Microsoft Surface Laptop Go Review

The Surface Laptop Go Review: Everything you would expect from a Microsoft Surface in a smaller package.

My Favourite Surface Ever!


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Intro

I’ve spent the last two months using the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go. After getting over the lack of a few premium features such as inking support and a backlit keyboard, I am convinced that this is possibly one of the best Surface devices ever released. It is certainly my favourite.

I used the Surface Go and Go 2 in the past few years and enjoyed them; they left me wanting more out of them and feeling like I wasn’t getting the full Surface experience. On the face of it, the Surface Go is a miniaturized Surface Pro, but with the power of the Pentium Gold processor, lack of RAM and a slightly cramped keyboard and trackpad, I felt slightly underwhelmed compared to my times with the Surface Pros and Books.

I went into my time with the Surface Laptop Go expecting the same thing—a boiled-down version of the Surface Laptop. After two months, that absolutely wasn’t the experience I had.



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Specs

The below specs are of the unit Microsoft send me for review. It was a top-end version of the Surface Laptop Go, so please keep that in mind while reading through!

Display: 12.4-inch PixelSense Display, 1536 x 1024 pixel resolution (148ppi), 3:2 aspect ratio, 10-point multi-touch

Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1

Memory: 8GB LPDDR 4x RAM

Storage: 256GB SSD

Dimensions: 278.18 x 205.67 x 15.69mm Weight: 1,110g (2.45lb)

Camera: 720p HD f/2.0 front-facing camera

Operating System: Windows 10 Home in S Mode

Battery: Up to 13 hours of “typical device usage”

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6

Sensors: Ambient light sensor Ports: 1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect port

Graphics: Intel UHD graphics



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Display

The display on the Surface Laptop Go is a lower resolution (1536 x 1024 pixels) than what you find on other Surface machines but, as was the case with previous Surfaces I have used, including the Go versions, the Laptop Go’s display was bright, vibrant and for my use, accurate. No, it isn’t Full HD, but this is not a media consumption device. It is geared towards users who are on the go and need something small, reliable and well built.

Like all other Surface devices, the Laptop Go has the same 3:2 aspect ratio. I think that all laptops should have this aspect ratio. I think the world is over 16:9. Some manufacturers have moved to 16:10, which is great, but for productivity, nothing beats 3:2.

Like all Surface computers, the Laptop Go has a touch screen. It works well, but with the laptop form factor compared to the Surface Pro and Go tablet-style, I didn’t use it much. It was more for scrolling webpages and documents.


Ports and Connectivity

I/O ports and Surface devices have always been a point of contention. Microsoft has taken the Apple approach of less is more, but they have also taken a safe approach by being slow to adopt the newest I/O connectivity on their devices.

The Surface Laptop Go is no exception. Onboard you have a Surface connect power port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, one USB 3.0 Type-A port and one USB 3.0 Type-C port.

I read many complaints that the Laptop Go should have had USB-C charging and Thunderbolt 3. While I agree with the charging, this is a budget laptop, and for the target market, Thunderbolt 3 would have driven up the cost of the device.

In my opinion, this is the first Surface to strike the right amount of ports for the type of customer it is geared towards. The single USB-C port is acceptable in this context, considering the most you will need to connect to a machine of this type is a USB-C display adapter, your smartphone or other USB-C peripherals such as a card reader. If the USB-C port is occupied, you can easily fall back to the USB-A port.

I don’t have strong feelings about the 3.5mm headphone port. That was a feature on many devices a few years ago, but TWS headphones are much more readily available and affordable today than wired headphones are nothing more than an inconvenience.

The only port I would change would be to ditch the Surface Connect port for another USB-C port for charging. I am hoping Microsoft takes that bold move away from the proprietary power connection some time in 2021. Fingers crossed!


USB-A – USB-C – 3.5mm
Surface Connect Power

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Performance

I eluded to this earlier, but I had low expectations for the Laptop Go. My previous Go experiences were positive but slightly underwhelming. In my time with the Laptop Go, I was amazed at how well it kept pace with other more powerful devices.

