By Monica Vila
I love the idea of a tablet. It’s perfect for web browsing, late night binge-watching and killing time at the airport with the latest Stephen King novel. But let’s face it, a tablet is never going to replace the productivity of a laptop. When you want to get down and dirty with PowerPoints, spreadsheets and PDFs, then you need the processing power, built-in keyboard and other comforts of a proper computer.
Of course, there have been previous attempts to combine the best of both worlds by offering laptops with detachable screens, including the iPad with an expensive keyboard cover, but nothing compares to the latest line-up of Surface Book laptops from Microsoft.
Earlier this year, the good people at Microsoft heard me complain about my laptop (a MacBook Pro) and they kindly offered me a test drive with a Surface Book to see if they could get me to convert. I took the challenge but decided not to write about the Surface Book until I had at least six months user experience under my belt. Now that the six months is up, I can tell you this: The Microsoft Surface Book is a far superior product to my old MacBook. The touchscreen alone puts it in a different league, making file handling, navigation and media play simple, intuitive and fun! The Surface Book also works seamlessly with hundreds of apps like Dropbox and Slack, which I use all the time for work.
If you have previously used a Surface tablet or notebook, then you will be familiar with the touchscreen, the stylus pen, and the tablet and laptop modes of Windows 10. With the Surface Book, Microsoft has taken the best – and most practical – features of all its previous devices and rolled them into one powerhouse product that can compete with the very best laptops on the market today.
The first thing that jumps out at you when you start using the Surface Book is the screen. At 13.5 inches, it’s perfect for the office or the airplane but it’s the stunning resolution that sets it apart from its rivals. Microsoft calls its display technology PixelSense, and it’s one of the big reasons that Surface devices are such a big hit with the arts and design communities. The colors literally pop off the screen – and using the Microsoft Pen has never been so much fun! As a former Mac user, the contrast is remarkable.
My Surface Book has 128GB of storage and comes with the 6th generation Intel Core i5 processor, which is plenty of firepower for my workload. Most of my day is spent switching between Microsoft Office products, Adobe, and various web browsers, and when you use the Office suite as much as I do, you realize how proactive Microsoft is in delivering the latest improvements and updates.
The software on my Surface is the dependable Windows 10 Pro, with tablet mode and all the voice, pen and touch options that have quickly become essential prerequisites for a productive work environment. Windows Pro 10 also features Windows Hello facial recognition, which means any member of my family can sit down in front of the screen and be ready to go in a matter of seconds.
The Awesome Pen
As far as the Microsoft Pen is concerned, most users either love the pen and use it all the time or never pick it up at all. I happen to be in the former category and the pen that comes with the Surface Book has quickly become my new best friend. The one-click access to OneNote is a life-saver and turns the detachable screen into the world’s most efficient notepad. This was especially handy recently when I was trying to convey a specific image I was looking for our designer to create.
Interestingly, Microsoft has split the battery between the main keyboard dock and the display, so each unit can operate independently. However, the emphasis is clearly on use as a laptop, when the batteries can combine for up to 12 hours of video playback. The detachable screen has about 25 percent of the battery life of the combined unit, but that’s still enough to watch a hi-def movie in bed or on an airplane ride.
All this power and versatility puts the Surface Book at the very leading edge of today’s laptops. The price is also competitive, ranging from $1,499 for 128GB i5 model, going up to $1,999 for the 512GB version.
Bottom line is this: If you are a diehard MacBook user like I was and you think that a PC will never cut it, you’re making a big mistake. The versatile Microsoft Surface Book is ideal for creative types and non-creative types alike, setting a new standard for powerful and flexible laptops at a price you can afford.
Have you had any experience with a Surface Book? I would love to know what you think!