Microsoft Debuts Surface Pro 4, Surface Book Laptop

As expected, Microsoft showed off its up follow-up to the Surface Pro 3, but surprised tech watchers by also unveiling the company's first-ever laptop.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Surface Book Laptop

NEW YORK—Microsoft hosted a media event here this morning to unveil a new Windows 10 hardware lineup, including a new high-end Surface tablet and the company's first laptop.

"Surface is the iconic Microsoft device for people who want to be productive," said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, on stage. "In just three years, Surface has grown from a zero-dollar business for Microsoft to over three-and-a-half billion dollars a year."

To keep the momentum going, the company unveiled the thinner and lighter Surface Pro 4 with a slightly larger screen and a two-in-one laptop called the Surface Book.

Surface Pro 4 is the follow-up to the Redmond, Wash., technology giant's successful, productivity-focused Surface Pro 3 tablet first introduced in May 2014. "This product is thinner—it is the thinnest, most powerful [Intel] Core PC ever shipped, by far," said Panos Panay, Microsoft's hardware lead. It measures 11.5 inches by 7.93 inches by 0.33 inches, or 8.4mm, thick.

"We went from 9.1mm to 84mm. The only reason we stopped there was to make sure you had the full power of the USB 3.0 port," said Panay. Though the Surface Pro 4 now cuts a thinner profile, its screen size has been bumped from 12 inches to 12.3 inches with a resolution of 2,736 pixels by 1,824 pixels and a pixel density of 267 pixels per inch (PPI). In an Apple Retina-like move, Microsoft now refers to its screen technology—display, touch and pen input—as PixelSense.

Accessories include new Type Covers with a 40 percent larger trackpad, redesigned key layout and a fingerprint reader. The new Surface Pen features 1,024 levels of pressure, a tail eraser and a full year of battery life. It will be available in an array of colors and will support interchangeable tips to mimic the experience of using differing types of writing or drawing implements.

Preorders start Oct. 7 and shipments are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Oct. 26. Processor options include 6th Generation Intel Core m3, Core i5 or Core i7 chips. Buyers can also choose models with up 1TB of solid-state drive storage and up to 16GB of RAM.

The surprise of the day came when Panay concluded the Surface Pro 4 demos to reveal the Surface Book, "the first laptop built by Microsoft." Resembling a MacBook Pro at first glance, the Surface Book is two times faster than Apple's competing hardware, according to Panay.

Microsoft's take on two-in-one laptops are also powered by 6th Generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. The Surface Book's detachable 13.5-inch PixelSense screen sports a resolution of 3,000 pixels by 2,000 pixels (267 PPI) and an aspect ratio of 3:2. A graphical processing unit (GPU) is housed in the base (keyboard) for an extra push during graphically intensive tasks.

Notable design features include a segmented "dynamic fulcrum hinge" that supports a variety of angles, including a clipboard mode. A "muscle wire" connector holds the screen firmly in place—Panay repeatedly swung the entire device around holding only its screen—and detaches at the push of a button.

Surface Book starts at $1,499. Like the Surface Pro 4, preorders start Oct. 7 with shipments to follow on Oct. 26.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...