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Exclusive: Microsoft finally reveals why Surface Book is missing Intel RealSense


surface book

Intel’s depth-sensing camera seems to be everywhere these days, but it’s absent on the Microsoft Surface Book.

Microsoft has explained why the Surface Book doesn’t feature Intel RealSense technology.

Dan Laycock, the Senior Communications Manager for Microsoft Surface, told us that the development team initially considered including RealSense, but scrapped it for aesthetic reasons.

“We did [consider Intel RealSense], but the thickness got in the way,” Laycock said, speaking exclusively to TrustedReviews.

He added: “So it was a consideration, but [the Surface Book] is very thin, and you can only do so much.”

surface book

Intel RealSense is a camera platform that allows for facial and gesture recognition, depth-sensing, and 3D object scanning.

A number of third-party Windows laptops offer RealSense technology, including devices from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo.

It’s an increasingly common feature thanks to its support for the Windows Hello facial recognition unlocking feature introduced with Windows 10.

There was initially some debate over whether the Surface Book would be able to make use of Windows Hello, due to its eschewing of RealSense.

windows hello

However, Microsoft confirmed that the Surface Book’s camera technology is capable of supporting the new feature.

Related: Microsoft Surface Book vs Apple MacBook Pro

Let us know what you think of Microsoft’s design decision in the comments.

Scott H

January 8, 2016, 7:05 pm

Windows Hello works brilliantly in the Surface Book. I don't care about what tech they used to achieve that. This isn't an issue.


January 9, 2016, 3:45 am

Yeah it was probably more (software) work on their part to make their camera selection work with Hello, but they made it happen, and they didn't have to thicken it up. Reviewers pick up on size first and foremost in comparisons amongst high-end thin ultrabook-esque designs. They made the best decision with the technology they have to work with. Next gen RealSense cameras will probably come in a thinner package.

Scott H

January 10, 2016, 7:32 pm

This is the first time I've heard that RealSense wasn't in the Surface Book. I assume the same is true for the Lumia 950/XL given that they are using Qualcomm chipsets. I also have a 950XL. Windows Hello support peaked my interest because of how great it is in the Surface Book. Iris detection in the 950XL isn't as robust as facial detection in the Surface Book but it is dead on consistent at 12 inches or less. Both of them work in the dark with or without glasses. Facial detection with the Surface Book is incredible. If I'm within 2-3 feet, it will log me in almost instantaneously. Finger print recognition has proven to be excellent from what I understand.

Windows Hello is also extensible. I use it to authorize purchases through the Store and log into apps where that is supported. It also supports web authentication and Azure. If anyone is considering a new Windows device, Hello support needs to be at the top of the list. Considering my experience, the hardware that they use doesn't matter as long as it meets or exceeds the requirements for Hello.

Historically, I have been skeptical of biometric authentication but Microsoft set the bar for how it should be done. It really could be the start of a new era with more security and ease of use. I like the idea of combining multiple methods of biometric login at the same time such as facial + iris, iris + fingerprint, etc... Right now, that isn't supported and it may not even be necessary but as long as they can maintain the same performance and ease of use, it could add another layer of security to an already robust security feature.

To say the least, I'm sold on Windows Hello. It is the very definition of elegant engineering.


January 12, 2016, 4:20 am

Right, the idea being that while Intel's RealSense is the most common implementation, Microsoft's Windows Hello is not locked to any one system. Far from it! As long as it meets MS' requirements, and they work with MS to make it reliable. Plus like you said there's multiple authentication types available. For some devices full facial recognition is ideal, for others, iris is better/more desirable.
Older biometric authentication systems were easy to fool. None of the current systems that are Hello-compatible are easy to trick. It even could tell twins apart in one test. I'm definitely impressed with what I've seen so far. Thank you for the feedback on the Lumia 950XL - I really want the smaller 950 (or even the XL, realistically I'd make it work for me) but I'm on Verizon. Maybe they'll cave when the Surface Phone comes out. :P


June 24, 2016, 3:06 pm

Was considering the surface book for 2D & 3D art although a lot more expensive than wanted to pay I was justifying paying more based on my assumption of having real sense cameras and being able to use it as a 3D scanner. Without that can no longer justify paying that much if I don't find something in the mean time hopefully things will change in SB2

Spring Creek Aquatic Concepts

September 6, 2016, 8:09 am

Give people doing serious work the option of RealSense. We are waiting to implement the Surface until the day we can capture images out in the field and instantly measure distance and area. Conveniences are fine, but give us the power.

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