Computers

Microsoft re-ignites the PC wars with Windows 10 Surface Book and Surface Pro 4

Microsoft re-ignites the PC wa...
Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book
Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book
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Microsoft's Panos Panay with Surface Book
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Microsoft's Panos Panay with Surface Book
Surface Book connected to the Surface Dock
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Surface Book connected to the Surface Dock
Surface Book has a 13-inch touchscreen
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Surface Book has a 13-inch touchscreen
Surface Book works as laptop and tablet
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Surface Book works as laptop and tablet
Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book
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Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book
Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book
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Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book
Surface Pen is available in different colors
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Surface Pen is available in different colors
The back of Surface Pen
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The back of Surface Pen
The front of Surface Pen
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The front of Surface Pen
Surface Pen now gets interchangeable tips
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Surface Pen now gets interchangeable tips
Surface Pro Type Cover
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Surface Pro Type Cover
Surface Pro Type Cover gets more space between keys
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Surface Pro Type Cover gets more space between keys
Type Cover and Surface Pen
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Type Cover and Surface Pen
Surface Docking Station
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Surface Docking Station
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Microsoft may have launched the second world war of computing on Tuesday with the unveiling of a powerful new Surface Pro 4 tablet and Surface Book, two new convertible devices that make us feel like we're back in the 1990s world where Mac vs. PC was the only conflict of note.

Microsoft's Surface head, Panos Panay, reveled in comparing the new Surface products to the latest competition from Apple, claiming that the new Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than a MacBook Air and calling the Surface Book laptop "twice as fast" as a MacBook Pro.

An exuberant Panay ran through the specs and engineering details of both new Windows 10 devices in great detail for about an hour from a live event in New York that was also streamed on the web.

The expected Surface Pro upgrade is thinner than its predecessor, at just 8.4 mm, with a 12.3-inch screen and up to a monstrous terabyte of storage space with as much as 16 GB of RAM. It's not clear exactly which new Surface Pro 4 model most outperforms the MacBook Air. One thing that wasn't made plain in the Microsoft presentation is just how many configurations of this new Surface Pro will be available, as there are models with varying Intel processors from the M-class up to a Core i7 and different amounts of storage and RAM starting at 128 GB and 4 GB, respectively.

There was, however, lots of emphasis placed on the usefulness of the included Surface Pen, which now comes with an "eraser" on one end, an all-year battery and stows magnetically on the side of the tablet.

Surface Pen is available in different colors
Surface Pen is available in different colors

Much time was spent geeking out on the details of this updated stylus, which Panay explained has 1,024 levels of pressure and interchangeable pen tips for different use cases like writing, drawing or design. Lip service was also paid to the corresponding touch screen technology on the tablet itself, which Microsoft has dubbed "PixelSense," and consists of a very thin optical stack topped off with Gorilla Glass 4 that is just 0.4mm thick.

There's also a new Surface Pro docking station that's backwards compatible with Surface Pro 3, including four USB 3.0 connects, two 4K display ports and one for ethernet. Additionally, the Surface Pro Type Cover has been redesigned and is now lighter, thinner, more sturdy with backlit keys set further apart and has a 40 percent larger track pad – which is now made of glass (previous Surfaces had sketchy plastic trackpads). Finally, a new fingerprint scanner on the cover works alongside the new facial recognition feature on Windows 10 called Windows Hello to automatically recognize different users.

But the real "wow" moment of Panay's presentation came in the form of the new Microsoft Surface Book, which is like a more musclebound version of the Surface Pro that also addresses its primary flaw. As much as Microsoft has told us that the Surface Pro is the tablet to replace our laptops, its kickstand and wonky type cover don't always work very comfortably on your lap.

