Surface Laptop Hands-on: What We Love, What We Don't

  • MORE

The new Microsoft Surface Laptop could be the Windows ultraportable to beat. Starting at $999 and in stores June 15, this 2.8-pound stunner comes in four colors, sports a very unique fabric deck and promises up to 14.5 hours of battery life.

We went hands-on with the Surface Laptop at Microsoft's launch event, and it looks like a beautiful piece of hardware for a reasonable price, filling the void by the now-ancient MacBook Air. However, there are some limitations, too.Surface Laptop

Surface Laptop Specs

Price Starting at $999
CPU 7th Gen Core i5 or i7
RAM 4, 8GB or 16GB
SSD 128, 256 or 512GB
Display 13.5 inches 2256 x 1504
Ports USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, headset
Battery Life Up to 14.5 hours
Size 12.13 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches
Weight 2.76 pounds
Colors Burgundy, Platinum, Cobalt Blue, Graphite Gold

Design

Because it's meticulously designed, Microsoft says you won't see a screw or anything that signals how the device was put together. That's because Surface boss Panos Panay says it's designed to be "silent to the eye."

The laptop features a 13.5-inch PixelSense display with 3.4 million pixels (2256 x 1504) with a 3:2 aspect ration. The system weighs 2.8 pounds and measures just 14.5 mm thin. Microsoft says it's the thinnest LCD touch module ever put in a laptop.

The device comes in four colors: burgundy, graphite gold, platinum and cobalt blue. We like that you can easily open the clamshell with one finger.

When we went hands-on with the Surface Laptop at Microsoft's press event, the design really impressed. It looks sleek, especially in burgundy and cobalt, and there's not a screw to be seen.

Keyboard

The Surface Laptop offers 1.5 mm of key travel, which is more than some competing laptops. For instance, the MacBook Pro's keyboard is limited to 0.5 mm. Based on our hands-on time, the Alcantara fabric around the deck feels great to touch and rest your wrists on as you type. The keys were nice and clicky on first impression, though we'll spend more time with the layout in our full review.

Ports and Pen

There are, however, a dearth of ports, with just a full-sized USB port, mini DisplayPort and headphone jack on the left side. On the right side, all you'll find is Microsoft's proprietary charger. (It looked like a SD Card slot at first, but it's not.) Conspicuously absent is a USB-C port.

Microsoft explained in an interview why it didn't opt for USB-C, saying that it's not that prevalent yet, but we don't buy that.

As you would expect, the Surface Laptop works with the Surface Pen, which lets you annotate content, as well as leverage other features of Windows 10 Creators Update. The Surface Laptop will run Windows 10 S out of the box, which only works Windows Store apps, but you'll be able to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

p1600175

Performance and Battery Life

In addition to supporting the latest Core i5 and Core i7 processors, the Surface Laptop offers a PCIe SSD. Most impressively, Microsoft claims up to 14.5 hours of battery life. (Of course, we'll put that to the test.)

The standard configuration comes with a Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD for $999, but you can upgrade up to Core i7. You can also get 8GB or 16GB of RAM, as well as a 256GB or 512GB SSD.

Surface Laptop

Software

The Surface Laptop comes with a 90-day free trial of Windows 10 Pro, but after that it will fall back to Windows 10 S unless you pay $50 to upgrade. Why is that important? Although Windows 10 S promises a cleaner interface and fast boot times, as well as a more secure environment, you'll be locked into the Edge Browser and Bing for search. You'll also only be able to use Windows Store apps.

We'd opt for Windows 10 Pro.

Outlook

The Surface Laptop looks like a winner, especially given its starting price, and it should make not just Apple nervous but everyone who makes a Windows laptop. It could be a must-have for back to school, but stay tuned for our review.

Additional contribution by Andrew E. Freedman

Laptop Guide

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
Add a comment
13 comments
  • Guy Dias Says:

    I think limiting the SSD capacity to 512GB is a big fail. I'd buy one if I could get it with a 2TB SSD.

