back to article Surface Book: Microsoft to turn unsuccessful tab into unsuccessful laptop

As expected, Microsoft has updated its Surface Pro fondleslab with a new model powered by Intel's latest silicon. But unexpectedly, it has also produced a laptop version of the platform that is going to make Apple sick. The Surface family had a rocky start, some might even say unsuccessful, with small marketshare gains – but …

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"the OS is still terrible"

I find it a stable and reliable OS. There are aspects I don't like (data slurping) which I've tried to minimise.

"Big fat controls to be finger friendly, and I'm not on a touch screen machine so yuck,"

I'm using Win 10 on a desktop and I don't see fat controls, maybe I've spent a bit more time than you have getting it set up how I want it?

"and I bet that this machine will turn out to be fragile compared with a MacBook Pro"

That's just a pissing in the wind comment and it was the one that made me want to reply and downvote you.

"The ability to turn a laptop into a tablet isn't worth the danger of it turning permanently into a tablet because the connector fails"

Do you have evidence of this type of failure?

My Surface Pro 2 is a couple of years old and showing no signs of failure in this regard.

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actually, I'm interestH5ed in this. Eventually like, no rush or anything. As a CAD user, the GPU is notable, because most ultrabooks neglect it.

Stylus screen might be genuinely useful, in a way plain toucscreen laptops don't appear to be.

Application UIs can only get better at taking advantage of Styli when appropriate.

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The Settings panel for instance, it takes up almost all of my screen and has huge amounts of white space. This is pretty much par for the course on Windows 10 where even a large monitor just gets abused with windows which look like they would be fine on a tablet or phone but on a large monitor they're horrible.

Complexity is the enemy of reliability. Having the ability to detach a large portion of your computer from the display so it can function as a tablet is asking for trouble. I have travelled all over and abused my machines a lot and I've never once had a Mac fail. Before I switched to Macs I would buy a new PC laptop every year just because they were trashed. Now, MS is charging real money for this so I would expect it to be better made than a run of the mill Toshiba Satellite Pro or something but even so the complication of the detachable section bothers me and I prefer my devices to be more focussed so I have a laptop and a tablet. One fails, I'm still able to use the other. Sticking everything into a single piece of kit is asking for trouble.

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The external GPU isn't exactly new technology - just never been housed under the keyboard before. I see no reason why this hinge would be less reliable than any other. Other hybrid devices have no problems being attached and detached so less likely to be an issue on a premium level device like this.

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> Do you have evidence of this type of failure?

http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-admits-surface-keyboard-splitting-problem/

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Shane, it sounds to me like you are using Windows 10 in tablet mode. Switch to desktop mode and you won't get the full-screen space waste.

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Pint

SS wrote "my desktop"

There's the issue. One desktop.

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Pint

W10 Setup

Quote

I'm using Win 10 on a desktop and I don't see fat controls, maybe I've spent a bit more time than you have getting it set up how I want it?

Would you care to publish a step-by-step guide complete wirth screenshots on what you did?

I am sure there would be a lot of readers here who would be interested in it. I get the impression that a good number of people who comment here just can't be bothered fighting Nanny Redmond and revert to their comfort zone (W7???)

If someone would do this then I'd buy them a pint (or two).

Until then, I have actually a real life job to do and frankly W10 is something I'd avoid if possible unless there was a guide on how to... well, you know the rest.

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, the OS is still terrible. Big fat controls to be finger friendly, and I'm not on a touch screen machine so yuck, and the whole interface colour scheme style is painfully flat and ugly no matter how I set it. I can't believe I actually miss aero but at least it had some depth.

How much time do you spend pissing with the OS interface? Start the thing up, launch the app you want and get on with being productive. 10 seconds in the OS, several hours in the app. I really couldn't give a flying fart about the fat "controls" as long as I can get my work done.

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Happy

@Shane...

Shane,

(I am not being sarcy here btw...): may I ask what you were doing that necessitated replacing your laptop annually?

