The Microsoft Surface Book looks like a minimalist dream, with a smooth exterior and beautiful hinge. It feels hefty and solid without being bulky and cumbersome. In many ways it has out-designed Apple’s Macbook range.

The Book’s hinge is the first thing I noticed. A strange, almost organic, bend connects the tablet section to the keyboard. It’s a unique look on a hybrid laptop, and a new direction for the Surface range which have, to this point, only had thin keyboards that double as tablet covers.

Also missing is the Surface’s usual kickstand on the back of the tablet section. It’s not needed with the Book, because when it’s clipped together the Book is essentially a normal laptop. A good looking laptop with a nice big screen and a keyboard that was great to use.

My only gripe is when the two components disconnect. To release the tablet from the keyboard, you have to press a button on the keyboard. The locks are electronic, so the button only works when there’s power and the tablet is on. Once pressed, there is little feedback about when you can detach the parts. Also be aware that, once uncoupled from the tablet section, the hinge will no longer bend.

When in use, the Surface Book is a powerhouse. The Book comes with either an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, which is more than enough to run Adobe Photoshop or similar high-specced software. Its 13.5” screen gives more real estate than the new Surface Pro 4.

The Book comes with the newly upgraded Surface Pen. It now responds to changes in pressure, so you can draw thicker lines or do different functions by pressing harder on the screen. It can also hold to the side of the Book by magnets. These magnets are strong enough that even after a day in my bag, the pen didn’t slide off.

The Book runs Windows 10, which is a big step up from Windows 8 but still far from perfect. It’s really the only weak point from a software perspective and it’s a small one. From every other standpoint, the Surface Book is one of the best laptops on the market for regular users. It’s not a rig for gaming or one that high-end coders may want but for most users, including designers, it’s great.

Essential specs

  • $2749 - $4899
  • Dimensions: Laptop 232 x 312 x 23mm; Tablet 220 x 312 x 7.7mm
  • Screen: 13.5”, 3000 x 2000 (267PPI)
  • Processor: 6th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7
  • Memory: 8GB or 16GB RAM
  • Solid state drive (SSD) storage: 128GB, 256GB or 512GB
  • Ports: Two full-size USB 3.0, SD card reader, Headphone, Mini DisplayPort.

Our writer received this laptop on loan for this First Look. First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

by Hadyn Green