back to article Microsoft Surface laptop: Is this your MacBook Air replacement?

Student debt in the United States now stands at $1.2 trillion. In the UK outstanding student loans top £100 billion. Microsoft has made an fascinating contribution to the student debt crisis, by attempting to increase it. The machine I am typing on is a locked-down laptop aimed at "students" and "classrooms" that costs £1,549 …

Silver badge

Too Expensive

A Lenovo E460 at reasonable configuration is about 1/3rd the price. In November 2016 it offered Win10 and optionally Win 7. Linux runs just fine.

The Surface laptop is let down by MS worst OS since ME and x3 too high price. At least with the Apple tax you get a reasonably decent OS (though not as good as it used to be).

All those evil privacy and bandwidth stealing features by default. Almost zero customisation of GUI. So integrated to cloud that you get "complaints" in Notifications if no internet.

I have Win 10 desktop and x86 Keyboard Tablet for test purposes. All that Iot, peer to peer, cloud, phone and telemetry garbage on by default in "Services". "Quiet Hours" can't be more than 12, cabled ethernet can't be set to metered, though WiFi can. I'm rural with a capped fixed wireless modem/router connected to my wired 1Gbps ethernet. Some areas of property have unusable WiFi.

35
8
LDS
Silver badge

"A Lenovo E460"....

Not comparable - just the screen alone is a very different game (and it also supports the Surface pen) - and of course very different target markets.

The fact it runs Windows 10 is really the worst thing... but MS is believing stubbornly that's the way to go.

11
8
Anonymous Coward

Re: Too Expensive

"cabled ethernet can't be set to metered, though WiFi can"

It was working 6 weeks ago when I tried it last. I think you're just missing the super-secret networking window. With the Creator's update, they hid metering deeper in the settings.

3
0
N2

Re: Too Expensive

Agreed & I very much doubt it stand up to a three or more year university course abuse.

5
1
Silver badge

Re: Too Expensive

I'd need to schlep my Win10 gear to someone in the city on cable to get the so "Crater Uptake".

Probably.

I can find WiFi metering, except you have to connect to a particular WiFi first. The equivalent place when ethernet cable is connected doesn't exist on any of the W10 I have.

Can't leave the ethernet connected.

If you select "Metered", you have to go somewhere else to give driver downloads an exemption. The settings are all over the place and different GUI styles. It's obviously a work in progress transitioning from Win 7 human GUI to Win X-files Alien GUI designed by Cardassians to torture us.

12
1
Bronze badge

Re: Too Expensive

Metered connection is just registry fix away. All my connections are metered, no exceptions (across all on my personal Windows 10 systems).

Blocking IPv6 and some MS related crap on the router is another avenue - I kind of expect that some of MS services fail on my home network, no regrets so far.

2
1
Anonymous Coward

But Why?

would anyone in their right mind be shackled like this with Windows 10S?

Answers on a pinhead please.

Get yourself a secondhand Macbook Air and save yourself a lot of grief (and money)

40
11
LDS
Silver badge

Re: But Why?

Just another strange and quite silly marketing decision by Microsoft. As usual, engineering is good, marketing and upper levels have no clue. They need to promote 10S, and chose the wrong way.

Or course whoever will buy this - and it won't be students but the most wealthy ones - will switch immediately to full 10, probably a Pro version, not even an Home.

And you wonder why after spending 2K and more you have to perform this silly step.

27
0
Silver badge

Re: But Why?

>would anyone in their right mind be shackled like this with Windows 10S?

No-one would do that - certainly not someone spending that amount of money.

You're using wrongthink. It is for the vendor's benefit, not the users.

It is to get people used to the idea of locked hardware, knowing full well that for this hardware, no-one will be using the locked-down system so no-one will complain.

2
0
Bronze badge
Headmaster

Re: But Why?

@ Anon

"an Home" ? But why? You haven't an hope in an hell of convincing me that "an h....." is anything more than a haffectation.

Silly comment, yes. But I'm reading an article about a bloody expensive laptop with a bloody awful OS, that really is silly.

2
0
Linux

... but will it

run Linux? That's the only "jailbreak" i'd be remotely interested in.

