A couple of months ago I got a myself a Surface Book while I was in the US. You may know that I am a Surface user for a long time now. I started with the original Surface Pro, upgraded to the Surface Pro 2 and the Surface Pro 3, which was my main device for the last year. Microsoft announced the Surface Book together with the Surface Pro 4, the new Microsoft Band 2 and the Lumia 950 as well as the Lumia 950 XL.
The Surface Book is the first laptop Microsoft has ever created and Microsoft doesn’t call it the ultimate laptop for no reason. I have used the Surface Book now for the past months while I was traveling, giving presentations, working at customer sites or at home writing blog posts. With that I got a great impression of the Surface Book in the real world, not just reviewing it for a couplnowe of hours, as other tech sites do, this is more kind of a real user review.
- Software: Windows 10 Pro
- Exterior: Casing: Magnesium, Color: Silver, Physical buttons: Volume, Power
- Dimensions: 12.30” x 9.14” x 0.51 – 0.90” (312.3mm x 232.1mm x 13.0 – 22.8mm)
- Weight: Starting at 3.34 pounds (1,516 grams) including keyboard
- Storage: Solid state drive (SSD) options: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB.
- Display: Screen: 13.5” PixelSense™ display
- Resolution: 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI)
- Aspect ratio: 3:2
- Touch: 10 point multi-touch
- Battery life: Up to 12 hours of video playback4
- Processor: 6th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 or i7
- Graphics i5: Intel® HD graphics 520, i5/i7: NVIDIA GeForce GPU with 1GB GDDR5 memory
- Security: TPM chip for enterprise security
- Memory: 8GB or 16GB RAM
- Wireless: 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible
- Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
- Ports: Two full-size USB 3.0, Full-size SD™ card reader, SurfaceConnectTM, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort
- Cameras: Windows Hello face-authentication camera (front-facing), 5.0MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video, 8.0MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p HD video
- Audio: Stereo microphones, Stereo speakers with Dolby® audio
- Sensors: Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer
I got the Intel Core i7 version with 8GB memory and 256GB of storage. To be honest, if I had the choice I would get the smallest Core i5 version with a dedicated graphics card or the Core i7 version with 16GB of memory.
Design and Durability
As always Microsoft did build a great piece of hardware in terms of design and build quality. As the Surface Pro 3 and the whole Surface line the Surface Book is really high quality. I really like to work with it.
Display and Audio
What I really like about the Surface product line are the displays. First of all, the quality is pretty good, but what is even more important for me is the 3:2 ratio. With that you get a lot more space on the screen to get work done. This especially helps when you are doing some writing or get some mails done. The Surface Book comes with a 13.5 inch screen which is just a little bit bigger than the Surface Pro 4, and this is one if the main reasons I got myself the Surface Book instead of the Surface Pro. Especially on if you are on the road and the device is not docked, a bigger screen can make a huge difference.
Audio and especially the microphones work every well and have a very good quality if you are doing Skype or other conference calls.
Heat and Fan Noise
If you were owner of a Surface Pro 3 you might had some issues with fan noise and the Surface Pro 3 could get very hot. I am running the Intel Core i7 version of the Surface Book and I don’t have any issues in terms of heat of fan noise. The Surface Book runs very quiet and cool, I never really heard the fan, even when I run some heavy workloads like virtual machines.
Wireless and Networking
Wireless and network connectivity are as usual pretty great, no issues here. If you want to use a wired connection you have to buy a USB to Ethernet adapter, since the Surface Book does not have a build in Ethernet port, but this isn’t a real problem.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard and the trackpad are amazing, I think this is the best keyboard and trackpad combination I have ever used. Typing feels really good even if you have to write lager documents or blog posts. Of course the keyboard has also backlight which makes it great if you have to write something in a dark hotel room.
With the tablet mode you can easily detach the screen from the keyboard so you can use it as a very light tablet. The tablet is really light, even lighter than the Surface Pro and has up to 4 hours of battery life. As cool as the tablet mode for some people may is, I basically never use it. I use the pen and the touch screen a lot, but I never really detach the keyboard from it. This is kind of different than the Surface Pro, where I detached the Type Cover a lot and just place it somewhere using the kickstand, since the Surface Book does not have a kickstand you really have to hold it all the time, and I just don’t have a use case for this.
Battery life and Performance
Performance and battery life is where the Surface Book really starts to shine. Especially in terms of disk performance using an internal NVMe disk, the Surface Book is amazingly fast. I got the version with an Intel Core i7, 8GB of memory, 256GB of storage and a dedicated Nvidia graphics card. Next time I would choose the larger version with more memory and storage but at this time in November last year it was the only configuration which was available.
Battery life is also not an issue, I get around 8-12h of battery life when I am on the road. This is enough for a full day of work.
Software and Accessories
The Surface Book comes with Windows 10 Pro, and as I mentioned I really like Windows 10. I am running the latest Windows Insider builds and the work most of the time great. Performance is really good and one thing I always loved about the Surface was the Surface Pen. I am not an artist, but I use the pen a lot in workshops with customers, instead of using it a whiteboard or to take notes in OneNote.
At home I dock the Surface Book to the Surface Dock where I have two 27-inch screens, which makes it a fully functional desktop.
As you can see I am really happy with the device I am using for around 7 months. The only thing which makes me want a Surface Pro again is the size. The Surface Pro with the Type Cover is much more mobile, especially when you are traveling a lot by plane or train. Otherwise the Surface Book is the perfect device.