Microsoft has packed some punch in its new Surface Book, doubling speed as well as graphics capabilities, and adding 30% more battery life, but may have missed a trick in its battle to catch up with Apple’s Macbook range.

Microsoft Surface Studio
Image source: Microsoft

Called i7, after Intel’s Skylake series of microprocessors, the hybrid will be running on the same chip as Apple’s laptop range, whose upgrades were announced a day later on October 27.

In not going for the seventh generation Kaby Lake series from Intel, Microsoft may have dented its chances of at least competing with the Macbook Pro on speed, even though it made an unverified claim that its new hybrid was up to three times faster than the older, and comparably priced, Macbook range.

Microsoft does not reveal sales volumes for its Surface Book series but it is estimated that its various models, together, have a 25% share of the hybrid tablet market. In 2015, 16.6 million hybrid tablets were sold, according to IDC.

Surface Book i7 prices start at $2,399 for the lowest-end configuration  (256GB SSD, 8GB RAM), compared to $1,799 for the MacBook with a Touch Bar instead of function keys. The highest-priced model (1TB, 16GB RAM) costs $3,299.

Pre-orders for the new Surface Book have opened on the Microsoft Store, with units shipping in November. The hybrid tablet hits stores on November 10.

Microsoft Surface Book Price

Surface Book i7’s price – a hefty 60% increase from the previous version’s launch price of $1,499 – has drawn expected criticism.

“$2,399?! You want people to pay $2,399 for a laptop with last year’s CPU and last year’s midrange graphics chip? You must think consumers are suckers,” said Avram Piltch, online editorial director for Laptop Magazine.

Regardless of the criticism over features as much as price, the new Surface Book leads the Macbook in several areas. It’s, of course, a detachable hybrid with a touchscreen, whereas the Macbook remains a laptop and has only now added a touch panel in lieu of the function keys in some models. It boasts of a 3000×2000 display – compared with Macbook’s best of 2880×1800. In battery life, the Surface Book’s range of 12-16 hours places it between 20% and 60% better than the Macbook.

The new Surface Book looks unchanged on the outside but there’s a small difference that even Microsoft failed to showcase, probably it doesn’t really add to the esthetics. Its famed fulcrum hinge leaves a gap between the keyboard and the screen when you fold down the laptop. Microsoft has shrunk that gap, apparently by adding a bigger battery, and could help keep dust away.

At its Manhattan event on October 26, Microsoft also announced a new input device called The Dial, and a limited edition all-in-one PC called Surface Studio, besides scheduling for release in mid-2017 a new version of the Windows 10 operating called Creator’s Update.

The Dial is the one that grabs the most attention. It is seen as a step forward, and adding to interface devices such as mouse and touchscreen. It looks like a volume control on a radio, and can actually be used to do that when, say, using Spotify or Pandora. It can also be attached to the Surface Studio’s screen, and, presumably, will do many more things in the future.

Article by Bala Murali Krishna