Cheers,

Jay

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Redmond is indeed getting its act together. Not perfect, I am an early Win10 adopter on a Lenovo Yoga (cheapskate always) and its raw in places still - but I like it. I Iooked at Surface but the price tag was too high - I probably looked at Mac Air too and drew the same conclusion - so they are now playing in the same pricey ballpark! But at least now Apple doesn't occupy the high end, with credible alternatives from Dell, Lenovo and MS.

I raised a support ticket this week for Outlook 2016, got a phone call within 1,5 hrs and after nearly two hours on the line my problem was fixed. I haven't paid a cent as I am still in free trial. I can recall not too long ago when it was a case of " ... call Microsoft? Don't even bother ..".

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http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-admits-surface-keyboard-splitting-problem/

That's the fabric material splitting, not the hinge or screen-to-keyboard connector failing. I had that material splitting issue on the RT we bought 3 years ago. Sure it was annoying since it happened outside warranty, but purely cosmetic. Fixed with a dab of superglue. The maglock still works, keyboard still works.

A more relevant link would be to massive numbers of Asus Transformers or similar failing to dock back to their keyboards, but I've not seen any evidence that these hybrid devices have a massive weak spot as suggested.

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That was the old Touch Cover, not the Type Cover, which is now the standard keyboard on Surface

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I've got an Asus transformer from the earlier gen, must be 4 years old. Absolutely no issues with the connector. My experience is that it's not something that is undocked / redocked several times a day. This really is a non-issue

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> ...launch the app you want and get on...

And right there is the problem.

"The app"?" Just one app? At a quick count I have 10 different "apps" (or programs, as we call them) running, in 32 windows, several of which have multiple tabs. So of course you need a decent OS (or window manager, as we call it) interface, unless all you are doing is "pissing" (as you call it) about.

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The controls change depending on the mode you set. And unlike Win8.1 you can set this "per maschine" on the same (synced) account. Using W10 on two test boxes (Tower w Dual Monitors, elder Asus Tablet PC) with one set to "Desktop" the other to "Tablet". And each keeps the setting (W8.1 was "last configured wins). Since the Surface/x86 units have a inductive digitizer you can even use "Desktop" on them easily, the sytlus is more precise than the mouse (And NTrig is a tad more precise than Wacom on the corners)

Color scheme is "some like, some do not". Since I have set all boxes up to Win7 to the "NT4" look and danced a jig on Aeros grave (after watering it with recycled beer) I am in the former group.

Based on experience with similar units (Lenovo Helix for example) - the connector is not a problem. Nothing new actually, similar sytems exist from a number of companies. And looking at the other Surface/x86 systems - they are quite sturdy, the main known problem are scratches.

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Aside from the fact that Win10 can launch and display multiple apps (A fact you most likely know but "ignore") the system is NOT restricted to them. If you want full scale applications - just start them. As many as memory allows / make sense on the screen(s) and desktop(s) (Jup, W10 can do THAT as well). And since the Surface/x86 all have a proper inductive stylus and well working handwriting recognition - they even work if you use the detached tablet (And have done so since XP Tablet Edition in 2003/4). Again it is safe to assume you just "forgot" that as well.

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I am testing W10 on two boxes (i5/gen1 ASUS EP121 Tablet PC and i5/gen 3 Tower) since the official "final" version was delivered. Not yet perfect IMHO so it is not on my "main tablet pc" (i5 Lenovo Helix). The systems run stable even under heavy use (LR5, Netbeans etc) but currently the update frequency is a bit to high and the little problems are a bit to nagging to make it my production and/or main privat system. OTOH I have a well behaved and set up Win8.1 as production and privat systems so my pressure to change is low.

But with the progress done and the upcoming changes I will likely make the switch over the christmas hollidays. W10 has to many good elements over W8.1 (and a HUGE amount of them over W7 for my use cases) for me to ignore it and my "fewest amount of different OS" philosophie means just as I went Windows Phone I will also go Win10 for all client systems.

