Microsoft’s Surface line of products has existed for over four years and has gone in various directions trying to please every possible consumer base it possibly can.
After releasing tablets for the mainstream, two-in-one computers for the business sector, and even a dedicated studio computer catered to digital creators, in 2017 we are treated to…. a laptop? The Microsoft Surface Laptop appears as a dull oddity after years of breaking the mould, but the company has returned to its past traditions with the goal of tackling the most prominent laptop in today’s market: Apple’s MacBook.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop’s base configuration retails for an affordable $990 USD, packing many of the same components as Apple’s MacBook for a cheaper price. These specs include an Intel Core i5-7200U clocked at 2.5GHz, 4GB of DDR3 Ram, and a 128GB SSD for fast boot times and storage. None of these components are really a wow factor when compared to the premium gaming machines offered by the likes of Asus or MSI, but Microsoft is targeting the college/university demographic here by offering something that will prove reliable for the students expected workload. Users who are need of more specific components can upgrade the Surface laptop to fit their needs for an additional price.
Moving onto ports and connectivity, the Microsoft Surface laptop includes the bare essentials a user will require for daily use but also neglects to adopt new industry standards. On the left of the laptop users will find the four main ports: a USB 3.0 port, one Mini DisplayPort, a 3.5mm headphone jack and lastly, the Surface Connect port for proprietary accessories. The odd exclusion comes from the lack of a USB-C port, which is becoming increasingly common for peripherals to use and is included with many of the machines offered by Microsoft’s competitors. Sure enough though, the solution for lacking ports comes in the form of additional Surface accessories and docks that cost way more than they’re worth.
I feel that by going back to the limitations of the clamshell laptop design Microsoft has lost some of the charm of owning a Surface product. While the Surface Laptop still packs in a 13.5” PixelSense touchscreen display within its thin 1.25 kg chassis, users lose the freedom of approaching the screen from any angle with a stylus pen when they have to wrestle with the attached keyboard while they work. The PixelSense screen itself is a decent display, but the addition of extra scratch resistant glass subdues the brightness and vibrancy I expected from its colour range and 2256×1504 resolution.
My final grievance with the Microsoft Surface Laptop is its keyboard. I simply hate the typing experience offered here. While Microsoft has spruced up the keyboard by applying a layer of Italian Alcantara Fabric to the surface for the comfort of our wrists, the keys themselves feel like they’re made of cheap plastic and ruin the feel of the device. Adding fabric is an interesting choice, but one that just creates worries for the user. Stains and small spills that could be cleaned off of a traditional aluminum cover can potentially stain and soak into this material. Microsoft has applied a polyurethane coating to prevent these kinds of incidents from happening, but with improper care this finish could be quickly ruined. Lastly, the speakers are located directly below the keys, which creates muffling when users are typing and playing music at the same time. Stick to the headphone jack to keep your sanity.
The big picture from this review is that I hate the restrictions that thin-laptops put on the user and would never personally buy one. While the outward appearance may look stunningly thin and attractive, every company creates its own share of unique compromises that hurt the overall experience. Even though the performance of the Microsoft Surface Laptop is top-notch for the price point, this is still the same set of components offered by nearly every competitor. Microsoft and other tech manufacturers fighting it out with Apple in this price range are simply imitating the king while fighting amongst each other. What was truly needed for the Microsoft Surface Laptop to stand out from the rest is a unique wow-factor to call its own, something innovative that only the Surface brand could accomplish.
Disclaimer: The Microsoft Surface Laptop was provided temporarily by Microsoft for review purposes
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