Every year for the past three years, Microsoft has made the same bold claim: The Surface is the perfect replacement for your laptop and your tablet, a dreamy all-in-one miracle device.
But I’ve never agreed with Microsoft. Even though the Surface technically had a lot of laptop and tablet features, it didn’t do them particularly well. The trackpad and keyboard felt cheap and unresponsive. There weren’t great apps to use in tablet mode. And Windows 8 was a disaster.
The Surface always fell short of Microsoft’s promise.
On Tuesday, Microsoft unveiled the Surface Book, a laptop with a clever hinge that lets you detach the screen from the keyboard and use it as a tablet. This is the kind of computer I’ve been waiting for, something that can do it all without compromising design or usability.
It’s light, powerful, has incredible battery life, and looks good to boot. I spent about 15 minutes playing around with a Surface Book after Microsoft’s event on Tuesday, and I can tell the company is onto something. This is the device Microsoft should have originally launched when it began making Surfaces three years ago.
It’s also a blow to Apple, which recently unveiled its own take on a Surface-like device with the iPad Pro. I used the iPad Pro briefly at Apple’s launch event a few weeks ago, and I wasn’t exactly blown away. It feels like a niche product that will appeal to some like graphics artists. The keyboard cover wasn’t that great either. It felt cheaply made and was difficult to type on, just like the original Surface.
The Surface Book feels much more refined. Although it’s technically a laptop/tablet hybrid, it’s the first in the category that doesn’t feel like one. It’s a laptop when you need it or a big-screen tablet when you need it. There aren’t any obvious compromises like there are with other Surfaces.
(By the way, Microsoft did announce another new Surface, the Surface Pro 4, which looks like an updated version of what we’ve seen before. I’m not into it.)
To be clear, these are only first impressions. Microsoft made some bold claims Tuesday, saying the Surface Book is 50% more powerful than the MacBook Pro. We’ll have to wait and see about that.
But based on what I’ve seen so far, I think Microsoft has a potential hit coming soon.