Microsoft Surface Book review: unconventional design hides one of the best Windows 10 laptops you can buy

 
Steve Hogarty
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The Microsoft Surface Book

From £1,299 | ★★★★☆
microsoftstore.com

Microsoft’s hybrid laptop-tablet is a profoundly weird looking thing. If the Macbook Pro is your darling child, the Surface Book is the adolescent son who didn’t know when to stop growing.

It’s oddly tall, gawky even, thanks to its 4:3 aspect ratio screen. This makes the keyboard look and feel massive, as if you’re typing on a side of a van. The whole thing closes with a clever articulated hinge, curving like the spine of a book rather than with a sharp fold and leaving a small gap when shut. Despite all of this – and perhaps even because of this – the Surface Book is a handsome machine, the prettiest thing Microsoft has ever made, and the best Windows 10 laptop you can buy.

The curious design stems from this being a two-in-one laptop and tablet. All of the most important bits of science are held inside the touchscreen, meaning it can be yanked off and used separately. Removed from the keyboard it becomes a phenomenally powerful tablet running a full version of the Windows 10 operating system, meaning it’s compatible with Office, Adobe Creative Suite and anything else you can run on a regular desktop machine.

Quite why you’d want to snap the screen off is unclear. Whereas the Surface Pro’s magnetic keyboard could be unthinkingly tugged off with a flick of the wrist, the Surface Book’s screen is mechanically attached, requiring that a button first be pressed to electronically disengage the muscle-wire holding the screen firmly in place.

It’s a very simple additional step to disconnect the screen and keyboard, but it’s one that left me preferring to keep the device in one piece. I don’t live in the world of Microsoft’s glossy advertising reels, so found vanishingly few opportunities to snap the device in half during high-powered business presentations or cool band sessions with my attractive and ethnically diverse friends.

For most users then, it’s more helpful to view the Surface Book as a pure laptop. And as a laptop it’s comfortably near the top of its class. The sumptuous 3,000 x 2,000 resolution screen is beyond sharp at 267 pixels per inch, and is bright while still producing deep contrasting blacks and rich colours. The lowest tier machine sports a Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM, which is more than enough to churn through CPU-intensive editing jobs. The three higher-specced models introduce an additional 1GB graphics processor built into the base, giving the Surface Book an extra power boost when both keyboard and screen are combined – exactly like the Megazord from Power Rangers.

But like the Megazord, it’s expensive and you’re unlikely to get one for your birthday. Prices start at £1,299, with the beefiest Book costing a wallet-emptying £2,249. For your money you’re getting an exceptionally high-performance laptop that’s not without a few foibles: that snaking hinge doesn’t allow the screen to dip back very far, the audio jack sits awkwardly in the corner of the touchscreen, and most damningly the battery life falls way short of its nearest rivals.

But if you can forgive the Surface Book its flaws, it’s a lovely, dorky looking and powerful little thing.

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