Microsoft’s newly announced Surface Laptop might be the MacBook Air/Pro killer you’ve been waiting for.
The Surface Laptop, the company’s first proper laptop running Windows 10 S, is “the most soulful expression of a Windows device” said Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of the Windows and Devices group, at the company’s education-focused event on Tuesday.
Starting at $999 and launching on June 15, the Surface Laptop is the synthesis of the Surface Pro and Surface Book.
The Surface Laptop’s designed first and foremost for students, but after some hands-on time with it, I can honestly say it’s a rock solid machine for anyone.
That’s not just me getting sucked into Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Surface Computing group Panos Panay’s reality distortion field as he waxed poetic about about the laptop.
It really is a beautiful, well-built, and powerful laptop. It starts with design. The Surface Laptop is a looker and it’s very obvious the company sweated all of the details. There’s not a single visible screw anywhere on the Surface Laptop, not even on the the bottom.
The aluminum body is sturdy. It’s not the thinnest laptop in the world, but that’s fine because it’s still light enough (2.76 pounds) to toss in a bag without worrying about it weighing you down.
The 13.5-inch (2,256 x 1,504 resolution) PixelSense touchscreen with 3:2 aspect ratio is stunning. It’s sharper, brighter and more vivid than the Surface Pro 4’s screen and feels like looking through a window. It’s like Microsoft took the Surface Book’s screen and thinned it down to 3.6mm thick.
The touchscreen has the same responsiveness you’d expect from a Surface device. I detected no lag while poking around with my finger. The touchscreen is also compatible with the Surface Pen stylus, but there wasn’t one on hand for me to try.
Apple refuses to add a touchscreen (Touch Bar doesn’t really count) to its MacBooks because it thinks it’s the wrong form of input for a laptop — and that you’ll get “gorilla arm” — but the Surface Laptop is proof that it not only works, but it works excellently.
On stage, Panay showed the Surface Dial connected to the Surface Laptop, turning it in Microsoft Word to switch between pages in a document. When you switch apps, like to Spotify, the Surface Dial automatically changes to a volume controller. It looked pretty cool. I also didn’t get to try it out.
Microsoft’s kept ports to a minimum (USB 3.0, MiniDisplayPort and a headphone jack), but I have to wonder why there isn’t an SD card slot or a USB-C port (the port of the future). Why must every computer make kill the SD card? Photographers and video producers still need them.
Beyond the gorgeous screen, the Surface Laptop’s also got a fantastic keyboard. Panay wasn’t joking when he said it was delightful to type on. The backlit keyboard’s wrapped in “Alcantara” fabric (feels like felt) imported from Italy and stays “warm” to the touch when you’re typing, never getting “cold.” This was another feature I couldn’t properly test at the packed event, but the keyboard felt very comfy with excellent bouncy 1.5mm key travel. It’s far better than the low-profile and flat keyboard on the MacBook and MacBook Pro.
Most noticeable with the fabric-covered keyboard is just how soft it is when you rest your wrists on it and use the trackpad.
Under the hood, the Surface Laptop’s running Windows 10 S. It’s still Windows 10, but you can only install apps from the Windows Store. Need an app that’s not there? You’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free, but you won’t be able to go back and get the speed gains Windows 10 S offers.
Students need not worry about the Surface Laptop’s performance.
The Surface Laptop comes with seventh-gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors. I tried out a Core i5 model and, while I didn’t do anything graphically intensive other than fool around with 3D Paint, it felt very speedy. The Core i5 model starts with 4GB of RAM, but you’ll be able to configure that with up to 16GB. Storage also starts at 128GB of PCIe SSD and is configurable up to 512GB.
Students need not worry about the Surface Laptop’s performance. In fact, Panay made it clear the Surface Laptop is 50 percent faster and than both the MacBook Air. Shots fired!
Another area the Surface Laptop crushes Apple’s MacBooks? Battery life. According Microsoft, the Surface Laptop gets up to 14.5 hours — more than the MacBook Pro’s 10 hours and the MacBook Air’s 13 hours. Of course, that’s their word and we’ll need to actually test those claims. But if they hold up, Microsoft might have a real winner here.
First impressions matter, and the Surface Laptop has me grinning from ear to ear. It’s the first Surface portable that I’m truly excited for and genuinely interested in testing long term. The Surface Book was always too big and bulky and the Surface Pro was too small.
I’ve been a MacBook user for more than a decade and have never really considered switching back to a Windows PC. The Surface Laptop, however, could be just the machine to lure me back.