It’s hard to digest the fact that the folks who make an OS sometimes take longer than necessary to come out with a machine that would fully utilize that potential of the software from a hardware level.
From your pocket, the Pixel did it and now Microsoft is doing somewhat similar with the Surface Laptop and its Windows 10S operating system. Will the two finally hold together the wedlock of delivering best Windows performance on an ultra portable? We went hands-on with the carpeted Surface Laptop to find out.
Design and build: oh so soft
One of my favourite palm rests till date was from the carbon fiber treatment on the Dell XPS 15 (2017). All that changed when we reviewed the Microsoft Surface Pro (2017) a few months ago. The Alcantara finish on it made me swell with glee and had a better productivity impact without caffeine.
The Surface Laptop gets the same spanking treatment and from use we can tell you that typing long articles becomes less cumbersome. Even the keyboard on the Surface Laptop is quite exquisite. The key travel is satisfying and the clickety-clack feeling of typing on this laptop is an absolute delight. The trackpad area is smooth and satisfying too, though we still need to use more of it to give our honest opinion.
Microsoft says the smooth Alcantara finish ages really well with the laptop and it won’t have any dangling threads on the edges even after months of regular use. From the looks of it, the aluminium chassis merges well with the carpeted palm rest and the Surface Pro is holding up that legacy even now in our office.
It's not a two piece affair like the Surface Pro and Surface Book 2. So the screen is stuck to the keyboard base with a hinge and the whole thing weighs 1.25kgs.
Screen and ports: Makes sense
The Surface Laptop only comes with a 13.5in screen packing 2256 x 1504 resolution. The PixelSense display from Microsoft is also a touchscreen though you cannot bend the screen backwards or separate it from its keyboard. So the Surface Dial and Surface Pen are somewhat pointless here.
Even so, the Gorilla Glass 3 screen has 100% sRGB colour gamut but all that number crunching is pointless if it doesn’t look good right? Well, we’re happy to report that this baby packs a fine display. The viewing angles are great and the colour accuracy is on point. Fair warning, the glass is crazy reflective so we’ll have to see how the brightness holds up in outdoor usage.
Squeezing down the body to 14.47mm thickness can leave little to no space for the ports and the Surface Laptop suffers the same get-yourself-an-adaptor fate like all ultra portables. Interestingly the SurfaceConnect adapter that charges the laptop also spares one extra USB Type-A port other than the Mini Display port, headphone jack and a full-size USB 3.0 Type-A ports already on the laptop. Battery life is said to top out at 14.5hours and we’ll be sure to test that in our full review.
Performance: A generation gap
Like all Microsoft products, the Surface Laptop is a year late to the party in India so while we prayed for a spec bump from Intel’s 7th Gen processors to 8th Gen processors, Microsoft has stuck with the global batch of giving us the 7th Gen ones. Truth be told it's not a bad processor but we’ll have to see how it works out in the full review.
For now though, you get to choose between an i5 and i7 processor with upto 16GB of RAM while the storage option is spread between 128GB and 1TB. Plenty of customization for innards to choose from but Microsoft has dropped the m3 processor variant here in India because let's be honest, why would you want anything other than an i5 or i7? The MacBook didn’t do that well here with the M3 processor and if you’re looking to take down the king of ultra portables you have to learn from their mistakes, right Microsoft?
The stated battery life is debatable until the final verdict but as of now this Windows 10S machine is banking hard on its optimisation capabilities. With Windows 10S Microsoft is basically saying that: Hey, here’s a machine that we think brings out the best in Windows OS and it's fully optimised to run as efficiently as possible. The only catch is, you have to download all the softwares from the Windows store.
While that may sound a bit scary it actually lets Microsoft take control over the optimisation bit but if you’re unable to find your choice of apps on the store then you can always upgrade it to Windows 10 Pro on the fly.
So why are we so pumped about a Windows machine that literally feels boring on paper? Well, that’s because we’re somewhat convinced with the Surface Laptop to deliver speedy performance thanks to Windows 10S and be a worthy ultra portable for anyone.
The Surface Laptop can very well take the mantle of the best Windows machine under a lac and we won’t be surprised if you splurged a little more for that extra storage. The highest variant touches ₹2,33,999 but we honestly don’t see the need for an ultra portable to be that expensive let alone offer excessive grunt purely based on storage and processor.
For typists, journos, students or just about anybody - the Windows Surface Laptop is shaping up to be a prominent figure in the premium laptop race.