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 …

Anonymous Coward

Re: Wot?

Isn't 4:3 the optimum aspect ratio for retro gaming?

Once upon a time all monitors were 4:3 or 5:4 aspect ratio, both CRTs and LCDs. Then sometime later everyone jumped onto the widescreen bandwagon.

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Re: " just try2

If that is the case, and it may well be, I would expect war to break out quite quickly - and I would expect a continuation of the OEMs and a long, slow decline of Microsoft, which would be a pity. The one real benefit to humanity of Microsoft is that it imposed a certain stability on the hardware.

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Anonymous Coward

Still in two minds about the ports..

From a legacy perspective, Apple's move to all USB-C certainly sucked.

From a new purchase perspective, though, it makes more sense than the old mix, because USB-C ports are universal. That means you can choose which port to use for charging, video, USB kit and connectivity, and on a regular laptop you've got 6 of them so you can connect where you want, and a broken port doesn't immediately mean a trip to the repair shop because you have 6 - plenty of redundancy.

Best of all, it puts an end to the power supply crap we've been suffering for decades. In principle you should be able to hook it up to *PC* power supplies and peripherals and it should just work as well.

In short, legacy ports are good for, umm, legacy, but USB-C fixes enough connectivity issues for me to start a full scale conversion (helped by the fact that I have to kit out two new offices soon :) ). That said, I still combine what I like - I may prefer a Macbook, but I like Logitech mice (never got on with Apple's). I like high-res, but I am not going to throw out a fortune for a Mac screen when I can buy two high quality widescreen PC ones for the same price.

I will have to get a small Windows 10 laptop just to ensure I know how to use it, but it will not be a working machine as I don't trust it to have access to the core network - it'll just have an Internet link so it can keep up to date on patches.

As for the restrictions: for that price and no options? Surely that's a joke? If that lasts a month before MS caves to demand I'd be surprised.

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Re: Still in two minds about the ports..

"From a new purchase perspective, though, it makes more sense than the old mix, because USB-C ports are universal."

How long before USB-D or, maybe, something else makes USB-C legacy?

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Re: Still in two minds about the ports..

USB 3.2 perhaps ?

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Re: Still in two minds about the ports..

It's like this - 13 years ago I had a Toshiba laptop that had a serial port, parallel port and even an infrared sensor.

One could argue that all of those have their uses.

However, times change. I've moved on and adapted....

Last time I bought a TV I didn't say, oooh the lack of a SCART socket or S-Video could cause me serious limitations? Not unless I was being a pedantic, backward thinking tosser.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still in two minds about the ports..

USB 3.2 perhaps ?

That's still the same hardware as far as I know.

About the only thing I'm worried about is the power supply aspect. For data it's relatively OK, but the amps required for the average laptop demand fairly sturdy cabling. The fire risk alone would compel me to find a supplier whose ratings I can actually trust.

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Re: Still in two minds about the ports..

Andy... in 13 years my old USB devices will be dead and I won’t need old-style USB ports. Right now I have zero point zero USB C devices. Apple’s new laptops have zero point zero old-style USB ports. This means that I would have to use adators to make my existing devices, which ALL MY OTHER COMPUTERS WORK WITH, work with a new Apple laptop were I foolish enough to buy one. Apple does not ship even one adaptor with the new laptops. Either I’m supposed to abandon my old stuff, and compatibility with my existing computers, or I’m supposed to buy adaptors. A simpler solution would be to buy a laptop which has one or two old USB ports and one or two USB C ports, or which ships with adaptors, and use that.

In a few years it won’t matter so much. I’ll have a few adaptors, and many (most?) of my old USB devices will be dead anyway. Right now it’s a big deal.

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Re: Still in two minds about the ports..

> How long before USB-D...

The need for USB Type C was clear from the limitations of USB type A* and USB 3 - plug design, speed, ability to extend PCIe bus, power delivery. The specs of Type C should be enough for the next few years (and indeed, the applications I use haven't become radically more resource hungry over the last few years).

After then, who knows what the state of wireless power and data transmission might be?

