Microsoft's first stab at a laptop is blazingly fast and offers a striking display. The ability to transform into a tablet is useful, the addition of stylus pen is welcomed and it boasts a long battery life. Microsoft has been taking notes from its Surface success.
Stunning display, all-round fast performance, slim and light, option for discrete Nvidia graphics, Windows 10 Pro
Premium price, questionable design choices, backlit keyboard, some software bugs
From £1299; £2249 (as tested)
Display: 13.5in, 3000x2000 resolution display at 267ppi
Processor: Intel i7-6600U (Intel i5-6300U also available)
OS: Windows 10 Pro
Memory: 16GB (8GB also available)
Storage: 256GB SSD (128GB, 512GB and 1TB also available)
Connections: 2x USB 3.0 ports, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Mini DisplayPort, SDXC reader
Cameras: 5.0 MP front, 8.0 MP rear
Dimensions: 312×232x23mm, 1.57kg
The Surface Book is a bold experiment that sets out a blueprint for Microsoft's future. It builds on the Surface 2-in-1 success story, and the firm even goes as far as dubbing it the "ultimate laptop". But does it work as both?
It's by no means perfect. It's telling that Microsoft refers to the tablet as a "clipboard". Is this just the ghost of Clippy refusing to die? But there's some interesting design choices and enough to like about Microsoft's first laptop that make it worthy of our consideration. Whether it's priced out of the game is another question, but here are our thoughts after spending a week in its company.
The Surface Book is premium through and through. It's forged from magnesium but (and we must be in the minority) the grey/silver and somewhat utilitarian design left us cold. There's a faint whiff of the workmanlike Dell or Toshiba here: built for function and efficiency.
As a tablet it feels too big and unwieldy, yet the dimensions and weight say otherwise: 0.73kg in tablet mode, 1.51kg/1.57kg (with discrete GPU) when docked.
Let's talk about the fulcrum hinge as it's this that gives the Surface Book its unusual shape when closed.
The undocking mechanism is initiated by pressing a dedicated key that sends an electrical current to the muscle wire locks causing them to contract. It's very clever stuff but as a consequence makes the Surface Book a little top-heavy.
There's a definite imbalance between the two separate parts, but this is hardly surprising when you consider what Microsoft has crammed into the tablet. The base (keyboard) contains the internal gubbins and houses a second battery and our discrete GeForce GPU.
A small amount of wobble is present when balanced anywhere but your desk. But the hinge maintains a strong connection and you can dangle the Surface Book by its tablet end, not that you necessarily should.
We should also mention the noticeable gap between the screen and the keyboard, leading to dirt, dust and debris getting into places you really don't want them to go.
Next, the backlit keyboard. The keys on our grey review model were imbued with a subtle blue glow, almost too subtle from some angles and providing limited benefit.
Two USB 3.0 ports and an SDXC card reader live on the left side of the device. On the right you'll find a Mini DisplayPort alongside a Surface Connect port which serves the dual purpose of connecting to the power brick and the optional dock.
The power button and volume rocker sit along the top edge of the tablet, while the 3.5mm headphone port lies in limbo a little below. It's certainly not the ideal position.
Next page: Display and performance