Personal Computers

Surface Book Evokes Oohs, Ahhs and Sticker Shock

Many reviewers have responded to the preproduction version of Microsoft’s Surface Book the way an average Joe would view a top-of-the-line luxury car: The features are great, but the price is daunting.

“Overall, we recommend it, especially to people who value performance, design and battery life above all else, and are willing to pay dearly for it,” remarked Dana Wollman in her Engadget review.

The Surface Book is “astonishingly expensive,” said Ars Technica’s Peter Bright.

“There’s no way around it: The Surface Book is expensive,” Gordon Mah Ung wrote for PC World.

The Surface Book starts at US$1,500. Whether that’s value for your money depends on what you are looking for.

“The question is, are the price point and the looks designed to penetrate the marketplace Apple’s a player in?” mused Susan Schreiner, an analyst at C4 Trends.

“Apple’s in the premium-priced products market. This is the first time Microsoft is taking that kind of approach, and I think it’s either doing this to go into the premium market or to show what can be done,” she told TechNewsWorld, “and is looking to have its OEMs come up with an equally good lower-priced product.”

On the Surface

Based on our review sample, these are the Surface Book’s strong points: design and construction, screen, pen input, keyboard, battery life and performance speed.

Weaknesses: When freed from the docking base, its battery life is too short. Also, the hinge doesn’t work when the Book runs out of juice.

The Surface Book packs in good performance, Brett Howse noted on AnandTech.

The Skylake 15 W processors “are great for day-to-day tasks, and the GPU only puts it further ahead of most Ultrabooks,” he wrote. “Having a full 15 W core processor in a 7.7 mm chassis is fairly impressive, especially since you almost never hear the fans kick in.”

Results in gaming-focused tests, such as 3DMark’s Sky Driver benchmark, indicate the Surface Book wasn’t built for gamers, Engadget’s Wollman remarked. Titles ran at an average of around 30 frames per second, which is “playable, but it was slow enough that I decided against running additional benchmarks that simulated an even more graphically intensive game.” Further, games were one of the few things to “really make the fans start whining.”

The GPU in the Surface Book “does not put it in contention with an 8-pound, 17-inch gaming laptop or even a mid-range, 5-pound laptop,” PC World’s Ung said, but “Counter-Strike: Global Operations, DotA, League of Legends and StarCraft II are not a problem.” The Surface Book “will give you twice the performance of integrated graphics in those games and more.”

Move Over, Cook!

The Surface Book has won some favorable comparisons to the MacBook Pro.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display starts at $1,300 and weighs 3.4 pounds. Neither it nor the 15-inch version has a touchscreen.

“This is exactly what Microsoft needs to provide leaderships on Windows tablets as a counterweight to Apple,” said Eric Smith, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.

“The end goal must be to cannibalize as much laptop demand with 2-in-1 tablets as possible before the demand shifts to Apple, or to Android or Chrome devices,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“This is a long-haul game for Microsoft to gain market share,” Smith observed.

“If Microsoft can actually take on and beat Apple’s MacBook products, it will have done something very few vendors have attempted and even fewer have achieved,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

The Surface Book is Microsoft’s bid to fully explore and drive the capabilities of the Windows OS, he told TechNewsWorld. “If it succeeds, it could do Microsoft’s public image a lot of good.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

1 Comment

  • OK here is some issues with the Surface Book from a designers perspective. Who on earth would create a notebook that cannot close properly and has a gap in the back while the screen and base close perfectly flat in front? I mean even the Lenovo Yoga has a hinge system that allows this. Then you have a magnetic pen that attaches to the side of the Surface Book. Like that won’t get knocked off and lost. Microsoft will make a mint selling pen replacements. Maybe that was the point? Anyway Steve Jobs would have had a field day making fun of the Surface Book and that gap between the screen and keyboard would have drove him nuts! This to me alone makes it not even close to a $1500 plus notebook. It looks like a rough build of something Microsoft threw together.

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