* Yeah, yeah, I know Sony once USB type A to drive Thunderbolt peripherals - an external GPU for X series laptops. Aw, I kinda miss Weird Sony.

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Anonymous Coward

Is the high price a marketing thing.

If they can offer schools free laptops worth £1500 it looks a lot nicer than offering free laptops worth £500. It's a locked down OS to mimic ChromeOS that's doing pretty well in the US education market, so there's another box ticked. It's all about getting windows in front of kids.

So, kids get hooked on Windows, educational software ends up being windows only (because it's easier to develop for just one platform) and we all live happily ever after. Well we do if we have a stack of Microsoft shares.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is the high price a marketing thing.

If I want to ruin kids by sticking Windows in front of them I'm not going to do that on a laptop that's more expensive than a MacBook. The destructive force most kids are born with evaporates only slowly.

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Meh

Pros: Out-Apples Apple. Beautiful hardware design.

Cons: Microsoft, Windows.

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> Beautiful hardware design.

Including the up/down arrows squeezed together so much they are a fucker to use. Thanks, but no, thanks. How can people NOT spot that this is s problem?

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Cons: MS Hardware - remember the recent teardown of the Surface which showed it wasn't repairable in any way. My understanding is that whilst the MacBook could do better, it is possible to repair...

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LDS
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it is possible to repair...

No, but maybe changing the battery. Surface was 0/10, MacBook 1/10, IIRC. To achieve this level of miniaturization components needs to be soldered and glued together. Only thing I'd wish it's exactly a replaceable battery, and maybe disk. If anything else breaks, and it's out of warranty, it's probably time to replace it.

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Anonymous Coward

"How can people NOT spot that this is s problem?"

Those that use the trackpad?

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Had windows 10 running for 6 months now

... and I rather like it.

Admittedly it's not a patch on ubuntu/mate for real work.

But for what I use it for (streaming telly from miscellaneous hotel rooms and some minimal e-mail and Skype) it works just fine.

In particular the network settings are not only miles better than the hokey menus on win xp, they are superior to anything on Apple or Linux.

Want to connect your old kindle , but cannot get past the hotels Pita login screen -- three mouse clicks and you have a wi-fi hotspot.

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Re: Had windows 10 running for 6 months now

"In particular the network settings are not only miles better than the hokey menus on win xp, they are superior to anything on Apple or Linux."

As a mobile worker, I'm still not impressed, MS should of left network and locale settings to third-party applications - the Win10 settings are still cr*p compared to the connection/locale management utilities that were around in the days of W2K/XP.

"Want to connect your old kindle , but cannot get past the hotels Pita login screen -- three mouse clicks and you have a wi-fi hotspot."

It irritates me that I have to get the laptop out, because phone and MiFi vendors seem to assume you only want to use the mobile hotspot to connect over a 3/4g network, when in fact I want it to run independently of the WAN connection as then I can use it as a mobile router for my personal cloud.

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Re: Had windows 10 running for 6 months now

"the Win10 settings are still cr*p compared to the connection/locale management utilities that were around in the days of W2K/XP."

Indeed. Yet most of those utilities have gone by the wayside now. The lone exception I have been able to find as far as wlan is the Intel Proset utility, still pretty much the same as it was 9 years ago when I first used it, and still far better than Windows itself.

I found the networking UI on XP to be vastly superior to all later versions. Starting with Vista, they buried the adapter settings several layers deep instead of being right there after a right clock on the icon in the system tray as they used to be.

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Anonymous Coward

Numpties will buy it with win10s if it's 20p cheaper than the full win version.

They won't know the difference until it's too late and then what was on it when they bought it, will be what's on it when they bin it.

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Re: Numpties will buy it with win10s if it's 20p cheaper than the full win version.

Then they'll be paying that $50 upgrade fee won't they. What Microsoft is doing is scummy, but it's not like they have to chuck the entire thing in the bin because it can't be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro (in under 2 minutes).

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Anonymous Coward

People who enjoy

..OSX won't even bother paying att..

