Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop is aimed at students, but its cool design, sleek build, and impressive specifications could have much to tempt those who might have been looking at the Surface Book instead. We put the two head to head to see which one you should buy. It’s the Surface Laptop Vs Surface Book.
What is the Surface Laptop?
This latest addition to Microsoft’s Surface range of devices is, as it says, a straight up laptop. You’ll find no detachable screens that turn into tablets like you would on the Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book.
Instead it’s a premium build traditional notebook that you can work on all day, running either a full version of Windows 10 Pro or the dedicated Windows 10 S that comes pre-installed (more on that later).
It’s also a good deal cheaper, which is no bad thing in these times of financial uncertainty.
How do the designs compare?
The Surface Book is a bit of a hefty beast in comparison to its younger sibling, weighing in at around 3.5 lbs, which is nearly a full pound heavier than the Laptop. To be fair though there are some decent excuses for this bulk.
While the tablet section of the Book has everything it needs to work when away from the dock, the base houses a second battery and, depending on the configuration you choose, a discrete GPU. So you’re trading a compact design in favour of versatility and power.
These added features make the overall size of the Book 312.30 x 232.10 x 22.80 mm, compared to the svelte 308.1 x 223.27 x 14.48 mm of the Surface Laptop.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Surface Book is its large concertina’d hinge. This holds the heavy screen solidly in place, but does mean that the device has a kind of bulge at that end when closed. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, it could drive anyone with even mild OCD a bit crazy.
Both devices have gorgeous 13.5-inch PixelSense displays with 3:2 ratios that are taller than most rival PCs. The Laptop boasts a 2256 x 1504 resolution with 201 PPI, but this is bettered by the Book’s 3000 x 2000 that features 267 PPI.
The displays on both machines are touch-enabled and work with the Surface Pen, but only the Book includes that device in the box.
Ports are a bit on the scant side, the Surface Laptop coming with just single offerings of USB 3.0, MiniDisplay, and Headphone jacks. This makes it one USB 3.0 and an SD card reader short of the Book, but both have Surface Connect ports for added expandability.
While the Surface Book is a powerhouse device built for high-end tasks, the Surface Laptop is more of an everyday premium notebook. Microsoft has used Aluminium for the chassis, rather than the Magnesium alloy found on the Book and Pro 4, which looks classy and elegant.
This is complimented by a very unusual choice for the interior. Taking its cues from the Surface Pro 4’s detachable keyboard, the Laptop has an Alcantara fabric covering the keyboard surround and wrist rest areas.
This makes it instantly unique among modern laptops and should be a very comfortable experience for longer typing sessions.
There is a question mark about how well that material will endure the rigours of heat, friction, and sweat, but certainly from an aesthetic point of view it’s quite eye-catching.
Microsoft offers four different colours for the Laptop (as opposed to the solitary silver of the Book) which include Burgundy, Platinum, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold.
The tones are modern and tasteful, matched by the internal fabric.
It’s unclear whether all the colours will be available in the UK, as the Microsoft site currently only offers the Platinum model for Pre-Order. Hopefully this won’t be the case when it launches on June 15th.
The Surface Laptop is undeniably beautiful. In fact it looks like the kind of innovative designs that Apple used to come out with before it got a bit conservative and boring. For now, it seems, Microsoft is the one leading the way in style for laptops and desktops.
What kind of performance and battery life do they offer?
The Surface Book comes with the previous generation of Intel chips, known by the name Skylake. This particular vintage has not been without its issues, and the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 have gone through some tough times in terms of reliability on this platform.
Microsoft and Intel seem to have conquered these demons now though, and the current Book is a powerful machine for those who want to get serious work done.
The base model comes with an Intel Core i5 chip, 128GB of storage, and 8GB RAM, while the Performance Base high-end version comes with an Intel i7 chip, 1TB SSD, 16GB RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M GPU.
In our Surface Book review we saw impressive performance from the Book, and were suitably amazed by the 16 hours and 25 minutes battery life. This of course is aided by the fact that it does have two batteries.
The Surface Laptop comes with a more traditional solo battery unit, but Microsoft has stated that this will return 14.5 hours of video playback, which is none too shabby.
We haven’t had a chance to test those figures yet, but be sure to check back once the device is released to see if it can really sustain those hours.
Microsoft offers several configurations of the Surface Laptop, starting with a Kaby Lake 7th generation Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM, and 128GB of Storage. The top of the range is a more powerful Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD.
All should offer solid day-to-day performance for general computing, plus even some video and audio editing. We’d probably avoid 4GB or RAM though, as you can’t upgrade these machines later on.
What software do they run?
With the announcement of the Surface Laptop Microsoft also took the opportunity to unveil a new, trimmed iteration of Windows.
Windows 10 S is an optimised version that is aimed at the education market. The main differentiator is that it will only install apps from the Windows Store, and not from any old website.
This is thought be a security feature to keep nasty things off your PC, but could be extremely limiting for users with a number of favourite apps that are not currently found in the Store.
Fret not though, as Microsoft offers the option to upgrade to a full version of Windows 10 Pro (like that found on the Surface Book) for free. This deal is available until 31st December 2017. For more details on this new release take a look at our Windows 10 s News page.
Price and Configurations
At the moment the base model of the Surface Book (Intel Core i5 chip, 128GB of storage, and 8GB RAM) goes for £1449, or £1849 if you double the size of the SSD and add an Nvidia GeFore GPU.
Stepping up to the i7 range prices start at £1999 for 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM, £2399 if you double both of those, and £3049 for a 1TB variant.
To make matters more confusing Microsoft also offers the i7 models with a Performance Base that includes an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M GPU. These are the same as the ones mentioned above but cost £2249, £2699, and £3149 respectively.
The Surface Laptop, while hardly cheap, is certainly the more affordable of the two. It’s entry model (Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) costs £979, with a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM version available for £1249.
If an i7 is more to your tastes then there are two models to choose from. The 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM variant will set you back £1549, or there’s the tricked out version with 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM which costs £2149.