38
20
Bronze badge
Stop

Re: ... but will it

Why would you but a microsoft branded laptop to run linux?

17
3

Re: ... but will it

Err ... i wouldn't. But if one came into my possession, there's no version of Windows 10 in the world (so far) that i would be happy with. It'd be like receiving a Maserati that had been fitted with wooden (and evil) cartwheels

28
12
Bronze badge

Re: ... but will it

So stick it in the bin then. Or ebay. Nobody is forcing you to use it.

Horses for courses. Get the right tool for the job. If you want to run linux on a laptop, get a laptop that isn't made* by microsoft.

(*I don't know which chinese company actually makes them. Perhaps 'branded' would've been a better word)

10
6
Silver badge

Re: ... but will it

If you're not going to buy one but only hope to 'aquire' one, then your views mean naff all to Microsoft.

There's some damned good laptops now being sold installed with Linux and full driver support from mainstream brands - can't you just be happy?

17
1
Linux

Re: ... but will it

Why would you but a microsoft branded laptop to run linux?

Irony, or because it's there. Your choice.

6
2
Linux

Re: ... but will it

Because you like the hardware, but not the software. Also, choice in "Linux branded" laptops is rather limited.

10
2
Silver badge

Re: ... but will it

> get a laptop that isn't made* by microsoft. (*I don't know which chinese company actually makes them. Perhaps 'branded' would've been a better word)

Maybe 'designed' or 'commissioned' might be better words still. No doubt the actual factory will have had some input ("if you change the angle of this rib it'll be 2% faster with our machines") as it's daft not to listen to your contractors, but the design - the evaluation of compromises, what to put in, what to leave out - is Microsoft's. 'Branded' suggests merely its original meaning: marking a generic object (originally a cow) with your mark.

2
1
JLV
Silver badge

Re: ... but will it

Honest question.

With advanced hardware, like the newer "Windows Precision Touchpad" driver specifications that finally get better touchpad behavior on Windows machines... how easy it is to get Linux running and have all the hardware fully operational these days?

I know, and this is not what I am asking, that Linux will install itself seamlessly and will get 95% of the hardware fully operational - the screen, the audio, etc... What I am asking about is: can I hope that the last 5% of exotic hardware on this kind of machine will work easily on Linux? Or will it require a lot of messing around with drivers, which is really not something I enjoy doing at all.

I.e. when I read through forums sharing tips about how to configure special hardware, I am impressed with the technical know how on display. But I am not particularly interested in going there, even though I would love a very capable 'nix based dev platform to replace my MBP. (IMHO, the latest MBPs are pricey, have crappy keyboards and the Touch Bar is a pretty useless gizmo when using non-Apple apps - it has zero tactile feedback). I am mostly on bash and text editors, so don't really care about the rest of the Apple apps.

And it seems that Linux-specced laptops are neither abundant, nor particularly cheap either, hence my question.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: ... but will it

Why would you but a microsoft branded laptop to run linux?

To be fair to MS, I've never had an issue with the hardware. While I can't claim to have bought a lot, the mice have been durable and the stuff I've seen in shops looks good. It's just that I don't like their software that much. If they hadn't made such an effort to lock down the BIOS to prevent people installing Linux then I might even have considered buying a Surface at one point. Even now, I'm using a Linux VM on a Windows 10 machine, a set-up which reduces the contributions to the swear box to an acceptable level. Still waiting for some software vendors to produce Linux versions of their products...

3
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: ... but will it

"run Linux? "

Yes, it's in the Windows Store.

0
5
Anonymous Coward

Re: ... but will it

I bought a refurb Dell XPS 13 i7 7500u, specced out for NZ$1700.

Installed Fedora 25 (now 26),

It was the single smoothest and fastest install I've ever done of any OS on hardware, and I've done hundreds.

10 minutes for install, 10 minutes for full OS update (slow link) and EVERYTHING WORKED. Everything. And it works faster and better than Windows on the same device.

If you want a smooth Linux experience on good hardware get an XPS 13, no fucking around.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: ... but will it

"Why would you but a microsoft branded laptop to run linux?"

Because they have historically made some pretty good hardware. Albeit I'm thinking about mice and keyboards, so a completely different hardware class - but...

