Edge of Innovation

Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop was five years in the making

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

Microsoft launched its first Surface device — the Surface Tablet — back in 2012.

Like Apple, Microsoft wanted to integrate its own software with its own custom-built hardware. But reception to it was mixed (due to the cut-down Windows RT OS the tablet used) and sales were modest. You wouldn’t have blamed Microsoft for abandoning Surface as a bad idea.

But that first experimental machine was followed by the Surface Pro in 2013, which incorporated an Intel processor and ran the full Windows 8.1 operating system. The Surface Pro line-up has since improved year-on-year, ultimately spawning the Surface Book, Surface Studio and the newest addition, the Surface Laptop, one of several new products “inspired by teachers and students.”

It’s taken five years, but Microsoft may have finally got Surface right.

With the Surface Pro 4, Microsoft has a powerful and flexible 2 in 1 device that can be specced up to be cheap and cheerful with an Intel Core m3, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, or built for high performance with an Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. With its 12.3-inch touchscreen and clip-on keypad, it’s a popular device.

From Surface Book to Surface Laptop

The more expensive Surface Book, meanwhile, replaces the Pro’s Type Cover with a more rugged keyboard (that can be flipped around or detached) and increases the Pro’s screen size by an inch. Power comes as standard with the Surface Book — you can’t buy one with anything less than an Intel Core i7 CPU inside.

The new Surface Laptop slots into the middle of the two. Like the Surface Book, it looks like a traditional clamshell notebook but, while its 13.5-inch edge-to-edge display is touch-sensitive, it doesn’t detach. So you can’t wield the Surface Laptop like a tablet.

This old-fashioned, single-use approach to the design might seem like a backwards step when most manufacturers are favouring smart 2 in 1 configurations. But Apple’s MacBook Air isn’t a 2 in 1, and this is precisely the thin and light device that the Surface Laptop is hoping to target.

Elegant engineering

If you’ve watched the video above, you’ll see that the Surface Laptop prides itself on three main things — elegant engineering, performance and security.

Where the Surface Book impressed with its light magnesium chassis and Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge, the Surface Laptop has an eye-catching aluminium shell with a keyboard area cushioned with fabric. Spill-resistant, wrist-friendly Alcantara to be exact. Omnisonic speakers are cleverly hidden beneath the backlit keys.

In terms of performance, the Surface Laptop can be fitted with either a 7th generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, and up to 16GB of RAM. The 13.5-inch PixelSense display has a resolution of 2256 x 1504 pixels, while storage options include 128GB, 256GB and 512GB SSDs. Battery life is rated at over 14 hours.

Introducing Windows 10 S

As for security, Microsoft’s new laptop can use Windows Hello for facial recognition logins (no password required) and it runs Windows 10 S, a variant of the current Windows OS limited to running verified apps from the Windows Store. Unlike the doomed, app-centric Windows RT, however, you can switch from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro if you crave more flexibility.

According to Microsoft, it “built Surface Laptop to do two things: refresh the classic laptop form factor that our customers, especially college students, have been asking for; and make a Surface that works seamlessly to showcase the best of Windows 10 S.”

It might just have succeeded.

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