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defenestrate windows

Well, I wouldn't pay high prices for a hotel room where the cups were chained to the wall and there are bars on the windows even (and especially) if it were in the swanky part of town and had a fine art deco facade.

What is it with Ms these days, Professional version gets renamed Pro and is barely fit for Professionals, now the Student Edition gets renamed 'S' and gets upgraded to the swanky 'VIP Luxury Ringtone' role.

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Anonymous Coward

I think it's pretty obvious the thinking behind Windows 10S. That'll be the free one and and the other will be subscription based.

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I don't think so. They can't really get away with that at this point. I think it's an attempt to get most people (basically, all the not us type people) on to Windows 10 S, to increase the popularity of the store. If that happens we'll have to use the store too and Microsoft will have succeeded in becoming the central hub of the Windows software ecosystem like they want.

Even saying that, I don't think this will work.

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TVU
Bronze badge

"I don't think so. They can't really get away with that at this point. I think it's an attempt to get most people (basically, all the not us type people) on to Windows 10 S, to increase the popularity of the store. If that happens we'll have to use the store too and Microsoft will have succeeded in becoming the central hub of the Windows software ecosystem like they want".

However, I wouldn't put it past Microsoft to do something like this or to have Windows 10 S as the free default with a pay upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

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It's a pig Jim

So, let's look at the facts.

1. It's extremely expensive, yet doesn't really offer the average user much else over far cheaper devices, other than a 'fuzzy' kegboard cover. Fail.

2. It's crippled with Win10S (the 'future of windows' don't you know), but this experiment is doomed to fail, yet MS continue to try to push users to their cloud, services and app store.

3. Win10S is designed to take on Chromebooks, mainly in education, a market that this laptop is so far away from price wise, it's on a different continent. Maybe MS are expecting their partners to deliver much cheaper devices running 10S, which is likely. This will not help student debt one bit.

4. What's likely, is that MS (like with the Surface Pro and Book), make this as a statement, money-is-no-object piece where huge sales aren't part of the goal. Yes, it's designed to compete with the MB, and to make Windows desirable again (eh hem!). Trouble is, Win10, in whatever version, is just a large, bloated pig who's walked out of Boots with their entire No.17 lipstick range. The hardware may be 'desirable', but the O/S is forgettable.

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LDS
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" It's extremely expensive"

Just like the new Samsung phone, or the next iPhone? $900 or more for a phone? I prefer to spend more money on an high-spec yet light laptop, and buy a far cheaper phone.

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Thin end of the wedge

Windows 10 S is an attempt to normalize a crippled version of Windows that doesn't do half the stuff people might reasonably expect of it. It'd be bad enough in a budget PC, but this is a flagship device.

It is not acceptable.

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FAIL

Macbook Air replacement my arse

There are 2 of these sat on a desk about 10ft away from me. They look (at least from the side) like my Macbook Air. On closer inspection, they still look quite a lot like my Macbook Air.

But...

They run a shitty OS which you have to "jailbreak" to get a slightly less shitty OS. This is aimed at business users and students? Can't see many of them bothering. They just want to do their spreadsheets or look at porn in a decent browser. In contrast, my Macbook Air has software which lets me just get on with my work without any fannying around (no pun intended). Oh, and it's 2 years old as well, and still runs fine.

What are MS going to do next, come up with some sort of iPhone killer/copy? At least come up with your own ideas, and make sure they aren't half baked and over priced.

I know The Reg hates Apple but saying this is some kind of Macbook Air replacement or rival is just completely misguided. They're very late to the party and haven't come up with anything new or innovative. It's just new and innvoative by THEIR piss poor standards.

Now excuse me, I'm going to polish up my 'Nicks' trainers and head over to the gym with the cool kids. The cool kids, and me.

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Re: Macbook Air replacement my arse

How is that different from Mac OS? You have to "jailbreak" that too, by installing bootcamp and a copy of Windows, otherwise you're severely limited in software choice. I know I'm being a bit of a jerk here, but it's a fairly similar situation if you look at the situation as it sits today, totally ignoring the history of the personal computer.

