When Apple launched the Macintosh in 1984, it provided users an alternative to the staid old boxes known as personal computers. Finally, people had a choice. A lot has changed in the past 35 years or so. Apple remains an aspirational brand and people swear by their slim and sexy MacBooks and MacBook Pros.
These devices did give rise to a new category of notebooks called ultrabooks—shiny, expensive contraptions, often in metal, which ran Windows, but for most part seemed very much under the influence of the Apple portables. No wonder, many went for the real McCoy, if they could live without Windows OS (or dual-booted their MacBooks, if they couldn’t).
Finally, these people have a choice—because the Microsoft Surface Laptop (which starts from ₹86,999) claims to do for this segment what the Macintosh did for computers back then.
The first time I picked up the Microsoft device, I was stunned—as astounded as I was when I held the MacBook Air in my hand for the first time. Of course, the Surface is heavier and feels more solid, but this seemed to be, in a long time the lightest device that ran Windows natively I have held. And you could be excused if you mistook it for a MacBook from a distance. Of course, once you come nearer, you see the Microsoft logo on the lid.
On opening the lid, the classy Alcantara fabric (which I’d seen in an earlier Surface device keyboard cover) greets you. It’s nice to hold and very comfortable to type on for extended periods. The review unit had one in grey, but you can pick one of three other colours. This unit was powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, paired with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Thus, Windows 10 booted up very fast on the 13.5-inch 10-point touchscreen. And if I were you, I’d upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for a smoother experience.
The screen is bright with punchy colours, great contrasts and also renders dark scenes well, but do remember that the aspect ratio isn’t widescreen (which is 16:9), so watching movies might need some getting used to; that said, this doesn’t take away from the experience. Added to that, this one’s a touchscreen, though I did use this feature more as an add-on. One can also use a stylus with this screen, but one has to buy it separately.
The Surface is loud, with the speakers mounted below the Alcantara fabric. I also loved the “depth” of the sound and loved the fact that the dialogue sounded crisp on the sitcoms I watched. You should, of course, use headphones if you want a more immersive experience, especially while watching movies.
While one can play some old games on this device, this one is mainly for the boardroom warriors—and our lot, who have to type on documents and use excel sheets. The backlit keyboard is a pleasure to type on, for hours on end. The Alcantara fabric, also used in high-end cars, provides a nice feel and while the trackpad is good, I’ve seen better. But that was never an issue, because of the touchscreen. A caveat: If you’re serious about using the Surface as your primary office device, get a dock; there’s only one USB 3.0 port, a mini-DisplayPort, a microphone jack, and Microsoft’s proprietary SurfaceConnect port to connect the power cord.
One department I think the Surface has few peers is battery life; in the time I used the laptop, I would charge every couple of days—of course I mostly typed documents or examined spreadsheets; and even when I did watch videos or listen to music, it never ran out on me till I was near a charging point. If I had to nitpick, I’d want a faster hard drive; the MacBook Pro accesses local files faster.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop (the review unit comes for ₹114,999) is possibly the one killer device fans of Windows have been waiting for a long time. While it’s not perfect, it offers users the choice of a “native” Windows notebook.