
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft caused quite a stir earlier this month when it unveiled the Surface Book, its first laptop-tablet hybrid that generated more excitement than any new Microsoft product in recent memory. Now the review embargoes have lifted and critics are weighing in on the Surface Book — and the reviews are very positive.

MUST READ: I wish the iPhone had copied HTC instead

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern is so pleased with the Surface Book that she thinks building it is something that Microsoft should have done years ago, no matter how angry it would have made PC OEMs. However, she said it did suffer from some design flaws that indicate Microsoft could make the second version of the device a major improvement:

The 3.3-pound, 0.9-inch-thick computer is chunkier than I’d like. And getting into it is like trying to crack a safe. The magnets that keep the system closed require you throw too much back into it. Once you’re in, there’s a slight but unfortunate wobble in the display. This is related to that high-tech hinge that releases the screen when you press an eject key.

Yahoo’s Daniel Howley, meanwhile, calls the Surface Book “as attractive as anything Apple has ever made,” which is high praise considering this is Microsoft’s first attempt at building a laptop of its own. He also says that the Surface Book is more than a pretty face, however, and delivers some serious performance as well:

If the MacBook Pro is positioned as Apple’s high-performance laptop, and if the Surface Book is positioned as a direct competitor to the MacBook Pro, Microsoft’s laptop had better deliver some impressive performance. In my testing, it did — in spades

The model I reviewed came with a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 processor with 8 GB of RAM and a 500 GB solid-state drive. With that hardware, the laptop was able to run a variety of programs and casual games without breaking a visible sweat. Unfortunately, that review unit’s particular configuration won’t be available for purchase.

 Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff writes that while the Surface Book is indeed very expensive even compared with the MacBook Pro, it’s a high-end Windows 10 laptop that really does live up to its advanced billing.

I do wholeheartedly recommend Microsoft’s first home-grown laptop. It’s elegant, sturdy, peppy and even fun to use. If you prize battery life, potential computing power, screen size and full-size keyboards (and are a Windows 10 devotee), you may choose it over the new, ultra-light Surface Pro 4. I personally haven’t decided if I want to carry the 3.2-pound Surface Book in my backpack or the roughly 2.4-pound (with Type Cover keyboard) Surface Pro 4. Though for me — and Microsoft — this seems like a good problem to have.

And finally, TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm calls the Surface Book a “laptop with a twist” thanks to its detachable display that makes it double as a tablet, although he says that “there are better tablets” out there if that’s what you’re looking for first and foremost.

I consistently kept trying to open the Surface Book’s kickstand, akin to the traditional Surface device experience. It doesn’t have one, since it locks into its own base, but I did miss having one. That’s not to say that Microsoft should build one into the Book — that would be silly — but it does mean that if tablet-a-bility is your main focus, you might want to look at a different device.

As a laptop it does well. I’m currently writing to you on this loaner Surface Book plugged into the new Surface Dock, powering two Apple Cinema Displays at the office. It can very nearly keep up at full speed. If you are going to run a similar setup, you are going to want the full power setup. I could use a bit more horsepower.

All told, this sounds like a very promising first effort for Microsoft that it will only improve over time. After all, recall that the original Surface RT received very lukewarm reviews at its release but Microsoft has vastly improved it over the years to the point where its Surface Pro series is one of the most highly anticipated new tablet releases every year.

Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.