The 8GB of RAM helped, but I think the difference-maker is the processor compared to the Surface Go devices. The Laptop Go comes with an i5, regardless of the model, whereas the Surface Go offers a Pentium Gold processor, which is wildly underpowered by today’s standards.

Microsoft’s decision to avoid a low powered processor is a massive win for Laptop Go customers.

My Surface Laptop Go use was not incredibly heavy, but I did have to jump in and out of Photoshop periodically. Not once did I feel like the Go was lacking. Like all other Adobe apps, Photoshop is a heavy app, but the Go was up for the challenge.


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Fingerprint reader in the power button.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Pen

The keyboard on the Laptop Go is amazing. I can’t really say much more than that. With each new surface device, I use I fall more and more for the keyboard. I used to put Lenovo on a pedestal when it came to keyboards. However, as I type this review between an X1 Carbon and this very Surface Laptop Go for the purposes of comparison, the X1 doesn’t meet the mark. Surface Laptop, to me, is the new keyboard king.

The touchpad, like all other surface devices is large and pleasant to use. I found it to be accurate and responsive.

When I initially received the Laptop Go, I was excited to use my Surface Pen, like all other surfaces. However, I had forgotten that the Laptop Go does not support inking. At first, I viewed this as a disappointment and a mark against the device. Then, when considering my earlier points about the device’s form factor, its intended audience and its price, the pen and inking support would add cost to an already premium-priced device.



Software and Windows 10

The Surface Laptop Go, like its other Go family members and the original Surface Laptop, ships with Windows 10 in S mode. In case you are unaware, Windows 10 in S mode restricts users to install apps from the Microsoft Store only. This is good for organizations that do not want their users getting into trouble installing potentially harmful applications. It is also good if you’re only browsing the web and happy with the default apps like Edge (which you should be because it is great!) and the Mail and Calendar apps. The store does contain many popular apps like Twitter and Facebook Messenger as well.

For someone like myself who likes to test various different applications or has legacy applications, I use for various purposes, S mode does not work for me. Thankfully, you can easily turn off S mode with a quick settings toggle.

Other than S mode, Windows 10 is Windows 10 and for me, that is a good thing!


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Windows 10 in S Mode Settings
A few clicks will free you from the shackles of Windows 10 in S Mode.

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Pros:

  • Premium build quality
  • Outstanding webcam
  • Excellent keyboard and trackpad
  • Intel Core i5 processor

Cons:

  • No backlit keyboard
  • No support for inking
  • Lower resolution display
  • Limited I/O

Conclusion: Should You Buy The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go?

I always find myself hard-pressed not to recommend a Surface device, which is still the case here. I will admit, the Surface Laptop Go is expensive, some may say too expensive, but with a Surface device, you are buying into a family of devices that are incredibly well built, well supported and look great. The Surface Laptop Go makes the perfect laptop for someone on the go who wants to consume the web, send email but can hold its own for tasks like editing photos and consuming multimedia when needed.

If your needs are exceptionally low and you live only in email and on the web, with no need for more power from time to time, a Chromebook may suit you fine. However, a Chromebook boxes you in with no way out, even with a more expensive model. The Surface Laptop Go will have its limits, but the ceiling is considerably higher.



The Surface Laptop Go is available from Microsoft starting at $759.99 CAD and the configuration I reviewed will set you back $1,229.99 CAD.

Check out the Surface Laptop Go from Amazon right HERE!

My Next Keyboard: ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II

I have been a religious user of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon since the first generation of the laptop. Now, I haven’t had much of a choice since that is the laptop of choice for my employer, but I have through GadgetSyrup used dozens of other keyboards. The only one that I liked as much as the ThinkPad has been the Surface Book 2.

When I am at work or at my home office though, I spend a fair amount of time using either my desktop or have my X1 Carbon docked and not using its internal keyboard. I always prefer the feel of the X1 keyboard though, so will often use the laptop undocked when typing up a post or a long email. However, I think I found the solution.

