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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  • lilmoe - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    That's debatable. But I did admit that it's expensive...
  • nerd1 - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    It is actually REALLY REALLY expensive. Microsoft store currently sells x360 with i7 5500U, 8GB ram and 256GB SSD at only $1089. Pen is extra but costs like $30 (Dell one). Surface book, on the other hand, costs $1699 for 8G ram and 256GB SSD. That's $600 difference.This gets even larger as I can get 8GB/128SSD model and put $150 500GB m2 drive myself (which I did myself). For now the only 512GB surface book configuration costs $2699.

    Of course it is not a fair comparison due to screen ratio/ resolution / SSD type etc but 1080p screen and SATA SSD is more than enough for me. (Yes, I have used retina MBP and other HiDPI devices for months)
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    It's also a fact that Microsoft are trying hard not to sabotage sales of other OEMs. They could price this at lower prices, but it'll be the same thing all over again when they announced the first Surface... Remember all those "threats"?
  • Morawka - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    what can oem's do tho? not use windows? they have no leg to stand on. they are, and always have been, riding on the backs of intel and microsoft's success. They just need to make compelling products..

    They need to innovate and not just pick good components and put them in a nice chassis. Microsoft has innovated with this device.
  • Morawka - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    this device is not price to convince you to buy it. Surface products dont have to do that anymore. They are selling well.

    It's capablities are what convince you to pay extra, because frankly nobody else has a solution like this, with the pen capabilities this has. And no your yoga's and hp's dont even come close to microsoft's digitizer and pen solution.
  • nerd1 - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    Do you know anything about active pen tech? Old yoga had wacom EMR and new yoga has wacom AES. Both are known to be better than NTrig surface uses.
  • lilmoe - Thursday, October 8, 2015 - link

    I have to agree with Morawka here. I've been looking through similar products with similar specs, and I have to say the Surface Book isn't way off. The Sony Vaio Canvas, for example, is less functional yet more expensive than the Surface Book (it has a higher TDP processor, but the Surface has a much faster GPU).

    This product is clearly aimed at consumers who aren't too worried about the price. Consumers who want relatively "powerful" devices, but with a luxurious design and a nice brand slapped on the back (usually MacBook and former Sony Vaio customers back in the day).

    Anyway, compared with products with similar market target, I believe the Surface Book is the device to beat now.
  • BMNify - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    @nerd1: The base model of Surface Book comes with 8GB ram not 4 as you mentioned, check out the specs here:
  • IanHagen - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    Gorgeous laptop, toe-grade ugly pricing.
  • Stuka87 - Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - link

    Microsoft keeps touting that it is twice as fast as a Macbook Pro, but without any specs to back this up.

    If it does actually have a quad core i7, that could make it twice as fast as a 13" MBP, but at almost double the price. The base i5 version cost quite a bit more than a 13" MBP. Obviously it has the detachable screen and such, but MS claiming twice the speed is a bit disingenuous.

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