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BW Businessworld

Fuss-Free And Uber

Unapologetically premium, undeniably desirable. The Surface lineup has for years now served as a showcase of Microsoft’s vision for Windows laptops and 2-in-1s, sort of a “here’s how it’s done” memo to other Windows device manufacturers. Yet, the portfolio has grown slowly. Now, months after the global launch, the Surface Book 2 and the Surface Laptop are finally here to give the range a muchneeded element of choice

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Unlike the fancy hinged Surface Pro or the shape-shifting Book 2, the Surface Laptop is a regular clamshell-design ultra-portable, with a matte aluminum finish on the lid and an Alcantara fabric-covered keyboard. The latter is divisive — you either like the feel of the suede-like fabric against your palms when you are typing, or you don’t — but the finish is premium and rather unique. The slick and minimalist design has one downside — the connectivity options are limited, with just the one USB port, a headphone jack and a Mini-DisplayPort for video out. Granted, you do have the option of adding ports via an additional dock, but a few more ports built-in on the laptop wouldn’t have hurt.

Now, if you are considering the Laptop, you should consider the various configurations on offer, as they vary widely in power and pricing. The unit we looked at, a Core i7/256GB/8GB SSD/RAM variant, slotted in the middle of the lineup, but you are going to want to get the most memory and storage you can afford since later upgrades are not an option.

Bear in mind as well that for a laptop launched originally in 2017, the Laptop hasn’t seen a refresh this year to the Intel’s latest eighth generation processors. That’s not to say performance is compromised – it runs handily for everyday tasks, though there is only so much graphics performance you can expect with an integrated graphics option. The touchscreen is bright, sharp and responsive but again offers that non-standard aspect ratio.

The Surface Pen works well on the screen for note-taking and annotation but isn’t quite as useful as the Book 2 due to the laptop form-factor. Speaking of which, consumers get the Laptop running Windows 10 in S Mode, which means you are limited to installing only those apps that are available on the Windows Store, but there is a free switch to Windows 10 Pro if you want the full Windows experience. Battery life was an impressive 10-12 hours easy, depending on what one was doing.

What Microsoft has truly gotten right with the Surface Laptop is in delivering a clean, fuss-free and cohesive hardware/software experience, albeit one that unsurprisingly comes at a premium. If only they would refresh the internals to a 2018-spec, the premium would be a lot easier to digest.

Cool Computing

Arguably the most versatile form-factor in the series, the Surface Book 2 is a masterclass in design and engineering. At its core, the Book 2 is all about that cleverly designed hinge that allows you to pop the tablet out and use independently or dock it back one way or the other (regular clamshell mode or flipped around presentation mode) to take full advantage of the discrete graphics and additional battery in the keyboard base. Folded up, the Book 2 is compact for a laptop with a 13.5-inch screen, though it doesn’t close completely — the hinge leaves a small intentional gap between the tablet and the keyboard, which exposes it to dust and dirt, not to mention the wedge shape causing issues fitting into tight backpacks/sleeves. Aside from this minor annoyance, the design is super premium (think luxury car) and exudes confidence.

Much like the MacBook Pros against which it competes, you can get the Book 2 in seven different spec variants across two screen sizes (13.5/15 inches), with the Core i7 processor variants benefiting from the latest 2018-spec Intel processors. Our test unit, a 13.5inch Core i7, 512GB SSD/16GB RAM variant blazed through heavy workloads, and the presence of a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics gave the Book 2 a modicum of gaming street cred,  although to classify this as a gaming laptop would be a bit of a stretch. The 13.5-inch PixelSense display does well on colour accuracy and good details and holds its ground against fancier near-zero-bezel 4K displays on other flagship laptops. However, the the non-standard 3:2 aspect ratio means it is good for running your everyday apps and browsing, just not for watching videos. And that keyboard is an absolute delight to type on — it is backlit, not cramped and offers a luxurious 1.55mm key travel. Type away all day and you will still have almost another day’s charge left — with its near 15-hour battery life, you can truly start leaving the charger behind.

So, there you have it — a thoughtfully designed laptop that is  more than the sum of its parts, one that transforms from ultraportable tablet to a competent workstation at the tap of a key — if you have this kind of money to spend, you would be hard pressed to find such a combination of power and design on the Windows side of the world.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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