On the eve of CES 2020 Lenovo announced the ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II which brings the ThinkPad typing experience to the desktop PC and it looks great!

It’s not cheap though, so it will be a tough pill to swallow when I inevitably purchase one. Lenovo is saying that the ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II will launch in May 2020 for USD $100

The ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II connects to your PC via 2.4Ghz wireless or Bluetooth 5. They keyboard is rechargeable too thanks to its USB-C connection. According to Lenovo a single charge should last for two months depending on your level of use. Since it connects via Bluetooth, this could also be used with other devices, such as an Android phone or tablet.

What do you think of the ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II? Will it be your next keyboard? What other keyboards do you prefer?

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Review: The Best Laptop Money Can Buy?

The Surface Book 2 is the newest device in Microsoft’s stable of PCs. It offers an exceptionally wide array of functionality thanks to its unique detachable clipboard design. However, the price tag of the Surface Book 2 is pushing the limits of what is acceptable for notebook in 2018. Does its steep price tag stand up to its performance and functionality?

Check out the full review of the Microsoft Surface Book 2 to find out where I stand.

I have said it before, I will say it again. I am a huge Surface fan. The devices created by the Surface team dating back to original Surface RT release have always been extremely well built and stunning to look at. The original Surface certainly did have reliability and usability issues, as I mentioned in my Surface Laptop review, but they have always had a brilliant design language.

The goal of Microsoft hardware, under Panos Panay, is to create and innovate in new product categories and not to create “me too” products in already established categories. The Surface Book and now the Surface Book 2 are the epitomai of that goal.

What is the Microsoft Surface Book 2

The Surface Book 2 is by no means a standard laptop. It is a pretty unique product that no other company has successfully been able to replicate. At a glance, it does appear to be similar in design to any other ultrabook out there, but upon closer inspection, you see that it is so much more. The Surface Book 2 is unique because unlike other two-in-one devices that allow the screen to be removed the base, it isn’t limited performance wise thanks to its incredible spec list and very creative implementation of a dedicated GPU.

Take the regular Surface Pro for example. The keyboard/base unit is nothing more than a cover with a built-in keyboard. The Surface Book 2 offers users a very powerful PC experience when attached to the base. The 15″ version the Book 2 can be configured with a Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU, which is more than capable of handling most games, but with the simple press of a button the screen of the Book 2 can be removed from the powerful base leaving you with a 13.5″ (or 15″) tablet.

 With the press of a button, the Surface Book 2 becomes a powerful stand alone tablet!
With the press of a button, the Surface Book 2 becomes a powerful stand alone tablet!

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What’s In The Box?

The Surface Book 2 doesn’t come with much in the box. It is very utilitarian. Aside from the Book itself, the only other items in the box are the Surface power supply and a small quick start manual. 

Sadly, despite the fact that this notebook sells for upwards of $4,000 CAD Microsoft does not include the Surface Pen. Yes, I know, accessories like the Pen are high margin items for PC makers, but this laptop, like other top-shelf devices, is already high margin! To have to shell out another $150 or so for a Pen is unfortunate. 

Review Unit Specs

Thanks to Microsoft for the review device! The package spec’ed out below will set you back $3,849.00. Ouch.🤯

  • 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U, 4.2 GHz
  • 16GB RAM
  • 1TB SSD
  • Nvidia GTX 1050 discrete GPU w/2GB GDDR5
  • 13.5″ PixelSense touchscreen display (3000×2000 resolution)
  • SDXC card reader (128 GB max capacity)
  • Up to 17 hours battery (base and display)
  • USB-C (not Thunderbolt 3) port
  • USB 3.1 (2) ports
  • FullHD 1080p front (5 MP) and rear camera (8 MP)
  • Windows 10 Pro Creators Update 64-bit

What I Liked About the Surface Book 2

Keyboard

One thing that I really did not enjoy when I reviewed the Surface Laptop, was its keyboard. It was fine, but the key throw was not as good as I was expecting, especially when I compared it to my 2016 Lenovo X1 Carbon.

