My Surface Book Review
A bit of history
I happened to pick up a Surface Book a few weeks ago and I wanted to, like others have already done, write a review for those who may still be on the fence of deciding whether or not to buy one for themselves. I’d like to start by saying that I own a Surface 3 and have own both a Surface Pro 3 and 4 i5–256gb variants. I still own the Surface 3 but I’ve returned the Surface Pro devices both times after using them for a couple weeks. The problem I think I had with the Surface Pro devices is that it’s not a good tablet, in the way i use one, which then forces me to use it as a PC or laptop. Now the Surface Pro is powerful enough to be a good PC but the form factor is not the best for a laptop. It works but it’s awkward and mostly forces you to have a flat surface to use it on. And it’s that awkwardness that drove me every time to return the Surface Pro devices.
On with the review
Then Microsoft came out with the Surface Book. The Surface Book brings both a full laptop form factor and a full tablet form factor in a single product. And I have to say that they’ve done a superb job with this thing. I love the craftsmanship on the hinge. Roughly all the models are the same in look and feel. You have a choose between storage space, processor type and whether or not you’ll want the dedicated GPU. I choose the 8GB ram, 6th gen Intel i7 processor, 256GB ssd storage model which comes with the dedicated GPU.
Tablets are hard to get wrong these days when we focus on the device. Microsoft has the tablet device pretty much mastered at this point. The 13.5 PixelSense display is gorgeous with maximum resolution of 3000x2000 (267 ppi). The tablet portion is thin and light. The model I have is powerful enough for anything I throw at it but the battery life is not great. Its display packs a 18.0 Wh, 7.5 V, 2387 mAh battery and an alleged four hours of battery life. Roughly 3 hours of battery life is extremely short if all you need is a thin, light tablet. It also has a fan which comes on from time to time depending on your usage. It can also get warm with heavy usage but it’s not bad that the heat is in the tablet portion of the device. With this design you’ll not have to worry about burning you legs while it sits on your lap.
The biggest issue around the tablet for me is that the tablet applications are not of the same caliber as those found for the Apple iPad. This is probably why the Surface Book and Pro devices are marketed as more of a laptop or laptop replacement rather than an iPad killer.
The keyboard on the Surface Book feels really good. I’m glad that Microsoft did not choose to go with the flat keys like you get with the Surface keyboard or like Apple did on their MacBook Air. This keyboard is built well, includes USB ports, an sdcard reader, mini display port and the keys have back lighting. With 51 Wh (6800 mAh at 7.5 V), the base battery provides nearly 3 times the juice as the tablet.
As I may have already mentioned, I’m used to the Mac track pad. Mac track pads have so far been the best I’ve ever used. The Surface Book comes really close, in my opinion, if you turn off a couple options in the settings. By turning off “Allow taps on the touch pad” and “ Press on the lower right corner of the touch pad to right-click” I get a much better user experience from the touch pad. While these settings where enabled I’d mistakenly have the mouse go crazy as I typed on the keyboard or I would mistakenly right-click instead of left-click. Now if I need to right-click I just need to use a two finger press.
As a laptop the Surface Book is perfect and I’m never left wanting for something else. I have an awesome combination of keyboard, touch pad and touch screen with a good amount of ports, speed and power. Microsoft built this laptop with an 80/20 rule in mind. Saying that 80 percent of the time you’ll use the device as a laptop and 20 percent as a tablet. This is exactly how I tend to use the device. I think it’s mostly because you get more out of Windows 10 when using it as a PC.
I’ll have to admit that I do not use the pen much. I’m not an artist by any means but the pen does come in handy for annotating screen shots and PDFs. The pen was never a stand out reason for me to get a tablet but it does have its place, though limited, in my work flow. I thought I could use the pen as a mouse replacement but I was wrong. You lose the stability of a flat surface and mouse when trying to accurately grab corners for re-sizing windows with a pen.
Battery life in the Surface Book is greater than the Surface Pro models. This is because there are two batteries, one in the tablet portion and one in the keyboard portion. Usage varies but I’ve been able to get at least 10 hours of usage before needing to plug into a power source.
With all the goodness of this device it’s not without its issues. I get the occasional blue screen coming out of sleep or it could be hibernation for some reason. From what I’ve read online there is a known issue with the device when trying to go into sleep mode. You can look over this one trend around the issue here. I’ve followed the instruction to change from sleep to hibernate and so far so good. Coming out of hibernation is fast and more consistently stable than putting the device into sleep mode.
Coming out of sleep mode some time displays weird behavior with displaying the login screen. For some reason the size of the login screen is not full screen.
Or issues where the password input field never shows.
The issues are mostly with Windows 10 and its compatibility with this new gen device but as a consumer the distinction is moot especially after dropping as much cash as you’ll pay for the Surface Book. I have no doubt that the issues will all be fixed with a few software updates and being a techie I’m ok with implementing workarounds here and there.
I have been mostly pleased by the Surface Book. The only complaint that I have is the cost of the device. I could’ve easy bought about five Windows 10 laptops for what I paid for this one. Those cheaper devices would most likely not come with a pen, have hybrid tablet/laptop flexibility or have the same build quality but they’d be usable laptops. So if your sensitive about getting the most value for your money, getting a Surface Book won’t make sense. And if your new to Windows 10 you’ll also be better off with another device that doesn’t have all the issues that come along with the Surface Book.
Hopefully this was helpful. Peace!