Microsoft Enters Laptop Market With Surface Book

Microsoft came bearing many gifts at its recent product reveal, with three new Lumina Windows 10 smartphones (along with a game-changing optional Display Dock), a second-generation Microsoft Band, and pre-order announcements for the new Surface Pro 4 and Microsoft HoloLens developer kits (which are priced at a hefty $3,000).

Microsoft could have left the masses sated with news of just those products, but it decided to bring things to a whole other level with a brand-new device that the company has never produced before: a laptop.

The Surface Book sports the latest 6th generation Intel (Skylake) processors, just like its Surface Pro 4 brethren. However, graphics performance will likely be significantly better, with more robust configurations that feature an Nvidia mobile GPU under the hood.

ProcessorMemoryStorageGraphics EnginePrice
6th Generation Intel Core i58 GB128 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDIntel HD Graphics$1,499
6th Generation Intel Core i58 GB256 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDIntel HD Graphics$1,699
6th Generation Intel Core i58 GB256 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDNvidia GeForce Dedicated Graphics$1,899
6th Generation Intel Core i78 GB256 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDNvidia GeForce Dedicated Graphics$2,099
6th Generation Intel Core i716 GB512 GB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDNvidia GeForce Dedicated Graphics$2,699

Microsoft did not disclose the specific Nvidia GPU model featured in the new Surface Book, and a system properties check simply showed a "Nvidia GeForce GPU" in the device manager. We do know that it's Maxwell-based. In any case, the technical spec sheet lists the optional Nvidia GeForce GPU as a 1 GB GDDR5 graphics card, so we shouldn't expect phenomenal amounts of graphics muscle in the Surface Book. It will likely perform much better than the onboard Intel HD Graphics engine, which for a 2-in-1 PC, is a pretty powerful option we can get behind.

The GPU itself resides in the backlit keyboard (base) of the system, and oh yeah, surprise: Just like the Surface Pro, the Surface Book can detach from its keyboard using a newly-designed fulcrum hinge. This hinge is rather rigid looking, but after trying it for myself, I can say that it's a smooth operation that is made better with the lack of that ear-piercing "clack" other Surface devices make when attaching the screen to the cover (Remember those insufferable clack-filled Surface TV commercials?).

While using the device in "clipboard" mode, detached from the keyboard (which got the name due to the A4 paper-sized measurements of the screen component), the Nvidia GPU will obviously not function (it's under the keyboard, remember), but it will seamlessly resume operation with full graphics power when it's reconnected.

The 13.5-inch, 3000 x 2000 (267 ppi) 10-point multi-touch screen has the same PixelSense technology as the Surface Pro 4, and it also features an 1,800:1 contrast ratio, a 3:2 aspect ratio and 100 percent sRGB color. I saw the device up close and was impressed with the 6 million-pixel touchscreen's overall image quality, responsiveness and vibrancy.

Although laptops are a new endeavor for Microsoft, the company applied many of the same principles that went into designing the Surface Pro 2-in-1 PCs and essentially turned the performance dial up as high as it would go while maintaining the thin, light, detachable design. The result is an elegant mobile device that puts the "pro" in productivity.

You can preorder the Microsoft Surface Book now at Microsoft's online store, starting at $1,499.

Follow Derek Forrest @TheDerekForrest. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • g-unit1111
    Nice device, but the $1499 starting price is a bit too rich for my blood. If I'm paying that much money for a laptop, it's not going to be a laptop / tablet hybrid. I'd go for an MSI GS60 at that price level.
  • jimmysmitty
    Anonymous said:
    Nice device, but the $1499 starting price is a bit too rich for my blood. If I'm paying that much money for a laptop, it's not going to be a laptop / tablet hybrid. I'd go for an MSI GS60 at that price level.


    Agreed but again different strokes for different folks.

    If anything this is more innovative than half the stuff out there. In fact this is reminiscent of old Apple, back when they would release something new no one else thought of. Guaranteed 100% Apple will copy the design. The ability to detach a discrete GPU or attach it for more power or better battery? That's a awesome idea.
  • kawininjazx
    Microsoft should release a 13" ultrabook that is non-detachable and start with the i3 and make it affordable.