• Marc A. Brown

My first impression of the Surface Laptop

I recently purchased the MS Surface Laptop, opting for the i7/16GB/512GB model in Platinum. First off, as seems to be the norm with all Microsoft hardware, the packaging was sturdy and well done. But we’re not here to discuss packaging.

The device itself is solid. Very thin and yet larger than I was expecting. It’s not heavy, but for its size, it just feels like it has some heft to it. The Alcantara fabric covering the keyboard base is very attractive and nice to touch. Only time will tell whether it actually resists getting dirty.

The keyboard is reasonably comfortable for a portable device. I typically type on a mechanical keyboard, so the short key travel makes the typing experience a little different but I haven’t lost any accuracy. All in all, it’s a reasonably comfortable typing experience.

I’m a fan of a good touchpad – I prefer them to mice for most purposes. The touchpad on the Surface Laptop is big and comfortable to use. It supports two-, three- and four-finger gestures that, once learned, can really enhance your experience. In looking at the settings for the touchpad, I discovered that a two-finger tap is the equivalent to a right-click – perhaps everyone already knew that but I’m pretty excited about it. 😊 Only downside I've found to the touchpad is that it sometimes doesn't register a "click" when I tap in the middle. But this isn't the only touchpad that I've seen behave this way, so it may just be that I'm to blame.

The screen is big and bright and beautiful. It’s a 3:2 screen, whereas I’m more used to widescreens at 16:9 or 16:10. My Surface 3 isn’t a widescreen, so it’s not like I haven’t experiences a more square device screen, just not used to it. I haven’t had a chance to use it in sunlight, so I can’t say whether it’ll be good in that environment or not.

The charger connects to the device magnetically, which is nice; however, the magnet seems to be a little weak – I had it pop out with a small movement yesterday evening.

The laptop comes with Windows 10 S, which restricts software installs to items in the Windows Store. I’d like to have a device with S on it; however, for my purposes (software development, audio editing and conversion, some gaming) that won’t work. Fortunately, the upgrade from S to Pro is a free one on these devices for now. The upgrade was very fast, which surprised me. Before upgrading from S to Pro, I got to experience the Cortana-based OOBE for the first time. This experience is cool, allowing you to answer many of the prompts with verbal commands. Some prompts require interaction with trackpad and keyboard, of course, and it’s probably faster to read the screens and answer the prompts with clicks but I found the voice-based experience to be fun.

I don’t have benchmarks to back me up but Windows 10 Pro runs like a bat out of hell on this machine. Keep in mind that I’m coming from a Surface 3 upgraded from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 and from a 4-year-old Lenovo IdeaCentre with an i5, 8GB of RAM, and a “spinny” hard drive, so my opinion is colored by those experiences. But it seems to be fast and smooth. I’m looking forward to the Fall Creator’s Update primarily for the return of OneDrive placeholders.

I’ve installed Visual Studio 2017 Community Edition, the desktop Office 365 (2016) applications, and Audacity (with MP3 and FFMPEG plugins). I’m typing this in Word, which fired up quickly and is running nicely. Visual Studio starts up without a solution loaded in under 15 seconds. I’m looking forward to Sunday so that I can time the conversion of a 35-40 minute WAV file to MP3. Should be fast.

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