Microsoft has just taken the wraps of its new Windows 10 S operating system along with a device to show off the OS: the Surface Laptop.
What’s it all about, and how does it stack up against the company’s high-end Surface Book? Here’s all you need to know.
Related: What is Windows 10 S?
Surface Laptop vs Surface Book – Design
The new ultra-thin and portable Surface Laptop is designed for students, and Microsoft is making a big deal of how sleek this new device is. At 1.25kg, it’s lighter than the MacBook Air, although with that device ageing very badly it’s not really much of a surprise.
There’s no screws or hinges visible, and no visible speaker grilles as Microsoft has integrated the actual speakers below the keyboard.
Related: Surface Laptop vs Chromebook Pixel
|Surface Laptop||Surface Book|
|Processors||Dual-core 7th-gen Core i5 or i7||Dual-core 6th-gen Core i5 or i7|
|Graphics||Intel HD 620 or 640||Intel HD 520, 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 940 or 2GB GTX 965M (Performance base)|
|Storage||128-512GB SSD||128-1TB SSD|
|Screen||13.5-inch 2256×1504-pixel touch screen||13.5-inch 3000×2000-pixel touch screen|
|Ports||USB 3.0, 3.5mm audio, mini DisplayPort||2x USB 3.0, SD card, 3.5mm headset, mini DisplayPort|
It comes in Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, or Graphite Gold and has fabric (imported from Italy, apparently) covering the keyboard, with plastic, backlit keys. The screen doesn’t detach, like on the Surface Book, but this is a laptop, after all.
The hinge has been hidden on the Surface Laptop, but the Surface Book has a much more conspicuous hinge. In fact it’s one of the device’s most recognisable features. The tablet/laptop hybrid’s grey magnesium build features a hinge designed to evenly adjust the Surface Book’s weight balance to ensure it doesn’t become top heavy, irrespective of the screen’s angle
Related: Best laptops
Surface Laptop vs Surface Book – hardware and performance
With Windows 10 S, the laptop should start up and log in quicker than the standard Windows 10-powered Surface Book. The whole OS runs on apps from the Windows Store, and as such, Microsoft claims it will have the same performance on “day 1000 as it did on day 1”. In reality, it’s a limited experience that you’ll probably want to pay to upgrade. Pricing from Windows 10 S to Pro shouldn’t be too significant, but it’s still an extra cost to consider to get the most out of your laptop.
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The Surface Book, on the other hand, runs standard Windows 10, so you can download apps from anywhere and generally have a more customisable experience. For us, more flexibility is always better.
In terms of hardware, on the Laptop you can choose to have up to a 1TB SSD and Microsoft claims it comes with 14 and a half hours of battery life. In reality we doubt it’ll get that far, but a full working day sounds like it’s very much possible.
We’re obviously yet to test that out, but it’s an intriguing promise, and if true gives the Laptop an edge on the Surface Book. Microsoft claims its hybrid device has a 12-hour battery life when used as a laptop, while the tablet section by itself has just a three-hour projected life.
The Surface Laptop also features a 7th-generation Intel Core processor (i5 and i7 options available), which is newer than the 6th-generation processors that you’ll get on the Surface Book, along with a 3.4 million-pixel screen. That screen is a 13.5-inch PixelSense LCD touchscreen display that works with the Surface Pen, so you can doodle on your display if you feel inclined. The laptop screen also features a 2256 x 1504 resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio.
On the Surface Book, you’ll get a slightly smaller 13.3-inch screen, with a higher 3000 x 2000 resolution and 267ppi pixel density. That makes for incredibly sharp images, and the increased resolution means the Book will display crisper pictures than the Laptop. It also works with the Surface Pen, so the two devices are fairly even there.
However, as you’ll note from the specs table above, the Book uses sixth-generation Intel chips, so in raw processing performance, the Surface Laptop should be around 15% faster than the Surface Book.
Interestingly, the Surface Book’s detachable keyboard houses an optional secondary NVIDIA GeForce GPU. The GPU activates when the tablet section is docked in the keyboard, and is designed to dramatically improve performance. Depending on the model you choose, you’ll get a 1GB dedicated GPU, or a 2GB GTX 965 model that should be much better for gaming and 3D tasks. But that significantly adds to the cost.
In terms of RAM, these days the minimum we recommend for high-end laptops is 8GB. That means you’ll want to be paying in excess of £1000 for the 8GB Surface Laptop, while the Surface Book comes with 8GB as standard.
Related: Windows 10 S laptops
Microsoft has included a USB port on the new Laptop, along with a Surface power connector, and a mini DisplayPort – but has neglected to add a USB Type-C connection and there’s also no SD card slot. The Surface Book comes with two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a Mini DisplayPort and again lacks that USB-C.
Surface Laptop vs Surface Book – price and release date
You can pre-order the new Surface Laptop today for $999 for a Core i5 model, with the device starting to ship on June 15 in the US.
It’ll also be release on June 15 in the UK, but it’ll cost £979 for the same Core i5 configuration with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Pre-orders are now live.
Pre-order Now: Microsoft Surface book from £979
Meanwhile, the Surface Book is available now starting at £1449 for the 128GB storage, Core i5, 8GB RAM model. Prices clear £3000 for the top-end Performance Base version.
Surface Laptop vs Surface Book – Summary
The Surface Laptop and Book target two different areas. The Laptop, as a basic premium machine, is a much better-value option than the Book for most people. But if you want the ultimate in performance and flexibility, the Book is the better choice, especially if you want dedicated graphics for 3D work or gaming. It’s horses for courses, then.
Let us know what you think of the new Surface Laptop in the comments.