New Surface ditches hybrid for traditional clamshell

by Haadi Bakar
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Another year, another new Surface from Microsoft.

But this time there’s nothing groundbreaking about it. The company yesterday showed us a traditional clamshell laptop instead of the usual laptop/tablet hybrid which the Surface brand has been recognised for.

Probably the only reason why the Surface name is still being used for Microsoft’s new laptop is that it uses the same touchscreen display and that you can use the Surface Pen and Dial with it.

Other than that, the Surface Laptop is a standard ultrabook with decent specs, with intel Core i7 powering the top-tier model. You can’t detach the screen from the keyboard like the Surface Pro or Surface Book.

Oh, and it runs Windows 10 S, a light version of Microsoft’s current flagship OS that’s aimed at taking on Google’s Chromebooks.

Microsoft said the Surface Laptop is designed for students, but I don’t see how it’s going to gain traction in the classroom with that US$999 (around B$1,340) price tag.

With the exception of Brunei, Chromebooks have been making waves in education, thanks to their affordability and simplicity.

On the other hand, Microsoft is making a high quality laptop pre-installed with a lite version of Windows 10 and charging at a premium. I guess this laptop is mainly for the rich kids.

But as a laptop in general, the Surface Laptop is a beautifully-crafted ultrabook.

It weighs at just 1.25 kilogrammes, the display is a 13.5-inch 1080p panel, and the keyboard is covered in fabric just like on a Surface Pro.

There is a regular USB and mini DisplayPort, and the battery gives 14.5 hours of runtime.

The base model gets the latest Intel Core i5 processor, four gigs of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage.

Microsoft claims the i7 model of the Surface Laptop is faster than Apple’s i7 Macbook Pro, and that its battery life is longer than any Macbook Air on the market.

The colour options are pretty exciting too. You have a choice of cobalt blue, burgundy, graphite gold and platinum.

Microsoft even throws in a new Surface Arc Mouse which can be flattened for stowing. This one’s a separate accessory priced at US$79.99 (B$120).

But a Chromebook killer it’s not, even though Microsoft said it aims to be, unless if they could bring the price down a few notches. In contrast, an Acer Chromebook costs at around B$300 at Concepts Computers right now.

I suppose you could see the Surface Laptop as Microsoft’s version of the expensively-priced Chromebook Pixel, but since the former runs a more familiar OS, it should appeal to a much wider audience than Chrome.

But Windows 10 S does have its limitations. It only runs Windows Store apps, and you can’t use Google apps and services. The OS forces you to use Microsoft’s Edge browser and Bing. Fortunately, Surface Laptop users can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free throughout 2017.

We’ll have to wait and see whether the Surface Laptop will shake the education market, but for general consumers, this new Surface is a pretty solid portable computer for personal or business use, unless you’re after something more exciting like the (more expensive) hybrid Surface Pro or Surface Book.

The only problem is that it’s really hard to get our hands on a Surface machine in Brunei.

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