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"http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-admits-surface-keyboard-splitting-problem/"

That's the plastic on the keyboard cover - which is cosmetic and nothing to do with the connector itself. And that was fixed long ago.

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Fastest... for a week!

Isn't every high-end laptop / computer / phone / tablet always touted as the "fastest ever"? It's a basic consequence of Moore's Law. No doubt Samsung will release something faster in November, and maybe Dell in December, and Apple again in Jan...!?

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Re: Fastest... for a week!

Since Intel CPUs have been getting faster by a mere 5-10% per generation the last few years, I suspect by being "twice as fast" this laptop has twice the cores of the Macbook. There's no CPU available that can be twice as fast as the Macbook for single core straight line code - you'd have to compare with the circa 2008 Macbook for that I suspect.

I guess with the CPU in the screen part rather than the part sitting on your lap, at least when you max out all four cores and it gets red hot it won't burn your legs!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fastest... for a week!

I guess with the CPU in the screen part rather than the part sitting on your lap, at least when you max out all four cores and it gets red hot it won't burn your legs!

Unless you get the higher end version with the Nvidia GPU in the base, in which case it will.

Aside from the buttonless trackpad, this should be a nice bit of kit, once they get the kinks worked out (there's a reason they didn't "pound on the item itself" as Michael 5 wishes -- remember embarrassing problems in live demos in the past?).

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FAIL

*NOT* the "fastest"...

... "the fastest ounce for ounce"

Not sure when ounces became a unit of speed but I have more than a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with a leftpondian sales-artist desperately trying to twist mundane insignificance into sensationalist marketing copy.

;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fastest... for a week!

But... but... he said it was the ultimate! There will never be a better one!

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Re: Fastest... for a week!

"Since Intel CPUs have been getting faster by a mere 5-10% per generation the last few years, I suspect by being "twice as fast" this laptop has twice the cores of the Macbook"

Or it might just be that it's using the latest architecture with more cores, higher frequencies and way more graphical grunt and RAM. Funny thing; Macbooks aren't automatically faster becaues there's an Apple logo on the front.

It's hard to judge either way though, given the differences between the OSes. Hackintoshes often perform worse than Windows 10 on equivalent hardware, though.

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Re: Fastest... for a week!

Where did I suggest "Macbooks are automatically faster because there's an Apple logo"? Apple isn't using Celerons in their Macbooks, and Intel is advancing x86 speeds at a snail's pace these days. It simply isn't possible for this to be 2x the speed of a Macbook unless they're talking more cores (or maybe not talking CPU but are talking graphics, since Apple doesn't offer one with two GPUs)

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Interesting direction!

It's very interesting watching Microsoft trying to emulate the Jobsian product demos.

Two observations:

- I'll bet third party OEMs are just slightly more pissed off now that Microsoft is trying to cannibalize the rest of the device market. Tablets are one thing, but it looks like Microsoft is going full-on Apple with regards to hardware.

- If this and the Surface Pro 4 really do catch on, I'm not too hopeful about the future of the PC as we know it. This will just be another vendor selling a locked-down product with no customization and no access to anything other than their Store once they finish. At least they're still putting ports and SD slots on these things, but one wonders how much longer until they start charging $300 for 32 GB of extra soldered-in non-upgradeable flash memory.

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Re: Interesting direction!

If the OEMs had produced devices capable of competing with Apple, then Microsoft wouldn't need to do enter their space. I'm not a Microsoft zealot and concede they might have been part of the problem, but Microsoft's long term survival depends on them doing this. If the OEMs start producing equivalent devices then perhaps Microsoft will drop out the market.

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Re: Interesting direction!

Actually the Surface/x86 systems have been competing with Samsung, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Dell and HP units of similar makes for quite some time. This is "just another one" competing basically with the Lenovo Helix-B and the Fujitsu Q704 series.

