Oct. 7, 2015
You may have seen the product announcements from Microsoft yesterday including the new Surface Pro 4, and a new hybrid laptop/tablet called the Surface Book. Since I track Windows productivity tablets, I thought I’d share my thoughts on them. I like the Surface Book a lot, but am not convinced the Surface Pro 4 is the right answer. Here are more details on my thoughts:
Surface Pro 4
I’ve never been a fan of the Surface Pro line for the average knowledge worker, and with this fourth iteration of the Pro, I’m still not there yet. Yes, its new specs are impressive, and the feature updates are quite good, especially the keyboard/trackpad. But as with all of the previous Surface Pro models, in my mind these computers are too heavy and too big to be a true tablet, and too small to do extended work as a laptop, so they don’t really fill a niche I am interested in. I could see some job roles where they make sense; for example if you work on your feet a lot (medical, industrial, and so on) and need the power of a full PC. Or perhaps are a graphic or sketch artist and need a large-format pen computer (it excels at that). But if you are looking for a PC that can serve as an iPad-like true tablet too, I think you will not be happy with how big and heavy it is.
If you need a true tablet, I instead recommend the newish Surface 3 (the non-Pro model). It’s the right size for a handheld tablet (although I still think it could be thinner, but that’s more for aesthetics). It’s lightweight enough to be held in one hand while reading a book, and the screen resolution is just right. Yet it still works as a laptop in a pinch; so if you grabbed it on the way out the door to read some articles, but you then got a call that requires you to do a little real work, it’ll do the job. I’ve even written long articles on it and been happy. But if I were planning to do a day of work while on the road, I’d bring a full-sized laptop instead, which brings me to the next new product from Microsoft announced yesterday, the Surface Book.
As a full-sized Windows 10 laptop, the brand new Surface Book looks near perfect to me. I have long said that I think mobile workers need two machines: a good full-sized laptop for real work when on the road, and a good small tablet for media consumption (and for in-the-moment work). The Surface Book looks like it fills the first part of this pairing quite well. Its screen size, 13.5 inches, is just about right for a laptop used for real work (though one could even go a bit larger). That larger screen sizing gives plenty of room for a matched usable keyboard, which apparently it has. And yet it’s still very thin and light, with lots of computing power, so it’s an impressive release.
Surprisingly, though, I have almost no interest in the fact that you can remove the screen from Surface Book and use it as a tablet. Like most large hybrids, I feel it’s too big for that. And I have come to find that I don’t use touch on a larger laptop like this. But it doesn’t hurt to include those features, some users will need them, and in fact it would be odd not to include them given that touch and pen are high priorities for Microsoft these days, (and given the recent release of the large iPad Pro).
Of course, there are plenty of other good Windows laptops out there, and since the new Surface Book is a bit pricey, you might want to consider the others. But as I stated near the end of this article, these days I am leaning towards getting Microsoft hardware for Windows 10 devices, primarily because we are still in the very early stages of Windows 10 releases, and it is constantly being automatically updated. I could be wrong, but I think Microsoft’s hardware should handle that best. So if I were to get a Windows 10 laptop in the next year or so, the Surface Book would probably be it.