back to article Microsoft Surface Book: Shiny slab with a Rottweiler grip on itself

I've always wondered what people who pay more than £2,000 for a Windows laptop are thinking when they boot the machine. It's a bit like paying a fortune to gain admission to a secret and exclusive members club, only to discover once you're in, that it's run by the bloke who does the pub quiz on a Tuesday night at your local …


  1. adnim Silver badge

    looks much cheaper

    than £2k+

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: looks much cheaper

      £2K, and it will be junk in 4 years.

      So, it will be effectively £500 per year to rent, £10 per week.

      Anything over £350 is too much unless there is a company budget paying.

      1. adnim Silver badge

        @werdsmith Re: looks much cheaper

        Junk already to me... has Win 10 on it,

        The "I am happy and I wish to express my content" icon.. because I will never want nor have one.

    2. Mark Allread

      Re: looks much cheaper

      I didn't want one of these, I was very happy with my Yoga Pro. Then I saw one in the flesh and boy, they're just lovely.

      1. Credas Silver badge

        Re: looks much cheaper

        It doesn't look cheap. But then it doesn't do anything worth doing that a laptop a quarter of the price doesn't do. This is the Audi-VW-SEAT-Skoda model, but applied to PCs instead of cars - they take you for what you can afford, you get to upstage the neighbours with the badge. Whether you see value in this is up to you.

        1. PNGuinn Silver badge

          Re: looks much cheaper


          Give me a real pre vw Skoda any day.

          Built like bloody tanks. And sound like it. But incredibly comfortable.

          Happy Favorit owner.

          1. Paul Woodhouse

            Re: looks much cheaper

            Favorit, BAH too new... you need a proper RWD Skoda for real fun, I still class my old 136 Rapid as one of my best cars ever...

          2. Kar98

            Re: looks much cheaper

            Favorit? Puh-leeeeese, go old school, get a 105/120 aka Estelle. Now THAT was comfortable. And noisy.

            1. Clockworkseer

              Re: looks much cheaper

              I mostly remember the estelle as the car that made my life an utter misery for several years (because, frankly, there were few worse thing about being a 12 year old than being the laughing stock of your entire school year because your parents bought a Skoda.)

        2. Nigel 11

          Re: looks much cheaper

          This is the Audi-VW-SEAT-Skoda model

          More like the Maserati model. Looks great, goes great on a track, but does it survive much contact with the real world of speed humps and tyre-sized potholes and multi-storey car park spiral ramps?

        3. Mark Allread

          Re: looks much cheaper

          "It doesn't look cheap. But then it doesn't do anything worth doing that a laptop a quarter of the price doesn't do"

          You've seen the 13.5" detachable screen with pen input yeah?

        4. Alan_Peery

          The value of a pen

          > But then it doesn't do anything worth doing that a laptop a quarter of the price doesn't do.

          There's no laptop with pen input the quality of the Surface at 1/4 of the price. If you value the ability to annotate on PDF images, sketch as you present on a webex, or do artwork while travelling then you need that ability.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: looks much cheaper

      Get a pixel C.

      Better in every respect at a fraction of the price.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: looks much cheaper @Stupid Coward

        Get a pixel C. Better in every respect at a fraction of the price.

        No it is not. Go troll elsewhere.

        Pixel C is cheaper even with the $150 keyboard addon, but there's not a lot of something that's better:

        resolution: 2560x1800 (Pixel) vs 3000x2000 (Surface)

        memory: 3GB vs 8/16GB

        CPU: 1.9GHz Tegra vs 2.4GHz+ i5/i7

        Storage: 32/64GB vs 128/256/512/1024GB

        I'd buy neither since both Pixel C and Surface Book seem to be plagued with bad software.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: looks much cheaper @Stupid Coward

          Pixel C software is now very good indeed. 6.01 is rock solid, and the jsnky touchscreen issues resolved.

          Android N beta is superb, and the full desktop coming soon.....

        2. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: looks much cheaper @Stupid Coward

          off topic, I remember having a skoda Estelle 120. It *was* built like their tanks, rear engine rear wheel drive was mucho fun in the wet or dry for that matter. An austin metro disintegrated when it rear ended me at some lights, I don't even think the bumper dented on my car, it had nice big "blocks" on the bumpers, a precursor to parking sensors :) The woman was in tears, I just laughed.

          you were lucky to get more than 65 out of it of course, as it was made of pig iron and powered by a lawnmower engine. It also understeered and oversteered (unless you had luggage in the front "boot", then it wasn't fast enough to oversteer). Heating consisted of a number of pipes running to a landrover style radiator and fan, shite in winter, roasting in summer. It frosted more on the inside (there was a cooling leak somewhere in the car) than the outside (I remember spraying deicer on the inside rather than outside one time). The choke was a huge lever that acted as an "idle speed regulator" rather than choke and power steering consisted of a very large steering wheel. Reliability was epic, it took a good 20 seconds to start hail, rain, snow or shine but never broke down on me once. I think the brake drums were made of stone as they never got changed either. If it was advertised as having synchro mesh then they were lieing, double declutching was the order of the day (coming from a land rover this wasn't an issue for me). 1st and third were almost interchangeable too. Reverse was tricky as you needed to be absolutely stationary (not rolling backwards at all).