The competition all have their own selling features, even more so in the business end of the market where "buying from one brand" and "service contracts" are quite common. And there is quite a bit room for "different breeds" within the form factor. Say "user changeable batteries" or "hot swap batteries" (Likely from Dell or Fujitsu), (semi)sealed systems etc. Stuff that is in demand from business customers. Same for "digitiser loyalty" - Wacom users will look at other brands since MS offers NTrig (not everybodies darling)

On the low end (served by the Surface/3 with Atom) competition will be by price and again by "special features". If I want a very rugged unit - Fujitsu. A S/3 competitor at a slightly lower price from a "business brand" - Lenovo TPT/10. Something I can touch/test in the store: S/3. Cheaper: HP oder DELL. and so on.

================

As for "catching on": These systems exists since 2003/4 from various brands and in various forms. Yes, they are not user maintainable but most users do not care. They buy the "right sized system" and replace it 3+ years down the road with a new one. And when it comes to software - this is just another Win/x86 box. Most software still runs perfectly (I have two elderly games that do not) and installation is done the "old fashioned way" from a DVD. The store is just another source and apps are just another way of doing stuff. Same for stuff like Office/365.

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url

Finally

i was gonna go for a surface 4 having held off on the 3. now i can actually have the exact thing i wanted.

i.e. not a half assed netbook with android, and not a weak OSX ipad.

1 x sale forthcoming.

gj redmond, stellar in fact!

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Want one

Damn, Surface Book is absolutely gorgeous, definitely getting one.

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Re: Want one

When you get one how about writing a piece for us not believers on how it works, constricted etc, etc.

A good few of us may well never see one in the wild so I'd expect a good deal of interest.

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umm.... as much as I want this to be as real as the showman has presented... I cannot help but to be a bit skeptical. To many plays on words and comparisons and not enough pure pounding of the item itself tells me that it won't stand well on its own. - just my gut feeling.

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History is repeating itself. Apple invented a great interface with the first Mac and then nothing... Microsoft picks the ball up and runs and dominates.

Apple invents a great interface with the iPad and then nothing. Microsoft picks up the ball and runs and dominates...

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> Apple invents a great interface with the iPad and then nothing. Microsoft picks up the ball and runs and dominates...

Of course, because Microsoft has sold way more Surface* and Windows Phones than Apple has sold iPads and iPhones ... oh, wait ...

* except the 6 million it wrote off last year.

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Meh

Because Nokia is exactly the same as the Surface division.

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Surface/Arm != Surface/x86. The former family was (finally) shot and laid to rest the latter family sells quite well and is making money for MS quite nicely. Not to mention proding companies like Lenovo/Dell/HP to produce updated versions of their units and improve while keeping a certain price range.

As for "great interface" - well if one likes cleaning the screen regularly and use an OSK instead of handwriting on a tablet then Apple did. Otherwise all they produced was another content consumation device and others did THAT better (but did not market it well - see Nokia N770/800/900). For productive use - even a Win7 Tablet PC with Wacom/Ntrig beats an iThingy

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In your dreams

"Apple's hegemony as the luxury laptop ... vendor of choice."

In your dreams. Two or three well-known and long-established specialist computer hardware makers compete constantly to be the most-wanted high-end laptop brand. Hint: none of them are called "Apple" or "Microsoft".

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Re: In your dreams

How about telling us which, in your opinion, are the makers of the most-wanted high-end laptops?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In your dreams

Sony (Vaio) and Asus (?)

Just guessing ...

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jzl

Re: In your dreams

If there's real (not token) competition for the high-end laptop market, why is the T5 business lounge full of macbooks?

The only non-Apple devices tend to be cheap Dells or Lenovos plastered with electrical safety stickers and inventory tags. I'm guessing they're not personal purchases.

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jzl

Re: In your dreams

Note that I'm not saying that this is a good thing. Just that it appears to be reality.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In your dreams

Because the T5 business lounge is full of C-suite types who wouldn't know a days productivity if it sent them an email, inviting them to a "getting to know a days productivity" seminar and then danced around their office in a Borat mankini with 'get a load of this productivity' tattooed across their body in 72 point comic sans ms.

