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Microsoft Surface Laptop

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Summary

Key Features

  • Intel Core i5 or i7
  • 4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM
  • 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD
  • Intel HD 620 or Iris 640 graphics
  • 13.5 inche display, 3:2 aspect ratio, 2256 x 1504
  • 1 USB-A 3.0 port, 1 mini DisplayPort, headphone jack, Surface Connector
  • 720p webcam with Windows Hello
  • Manufacturer: Microsoft
  • Review Price: £949.00

Hands-on: Is the Surface Laptop the Windows 10 machine for all?

The Surface Laptop is a simple product, but it’s an exciting one. It’s the first real laptop from Microsoft, and it might just offer the perfect mix of style and substance.

Whereas the Surface Book and Surface Pro are hybrid devices with fancy flippy screens, futuristic hinges and – in my opinion, anyway – numerous obvious drawbacks, the Surface Laptop is exactly what its name implies. This is a laptop for everyone, the same way the MacBook Air was before Apple bizarrely left it to rot.

Windows laptops have been getting gorgeous for a while now, with Huawei and HP leading in the style stakes with metal bodies, and Dell impressing with its more business-like XPS series. The Surface Laptop sits in the middle; it feels more playful but no less classy.

The outer shell is metal, and it’s dimensions are slightly smaller than Apple’s most iconic laptop. Open the display and you’ll find a soft fabric covering the keyboard. It’s called Alcantara, and while it isn’t new for the Surface line – it was possible to buy a Surface Pro Type Cover with it on – it’s the first time I've used a laptop that offers something other than metal or plastic to lean on.

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Alcantara is soft and has an appearance that isn't too dissimilar to felt. Microsoft says it's resistant to splashes and is easy to wipe down if it becomes messy. Having only used the Surface Laptop for about a day so far, the benefits of the material are already obvious.

First, it’s soft – much more so than cold metal. Leaning against it for long periods is noticeably more comfortable, making typing a more pleasant experience. There are unknowns, however. How will it wear over time? Will it come unstuck from the metal base? Nevertheless, the design seems nice enough.

The keyboard itself is good and wide, with well-spaced keys that have plenty of travel. The glass trackpad, too, is great – although I do notice the smaller size when coming from the MacBook Pro.

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Microsoft is meant to be aiming this device squarely at students, but it doesn’t really seem to be skimping on any particular area that would put off those that don’t fit that demographic. The 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 touchscreen is beautifully sharp and vivid, while the 3:2 aspect ratio is ideal for reading and skipping through photos. It supports the Surface Pen, but you'll have to buy it separately.

Internal options start with the £979 base model with a Core i5 and 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD, but I'd recommend jumping up a tier to £1249, which gets you double the storage and RAM. £2149 will bag up 512GB SSD, 16GB RAM and a Core i7.

Pre-Order: Microsoft Surface Laptop at Microsoft.co.uk from £799

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The port selection Microsoft has chosen has whipped up something of a controversy, for precisely the opposite reason Apple incited much dismay when it updated its MacBook Pros last year.

Whereas Apple opted for purely USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, Microsoft has stuck with a far less future-gazing array of connectors. One side has a USB 3 Type-A port, headphone jack and mini-DisplayPort; the other side houses the Surface Connector for charging.

For me, the lack of even one USB-C is a shame, especially since it’s far from the unknown quantity it was 12 months ago. Still, Microsoft said that it plans to sell a dongle to add in some of the USB-C functionality at a later date.

Unlike most other Windows laptops, the Surface Laptop doesn’t come running Windows 10 out of the box. Instead, it comes with a version called Windows 10 S that focuses on security and better performance over time.

The biggest user-facing difference is that Windows 10 S only allows apps to be installed from the Windows Store, rather than any application downloaded from the internet. This means that, currently, you can’t install Spotify, Steam, iTunes or even browsers such as Chrome and Firefox. It’s limiting, no doubt, but Microsoft claims it’s to aid students and schools to bulk-install apps onto machines and keep them more secure.

If you want more freedom, and I'd suspect most people spending £1000 on this laptop will, then you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free for 12 months.

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We’ll save most of our battery scores for the final review, but if Microsoft’s claim of 14 hours is correct then this could be something special.

Pre-Order: Microsoft Surface Laptop at Microsoft.co.uk from £799

First Impressions

The Surface Laptop is sleek and unique in its design, it has a lovely screen and feels fast and fluid to use. It's an exciting proposition that seems to be have been executed very well.

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