The Microsoft surface is an elegant laptop with great looks and solid performance which is aimed at students after a sleek alternative to the aging Apple MacBook Air.
PROS: Reasonably priced, for a Surface. Amazing battery life. Comfortable keyboard
CONS: Limited port selection, Subpar, soldered-on storage
Microsoft have been tinkering with the Surface Book, which has been a darling to her fans over the years, and the resulting product is impressive. Microsoft’s surface Laptop is a sleek ultraportable that sends chills down the MacBook Air making the battle of the titans tighter.
The laptop comes into the market to compete with the MacBook and MacBook Air Models that have become favorites for campus students over the years globally. Microsoft draws parallels with the MacBook Air by offering more battery life, a higher screen resolution and a powerful seventh-generation Kaby Lake Core i5 processor clocked at 3.1 GHz. The system packs 8GB of RAM and 256 GB Solid State Drive for storage.
Microsoft introduces Windows 10 S on the surface Laptop, which is a new version of Windows 10 that will only let you install apps that are downloaded from Windows Store. This might sound limiting but then users have a chance of reverting back to Windows 10 for free for those who will purchase it in 2017 and later on it shall be available at a fee.
The introduction of Windows 10 S by Microsoft is seen as an attempt to counter the dominance of Apple and Google in the education market. Google has been able to gain a reasonable market with their Chromebook devices running on Chrome OS thanks to their attractive design, fast speeds and affordable price. As such, Microsoft expects to compete better while using third-party manufacturers who shall have to license their technologies onto their own devices.
Design and Features
Microsoft have not introduced any new idea on the design of a laptop, but then they have clearly focused on what matters. The Microsoft Surface Laptop features a full aluminum lid and base with the keyboard deck covered with an Alcantara fabric which surrounds every plastic key. You will have a variety of colors to choose from, in fact four colors to be precise; Graphite Gold, Cobalt Blue, Platinum and Burgundy. As such, you won’t miss one color that is much appealing to you.
The Laptop measures 12.13 x 0.57 x 8.79 inches and weighs in at 2.76 pounds which makes it an appropriate companion for students to carry all day long. The laptop won’t be adding any much burden into your backpack or handbag and you can be assured of all day productivity.
The laptop does not feature any visible speaker holes or grills but has its sound integrated beneath the keyboard. Ideally, the projection of the audio is vertically from behind the keys which is not a much better audio to what the MacBook Air offers.
The keyboard on the Surface laptop offers a key travel of 1.5mm which is better than some of the laptops in the competition. It feels good typing on this keyboard while resting your wrists on the Alcantara fabric that surrounds the deck which also feels good to touch. The keys are nice and clicky on first impression.
As you would expect, the laptop comes with the Surface Pen which we are conversant with from Microsoft’s Surface Book line of devices. The surface Pen lets you annotate content and leverage other features of Windows 10 Creators Update. You will however have to purchase the Surface Pen separately as it is not included in the box.
Under the hood, the Surface Laptop harbors a seventh generation Kaby Lake Core i5 processor clocked at 3.1 GHz. It packs 8GB of RAM which is enough to handle all day activities alongside with the powerful processor. You will find the system efficient if you are not going to tax it with native resolution gaming or intensive video editing. The surface will handle all ultraportable tasks such as word processing, video streaming, playing music and web browsing seamlessly.
The laptop packs a 256 GB PCle SSD which is ideally enough if you opt for this model. If you have some additional files, photos, movies and music, it will be okay for you to store in an external hard drive. The bright side of the SSD packed in this system I that it guarantees faster booting speeds and loading of programs.
Important to note is the fact that Microsoft offers other three models (apart from the one our review focuses on) of the Surface Laptop to fit into your budget and daily needs. The basic one comes packed with Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD, then the other two feature Intel Core i7 processor with 8GB RAM and 16GB RAM, and 256 GB SSD and 512 GB SSD respectively.
Gaming has never been the focus of sleek ultra-portables and this does not change with the Surface Laptop. The machine is equipped with Intel HD graphics 620 that won’t run any of the recent titles. It will only be safe to keep the Surface Laptop to its lane of daily tasks without pushing it into the gaming spectrum.
In terms of connectivity, the Surface Laptop features limited connectivity options which might appear substandard considering its price and class. It comes with a USB 3.0 port, a Mini Display Port and a 3.5mm audio jack. It still worries me why they did not even consider having a USB 3.1 port for faster transfer speeds.
As if that one is not enough, Microsoft left out the latest USB Type C port that is common among the latest devices. The lack of Thunderbolt 3 ports or USB Type C port on the MacBook Air is understandable since it is an older design. But then it is a great disappointment for the Surface laptop.
Internet connectivity is available by way of an 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter which is also compatible with IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n compatible. We do not expect an RJ-45 port here given that Microsoft tries to keep the surface as slim as possible. There is also Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connection with compatible devices.
The Surface Laptop comes with a 13.5-inch display with a screen resolution of 2256×1504 pixels with an aspect ratio of 3:2. The 13.5-inch display features a Gorilla Glass 3 touchscreen that offers an enjoyable experience when using Windows 10 S. This is the thinnest LCD touch module to ever used in a laptop. The thin module makes it easy to lift the lid with just one finger. However, the hinge designs requires more refinement so that you cannot feel the screen bouncing when tapping on the touchscreen.
There is a 720HD webcam at the top of the bezel that is good for video conference calls and chatting with friends and family via Skype. Despite the thin bezel, Microsoft manages to place the webcam at the top bezel unlike what we saw on the Dell XPS 13 whose webcam is below the display.
The Surface laptop is backed up with the 14.5 hours battery life (Of course, we will put this to test) that Microsoft says is capable of delivering video playback before running out of juice. The system eschews Apple’s MacBook Air which promises 12 hours of video play back or browsing but the difference is negligible if all you need is a machine to handle your work all day. However the Surface Laptop offers a clear edge if you are out for a long flight and you count on the laptop for entertainment. That is; if you happen to be crammed into economy class with no power.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop comes into the world of sleek ultra-portables with decent features and premium design that will get many students talking. The major win on this laptop is its higher screen resolution 2256×1504 pixels and portability. It however falters on the connectivity options with the USB Type-C port conspicuously missing.
Its seventh generation Kaby Lake processor, 8GB of RAM and 256 GB hard disk will get you going without slowing down one carrying out day to day tasks. The Surface Laptop competes well with Apple’s MacBook Air but the ultimate tiebraker is the Air’s ability to run on both MacOS and Windows. The surface comes with windows 10 S which limits you to using apps only downloaded from Microsoft store. You can however upgrade to Windows 10 Pro at a fee. All in all, if you are not on a tight budget, then the Surface Laptop is worth a long look.
Check out the Microsoft Surface Laptop at Amazon