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Re: Macbook Air replacement my arse

"You have to "jailbreak" that too, by installing bootcamp and a copy of Windows"

Well in my case, I haven't, and don't need to.

I understand some people run software where there's no non-Windows equivalent. But I don't think for a moment they are the majority of users. What software are you running, out of interest, that has no such equivalent? Bearing in mind the article mentions business users and students, much of what they use has been ported to some sort of web-based application anyway, so a decent browser is all you need (which again is a reason I wouldn't want to be tied to anything which suggests Edge is the only option!).

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Re: Macbook Air replacement my arse

Mac OS at least is usable. You'd buy a Mac Book Air to run current Mac OS.

Most people just want Win XP or Win 7, not a schizophrenic OS that can't decide if it's for a phone (lock screen, tiles) or Keyboard/Mouse WIMP GUI. Excessively flat, no cues as to what is clickable, inconsistent GUIs on OS components, settings messed everywhere, almost total lack of customisation. Privacy slurp at maximum by default. The problem is that on new computers with Windows there are only choices of bad to worse variations of Win 10. Their attempt to merge Android, Chrome books, Apple, tablets and phones as GUI to run existing windows programs is a failure. What sane person would buy Win10 ONLY to run MS Cloud and Metro/UWP/Modern/Fluid tablet apps from the MS store?

People buy Windows because they have been using it for years or need Sage, Payroll, Adobe, etc, not because they want to join MS Cloud /Tablet experimental unfinished GUI and MS Store Apps designed for phone/tablet/touch rather than keyboard and mouse. Touch on screen is REALLY exhausting when using a real keyboard and also slow / inaccurate compared to mouse.

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Re: Macbook Air replacement my arse

"They run a shitty OS which you have to "jailbreak" to get a slightly less shitty OS."

You don't have to jailbreak anything. You can install any OS you want on this laptop.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Macbook Air replacement my arse

How is that different from Mac OS? You have to "jailbreak" that too, by installing bootcamp and a copy of Windows, otherwise you're severely limited in software choice.

Define "severely limited"? Most of the software I use on macos has a Windows equivalent, and in most cases the Mac equivalent offers superior usability. Compare, for instance, the mess that Microsoft made of Visio, and what OmniGraffle Pro allows you to do on a Mac in the same amount of time - it's not only quicker, it also looks a lot better (and I can take it onto an iPad and continue to work on it). In addition, there's no need for bootcamp if you install a virtualiser like Virtualbox or Parallels which allows you to have the best of both worlds.

You are, however, forgetting something else: macos users also have access to a rather large library of open source tools with a wide range of options on how to obtain them from pre-compiled binaries for some to packagers like Homebrew or even bare vanilla compilation from source. You don't have that on Windows because it's not based on a Unix variant. I have a command line that by default supports all the Open Source programming languages, I have a dev platform that costs nothing to get going and I have an OS that speaks most properly Open Standards by default which gives me again access to a vast range of resources.

It's only the Windows world which limits your options. Not macos, Linux or even *BSD.

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Re: Macbook Air replacement my arse

macos users also have access to a rather large library of open source tools with a wide range of options on how to obtain them from pre-compiled binaries for some to packagers like Homebrew or even bare vanilla compilation from source.

All true, but the implication that this isn't on Windows is out of date. These days Windows 10 supports pretty much the entire Ubuntu userland, which is a much more useful proposition. Once you enable the feature, you can install packages using apt-get, and they're the exact same binaries as Linux uses, so there's no delay for porting and no "missing" packages. Plus, it really is a Linux-compatible userland - for proof: about an hour ago, I used gcc on my Ubuntu-on-Windows 10 desktop to compile up a simple C tool, ran it locally, then scp'd that binary over to a native Linux host, and it ran perfectly there too. Do that on macOS, and I'll be impressed.

