The reviews are in. Microsoft's 2-in-1 laptop-tablet hybrid Surface Book has been out with the pundits, putting it through its paces before the general public get its hands on it on October 26. What's the consensus? Well, it's a great laptop. On the tablet side, it'll be good in a pinch. But critics couldn't quite agree whether the trackpad was perfect or abysmal.
Brad Sams, writing for Petri, said that during the review period his enthusiasm for the device "has not waned," and that the Surface Book "will be the laptop I use going forward." Sams highlighted the tablet feature, GPU switching and excellent trackpad as three standout features on an excellent device.
Tom Warren, writing for The Verge, noted that the aspect ratio needs some getting used to, but when in tablet mode the 3:2 proportions feel more like holding a sheet of paper than a traditional wider-screened device. The trackpad was also a highlight, and Warren stated that it "looks and feels just like a MacBook's." A slight lag in the pen will annoy artists, but it is absolutely fine for note-taking.
"Holding a 1.6-pound laptop screen in your hands is awkward," said Joanna Stern in the Wall Street Journal, "though cradling it like a clipboard -- while jotting notes with the included pen -- is surprisingly natural."
"So good I might switch back to Windows," declared Mario Aguilar at Gizmodo. Aguilar highlighted the design, expressing incredulity that not only is it a gorgeous device, but that Microsoft designed it.
Trouble in paradise
However, it's not all perfect. Sams and Warren noted the screen wobbles when in use, with Warren noting that this is an issue that crops up on most laptop-tablet hybrids. "Microsoft has probably done the best job yet, but it's still not perfect," said Warren. Foley went even further and described the device as "tippy" and "still not really lappable."
Sams and also noted a weird audio quirk where they could hear the computer working through the headphone jack. This was backed up by Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet, who beyond the occasional hardware quirks also questioned the approach the device takes as a whole. "If I have to buy a hybrid, I'd like to see the best of the Surface Book and Surface Pro worlds combined," she said. "If I don't, I'd rather see Microsoft make a laptop that's just an excellent laptop."
The hinge design divided critics. Due to the way the device folds closed, a gap is left between the screen and the keyboard. Sams said this was sturdier than he had initially feared when he first saw the gap, but Warren noted it as a key negative, saying he had to clean the keyboard daily due to dust and dirt collecting up.
Overall, Stern was one of the stronger critics of the machine, criticising a glitchy trackpad and crashing display drivers. Stern said there were "times where I wanted to take off my shoe and throw it at the Surface Book," and that until the issues are fixed (which Microsoft told Stern they are), "I can’t recommend you get the new Surfaces."
Aguilar also noted the trackpad needed work, saying it was "jumpy" and "wonky." "However, if Microsoft fixes that as it’s promised, you’ll be left with a pricey machine you won’t regret," he said.
The Surface Book starts at $1,499 for the base model. That includes an Intel Skylake Core i5, 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage. The Surface Pen, optional on the Surface Pro, is included with the Surface Book.