They're the type who always have an 'accident' with their current 6 month old iphone as the next model phones are announced, and who need an ipad even though it doesn't have half the apps they need, or connection to the files they want. Because having a Dell or Lenovo ultrabook would mean the other c-suite types would pick on them and call them names and they would look un-cool. And as for asset tagging - the ipad is company property but noooo you can't put a sticker on to that effect!

As for the actual topic on discussion. Some solid looking products there. Good to see the bar being raised again, and look forward to other manufactures launching competing products.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In your dreams

Hint: he doesn't know.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In your dreams

"C level types"?????

This user of the T5 Business Lounge is most certainly not one of them. Especially as I don't fly biz class on business. Strictly cattle class for me. I only get in because I take at least 10 long haul flights a year. (Off to India next week. Was in the US last week)

I get out my MacBook Pro like many others. In my hand baggage is a Windows Laptop for work.

There again, I never work (on business) while I am travelling from A-to-B for work. It is 'me' time.

As I commented last week, the Microsoft Store I walked by had ZERO customers. There were only MS Staff inside. It does not seem to be a place that the general public want to visit unlike the Apple Store less than 100m away. MS is just not Cool/Sexy in the eyes of the public.

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Re: In your dreams

Generally speaking, "the public" equates "Sexy/Cool" with what's successful - it's comforting to know that you haven't made a "bad" choice. I can remember back to when Apple's retail efforts were similarly deserted: the one I visited was a fenced-off oasis of calm in a busy Best Buy megastore.

It is nice to see some competition in the market again. The Windows OEMs were too content to rely on bulk corporate purchasing and they've somewhat neglected the personal purchaser. Unless you were a teenager looking for a facebook terminal or a hard-core gamer, there wasn't much of interest in the world of Windows laptops, design-wise.

A Surface 3 or 4 Pro was in line to replace my MacBook Air - these days, I only use MacOS X as a launcher for ssh terminals, Illustrator and assorted text-editors. I'm intrigued by the "Book" model, though, but the lighter Pro4 is probably what I'll go for.

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Re: In your dreams

> If there's real (not token) competition for the high-end laptop market, why is the T5 business lounge full of macbooks?

If Apple own the high-end laptop segment so utterly, how come OSX is less than 7% of the global desktop market? Are you suggesting that high-end laptops are exactly 7%? If so, where are all those iMacs?

I don't mean to doubt you (okay, I do) but mathematics indicates that your assessment may be flawed.

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Re: In your dreams

I get his point. The "high end" of the laptop market is very small numerically, probably less than 5% of all sales by volume (think of how few Windows laptops you see in shops priced over £1000). Of that, Apple probably does have the lion's share, as it holds about 3-4% of the total laptop market, and does not make any cost-conscious products.

In a business with such razor-thin margins as PC laptops, anything with big margins can take a significant share of profits even from a minuscule numerical share. This is why MS is going for the high-end: it's an opportunity. (They also may have better insight than most into how many of those MacBook owners also run Windows via VMs)

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Re: In your dreams

Depends on what you need/want.

Fujitsu for "mobile workstations". Their T-series convertibles and the matching "pure" Notebooks are monsters when it comes to performance and due to user/hot swap batteries endurance and user-upgradeable/maintainable parts

Panasonic when it "has to follow you to the construction site" with the Toughbooks

High End Lenovo units are still the "system of choice" in many banks. Fujitsu is second to them, often depending on wether the business has desktops in use as well (In that case Lenovo)

Oh and at least here in germany the "upper end systems" are NOT sold in the typical shops (These days mostly MediaMarkt and Saturn), sometimes even the whole BRAND is not (Fujitsu, Lenovo higher end notebooks/convertibles, HP "Business Line" systems).

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Re: In your dreams

"How about telling us which, in your opinion, are the makers of the most-wanted high-end laptops?"

Historically Dell (XPS and Alienware), but now Microsoft too.

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