If they get the hardware right then why wouldn't you buy it?

1
1
Silver badge

Re: ... but will it

If they hadn't made such an effort to lock down the BIOS to prevent people installing Linux then I might even have considered buying a Surface at one point.

Er, "such an effort"? Really?

The Surfaces are all pretty standard UEFI systems. Installing Linux on one is trivial; getting everything to work once it boots is not. The problem is getting Linux drivers for the custom hardware (sound, touchscreen, pen, keyboard, webcam), but that's not Microsoft's "efforts" - it's a matter of how helpful the peripheral makers are towards open-source driver maintainers, and that's a complete spectrum from "totally onboard" to "downright hostile".

Driver availability has nothing to do with the BIOS. If you can install and boot Linux on the hardware (which you can), then the BIOS is not "locked down".

So, if you want to continue to blame Microsoft for nVidia or Marvell's sins in respect to Linux, go ahead. But be aware that shouting at the cat is not a good way to stop the dog shitting on your carpet.

4
1
Silver badge

Re: ... but will it

True, I guess it was the RT stuff that was really locked down. The taint persists in my mind though, I automatically assume that MS will lock out other stuff which means I'm not going to buy any of their branded computers.

1
1
JLV
Silver badge
Pint

Re: ... but will it

>get an XPS 13

Txs, exactly the kind of info I was looking to get!

0
0
JLV
Silver badge

Re: ... but will it

>be aware that shouting at the cat is not a good way to stop the dog shitting on your carpet.

Worth a +1 on its own.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: ... but will it

It would be an interesting conversation piece for sure.

0
0
Silver badge

Tips and corrections.

Yes, link doesn't work on my tablet.

Article mentions an upgrade to 512 MB.

Shirley some mistake?

4
0
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: Tips and corrections.

It's Microsoft... so "512Mb is enough for everybody"...

16
0
Silver badge

Re: Tips and corrections.

At this point I wonder if it's bait

2
0
N2

Re: Tips and corrections.

640Kb

3
0
JLV
Silver badge

Re: Tips and corrections.

well... careful with the sarcasm. MacBook Pros are sold @ 256GB by default in stores in Canada. Want 512? Special order, or online. Really impressive, for a "pro" lineup.

2
0

Re: Tips and corrections.

I note the troll icon, but anyway. I have three generations of Surface, and each only has 256Mb storage. It's enough because I have a desktop with 4Tb storage. I've never had space issues even on a 3-month stint in Africa, where I synced all my photos to the Surface.

But then your point absolutely applies to those who use a Surface as their only computer.

1
0
Silver badge
Holmes

Betteridge's law of headlines...

Answers this question nicely.

10
0
Silver badge

Re: Betteridge's law of headlines...

In my case, the answer is "yes". I've a MacBook Air that needs replacement. I'll either retire the Mac, or replace it with one of these. Either way, I won't be getting a MacBook - the new generation Apple keyboards are horrible (but at least the obnoxious light-up branding is finally gone).

The keyboard on this is phenomenally good for a lightweight laptop - I would agree that only the ThinkPad keyboards are better, but I could never warm to the ThinkPads otherwise.

0
2
Silver badge
Windows

Apparently the conversion to Win 10 Pro takes about two minutes.

Which is precisely what I would do straight out of the box if I were thinking of buying one.

8
0
Bronze badge

Re: Apparently the conversion to Win 10 Pro takes about two minutes.

But don't you have to pay another £70 to do so?

3
1
Silver badge
Windows

Re: "But don't you have to pay another £70 to do so?"

The current situation is that the conversion to Win 10 Pro will remain free until Dec 31, 2017. Thereafter it will cost $49. (At current rate of exchange plus VAT my guesstimate is that the price in the UK will likely be about £50*)

* Which is chicken feed compared with what this device costs in the first place. Anyone who has got the spons for this lappie is not going to give shit about en extra 50 notes or so representing as it does about 2% of the price of the 500 Gb version.

7
3
LDS
Silver badge

"Which is chicken feed compared with what this device costs"

It's still very bad marketing. The need to pay even more, and go through the payment process after you already spent a lot looks quite silly - "hey, I've spent $999 for this phone but now I have to spend $29 to unlock the camera...." - sure, you can spend that amount, but you feel they're mocking you.

