One of the few genuine surprises of this month's Microsoft hardware event in New York was the reveal of the Surface Book, the company's first 2-in-1 laptop. Now, after Surface Book's Oct. 6 unveiling, buyers in the United States and Canada can take it home. Surface Book (pictured) starts at $1,499.
Panos Panay, head of Microsoft hardware, said in an Oct. 26 announcement that the 13.5-inch Surface Book borrows from the company's newfound aptitude for computing hardware and decades-long experience in building peripherals, to develop a product that rivals Apple's well-regarded MacBook Pro. "Surface Book's 13.5" PixelSense Display delivers six million pixels, beating the 13.3" MacBook Pro by almost 2 million pixels, and the depth of this screen and contrast is remarkable," he stated.
"We drew on more than 25 years of designing keyboards to deliver a typing experience where the feel and even the sound of the keys [are] perfect," he added. Like the Surface Pro tablet, Surface Book supports pen input.
One of the Windows 10 laptop's most notable and eye-catching features is the unique Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge design.
"It doesn't pivot from a single point, but lays out like an unrolled carpet as you open it," said Panay. "Its purpose is to lengthen the base of the product to offset the weight in the screen and allows Surface Book to work brilliantly as a laptop without sacrificing performance of the tablet."
Under the device's magnesium casing is a sixth-generation Intel Core (Skylake) i5 or i7 processor and up to a terabyte (TB) of on-board flash storage. Purchasers can improve on the Surface Pro's graphical capabilities with an optional discrete Nvidia GeForce GPU, which is housed in the base.
For 3D modelers, illustrators and other users of graphical applications, Surface Book helps prevent lost work when switching modes. "To keep you from detaching the base while you're using the GPU, the detach motion is controlled by software—you'll press a detach button on the keyboard and you may be prompted to close programs that are using the GPU in the base before detaching to safeguard your work."
Also available today is the Surface Book Pro 4 tablet, which builds on the design of its successful predecessor by stuffing a bigger screen and faster components into a slightly smaller package.
Powered by a new Intel Core M i5 or i7 processor, the Surface Pro 4 is up to 30 percent faster than the Pro 3. "Even with the increased performance, the new product is thinner (8.4 mm compared to 9.1mm for Pro 3), quieter, and will run cooler," said Panay. Prices start at $899.
Microsoft's enterprise-friendly Surface Pro 4 tablet will soon face off against the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
Apple's supersized tablet natively supports pen input via the company's new Pencil stylus ($99), an optional accessory. Apple is also releasing a physical Smart Keyboard ($169), similar to the Surface's Type Cover, when the iPad Pro goes on sale next month at prices starting at $799.