Surface Book is Microsoft's take on what the laptop should be

After gathering years of experience building Surface tablets, Microsoft has put its own spin on the traditional laptop with the Surface Book. This notebook blends an innovative-looking hinge with a high-quality screen, keyboard, and trackpad. The 13.5" display is built around the same ultra-thin PixelSense display stack as the Surface Pro 4's. Six million pixels serve as the canvas for Windows 10.

The Surface Book is all about performance. It's built around Intel's latest mobile processors and an optional discrete Nvidia graphics chip "for those who really push the system." Microsoft claims the Surface Book is "ounce for ounce, the most powerful 13" notebook ever made," though we'd love to know exactly what parts power it. Despite the beefy internals, Microsoft claims the Surface Book is good for 12 hours of battery life, and the system weighs only 1.6 pounds.

Microsoft considers the Surface Book a natural competitor to the MacBook Pro, and it believes its own notebook will be up to two times as fast as Apple's. The company backed up that claim with some intensive 3D gaming, and it also demonstrated the speed of the system's PCIe SSD and the prowess of the GPU in accelerated applications like Adobe's Premiere Pro. Buyers will be able to spec out the system with up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

Microsoft also won't force buyers to choose between the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book to get convertible features. The Surface Book's screen can detach from the keyboard base to become a tablet (or "clipboard," as Microsoft calls it). The processor and some battery cells sit behind the screen, while the GPU and most of the battery remain in the base. The screen can also be reversed and folded over the keyboard if the full power of the system is needed.

The Surface Book will command MacBook Pro money, too. Prices start at $1,499 for a Core i5 CPU, 256GB of storage, 8GB of RAM, and no discrete graphics. Adding the discrete Nvidia graphics chip to this configuration brings the cost to $1,899. The current top-end model offers a Core i7 CPU, Nvidia graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD for $2,699. The 1TB SSD option isn't available yet, but it'll doubtless cost a pretty penny. Preorders begin October 7, and shipments will begin October 26.

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