Surface Book: First impressions of Microsoft's first laptop

A little more than three years ago Microsoft did something that nobody thought they would do - they made a tablet. Three years later, they are now making a laptop, but it isn't one in the typical sense. While I have been a dedicated member of the Surface Pro ownership, upgrading to Microsoft's latest 'Pro' offering every year, Microsoft gave me a reason to mix it up this time around by entering a new market yet again. After spending a couple days with the device, does this previous Surface Pro loyalist regret changing his MO?

The answer is a difficult one, but I have to say that the jury is still out on this one. While the Surface Pro 4 really fell in between what a tablet and a laptop is, I have found myself using the device more as a laptop than anything else - as Microsoft intended. Needless to say, I do feel awkward at times when using the Surface Book. Where the Surface Pro 3 could go from laptop to tablet in a snap, the Surface Book is a little more complicated than that. You can't just flip the keyboard back to put it in tablet mode or rip it off whenever you feel like it. There are extra steps and new buttons, and I feel like these have discouraged me from using it as a tablet at all.

However it still is a Surface, so the device build quality is what I expected. The device feels solid and premium - there are no disappointments here. While I didn't opt to stand on the hinge, I did spend some time trying to flex it with the clipboard portion unattached - thankfully to no avail. The i7 -256 GB model that I opted for is speedy, and the GPU made video editing in Premiere Pro a breeze over my Surface Pro 3.

While the keyboard is definitely firmer than the one I'm used to on the type covers and even a MacBook Air I occasionally use, it feels great to type on, but might take some getting used to. While I'm mentioning the MacBook Air, if you are coming from an Apple laptop, you will almost feel right at home with the keyboard and glass track pad on the Surface Book. Track pads have always been a hit or miss with PCs, but the Surface Book breaks this stereotype with one of the best I have ever used on a laptop.

As a student, I have come to love the Surface Pen and I'm happy to say that the new one brings improvements to all the right places. The pen is more sensitive with swapable tips and a delightfully grippy eraser. The display on the new Book is incredibly sharp at 3000x2000 resulting in even smoother looking virtual ink, though I question if the battery life trade-off is worth it.

With any first generation product, there are sure to be some problems, and while I can't say I expected sunshine and daisies, I've had more issues than I care to admit. The button to undock the clipboard from the keyboard works 90% of the time, while deeply frustrating me the other 10. Additionally, when I do find myself un-docking and re-docking the clipboard to the keyboard base, the screen violently flickers (after disabling Hyper-V) and on many occasions has blue screened. At one point the keyboard and track pad stopped working and the clipboard refused to unlatch from the keyboard base. These are some major issues, and it just further discouraging me to utilize the device's clipboard mode.

The device is promising, overall, with top notch build quality that people have come to expect from the Surface family of devices. But after spending only a few days with the device, much of the software is lacking polish. While I purchased the device with the understanding that first generation products can have these kinds of problems, the average consumer will be less forgiving.

If you have any questions regarding the Surface Book or its accessories leave a comment below or ask me on Twitter @CamdenKrupala. Stay tuned for more impressions and some tips on how to get the most our of your new device.

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