Microsoft's Panos Panay with Surface Book
Microsoft's Panos Panay with Surface Book

Surface Book looks like a regular laptop, with a 13.5-inch screen with the same Surface Pen and PixelSense touchscreen, but with the more rigid hinge between keyboard and screen that allow for comfortable typing anywhere. The surprise here is that the laptop-quality keyboard is also detachable, meaning the Surface Book can be used as a laptop or tablet or flipped around for a "tent mode" or clipboard sort of experience.

"The typing experience on this product is perfect," Panay told the crowd of journalists and employees, emphasizing how responsive and quiet the keys are while citing Microsoft's decades of experience making keyboards, which is interesting when contrasted with the fact that this is the company's first laptop in all those years.

Surface Book connected to the Surface Dock
Surface Book connected to the Surface Dock

The Surface Book runs on a Core i5 or i7 processor with different RAM and storage options, but there's also an NVIDIA GeForce GPU (the exact card is unknown at the moment) beneath the keyboard, adding a little graphics acceleration boost when the keyboard is connected. That keyboard is also backlit with a glass-covered trackpad. Without it, the Surface Book is only 7.7 mm (0.3-inch) thick and 0.73 kg (1.6 pounds). With the GPU-embedded keyboard, the whole package weighs 3.48 pounds.

Panay called the Surface Book the ideal portable system for gamers, architects, video producers and others with a need for heavy-duty computing capability. He also claimed it is the fastest 13-inch laptop ever, but perhaps even more impressive is the claim of 12 hours of battery life per charge.

So, with the iPad Pro set to launch later this year, a new battle front in the laptop and 2-in-1 wars has been opened. Both Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book begin pre-orders Wednesday, with availability starting October 26. Surface Pro 4 (minus the keyboard) starts at $899 and goes up to $2,199 for a unit with a Core i7, 16 GB RAM and 512 GB of storage, while Surface Book starts at $1,499 (minus the keyboard/GPU) up to $2,699 fully-loaded – no pricing is available for models with 1 TB of storage yet.

Source: Microsoft

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5 comments
groingo2
If it has Windows 10 on it, it isn't worth wasting your time on.
ivan4
There appears to be a rather important bit of information missing - the screen resolution. It could be 1024 x 768 which would make it useless. Hopefully it will be something like 1920 x 1200 or better.
Timelord
If I were Dell, Asus, Lenovo, Sony or other PC maker, I would be wondering why I give Microsoft money for Windows licenses, money they spend to build laptops to compete with me.
bobbejaan
Why is it so hard to make an O/S that doesn't completely suck? The only reason I can't get away from apple.
JohnWerner
I've installed Win 10 on four laptops from as far back as 2010. It's been a mixed bag. The oldest Asus was actually no problem. The two three year old Dells were mixed. The XPS 15, a large powerful laptop, went well and no problems. The XPS 15Z was quite a challenge. A three year old Asus Ultrabook was in between and went pretty well. I like the new look of Win 10. I think after some quirks it's a good platform, not as great as I hoped however. When I saw this new Surface Book I was intrigued and went to Microsoft thinking I might just be interested. Satisfied the build was now up to the Apple standards I was possibly ready to pull the trigger. I really thought the screen resolution with the tablet option was compelling. This was until I saw the price of admission with even the smallest on-board SSD storage. This was my personal dividing line. The prices are right with Apple and I was suspecting better. I'll wait for Apple to make a more definitive MacBook Air or, possibly even Pro. I do have a 2012 Pro too so it's not like I need one single more device of any kind unless a strongly compelling "itch" hits. I would have bought the SurfaceBook...but, not at the Microsoft prices on it's site. I'll pass and wait for Apple to hit another home-run because even at Apple's premium prices, for instance, the MacBook Air is a decent bargain and Apple always has the best battery life. I just upgraded to OS X El Capitan and, of course, it was a nice upgrade and totally without hassle. Now, when the Air is revamped I'm expecting my wait will be rewarded. Sorry Microsoft, you're still losing ground with me even as I was entertaining thoughts of purchasing your new SurfaceBook.