Surface Book – First Impressions

One of the absolute BEST parts of my job is getting new hardware into my hands for testing.  This week, I’m spending some time with my shiny new Surface Book.  We purchased it based on feedback in the field about the form factor of the Pro model.  Everybody agreed that the form factor on the Pro was too limiting for extended lap use while traveling.

My first though when I pulled the Surface Book out of its cardboard shipping box was, “dear God, this is heavy”.  Fortunately, some of the perceived weight was reduced when I took it out of the product box as well.  For the record, it weighs 3.34lbs – so it’s quite a difference from the Pro form factor (the Pro 4 comes in at 1.74lbs).

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As with any traditional clamshell computer, it fits and sits nicely on my lap.  I had read a few reviews where others said the screen is wobbly and unstable in that position, but I haven’t experienced that.  I think you’d have to type with considerable force to get the screen to shake.  I’ve even used it on the train – still no shaking.

If you search around for other reviews on the Surface Book, you’ll notice comments on system performance.  Now, I ordered the i5/8GB which is spec’d to be identical to my Pro 3, so I didn’t expect a workhorse, but more of a decent, fluid experience while browsing and running remote sessions.  Sadly, I noticed performance problems the minute I booted the Surface Book.  There’s something about the track pad that freezes for a few seconds and then the OS just grinds along for about a minute barely making it out of first gear.  Across all devices at my desk, the Surface Book is announcing notifications (think email, Twitter, etc.) last and by a lag of over 5 minutes(!!!).  Looking at task manager, I don’t see anything out of the ordinary.  Thinking it was firmware related, I gladly applied the latest updates to see if the sluggishness would go away – it doesn’t.  So, even though it doesn’t make any sense, the Pro 3 performs better.  At least on it, my only complaints were the fan and form factor.

Aesthetically, it’s both the ugliest and nicest laptop I’ve ever seen.  The strike pad is just enormous, and I think at this point in the game I’m used to wide screen, so it’s an adjustment.  But the magnesium case and chicklet (and quiet and backlit) keyboard is to die for.  I love the hinge although I wish it opened to an even larger angle.

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The software-based latch to undock the tablet from the keyboard is a nice idea.  You just press and hold a button until it flashes red and green and then you hear the magnet release and you’re free to detach the two.  If you accidentally press the button, don’t worry, after 5 seconds the magnets reactivate  Also, I’m not sure if I love it or hate it, but when you remove the tablet from the keyboard, there’s no kick stand.  I kind of hate that actually, but I’m sure it would look funny and I think I would hate that more (tech should be beautiful, people!!).

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I’m in LOVE with the pen.  The two buttons are gone from the side which frees me to grip the pen comfortably and not worry about bumping one of the buttons and erasing what I’ve just inked and it is a little bit longer and thicker in diameter, which also helps with ergonomics.  I also love that while there is no garage for the pen, the bezel on the left side of the Surface has a strong magnet and the pen (which also has a magnetic strip on it) docks there – it even stays put when I put it in my bag to travel.  The fabric/plastic loop on the type cover of the Pro 3 just wasn’t working for me.  I’d either inadvertently call upon One Note by bumping the top button while trying to put the pen away or I’d fumble for so long trying to squeeze the pen into the loop that I would just give up and throw it into the bottom of my bag.  Did I mention I’m a mom?  I’m afraid of what else might be at the bottom of that bag!

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In all, I’m happy with it and I’ve already abandoned my Pro 3.  Even with all its flaws, there’s something about functional form factor that you just can’t beat.  That and it fits nicely inside my favorite bag!  I’ll get to the bottom of the performance lags and post back what I’ve found.  Like I’ve said, at least 5 times – form factor is everything.

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