          It ran for a at least 6 months on next to no oil, the oil light had burnt out and was only picked up on the MOT. After 2 years I traded it in for an XR3i (which was stolen after a few months, shame I liked the escort) but I wont forget the fun I had in it, it certainly taught me a few tricks.

      2. Kar98

        Re: looks much cheaper

        Cheaper than the Surface Pro? Sure. Comparable to it? Hardly. If you must compare the Pixel C to a Surface product, than the dead and not mourned Surface RT would be your choice, and you can find that one on eBay for $99 all day long.

    4. Down not across

      Re: looks much cheaper

      I agree. It looks pretty cheap. The hinge especially (unless it somehow looks massively better in real life than in a pic).

      If I was in the market for one of these I'd rather opt for HP Spectre x2. Matter of opinion, but I think the HP actually looks better, has nice(ish) backlit keyboard and is lot cheaper (granted, as I recall it has only 1920x1080 display, but for ~12-13" screen that is quite sufficient.

      1. ntevanza

        Re: looks much cheaper

        The HP has no dedicated PgUp, PgDn, Home, End keys, which makes it NSFW.

    5. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: looks much cheaper

      "Microsoft's Surface Book is the most expensive laptop you can get, short of ordering a 24-carat custom gold plated jobbie."

      I guess you haven't heard of Alienware? Fully loaded, those laptops can cost over £3K.

  2. Simon Ward

    "Except you do get Flipboard and Candy Crush Soda Saga, and possibly some other stuff you didn't want."

    Stuff like Windows 10, for example.

  3. Paul Woodhouse

    The real question of course

    is the hardware compatible with Mint?

    1. Troy Peterson

      Re: The real question of course

      I don't think so... I've not tried yet to be honest, but given the whole 2nd GPU thing and X11's general inability to deal with unusual configurations it's highly unlikely that it will work - at least not fully. I've had mine since November (got it in North America) and I love it.. It's the only Windows machine I have, with Mint on all of my others... and I'd _love_ to put Mint on it... but I'm putting up with Windows because it generally works and the machine is simply fantastic... I doubt you'd be able to separate the keyboard with Linux so that makes it kinda pointless.

    2. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      Re: The real question of course

      Ah, but would that be Extra Strong, or Polo? The latter has a big hole that could be construed as a vulnerability.

      Mine's the one with the pound bag of Murray Mints in the pocket.

      1. PNGuinn Silver badge

        Re: The real question of course - mints


        It's already got the big hole - it's called windows 10.

        I'll see your bag of Murray Mints and raise you a Fisherman's Friend.

        Icon >> Try one.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: The real question of course - mints

          since our local tobacconist (well, only tobacconist) sells winternips, I have a bag of those with me on Mondays and Tuesdays. Fishermans Friends are not mints, they are in the same category as fiery imps - something to clear your nose in a hurry (or get rid of bad taste).

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: The real question of course

      Dunno, but put VMWare player on there, install a Mint VM plus VMWare Tools and you'll never know you are working in the guest OS.

    4. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: The real question of course

      is the hardware compatible with Mint?

      I can confirm, from personal experience, that you can disable Secure Boot in the Surface Book's UEFI firmware. If you do so, however, you get a great big red padlock banner at the top of the screen every time you boot - as if to warn "OH MY GOD SECURE BOOT IS DISABLED YOU ARE SO RECKLESS". Haven't tried installing an alternative OS yet but I imagine one might have problems with some of the SB's hardware.

    5. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: The real question of course

      Probably not Mint, as it's based on the last Ubuntu LTS - you'd probably have more luck with the latest Ubuntu beta.

    6. PNGuinn Silver badge

      Re: The real question of course

      Funny, I was wondering how easy it'd be to nuke w10 and stuff Debian on it.

      Seriously? Only 2 usb ports? For this money and spec I'd have wanted at least 4. And an IBM type nipple as an alternatine to a trackpad. (I hate 'em).

      And no bloody ethernet? With a machine this fast? Stuck on the bum end of a weak wifi signal that drops out every few seconds? Fail.

      Anyone know whether it's got a decent non reflective matt screen?

      1. Adam Jarvis

        Re: The real question of course

        The IBM style nipple pointer would be, by far the best input method for a Surface.

        Ok, its (nipple pointer) mainly for touch typists, but it saves moving the hands away from the keys to operate the touchpad/external mouse. How Microsoft overlooked adding this to the Surface Book must be down to licencing issues, especially given Nadella's all encompassing approach. (anyone new sitting there interested in computing, still unable to touch type, put some time/money aside, it reaps so many benefits going forward)

        Some things might seem 'stylewise' - dated, but if they work and the IBM nipple pointer does, it needs to be there on a product like this.

        I never get why an extra few mm to hide that hinge within the casing isn't better than those protruding teeth, they look set up to scratch the screen, if you leave the handheld screen section lying on it. I like Lenovo's Yoga Pro 3's wristwatch strap hinge the best, but its sadly (or rightly) not detachable.

