Surface Book review roundup: fast and thin with a controversial hinge


— 12:57 PM on October 22, 2015

The Surface Book has found its way into reviewers' hands, and some publications have already taken Microsoft's lust-worthy notebook for a spin. The consensus is that the hardware is fast and light, and Windows 10 really makes it shine.

There's no disagreement that the Surface Book is a good performer. Each reviewer put the convertible through a different set of tests, but they all agree that the Core i5-6300U in the base configuration and the optional Core i7-6600U are faster than anything else available in this kind of form factor. The PCIe storage in the Surface Book seems to be plenty fast, too—Engadget's Dana Wollman recorded 1.6GBps transfer rates in the ATTO disk benchmark, for example.

The GeForce graphics upgrade appears to be worthwhile, too. Gordon Mah Ung of PCWorld says the GPU itself is similar in spec to the GeForce 940M. The 3DMark tests in Ars Technica's review unsurprisingly show significant performance improvements with the discrete GPU, including a greater-than-100% improvement over integrated graphics in the Fire Strike test. The Verge's Tom Warren tested graphics performance more subjectively, and he found that his older Steam library ran well. Warren and Ung both noticed that driver updates from Nvidia don't recognize the Surface Book's graphics option yet, so buyers may not get the very best performance in new games just yet.

Reviewers also agree that the Surface Book gets excellent battery life. PCWorld got over 13 hours of video playback out of the base configuration with integrated graphics. The Verge got similar video results, but that figure dropped to around 7 hours when the CPU was busy with web browsing and other applications. Ars Technica ran a WebGL benchmark until the notebook died, and found that both the base configuration and an upgraded model with GeForce graphics ran over six hours.

As with any PC, the Surface Book's aesthetics and build quality are one place where reviewers disagree. The hinge is an especially hot topic for debate. PCWorld says that there's a bit of "screen flop" present in the Surface Book that isn't evident when using other Windows notebooks like HP's Spectre X360 or Dell's XPS 13. Tom Warren says the fact the notebook doesn't close entirely when it's folded is an "ugly problem."

Other reviewers seem to like the hinge. Peter Bright praised the "unrolling" hinge in Ars Technica's review, and says it helps keep the top-heavy tablet portion upright when used in laptop mode. Bright liked the look of the gap, too. Wollman described the Book's hinge as interesting-looking, but also noted how the design's gap makes the system look fatter than a more conventional hinge might have.

The Surface Book's display and input devices were more widely praised. Reviewers liked the six-megapixel display and its 3:2 aspect ratio. Engadget enjoyed the taller aspect ratio in particular, and said it was great for reading despite the fact that it letterboxes videos. The Verge calls the keyboard and trackpad "great," and Ars Technica especially appreciated the bright backlight. PCWorld talked more about the pen than other reviews, and found it comfortable to hold and easy to use.

   
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