Microsoft generated some long-awaited buzz this week when it announced an updated Surface Pro 4 and the new Surface Book. Microsoft has been relentless in its battle to stay relevant in a world of iPads and Macbook Pros, and its tenacity may finally be paying off with these new devices.
With Microsoft's long-entrenched history in the business world, it's no surprise that new Windows 10 devices are designed to appeal to both consumers and enterprise customers. Both devices offer a host of powerful features under the hood, all packaged in a sleek design that have some experts screaming, "Macbook killer."
Surface Pro 4: lighter, bigger and better
Like its predecessors, the Surface Pro 4 is touted as a "tablet that can replace your laptop." The Surface Pro 3 gained traction in the business world thanks to its convenience, portability and power. On the outside, the Surface Pro 4 looks familiar with its kickstand and detachable keyboard cover, but it also boasts a lighter chassis at 1.69 pounds and a slightly larger 12.3-inch touch screen display with a 2736 x 1824 native resolution. Microsoft also introduced PixelSense technology, which is designed to discern between a stylus and finger on the touch screen by determining how much light is blocked. Once it decides finger or stylus, the display will automatically optimize for the input method of choice.
Although the device still looks like a Surface, it improvements run all the way down to the Surface Pen, which now has 1024 levels of sensitivity and an eraser on the end. Microsoft is quick to point out the irony that Microsoft's pen can erase, while Apple's pencil cannot. The Type Cover also boasts improvements, with wider key spacing, a 40-percent larger glass trackpad, key backlighting and a version that comes with a fingerprint sensor. What hasn't change, however, is that the Type Cover is still a separate accessory.
If you've been holding back on a Surface Pro because of hardware limitations, you might be swayed by the Surface Pro 4. You can configure this Windows 10 device with up to 16GB of RAM (which is also expandable unlike the Surface Pro 3), a 1TB SSD and an Intel Core i7 processor. If you want to stay on the lower end, you can opt for an Intel Core M processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Connectivity shouldn't be an issue either, with Bluetooth, a full USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort and a microSD card reader.
Pricing for the Surface Pro 4 starts at $899 and go up to a whopping $2,699 for the highest configuration, and don't forget you still need to buy that Type Cover to go with it, which starts at $129.
The real news: The Surface Book
The real show stopper at Microsoft's Windows 10 Device announcement was the Surface Book, which is the company's first legitimate attempt at a proprietary Microsoft notebook. Microsoft scores in the looks department, and although it strongly resembles a Macbook Pro or the Macbook Air, you'd be hard pressed to find an aesthetics-focused PC that doesn't these days. But, unlike the Macbook Pro or Macbook Air, the Surface Book also has a touch-screen display, a docking keyboard and a 360-degree rotating hinge.
If the Surface Pro 4 is too much of a tablet to replace your notebook, the Surface Book is all notebook. It docks into the keyboard, but it has a hinge mechanism that lets it act more like a laptop. So no more sliding around on your lap in awkward positions, which was a major gripe with the less-than-stable kick stand option on the Surface lineup. The screen also rotates back 360 degrees, or you can choose to completely detach the keyboard from the device so you can use it like a tablet - or a "portable clipboard," as Microsoft has branded the device.
In addition to setting its sights on business users and consumers who want both a powerful and stylish device, Microsoft might be trying to edge in on Apple's hold in the creative world. Apple products are well-known as the standard for designers, artists, animators, illustrators and other creative professionals, but the Surface Book leans heavily on its capability to be a "creative workhorse," as Microsoft describes.
Between the optional discrete graphics chip - which lives in the keyboard so it will work only while docked - and the updated Surface Pen, Microsoft wants this notebook-tablet-clipboard hybrid to serve the needs of creative pros. Microsoft is pushing the fact that you can use the pen to edit images in Adobe Photoshop or create drawings Adobe Illustrator directly on the screen. And its mobility allows you to have a video editing studio you can take with you on location. On the surface, Microsoft appears to now offer a few more choices over Apple as you'd probably need to have both a Macbook Pro and an iPad Pro to achieve what you can get with Surface Book. But, of course, testing and benchmarks will tell the final story.
The Surface Book weighs 3.48 pounds and configuration options start with a Core Intel i5, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, while the top configuration includes a Core Intel i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. It's a high-powered device that gives the impression it will take you from home to the office and on the road, without skipping a beat. The Surface Book, at its lowest configuration, will run you $1,499, while the highest configuration retails at $2,699.