        In terms of Linux Mint, old microsoft would specifically design all these; proprietary hinge, dedicated graphic switching options just so it wouldn't be compatible with Linux, but given the release of SQL for Linux, you have to assume, Microsoft are developing compatible linux drivers for these proprietary options, at this very moment ;).

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: The real question of course

          You fail to notice this is a touch device. Often, it's quicker to touch the screen than moving a mouse pointer to reach the screen point you need. Even scrolling/zooming is often easier using gestures than any kind of mouse interaction.

          1. Adam Jarvis

            Re: The real question of course

            Nope, my right finger has to move about 10mm to operate an IBM style nipple pointer, Using the touch screen repetitively like that, would be like asking me to operate the indicators in a car from a touch screen head up display, rather than stalks on the side of the steering wheel. Once fine, repeatedly, no thanks, I'll pass on that method.

          2. Maventi

            Re: The real question of course

            @LDS: totally agree - but a quality MacBook-style trackpad is where this stuff really shines as you don't have to lift your hand away from the keyboard. Sure a touchscreen is excellent for things like drawing and annotation, but for the use cases above it's surprisingly clumsy.

      2. Alan_Peery

        Re: The real question of course

        The interesting limitation for me is that there is no USB on the tablet -- only on the keyboard. This makes simple storage expansion difficult, and limits your choice of audio devices you could use in an audio conference when you've only brought the tablet because it's lighter and easier to carry when biking somewhere.

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  5. TonyJ Silver badge

    FFS MS...

    ...will you stop trying to copy Apple already?

    (In this case I am talking elevated prices)

    1. AceRimmer

      Re: FFS MS...

      eh?? Windows tablets date back to the early 2000's

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: FFS MS...

        " Windows tablets date back to the early 2000's..."

        I'm referring to over-inflating the prices beyond what you'd reasonably expect to pay for the hardware.

        1. AceRimmer

          Re: FFS MS...

          Nice edit

        2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

          Re: FFS MS...

          Expensive hardware? Cheap hardware's only a relatively recent thing (I still remember my parents forking out £2k for our first pc... by god did I get a bollocking for changing the desktop picture).

          As for MS doing hardware worth noticing, they used to have some of the better peripherals for years (I mean seriously... that damn hocky puck, need I go on?)

          TL;DR - Just about all sides have produced badly designed, maybe it's time for MS to make something good.

      2. DougS Silver badge


        This is not a tablet. Maybe a handful of Surface Pro owners use that as a tablet occasionally, but zero people will ever use this as a tablet.

  6. mscha

    > and weirdly, an Alt Graph (Alt Gr) key, a throwback to pre-GUI IBM PCs.

    No it isn't. It's still very much in use as a modifier key on international keyboard layouts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Alt Gr

      The angriest key on the keyboard, fact.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        most used to get the euro € too (altgr+4 if you didn't know)

  7. Thought About IT

    The keyboard is pretty hopeless for editing text, with the Home/End/Page Up/Down keys sharing function keys F8 - F11, so you're frequently having to toggle or combine with the Fn key, and there's only one Ctrl key.

    The clever hinge doesn't allow the screen to be pushed back far enough, so when it's sitting on your lap, the top of the screen is much closer than the bottom, which doesn't help those with presbyopia.

    The Edge's scroll bar is very thin, on its high definition display, and contantly disappearing, so drag scrolling is a challenge.

    The Surface mouse "scroll wheel" makes an electronic click whenever you touch it, which gets very irritating, and it's all too easy to touch it accidentally, causing whatever you were looking at to scroll out of view.

    It's fast and the screen is high quality but, on reflection, I wish I'd bought another ThinkPad.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Dance while you wait to get permission to remove a drive/device

    Windows has always sucked in this area.

    I have just this at the moment. A W7 laptop with a USB3 drive connected. Windows says the equivalent of

    'Sorry Dave, I can't let you do that'.

    When I tell it to eject the drive.

    Yet, there is nothing using it. I've even restarted explorer. Still no joy.

    The only solution it to reboot the sodding computer unless I just yank the plug.

    Can't they ever get it right? Perhaps I haven't paid homage to Bill Gates often enough?

    Never happens to me on Linux (lsof to the rescue) or OSX

    1. tony72

      Re: The Dance while you wait to get permission to remove a drive/device

      You can just yank it out if you're sure that nothing is writing to it. Since Windows 7, the "Safely Remove Hardware" tray icon is hidden by default for a reason. I'd imagine people starting to use Windows today wouldn't even know it existed.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: The Dance while you wait to get permission to remove a drive/device

        You can just yank it out if you're sure that nothing is writing to it.

        But can you be 100% sure that there is nothing cached and not yet flushed to the device? On Linux you have sync. On Windows ... well, lots of kids do mostly get away with it. But I have to wonder, how many of the corrupted USB sticks that despairing students have asked me to try to salvage got mangled by being unceremoniously yanked out of the socket?


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