By David Gracey
After decades of being a software-only company, Microsoft has, in recent years, begun offering up its own hardware lineup. Perhaps this is a non-admission that the grass is indeed greener on the Apple side of the fence: integrating hardware and software into a single device has its benefits. Although Microsoft has had very limited success with their cell phone products, they’ve had a good run of the Surface line of tablets which compete head-to-head with Apple’s blockbuster iPad line.
Both tablet and laptop makers seem to be trying to figure out the ideal configuration. What is the right mix of tablet features and laptop features? Tablets are sleek, wake up quickly, and are extremely light and portable. Laptops are a bit heavier but let you compose documents with their full-size keyboards in a way that would be unmanageable on a tablet (Have you ever tried to take a typing test on an iPad? It’s ugly).
Microsoft recently announced two products that significantly improve its foray into the “laplet” market (combining “laptop” with “tablet”, trademark by Gracey International despite what Wikipedia says). The Surface Pro 4 is the fourth generation of the Surface line and the Surface Book is the first generation laptop. Both products share elements of a tablet and a laptop and initial reviews are, for the most part, very positive.
As a current and very satisfied (see my previous article about the New Surface Pro 3 Reviewed) owner of a Surface Pro 3, I am very interested in both of these new devices. Here’s the high level:
Surface Pro 4: The first thing you’ll notice about the SP 4 is that it’s larger than its predecessor, the Surface Pro 3. The 12.3” screen is slightly larger than the 3 but they’ve amped up the resolution to a nice 2736 x 1824. It uses the latest G6 Intel processors and it runs Windows 10. The 4 is more tablet than laptop but allows you to perform business tasks much better than an iPad. Although nothing beats an iPad for basic web browsing (“doing the browsing” as my mother-in-law, Cynthia, likes to say) and checking email, the Surface is better at Microsoft Office applications and connecting to the corporate VPN.
Surface Book: This is the first generation device that is more of a laptop than a tablet. It has a detachable keyboard which, when closed, has a noticeable gap between the screen and the keyboard. It is twice as heavy (3.3 lbs) and larger (13.5” screen) than the Surface Pro 4. But since it runs Windows 10, it truly takes advantages of 10’s coolness. Its case is all metal and has a jaw dropping 3000 x 2000 resolution, which makes the MacBook’s Retina Display jealous. It’s a first-generation device, so there are a few bugs. The pre-launch model had some serious video driver problems that caused lockups, and the magnets that hold the keyboard closed are clunky to work with. But these problems will probably get resolved in the coming months. The world is a better place with the Surface Book. Finally, the Surface Book is very expensive. It starts at $1,500 and runs over $3,000 for the top end model. Microsoft has put top-grade parts under the hood and it shows.
Microsoft seems to finally be getting serious with their tablet and laptop products. I look forward to hearing real-world stories about their devices.
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