The keyboard on the Surface Book 2 however, is a thing of beauty. The key throw is perfect, the sound is perfect, everything about it is nearly perfect. I have been using the been using the Book 2 almost exclusively for two months now and aside from the less than stellar back-lighting of the keyboard I cannot find anything to complain about on this front. Every keyboard should be this good.

Gaming Performance

The Surface Book 2 brings the power with a GTX1050 or 1060. This isn’t the top-end of the GPU space, but for the vast majority of games you could or would want to play on a portable machine will run great on this machine. I am by no means a gamer, at least not anymore. My gaming on this PC was limited mostly to playing F1 2017 from Codemasters. With the settings dials up, the game almost never stuttered. If it did, it was because some other rogue process outside the game decided to spike, causing the overall system to slow down. Slightly frustrating, yes. I binned my car on more than one occasion thanks to a momentary lag from the system. However, despite those few lags, I got exactly what I expected out the Surface Book 2 when gaming.

One note to be aware of when using the Book 2 for gaming is the fan noise. Nearly every time I fired up F1 2017 the fans would run very loud in an effort to keep the machine cool. It achieved the cooling part better than I had expected. However, the noise created by the fans, which vent at the top of the base neat the fulcrum hinge was very loud and very irritating.

The Clipboard

This kind of goes without saying. One the stand out features of this device is its power, but also the ability to remove the screen and take advantage of a high quality, lightweight tablet. It took some getting used to, having a tablet so large when you’re used to devices the size of an iPad mini, but that transition didn’t take long and in no time using the device as a tablet become second nature. The clipboard is heavy though, so using it for extended periods will start to wear you down.

Display

The Surface Books 2 has an absolutely stunning 3:2 ratio display that is very easy on the eyes. Working with the display for hours on end does not lead to tired or strained eyes because it is very precise and clear. 

Circle back to 3:2 ratio for a moment. This aspect ratio is something every professional/business class laptop should be adopting. The days where 16:9 and 16:10 laptops were the go to are or should be over. Laptops are productivity devices mostly, not multimedia consumption devices. Most of that “play” time has moved to iPads and smartphones. Working in Excel or Power BI on a 16:9 display is a less than fun experience. I hope that other PC makers, I’m looking at you Lenovo, start to adopt this aspect ratio on a larger scale as the laptop market continues to evolve. 

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What I Didn’t Like About the Surface Book 2

Keyboard Backlight

One of the things I praised about with the Surface Book 2 was the keyboard. It is great, but one thing I never thought I would have a need to complain about was a keyboards backlight. The backlighting on the Book 2 is some kind of awful. When activated in anything less than near-complete darkness, it renders the keys nearly invisible. Fortunately, there is a dedicated key to turn the back-light off. Something I did almost immediately after turning the Book on.

I/O on the Clipboard

I’m not sure why Microsoft made the engineering decisions they did when designing the clipboard portion of the Book 2, but the positions they selected for the power button, volume buttons and headphone jack (its existence I am very thankful for, by the way) are absolutely horrible when using the Book.

The power button and volume rocker are located on the outside-edge, top-left of the clipboard. I am constantly finding that I have accidentally turned on the computer while carrying it or transporting it in my laptop bag. I also find myself hitting these keys when I am taking the clipboard off the base and turning to portrait mode. Like my smartphone, when turning to portrait, I rotate the device counterclockwise. When done with the Book 2, the button position is almost guaranteed to lead to an accidental powering down of the machine. I do not know why Microsoft had to put them there, perhaps they had no choice, but having them on the outside edge of the right-side of the clipboard, much like the vast majority of mobile devices today, would have been a far more logical choice.

The headphone jack, who’s existence I am grateful for, is in the upper right-hand side of the clipboard. The exact location I think the power and volume rocker should be. I understand the jack needs to be on the clipboard, so you can use headphones when in tablet mode, but to location selected really limits your range of motion unless you are on a very long wire.

