Microsoft Surface Book


A laptop with an aluminum exterior sits on my desk, sleek and clean lines along its edges, framing its large and high-resolution display with the soft glow from its backlit keyboard. I examine it from top to bottom and lay my hands along the home row of the keyboard and look at the display.

This sounds like a regular day at work, but in reality, this beautiful machine is the Microsoft Surface Book, and it is serious business.

If you’ve seen my review of the 2015 13” MacBook Pro Retina, you know that it is my main work machine. I adore my MacBook Pro, and it adores me back by providing an incredibly reliable and hard-working experience.

However, Microsoft has really brought their A game with the Surface Book, creating one hell of a machine with some really great differentiators and value propositions. This alone is an incredible feat, considering that this is Microsoft’s first official entry in the world of laptops, where they are able to control both the hardware and software, and the entire user experience from top to bottom.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Under The Hood

Microsoft Surface Book

The Microsoft Surface Book looks fantastic, is beautifully designed, and manages to pack a lot of powerful hardware under the hood.

The review model of the Surface Book that I received had a 13.5” touch-screen display, a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD.

Microsoft Surface Book

The 13.5” touch-screen display that comes with the Surface Book is also detachable from the rest of the laptop, allowing the user to use the Surface Book as a tablet, while retaining the look and feel of a laptop. The touch functionality itself is incredibly responsive and can do varying degrees of pressure, allowing for pen strokes to take on a thickness relative to the amount of pressure the user is using to draw on the screen itself.

Microsoft Surface Book

In addition, there are two batteries present in the Surface Book to allow the screen to operate independently of the base, but in tandem, can enhance the battery life of the entire machine in general. For example, the Surface Book has last about 8-10 hours, while doing some relatively heavy work, before requiring a charge, and that puts it about on par with the battery life that I’ve seen from my MacBook Pro Retina.

Microsoft Surface Book

However, the Surface Book seems to have a few quirky design choices. For example, as mentioned earlier, the display is detachable so that the Surface Book can be used as a rather large tablet. This is a great feature, with the not-so-obvious limitation of only being available electronically. In other words, the Surface Book must be turned on, Windows 10 must be completely loaded with the user logged in, and Windows itself must be ready to detach the screen.

Once you hit the eject button, a few mechanical whirrs and clicks happen, then you are able to detach the screen. However, and this was an issue present during the time of review, re-attaching the screen too quickly or lifting only one side and not detaching it quickly enough caused some weird issues around the electronics not recognizing whether or not it was attached.

Microsoft Surface Book

The Surface Book also has a couple of other quirky design traits: the 3.5mm jack (for headphones) is on the bottom, length-wise, of the detachable screen, or if the Surface Book is in laptop mode, the top right hand of the screen.

And lastly, the laptop is extremely top heavy (in favour of the display), likely from the extra battery found inside. Not a huge issue, but if you like walking around with a one handed grip on your laptop, it can feel awkward for a while.

Microsoft Surface Book

Design quirks aside, the detachable display does allow for some really nifty functionality. For example, in the above photo, I re-attached the display facing outward, which allowed me to orient the Surface Book much like an artist or illustrator would use a tablet when working.

The Surface Book does make some different choices (than convention would suggest) compared to other laptops because Microsoft has really thought through different use cases for their users, and have made the proper changes in product design to address all of those use cases as best as possible.

Who is the Surface Book For?

Microsoft Surface Book

While I feel that the Surface Book is one of the few competing pieces of hardware that are on par with Apple’s MacBook Pro line of laptops, it’s also heavily geared towards being for professional use only: the Surface Book starts at $1,949 CAD, and the highest end model is priced at $3,499 CAD.

If you’re in the market for a well-designed Windows-based laptop, other options include the ASUS ZenBook at $1,299 CAD, or a faster Toshiba 13.3″ Laptop at $2,099 CAD.

There is also the fact that a current-gen MacBook pro from $1,549 CAD and the highest end at $2,199 CAD, there are choices aplenty if you’re in the market for a great laptop, and the Surface Book has some great value adds that put it above the rest, but it definitely seems geared toward professional work.

Microsoft Surface Book

The high end internals allow for really intensive work, especially the kind of work that would benefit from the fast processor, SSD storage, and RAM aplenty, but with greater capabilities unlocked through the touch-screen display like 3D modeling, CAD work, illustration, and videography. If the work involves Windows-specific apps, lots of calculations, and derives any sort of benefit to tactile controls, the Surface Book should definitely be a consideration.

The Bottom Line

The Microsoft Surface Book is an amazing machine, especially considering that this is Microsoft’s first official entry in the world of laptops, where they are able to compete directly with Apple in the arena of full control over both hardware and software. Beautifully designed, well-built, and has some great offerings that set it apart from its competitors, the Surface Book is a notch above the rest in the world of Windows-based laptops.

This product is perfect for: People whose work demands high-end technical specs, and can find the touch-screen display a valuable addition to their workflow.

Key things to be aware of: The detachable touch-screen display takes some getting used to, as does the weight distribution of the laptop.

Final review score: 5. Great product, performs incredibly well, and for a debut version, is very well polished and designed.

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Microsoft Surface Book
Author Rating
The following two tabs change content below.

Jon Lim

Jon Lim is a professional developer, writer, and an avid technologist. He has written creatively for the past 16 years, and professionally for 4 years.

Latest posts by Jon Lim (see all)

Similar Posts

There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

Email (required)