I was pretty much an exclusive Mac user for most of the last 20 years. Brew and Ports are nowhere near as easy or up-to-date as you describe, and there are also differences between the BSD core tools and the Linux ones that will bite you from time to time too (for instance, macOS comes with a different implementation of 'grep', with different defaults; same for 'netstat'; and 'route' shares only a name with its linux equivalent). I used the mac as a simple scratchpad to try fragments of shell-script, but it really wasn't compatible enough with a Linux for real prototyping. Windows 10's Linux subsystem still isn't as good as an actual Linux target for everything, but for a surprising number of developer use-cases, it is.

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N2

Re: Macbook Air replacement my arse

Yes it is, it costs more or less the same as a Mac... so it must be good, Microsoft says so...

Until you work out the price for all the rental ware, pay yourself £0 per hour to control the spyware & when it breaks after, oh er, how long?

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Silver badge

Re: Macbook Air replacement my arse

How's X11 support under Windows 10?

I guess, not great? It would be nice if MS contributed with some GPLed code to a modern replacement for X11 that will also play nicely with Windows. (I wonder how Broadway is coming along..)

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will it run Mint?

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Does this come with a years worth of endless firmware upgrades to fix constant battery issues like previous Surface products?

I will stick to my Apple MacBook Air, Pro and Mac Mini, at least they run an OS that knows what its trying to be, a desktop class OS and they leave touch to iOS.

Its funny, as Apple said years ago you should make the hardware and the OS, Microsoft said you should just make the OS and let the OEM's make the hardware. Wonder why they have changed tune.

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The work MacBook Air I had for about 4 years was constantly receiving firmware updates. They come through the app store. Very convenient, why would you not want firmware updates? Every laptop I've ever bought has needed nearly constant updates (except the Alienware m14x R2, which only had 6 ever). The Dell XPS 15 I currently own is the worst. I think the firmware gets updated at least once a month. Windows update is starting to distribute firmware now too, but it seems significantly behind the manufacturer, at least for my Dell.

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I'm waiting for..

The BOGOF on the 512Gb model.

Last year Microsoft did a deal for a Surface Pro 256Gb BOGOF and our overlords purchased them for the managers. When the new one is on offer, I'll probably buy it.

My older Surface Pro 3, is still fantastic though

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Re: I'm waiting for..

Have they fixed the thing where Edge crashes if you're on roaming profiles yet?

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I'll be sticking to my Sinclair ZX81, at least it has 64x 48 pixel hi-res mode

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I have both... The MBP and The MS Surf Laptop

The good for the MS - The removable screen

The most annoying: External monitor support is totally crap, Interfaces are old, NO USB-c ?? Come on !

Good that I had some adaptors from my 5y old MBP that I can reuse for this MS Laptop

The good for the MBP: Things are soo smooth and snappy

The bad for the MBP: I can't use it for my main work, due to MS SW

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The biggest problem with Mac alternatives is

They don't run MacOS.

But normally you can run Linux so not the end of the world, but this one probably doesn't either.

And costs as much as a MacBook Pro which is capable of running any OS and won't be work pennies when you try and sell it to buy a new one.

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Anonymous Coward

I've changed my mind: this is a good thing

No, I haven't lost my mind, I've changed it. Bear with me on this.

One of the major BOFH challenges is to give people who have no clue about IT gear that will work, yet resists their attempts at screwing it up. Yes, you got it, board members and management.

I see those as the exact target market for these devices. They're expensive enough to make a notable dent in the budget, thus confirming the recipient's "status" (aka "only the best" - at least that's what we tell them), yet it is restrictive enough to stop them from doing anything stupid and this time Microsoft did it "for their security" so you cannot be accused of blocking them.

These laptops are ready made gilded cages for management level users - clever move.

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Joke

Re: I've changed my mind: this is a good thing

You could also sell them a large Etch a Sketch to the management at an expensive price. It worked on the PHB. I'm sure they wouldn't even notice the difference.

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Anonymous Coward

TL;DR: expensive doorstop.

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I can get walk-up hardware and software support at any Apple Store.

Never mind a macbook air won't depreciate like a burning vehicle.

Just sayin...

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