Where’s the Pen!

 I mentioned this earlier, but it is worth bringing up again. The review unit I have here in front of me retails for nearly $3,900 CAD. That is very expensive. The device is geared towards creators and productivity power users. No “average” consumer is going to even give this computer a second look. If you are buying this device, you are likely going to need or want the Surface Pen. One would assume that a device this expensive, with this sort of margin, Microsoft would perhaps feel slightly charitable and include the Pen at no extra charge.

Conclusion/Should You Buy the Surface Book 2?

This is a tough one. If you have the cash to burn or simply have to have the latest and greatest, then yes buy this laptop! If you need to have an extremely powerful notebook for your work, say, designer, videographer, etc. Then yes, but this laptop! If you are looking for a solid, well designed, minimalist notebook that is built to last I would steer towards the Surface Laptop. I reviewed it last fall and really enjoyed it. 

However, if you are thinking of picking this up to be a gaming laptop, I wouldn’t recommend it. It can game, yes. I really enjoyed playing F1 2017 on the Surface Book 2, but heavier games are sure the lag and struggle to keep up. The Surface Book 2 with a 15″ display and GTX 1060 will fair better but will also put a larger dent in your wallet. If gaming is your objective, look to traditional gaming rigs for that. 

The bottom line is; if you are a power user, and want a notebook that can literally do everything, and do it very well, the Surface Book 2 is for you. Just be prepared to pay for that robust functionality.

If you’re looking for a good mouse to go along with your Surface Book or Laptop, give the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic mouse some consideration. I also reviewed it last year and am still using it to this day. You can check that out right here.

Thanks for reading my Surface Book 2 review. I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Best Surface Book 2 Accessories

The Surface Book 2 may be the most “complete” notebook on the market in 2018. It checks all the boxes, but like any device, the experience is dramatically improved with the correct accessories.

Check out my list of the best Surface Book 2 Accessories!

The Surface Book 2 may be the most “complete” notebook on the market in 2018. It checks all the boxes, but like any device, the experience is dramatically improved with the correct accessories.

Check out my list of the best Surface Book 2 Accessories!


Megoo Surface Book Tempered Glass Screen Protector

 The Surface Book 2 had a gorgeous touchscreen, so taking care of it should be of the highest priority!

 The Megoo Tempered Glass screen protector is a must. Spec’ed at 9H hardness the Megoo can stand up to scuffs and scratches from nearly any object.

Some lower quality screen protectors cause the display to look faded or dull. That won’t be that case with the Megoo, since it is highly transparent, allowing 94% of light through from the display.

It is also only 0.2mm thick, so added weight and bulk on the display will not be an issue.

You can pick up the  Megoo Surface Book Tempered Glass Screen Protector at Amazon.ca for around $25 CAD.

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Xbox One Wireless Controller

The Surface Book 2 packs some serious power. The review unit I have been spending time with of late ships with a Nvidia discrete GPU w/2GB GDDR5,  an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U at 4.2 GHz, and 16 GB of RAM.

With all that power, you’d be doing Microsoft a disservice by not using it for gaming, and you can’t game, properly, without an Xbox One controller.

Selling at the Microsoft Store for $74.99 CAD, the Xbox One controller will work with both your Windows 10 PC and Xbox One game console.


StarTech.com USB-C Docking Station

Surface devices have suffered from a lack of ports to allow users to connect various peripherals and displays. The Surface Book 2 is no exception offering only two USB 3 Type A ports, one USB Type C port and an SDXC slot. Actually, that is better than say the Surface Laptop which peers only a single USB Type A and mini DisplayPort connection, but given the performance abilities of the Book 2, I would have hoped for more connectivity options.

Thankfully, many companies offer various docking station options which give users a variety of ports. One solid example is the StarTech.com DK30A2DH docking station.

