The Microsoft Surface Laptop is one of the most amazing ultrabooks on the market. But is it the perfect computer? That’s what you’ll find out in our test.
Microsoft Surface Laptop is the first full-blooded mobile computer in the offer of the giant from Redmond. Until now – also on the Polish market – led the way other Surface models, which were actually 2-in-1 devices, hybrids combining the functions of a tablet and laptop. Surface Laptop is a computer full steam ahead. It’s incredibly slim, lightweight, very well made, and has a 13.5-inch PixelSense screen and the latest Intel Core processor. The computer runs “100 percent secure” Windows 10 S. Is it really the perfect laptop?
Microsoft Surface Laptop is very well made. The computer’s case is made of magnesium, which makes it both lightweight and durable. Surface Laptop is available in 4 interesting color versions (maroon, gray, silver and blue), although on the Polish market we will buy only one of them (platinum). The fit of the materials that make up the Surface Laptop case is exemplary – this is definitely one of the best-made laptops on the market.
The Surface Laptop’s dimensions are 308.02 by 223.20 by 14.47 mm, and its weight closes in at 1.252 kg. Microsoft’s computer is lightweight and handy, and will easily fit into virtually any bag. The minimalist design of the device deserves praise – Microsoft’s goal was to implement the smallest possible number of “distractions”, so that the user had a sense of contact with a maximally simplified machine. Associations with MacBook Air come to mind, although saying that the laptops are similar would be unfair to each of them.
Opening the laptop, our eyes will see a black display panel, hidden hinges holding the matrix and a full-sized keyboard. The keyboard is not surrounded by cold metal, but pleasant to the touch Alcantara. This material is commonly used in furniture, yacht, aircraft and automotive upholstery. Alcantara is made of microfibers, therefore it is characterized by softness, strength and easy cleaning. It is an exclusive material, which was used for the first time to finish a laptop.
Alcantara adheres to the base of the Surface Laptop in an exemplary way – there is not even the slightest chance of it coming off. Also, the fit to the keyboard and trackpad is very precise, and that’s because the keyholes are laser-cut in the manufacturing process after they are already assembled.
I have some doubts that Alcantara will be as durable as the proven and highly reliable aluminum. In case you spill some liquid on the Alcantara, the material will probably absorb it in no time and this may negatively affect the overall aesthetics. On the other hand, the manufacturer assures that the Alcantara is really durable and easy to clean. During my two-week testing of the Surface Laptop, I didn’t experience anything that would make me doubt its words. However, the real test is the typical user and years of use. In such a situation, proven metal would be a much more reliable material.
On the Surface Laptop you will find a small, though sufficient for comfortable work, number of communication ports. Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0, 3.5 mm headphone connector and Surface Connector are the only things that Microsoft thinks we need. Seemingly a hit set, and yet something is missing. Of course, we are talking about the memory card reader. Even though more and more modern cameras are WiFi enabled, the SD card slot is still one of the most used ports on the computer. It’s worth noting that the Surface Connector charger (a solution similar to Apple’s MagSafe) has one additional USB port.
Keyboard, trackpad and screen
The Microsoft Surface Laptop is the perfect tool for work. And that’s because it has a great keyboard and trackpad. When it comes to the former, it’s a full-size keyboard with physical buttons with a 1.5-millimeter stroke (by comparison, the included keyboard for the Surface Pro 4 has a 0.2-millimeter less stroke). The Surface Laptop is very pleasant and comfortable to type on. Creating both shorter forms of expression and longer articles is pure pleasure. Next to Apple’s mobile computers, the Surface Laptop is one of the better “typewriters” on the market.
The trackpad is also great. The touchpad handles gestures exemplarily and is much better than the tile that comes standard with the Type Cover keyboard for Surface tablets. For the size of a laptop, the trackpad is very large and has a pleasant click. It’s also precise and features imperceptible lag in relation to cursor movement on the screen.
The Surface Laptop has a great 13.5-inch Pixel Sense screen. The display runs at a resolution of 2256 by 1504 pixels and is, of course, touch sensitive. You can operate it with your fingers as well as with the Surface Pen digital stylus (sold separately). When it comes to image quality, you can’t really complain about anything. The screen brightness is automatically adjusted thanks to the built-in light sensor, and the contrast and color reproduction are exemplary. An important note is that the Surface Laptop can be freely used even outdoors on a sunny day. As befits a device of this class, the display is covered with a protective layer of Gorilla Glass.
Battery, performance, and Windows 10 S
The Surface Laptop model I tested was equipped with an Intel Core i5-7200U Kaby Lake processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD and Windows 10 S on board. As a work machine, the computer performs flawlessly – during the test, not once did it crash or even noticeably slow down. Regardless of how many browser tabs I had open and how many documents I was editing at the same time. This can be quite a lot, because for the Surface Laptop Microsoft includes a free 12-month license for Office 365 Personal. This is a savings of over 1000 PLN!
As for the built-in battery (there is no way to remove it yourself), the manufacturer assures that it is enough for up to 14.5 hours of video playback. If such information were true, you could easily watch an entire season of “Game of Thrones” on a Surface Laptop and still have enough left over for “Ghost in the Shell”. This is a difficult point to verify, as the Surface Laptop I tested was managed by Windows 10 S, which has no reasonable apps to measure battery life. Microsoft’s laptop will easily exceed 12 hours of use with WiFi enabled and screen brightness set to minium. Using the device freely without thinking about power consumption and other details will force us to charge the Surface Laptop every 10 hours on average.
The Surface Laptop runs Windows 10 S, but any purchaser of the device can upgrade to the Pro version for free until the end of the year. That’s in case the limitations of the Windows Store prove too overwhelming for you. It is worth noting that the mentioned update does not require hours of “putting up” the system anew, but a restart of the Surface and 2-3 minutes of free time. Microsoft argues that it is not worth it.
The possibility of infecting the computer with dangerous software is one of the main criticisms directed towards Windows. Version 10 S is supposed to eliminate these problems completely, through a kind of system shutdown, something like macOS by Apple. On the Surface Laptop with Windows 10 S we will not install applications other than those that are in the Windows Store and have been tested in all possible ways by Microsoft engineers. They are fully tested, functional and devoid of hidden pests.
For everyday, not too demanding work, any applications present in the Windows Store will be sufficient. However, it’s likely that everyone has a program they can’t find in the store dedicated to Windows 10 S and will start thinking about switching. The biggest downside is the inability to change the web browser. When buying a Surface Laptop, we are doomed to Edge. It is not a bad browser, but using other browsers we are not able to synchronize bookmarks opened on other devices. For those working on several different browsers, this may prove to be the nail in the coffin of Windows 10 S.