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article imageMicrosoft Surface Book is company's first laptop

By James Walker     Oct 6, 2015 in Technology
Microsoft surprised the audience at its New York event today by announcing an all-new device, Surface Book. Designed as a laptop but able to convert into a tablet, it is for people who require things Surface Pro can't deliver, like desktop-grade typing.
Although there had been rumours of two Surface devices launching today, nobody was quite prepared for the Surface Book. Microsoft's Panos Panay introduced the device by asking: "What if you wanted a Surface but you wanted a laptop Surface, something with a bigger screen, something with the perfect typing experience of a laptop? What if we could do for laptops what we did for tablets?"
The company has now delivered, creating a laptop that converts into a tablet as an alternative to its tablet that converts into a laptop. Like with Surface Pro, Microsoft's take on a premium laptop is based around beautiful hardware and the productivity offered by Windows 10, although there are key differences between the two.
Surface Book at Microsoft s October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Surface Book at Microsoft's October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Microsoft October 2015 Live Event
The Surface Book has a 13.5-inch 3000x2000 resolution high-contrast display that uses Microsoft's new PixelSense technology to make do with hardly any cover glass, removing the layers of the screen that usually get in the way of the light coming through. The panel has improved latency and is less subject to parallax, making it easier to read but also better to write on using the Surface Pen stylus.
Microsoft says the Surface Book is "ounce for ounce the fastest 13" laptop ever made." With a 6th-generation Intel Skylake Core i5 or Core i7 processor and up to 16GB of RAM under the hood, Surface Book joins the Surface Pro 4 in being capable of handling almost any task that is thrown at it. Its capabilities are expanded even further when specified with an optional discrete NVIDIA graphics card that gives Surface Book the power to contend with gaming laptops and even professional workstations.
Surface Book at Microsoft s October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Surface Book at Microsoft's October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Microsoft October 2015 Live Event
On stage, Panay demonstrated 3D modelling with Surface Book, using the Surface Pen to draw spikes on a dinosaur's back and seeing them render almost instantly. Video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, renowned as an intensive desktop program, was similarly smooth and responsive, indicating how powerful a machine Microsoft has built.
The company chose to give a final illustration of this by comparing Surface Book's performance to that of a well-known and often-revered competitor: Apple's MacBook Pro. According to Microsoft, Surface Book is up to twice as fast as the MacBook depending on the application being used.
Up to 1TB of storage is available, enough for the large files that Surface Book is capable of churning out. There's two full-size USB 3.0 ports, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, a 5MP front-facing camera and 8MP rear shooter alongside dual microphones and front-firing, Dolby-enhanced stereo speakers. The usual array of sensors including an accelerometer and gyroscope are included alongside support for Windows Hello facial recognition.
Surface Book's display can be folded into a tablet, creating a sketch pad or blank piece of paper for scribbling on with Surface Pen. Alternatively, the user can go one step further and detach the display from the keyboard via a unique technology known as Muscle Wire.
Surface Book at Microsoft s October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Surface Book at Microsoft's October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Microsoft October 2015 Live Event
When in laptop mode, the display is held tight into the body by a tense wire that allows it to support itself like an ordinary laptop. At the touch of a button, the wire can be released and the display detached from the body, creating a tablet to walk around with when the keyboard isn't required.
This is possible because of the unique design of the device. All of the essential components are stored in the lid of the laptop, under the display, allowing it to function as a tablet. The keyboard tray primarily holds the ports for connectivity — although major ones are present on the tablet section too — and also covers the NVIDIA graphics card. When in laptop mode, Surface Book is the workhorse it is designed to be. If the user takes it out as a tablet, some of the performance is lost but because all the key components are stored under the display, the conversion is still possible.
Surface Book at Microsoft s October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Surface Book at Microsoft's October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Microsoft October 2015 Live Event
It may seem like Surface Book is redundant when placed next to the Surface Pro 4. That isn't how Microsoft sees it though; Panay was clear that the Surface Pro and Surface Book have their own distinct target audiences.
Surface Pro is for the person looking for the device that can truly be a tablet and laptop while Surface Book is for the person whose work demands massive power that isn't available in current laptops. As an added bonus, it is still possible to pull the display away into a tablet. Surface Book also boasts another capability that Surface Pro can't ever achieve: the precision offered by a true laptop keyboard.
Microsoft promises "perfect" typing from the 1.6mm of key travel, making the Surface Book an option for typists who have traditionally stayed away from Surface because of its ultra-slim keyboard. Regardless of what Microsoft claims, it will still be interesting to see how the two products sell together over the next few months.
Surface Book at Microsoft s October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Surface Book at Microsoft's October 2015 #Windows10 devices event.
Microsoft October 2015 Live Event
The Surface Book isn't going to be a cheap device. Microsoft's idea of the "ultimate laptop" starts at $1499 for the base model and is likely to reach eye-watering figures when fully specced out with the NVIDIA graphics card, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. Surface Book goes on sale alongside Surface Pro 4 from October 26th.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, Surface, surface book
 
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