The DK30A2DH allows users to connect dual 4k displays, six USB Type A devices, Ethernet, and 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks. All of this connects to the Surface Book 2 via a single USB Type C connection.

The  DK30A2DH sells for just over $227 CAD from Amazon.ca

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Surface Pen

Any Surface device wouldn’t be complete without a Surface Pen. Since the original Surface release, the Pen has seen dramatic improvements with each new release. The current Surface Pen iteration is incredibly precise with 4,096 pressure points which makes drawing and sketching nearly lag-free.

The Surface Pen doesn’t come cheap though. It will set you back $129.99 CAD.


That’s it! Those are my picks for some of the best Surface Book 2 accessories? Agree? Disagree? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments section below!

 Don’t forget to check out my Surface Book 2 Review while you’re here!

Microsoft Surface Laptop Review

Having been a huge Microsoft hardware fan for years and a Surface Pro owner myself I was ecstatic when the Surface Laptop was announced. I could not wait to get my hands on. Well, I have had my hands on the Surface Laptop for a while now. Check out my full review here!

I have been a big fan of Microsoft’s Surface lineup since day one. Although very dated by today’s standards the original Surface design language was unlike anything on the market at the time. It was a full-fledged laptop PC in the body of a (slightly large) tablet, and that is exactly how Microsoft potitioned it. “The tablet that can replace your laptop.”


 The original Microsoft Surface Pro
The original Microsoft Surface Pro


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Now, let’s be completely honest though. The first Surface Pro device absolutely could not replace your laptop. The kickstand, despite being revolutionary in design only had one position available, the keyboard/cover was flimsy and the typing experience was a nightmare. 

Even the Surface Pro 2 was not the laptop replacement Microsoft kept pushing on everyone through various marketing campaigns despite Microsoft’s best attempts to address the Surface’s shortcomings with a more sturdy keyboard/cover, a two-position kickstand and an improved trackpad.

It was not until the Surface Pro 3 and 4 that the marketing pitch of “a tablet that can replace your laptop” could be taken seriously.

However, despite the major leap forward in functionality fans of Microsoft Hardware still wanted more. Microsoft released a few iterations of the Surface Book which is more “laptop-like” than the Surface Pro devices but the Book still has a few functionality issues that steer your everyday laptop user away.

Finally, in 2017 Microsoft decided to complete their hardware lineup with the Surface Laptop. This product release, though welcomed, was surprising since Microsoft’s stance with hardware releases was to only create a new product if it was going to define a new category, not enter into an existing category. This justification was a way to keep its partners happy. Companies like HP, Dell, Acer, and others were put-off when Microsoft released the original Surface Pro because it looked like Microsoft was directly competing with its partners. This was not intended to be the case, but the optics were not good.

It was also reiterated by Microsoft’s Chris Capossela just before Christmas 2016 on an episode of TWiT’s Windows Weekly with Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley. He was clear that Microsoft does not want to compete, it wants to lay the groundwork for a new category and aide its partners in creating great products. Which is exactly what has been seen over the last year. Looking at any major PC makers lineup you will be sure to find near exact copies of the Surface Pro, with maybe one or two tweaks.

Despite all of that though, Microsoft still decided to move forward with the Surface Laptop despite the device not being first in a new category.

If I were HP, Dell or another OEM partner of Microsoft’s I would be upset with Microsoft. As an enthusiast though, I welcome the Surface Laptop to the market because I am, 1) a big Surface fan and, 2) I feel the Surface Laptop will continue to push OEMs to build even better laptops. Take the Dell XPS 13 or HPs Evo lineups. Those two laptops are leaps and bounds ahead of the Surface Laptop.

Now, enough history, we’re here for a review!


What’s In The Box?

 I know, Brad! I was shocked too. Microsoft released a laptop! It must have taken
I know, Brad! I was shocked too. Microsoft released a laptop! It must have taken ” courage.” 