It will be even more so for people who will be not fully aware of the trick. These marketing techniques are usually employed by shameful business, I'd stay away from them....

15
2
Bronze badge

Re: "But don't you have to pay another £70 to do so?"

Misread the article - I didn't realise that these were Window 10 S machines. I thought they would be running at least Windows Home for that price. Just checked on my wife's laptop. Windows 10 Home to Pro currently costs £119.99. So yes - you can upgrade, but as soon as the free upgrade period is over it could cost a lot extra to unlock what we'd consider basic functionality.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: "But don't you have to pay another £70 to do so?"

The 10S free upgrade is to Windows 10 Pro, not Home.

0
0
Silver badge
Mushroom

Wot?

So £1500 - £3k for a Windows laptop which is locked down to the point of making it near useless like the old RT tablets unless I cough up another £50 for the privilege of making it do what I want.

May I make a counter suggestion to MS?

How about you? Get. To. Fuck.

Take a long walk off a short pier

Etc.

Why not just try, a little, to not make something that is so blatantly grasping for every bent copper in our pockets. Why not just make a fucking tablet with a meter attached we can feed pound coins into? Ok it's not pretty but at least it would be fucking honest.

35
8
Silver badge

Re: Wot?

Now, now. Take it easy. It is Microsoft, they do not plan to sell it in volume AT THIS TIME . The price is meant to keep the sales artificially low.

Sorry about shouting, but I cannot stress this enough. If the price was competitive, Microsoft in effect would be competing with their largest customers - OEMs. They obviously do not want to do that now.

It is just meant as a statement to OEMs "we can live without you, so if you try live without us ... just try" and not much more beyond. Which makes perfect sense, given the maturity Linux has achieved.

8
4
Silver badge

Re: Wot?

MS have also shown the OEMs the way with good screen resolutions, useful aspect ratios and really nice trackpads - in short, trying to the OEMs out of their bad habits. The strategy seems to be working, and every user benefits from the increased range and quality of laptops, including the Penguins.

16
3
Anonymous Coward

Re: Wot?

IMHO MS understood the low-end laptop market has been broadly eroded by smartphones, and without flagship products showing Windows is still useful and "trendy" outside the boring sales drone laptop, it could be difficult to keep the OS in the news and relevant.

OEMs were delivering mostly boring products, with just a few exceptions, margins being too low to attempt some kind of "revolution". MS moved to "disrupt" the situation. MS still needs OEMs to make Surfaces, and yes, it's not a direct competition, but a clear direction for state-of-the-art Windows devices.

If Windows 10 adds or removes from the appeal, is another matter... sure it's hard to understand why power users willingly to spend thousands should accept a crippled OS running crippled applications. Just to show off with a Surface? It doesn't have the Apple appeal anyway.

But Nadella will never admit Win10(S) is a big mistake, we'll need to wait for the next CEO...

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Wot?

>useful aspect ratios?

So MS are making a Surface with an aspect ratio of 4:3 - something I've not seen since the Thinkpad T60 (circa 2007).

As someone who needs a mobile workstation that can go in a backpack and be used anywhere, I much prefer a 14/15-inch laptop with a 4:3 screen to the 'standard' modern 15-inch laptop with a 16:9 screen.

10
0
Silver badge

Re: Wot?

@ Olaf -- I'm trying to come up with something about bent coppers getting into your pockets being why you can't afford one of these, but...

Nah... I got nothin'.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Wot?

A decent 4:3 laptop I might actually be interested in. They're far more useful for document work than the 16:9 ratio that's been forced out everywhere for the last decade.

15
0
Silver badge
Happy

Re: prefer a 14/15-inch laptop with a 4:3

" I much prefer a 14/15-inch laptop with a 4:3 screen to the 'standard' modern 15-inch laptop with a 16:9 screen."

Me too. But the extra cost and Win 10 Shackled edition (though Win 10 pro is a disaster) is deal breaker.

I'd be happier with 1600 x1200 than ANY 1920 x 1080 screen.

6
1

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017