Pretty much since the original Surface was born, I, and many others, have wished that Microsoft would try their hands at a laptop computer. It’s not even that the original Surface was a great device, but the whole idea was to kickstart some new device types, and now Surface has turned into a big business in its own right. The latest Surface Pro 4 looks to be the best iteration yet.

So today Microsoft is trying to redefine the laptop category with the Surface Book. With Surface Pro, it was the tablet that can replace your laptop, and with Surface Book, it is what Microsoft is calling “The Ultimate Laptop” and we shall see about that but it has a lot going for it. Compared to the Surface Pro 4, the display is larger at 13.5-inches but keeps the same 3:2 aspect ratio that has now defined the Surface lineup. People sick of 16:9 laptops should be happy to see this.

The display itself is 3000x2000 pixels, which works out to exactly 6,000,000 pixels and the same 267 pixels per inch of the Surface Pro 4. It has the same 0.4 mm thick Gorilla Glass covering as well, and contains the same PixelSense capabilities that mean it will also work with the pen and of course touch. Each panel is calibrated for sRGB out of the box.

This is not your ordinary laptop where the display is just the display and the key components of the notebook are under the keys. Instead, the screen is detachable like many two-in-one devices, but the base itself is connected and houses the NVIDIA GPU and some batteries, as well as USB ports and a SD card reader like you would expect on an Ultrabook.

The hinge is certainly very interesting, and it kind of reminds me of a new take on the Yoga 3 Pro’s keyboard hinge, although this one is much thicker. Microsoft calls it a Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge. One weird thing about the hinge is that when the device is closed, the top and bottom don’t meet. It is weird to see but I would need some more time with it to see if it is an issue. A benefit of the slightly raised rear is when the display is connected flipped around for writing, the glass is slightly tilted towards you which is something I often find myself doing with the Surface lineup of tablets.

The latching system is ridiculously strong. Microsoft is using a wire that can change its length if a voltage is applied to it. You have to press and hold a button on the keyboard to invoke this charge so the actual separation is never going to be by accident, but it does take longer than some other detachable devices.

I am a bit of a keyboard nut myself, and I really like a proper keyboard, so it is great to see that the Surface Book will have 1.6 mm of key travel, and a nice layout. I am generally not a fan of light keys with backlighting so we will have to see how this holds up in the real world. The trackpad is a Microsoft Precision trackpad with a glass top and five points of touch.

On the spec side, there will be Core i5 and i7 versions of this available, and the GPU is optional with the Core i5, but standard with the Core i7. Base configurations come with 8 GB of memory, but there is a 16 GB version as well, and storage is PCIe based SSDs from 128 GB to 1 TB.

Surface Book
  Core i5 Core i5 w/GPU Core i7 w/GPU
GPU Intel HD 520 Intel + NVIDIA GeForce dGPU
(Maxwell w/GDDR5)
CPU 6th Generation Intel Core i5 (15w)
6th Generation Intel Core i5 (15w)
6th Generation Intel Core i7 (15w)
Memory 8-16GB RAM
Display 13.5" PixelSense 3000x2000 resolution
1800:1 Contrast Ratio
100% sRGB, individually calibrated
10 point touch and Pen support
Storage PCIe 3.0 SSD 128 GB to 1 TB
I/O USB 3.0 x 2 (In Base)
SD Card reader (In Base)
Surface Connector (In Tablet and Base)
Headset Jack
Mini DisplayPort
Dimensions Laptop
(mm) : 232 x 312 x 13.0-22.8
(inches) : 9.14 x 12.3 x 0.51-0.90
Tablet Only
(mm) : 220.2 x 312.3 x 7.7
(inches) : 8.67 x 12.3 x 0.30
Weight Laptop
1.515 kg / 3.34 lbs
Tablet Only
726 g / 1.6 lbs
1.579 kg / 3.48 lbs
Tablet Only
726 g / 1.6 lbs
Camera Windows Hello (Front)
8 MP Rear Facing
5 MP Front Facing
Price $1499+ $1899+ $2099+

Size and weight are always a key with this class of device, and despite the 13.5-inch size, the tablet itself only comes in at 1.6 lbs or 726 grams. Adding the keyboard moves the Surface Book out past the incredible weight of some of the latest Ultrabooks, with the non-GPU version coming in at 3.34 lbs or 1.51 kg, and the GPU adds a bit more weight to come in at 3.48 lbs or 1.58 kg.