Not a lot comes in the box with the Surface Laptop. My unit shipped with only a Surface power adapter, power cord, and the Surface itself. Nothing more, nothing less. The Surface Pen is not included with the Laptop, but is compatible.



Review Unit Specifications

The review unit Microsoft was nice enough to loan me for this review retails for $1299 USD or $1649 CAD

Display: 13.5″ PixelSense™ Display with 201 PPI, 10 point multi-touch and 3:2 aspect ratio

CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-7200U (i7 on other models)

RAM: 8 GB (up to 16 GB on other models)

SSD: 250 GB (up to 512 GB on other models)

Windows Version: Windows 10 S (can be updated to Pro*)

Ports: mini DisplayPort (DP 1.2 MST enabled), USB 3.1 Gen 1, headphone jack and Surface™ Connect (power/docking)

Complete specs from Microsoft can be seen HERE.


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The Good

Build Quality

The industrial design of the Surface Laptop is very polarizing. Some users say it is too plain while others absolutely love the minimalist design. I find myself loving the design of the Surface Laptop. It is clean and crisp with very little getting in the way visually.

The laptop is just over half an inch thick but is a tad on the heavy side weighing in at 2.8 pounds. This is not extremely heavy when compared to my Lenovo X1 Carbon (2.6 pounds), the Surface is a fraction of a pound heavier, which can be attributed to the metal materials used for the body of the laptop. Despite being slightly heavier than similar machines it is a pleasure to use and travels well.



Windows Hello

Many people have ridiculed Windows Hello, Microsoft’s iris scanning technology which allows users to sign in quickly thanks to the iris scanner built into the top bezel of the display. I am a huge fan of this functionality. For me so far, it works so well that most times I do not even see the lock screen when the laptop comes out of sleep mode because the iris scanner has picked me up so quickly. The key I find to making Hello work correctly is to let it scan you in decent natural light. Getting the saved iris scan right has allowed Hello to pick me up and log me in quickly, even in less than desirable lighting conditions.

Alcantara

Microsoft also took some heat from the media and potential consumers over the use of Alcantara for the top covering surrounding the keyboard and trackpad. Alcantara is a fabric that is commonly used in high-end luxury cars for the headliner and other fabric covered accents in the vehicle. I was skeptical prior to the Surface arriving, but now that I have been using the laptop for a while now I actually really like this material. I was expecting more of a felt-like feeling, much like the keyboard/cover on my Surface Pro 2, but it is considerably thinner and therefore more firm. It has not picked up any staining during my use and my palms can rest and slide with easy on the palm rests. I think most of those who were against the fabric covering were complaining for the sake of complaining.



Display

I also am in love with the display on the Surface Laptop. It is very bright, the saturation levels are perfect (for me) and having touch is a major benefit. My previous Lenovo X1 Carbon was a touchscreen model. When I upgraded to the 2016 model it came sans-touch. Having touch, and Surface Pen support, on the Surface Laptop is great. Even if you only use to scroll web pages and emails or pinch-to-zoom on an image, it is a feature worth having.

Software

Windows 10 S has been surprisingly pleasant to use during my time with this laptop. Windows 10 S, if you were unaware, only allows users to install an application from the Windows Store. Installing Win32 legacy application (.exe files) is not possible. When attempted the OS will prompt you that it is not able to perform this task links to a page explaining how to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. Yes, I am missing being able to use Photoshop, but Elements is in the Store if needed and the Photos app that comes built into Windows is incredibly powerful and will only get better once the Surface Laptop receives the Fall Creators update. It hasn’t all been great with Windows 10 S though, continue to “The Bad” for more on that.



