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All About The Microsoft Surface Book

Posted by Andrea Baker on

After increasingly successful attempts at cornering the 2-in1 tablet market with devices like the Surface Pro, Microsoft last year went a step further with an all-out tilt at the laptop market in the form of the Surface Book.

What it delivered was a powerful laptop with tablet capabilities that has experts like Tech Radar proclaiming it an "all round terrific device". So what's in the Surface Book box and why is this model considered a great first draft of Microsoft's emerging laptop technology?

Microsoft Surface Book

The design

The sleek and minimalist design of the Microsoft Surface Book is "hinged" around three key features:

• A powerful base which packs 75 per cent of the battery power under a full-sized keyboard including touchpad,
• A 13.5-inch screen with additional 25 per cent battery power and processor, and:
• The vital link - a dynamic fulcrum hinge.

This concertina-style connector between the tablet (clipboard) and the keyboard allows the device to cater to three configurations: full laptop, independent tablet, and the oh so artistic sounding "creative canvas".

Together these components create a futuristic design where the seamless look belies its multi-function capability, so let's take a look at what it can do... 

Surface Book Laptop

The capability

Designed first and foremost as a laptop, the Surface Book comes with either an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor that powers a Microsoft Windows 10 Pro operating system and "limitless apps". That means users have access to all the convenience of Microsoft Office, along with additional professional programs like Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and CAD.

Microsoft boasts this equals "the ultimate laptop for working professionals" who can CAD or code without limitations.

For those who require graphics that go above and beyond, the laptop can also house an optional NVIDIA GeForce Graphics Processing Unit that sits discretely below the keyboard. This position has the added benefit that when you switch to tablet mode you leave your GPU behind. But all this means the Surface Book is no lightweight, weighing in at a total of 3.34lb.

Converting the laptop to tablet is as simple as pressing either the physical eject button on the keyboard or its virtual counterpart on the clipboard. The screen will then turn off for a second before telling you it's now safe to eject, and then you're off and running with a smart looking tablet and 6 million pixels of clarity, or 267ppi.

The screen is 13.5 inches in Microsoft's 3:2 aspect ratio. These are the same dimensions as a piece of A4 paper in a bid to make it easier to design and draw then send something to print.

When it comes to drawing the Surface Book comes complete with a Surface Pen that adheres magnetically to the side of the tablet screen. And what a pen it is; complete with technology that allows you to rest your hand on the screen without incurring smudges. Of course the tablet can also be used via multi-touch PixelSense as well.

The tablet houses the processor, a 5mp front-facing camera and an 8mp rear-facing camera with auto-focus.

In configuration three (Creative Canvas) the screen can be detached, turned around and then folded back on the keyboard, or in Microsoft's words: "By reconnecting to the keyboard you unlock the full creative power in a pen-first mode". This allows users to unleash their creative talent sketching or designing. 

The specs

The Surface Book boasts some pretty impressive specs, but you'll pay extra for anything above and beyond the basic.

They are:
• Intel Core i5 or i7 processor
• 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD
• 8GB or 16GB RAM
• Optional NVIDIA GeForce GPU
• 12 hours laptop battery life, according to Microsoft
• 4 hours tablet battery life
• 8mp auto-focus rear facing camera
• 5mp front facing camera
• 6 million pixels or 267ppi
• Two USB3 ports, a MiniDisplay port, SDCard reader and mini headphone/mic jack 

The bottom line

The base Surface Book kicks in at a fairly standard price of USD$1499. This includes the Intel Core i5 processor, 128GB storage and 8GB RAM. But be prepared to keep putting your hand in your wallet for optional extras like the graphics processing unit, faster i7 processor and additional memory. The top-of-the-range model, complete with i7 processor, 1T storage, 16GB RAM and the GPU, will set you back a cool $3199.  

The final word

While Microsoft has been steadily honing their skills in their Surface tablet range, it's worth noting the Surface Book is the first to really step into the laptop market. This makes the Surface Book their initial tilt at the hybrid laptop line-up and it's a great first attempt. With rumor of a second generation Surface Book 2 due to be released as soon as this October there's sure to be some refinements to this already fine machine.