The conventional wisdom was that Microsoft doesn’t get hardware. If “Microsoft” and “hardware” appeared in the same sentence, it was usually in the form of a joke.
But the apparent quality of the new Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 put Apple and PC vendors on notice that Microsoft is taking hardware seriously.
Microsoft’s Oct. 6 release of the Surface Book laptop took everyone by surprise. In design and substance, it easily takes on the Apple MacBook Pros — and surpasses them in innovation. The Surface Book’s high-resolution, touchscreen display can be detached from the base/keyboard and used as a tablet that’s a lot more powerful than an iPad.
Given that capability, you might ask why Microsoft created the Surface Pro 4? Especially when you consider that adding the optional keyboard to the Surface Pro makes the setup a capable laptop.
The answer is price, weight, and performance. The tablet-centric Surface Pro 4 starts at U.S. $899 and 1.7 pounds (766 grams); the Surface Book starts at $1,499 and 3.48 pounds (1576 grams). The Surface Book also has a bigger screen and, in the mid-range to high-end models, better graphics. Ultimately, the choice comes down to whether you’re looking primarily for a tablet or a laptop — and to your budget.
Surface Book: A sleek, flexible laptop
With its anodized silver case and a reflective Windows logo in the middle of the top, the Surface Book could initially be confused for a 13-inch MacBook Pro. But Microsoft’s portable has sharper edges — and a curious gap between the top and bottom when the device is closed. More on that in a minute.
Open the Surface Book, and you’ll find a clean, silver keyboard, populated with widely spaced and nicely backlit keys. Typing is remarkably comfortable for a laptop, with good key travel and a tactile feedback that’s subtle but effective.