The Bad

The Keyboard

The Surface laptop, like all other Surface products before it is an exceptional piece of hardware. I only have one complaint about the hardware, and it is a pretty big one. As I mentioned before, my “daily-driver” laptop is a Lenovo X1 Carbon (2016). Lenovo has for years been known as king-of-the-hill in the battle for the best laptop keyboard. No other manufacturer has been able to beat them (in my opinion). I had extremely high hopes for the Surface Laptops keyboard, but I am sad to report that this keyboard just does not cut it. For a laptop at this price point with such a great overall build quality the keyboard should be near perfection. They key-throw is too shallow, and the entire keyboard seems to wobble or shift around when typing. It is good, and for most people, it may be perfectly acceptable, but if the keyboard on the X1 Carbon eats the Surface Laptop’s lunch every day of the week. One win I will give the Surface over the X1 Carbon is the function key (Fn). When pressed it remains engaged while you complete the action you are performing; such as ALT+F4 to close a window. The key has a small LED to indicate that the F-keys are enabled. It does not automatically disengage, which would be nice, but is better than having to hold the key like on other laptops.

 Trackpad: Great! Alcantara Fabric: Excellent! Keyboard: Meh!
Trackpad: Great! Alcantara Fabric: Excellent! Keyboard: Meh!

Microsoft Edge

The software experience with Windows 10 S has been mostly positive, but there is one major complaint I had to share. Microsoft Edge. The browser that took over for Internet Explorer seemed poised to be a real contender against Chrome. This is not the case. Now, don’t get me wrong though, Edge is lightyears ahead of where Intenet Explorer was. During my first week or two with the Surface, Edge was snappy and responsive. In recent days, however, it has felt more like a Samsung phone suffering from “OS-rot” after 4-6 months of use (come at me Samsung fans, you know it’s true!). Up until this part of the review, I was using Squarespace, via Edge to type this review, lousy keyboard and all. I reached a point though where I just couldn’t handle it anymore. Everything was lagging including keystrokes, clicking links sometimes left me waiting for several seconds before responding, which leads to double or triple-clicking said links. Yes, Edge does has made a lot of progress since Windows 10 first came to market and just recently Microsoft has been touting that Edge now has more than 70 extensions available in the Store. Extensions are great, but Edge is simply not


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The Bottom Line: Should You Buy The Surface Laptop?

For most, the keyboard on the Surface Laptop will be perfectly acceptable. I didn’t even mention the trackpad either. It is near, if not at, Macbook (pre-force touch) levels of quality. 

The largest drawback for most is going to be Windows 10 S. For me, aside from Edge being mostly a pain to use, staying within the Windows Store is fine. Now, I was a Windows Phone 7/8/8.1/10 user, so I was able to get buy with limited and slightly lower quality app selections for years. However, if you need to have Adobe Photoshop or Premier you’re going to want to make the jump to Windows 10 Pro. Fortunately, Microsoft is allowing Windows 10 S users to upgrade to Pro at no extra cost until December 31st, 2017. Starting in 2018, customers will need to pay a one time fee of $50 USD. 

So, would I recommend the Surface Laptop? Yes, absolutely. This may be the best Surface product Microsoft has ever released. The hardware experience overall is excellent. Battery life has been excellent. Windows Hello login is a major win. The only thing that is holding this laptop back is Windows 10 S, but that can easily be remedied at a fairly low cost.

You can purchase the Surface Laptop directly from Microsoft HERE.


One More Thing

There has been a lot of buzz of late regarding Microsoft potentially exiting the hardware space by 2019. The Surface Laptop could be a key indicator of this desire since it is not a new and innovative product category and was released merely “just because.” I do not see Microsoft getting out of the hardware space anytime soon. The Surface lineup allows Microsoft to showcase the power of Windows 10. One of the problems Microsoft has faced over the years is OEMs picking and choosing what parts of Windows customers can take advantage of thanks to the inclusion or exclusion of specific hardware (touchscreen, iris scanning, etc.). By keeping the Surface lineup around Microsoft can continue to innovate with Windows and showcase that innovation with their hardware. 

It is also worth noting that while I was writing this review, Panos Panay, the head of the Surface team has publicly said that the news of Microsoft killing off the Surface line and getting out of hardware is “so far from the truth.”


What do you think? Would you consider the Surface Laptop for your next laptop? Would you give Windows 10 S a chance or go Pro immediately?


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