  • VFanRJ Says:

    What I liked most about the Surface 2 was its security. Because Microsoft analyzed all the apps downloaded from its Store, I felt comfortable that they were safe. Windows 10 S provides that same level of security on a faster platform.

  • VFanRJ Says:

    What I liked most about the Surface 2 was its security. Because Microsoft analyzed all the apps downloaded from its Store, I felt comfortable that they were safe. Windows 10 S provides that same level of security on a faster platform.

  • Christine Dacquisto Says:

    If you want to use Chrome, Firefox, Opera or pretty much any browser other than Edge, you should not get a laptop with Windows 10 S. In its support FAQ, Microsoft writes that:

    "Microsoft Edge is the default web browser on Microsoft 10 S. You are able to download another browser that might be available from the Windows Store, but Microsoft Edge will remain the default if, for example, you open an .htm file. Additionally, the default search provider in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer cannot be changed." Laptopmag.com

    PASS!

  • Megan Davis Says:

    This is actually more elegant than Apple. The design and features are superb! Great!

  • Павел Ерёмин Says:

    Wait! Are they gonna sell a premium laptop with a truncated version of their OS? That's ridiculous! Moreover, at almost 3 pounds it doesn't compete with the MacBook. It competes with the MacBook Pro (w/o Touch Bar). Thus, bundling the machine with truncated Windows is a stupid idea.

  • Joshua Vargas Says:

    On another note, I tried using algebra to find possible dimensions of the display. We do know from the event that the aspect ratio is 3:2. Given equation 3p2p = 3.4(1000000) which is simplified to 6p^2 = 3400000, the value of p would be 752.773.... and 3p x 2p would be 2,258.318 x 1,505.545. Of course, I doubt that these are the actual dimensions, but these estimates shouldn't be far. My guess is 2,250 x 1,500, which are nice clean numbers with a product of 3,375,000 pixels - not over 3.4 million, but does round off to 3.4 million with two significant digits. Any thoughts?

  • Joshua Vargas Says:

    @omegalaton - I think upgrade wouldn't be too much of a hassle as there shouldn't be driver errors since the laptop was made for Windows 10 anyway. Still, a high-end laptop (though not the highest end in their range) is a strange choice to show off their education-focused OS with.

    Honestly my main concern with this is that Microsoft's efforts aim to create vendor lock-in in some areas of the education sector. Students of Microsoft-partnered universities will be forced to use only Microsoft and Microsoft-approved software and hardware. They won't even be able to easily use third party peripherals and chargers given the proprietary power port. The lack of options in replacing the charger especially bothers me - it's eerily similar to Apple, though at least their proprietary port had the MagSafe feature to prevent the laptop from being pulled off the table after an unfortunate cable trip.

  • Alex V Says:

    Microsoft Store already has display models, tried it. Thankfully it's not too fuzzy, but the keyboard felt a bit flimsy

  • omegatalon Says:

    Microsoft wants to be the Apple of the WIN world as this machine follows Apple's approach to computer building, no screws means that Microsoft's new Surface Laptop is like a calculator as it's internals are not meant to be upgraded or repaired; further, why would a Core i5 or i7 computer ship with WIN 10 S instead of WIN 10 Pro as it forces the user to go through the misery of upgrade which can create chaos.

    A single USB 3.0 port means no connectivity to third party accessories.

    There are a number of alternatives that might be a bit thicker, but are about the same weight like HP's x360.

  • Philip P Lezar Says:

    Does it flip over to tablet mode?

  • Alex V Says:

    Affordable and better than the rest of the pcs, so disappointed with the ones I've tried: hp, lenovos sub $1600 and dell. (smiley face)

  • Joshua Vargas Says:

    This is super promising... but is there really no USB Type-C port? That limits futureproofness. Still, it's pretty impressive - especially since it has a U series instead of a Y series Core processor, while being that thin and with the extreme claims of battery life.

Back to top