The Surface Book will go on pre-order tomorrow starting at $1499 up to $2699 for the Core i7 with 16 GB of RAM and the GPU. No 1 TB models are listed yet but they were announced. Microsoft is likely waiting on manufacturers to offer M.2 1 TB models.

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  • beginner99 - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    Looks cool but just too expensive (just like the surface pro) to make me update my "old" X220. In fact the X220 is actually lighter than this. Does Win 10 finally play nice with font scaling? That resolution on a 13" screen for sure requires it.
  • halcyon - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    Expensive, meh-xpensive...

    It has
    - 6th gen Core U
    - pressure sensitive pen
    - 3000x2000 resolution
    - PCIe SSD 256-512 GB
    - RAM 8-16GB
    - 12hr battery (marketing speak)
    - 1.5kg weight
    - Full multi-tasking application/suite supporting OS (not just simple smart phone apps)
    - GPU acceleration
    - works as a tablet
    For $1900-2700USD

    What else is there that has anywhere near these specs? I can only find Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, ant it has:
    - 5th gen Core M
    - pen sold separately (?)
    - 3000x1800 resolution
    - PCIe SSD (M.2) 256-512 GB
    - RAM 8GB DDR3L
    - 9hr battery (marketing speak)
    - 1.2kg weight
    - Full multi-tasking application/suite supporting OS (not just simple smart phone apps)
    - Intel HD Graphics 5300
    - clunky tablet-mode
    For $1300USD+a bit extra for the pen

    So, it's $600USD (or more) additional for: mag-alloy case, nVidia GPU, new generation CPU and higher battery life.

    Expensive, but not outrageous.

    We can compare better after (if) Lenovo ships Lenovo Yoga 4 Pro with Skylake and hopefully additional BTO-options (1TB / 16GB /etc).
  • digiguy - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    Yoga 3 pro is nowheve near, not only it is a Broadwell core m (slower than even the Skylake core m) but Lenovo has messed with the TDP and it was one of the worst performing Broadwell Core M devices. I would even say that the (undeserved IMO) bad reputation of Core M is largely due to this device (which was also the first to sport a Core M CPU).
    And this is definitely something you would not want to hold in one hand...
  • Le Geek - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

  • theNiZer - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    I like this move very much: MS competing at the high end laptop (besides hybrids, aka surface pro). In revision two this will be awesome.
  • nerd1 - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    Battery capacity confirmed as 18Wh / 51Wh, which gives 3hr for tablet alone and 12hr for combo.
  • BurntMyBacon - Friday, October 9, 2015 - link

    So a little over a quarter of the battery is in the tablet and three quarters is in the keyboard. The 3hr tablet only estimate is more complicated than just dividing up the battery, though. The power draw with the keyboard is unquestionably higher than the power draw without. The question is how much higher was it for their test scenario. If they got twelve hours with the dGPU all but disabled, then the power draw shouldn't be all that different (keyboard, back-lighting, touchpad, etc. don't use that much power). In this scenario, I'd expect your estimate to be pretty close. If the dGPU is actually active during the test scenario, then (depending on how much power it draws) the tablet mode battery life could be significantly higher.

    The Surface Pro 3 has a 42 WHr battery and gets 7.6 hrs and 7.58 hrs in anandtech's light usage and video playback tests respectively. Assuming equivalent energy efficiency, that would put this one at 3.25 hrs. It is probable that efficiency is higher here (particularly for video playback), but I wouldn't count on it getting more than 4 hrs. Sounds like your estimate is probably pretty close. This also suggests that they probably were estimating using a test scenario that didn't use much in the way of dGPU power. I'd expect not to get 12hrs when doing anything that taxes it. I wonder how it will handle GPU accelerated web content on browsers that make use of the hardware.
  • zodiacfml - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    I did not see this coming but this in the right direction as there really is a market at this price range. Some people don't buy the Mac for the Mac OS but the external hardware.
  • theNiZer - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    New info on the Nvidia GPU in the Surface Book:

    "UPDATE: Just got official word from NVIDIA on the GPU, but unfortunately it doesn't tell us much.

    The new GPU is a Maxwell based GPU with GDDR5 memory. It was designed to deliver the best performance in ultra-thin form factors such as the Surface Book keyboard dock. Given its unique implementation and design in the keyboard module, it cannot be compared to a traditional 900M series GPU. Contact Microsoft for performance information."

  • nerd1 - Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - link

    I bet its detuned 950m or 960m.

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