Microsoft Surface Laptop Review: Plush, Premium Design In A Competitive Category

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Microsoft Surface Laptop: Design, Features and Build Quality

The Surface Laptop's traditional clam-shell design strays from the 2-in-1 form factors of the Surface Pro and Surface Book, but lives up to the impeccable material and build quality expectations set by its brethren. It’s a beautiful laptop with smooth aluminum surfaces and rounded edges all around – there isn’t a single sharp edge anywhere. Its feather-light 2.76 lb. weight, 0.57” thick frame and matte surface is easy to grab and go places.

Microsoft Surface Front Open

Open it up to reveal the gorgeous 13.5-inch display with a native resolution of 2256x1504 -- that translates to 201 PPI. Microsoft opted for a more photography-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio, but with the popularity and focus on video and its 16:9 aspect ratio nowadays, it might not appeal to everyone. The responsive 10-point capacitive multi-touch screen is protected with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 for enhanced scratch protection, which is a nice gesture.

Microsoft Surface Closed Angle

Hidden behind the Gorilla Glass 3 screen is a Windows Hello compatible camera array as well, but we’ll go into more detail on that later. The hinge feels sturdy and opens to about 145-degrees, which is typical of standard laptops. There’s support for the Surface Pen if you prefer to draw or write, but the lack of a 360-degree hinge makes it awkward and uncomfortable to use with the pen.

Alcantara is a durable suede-like synthetic material typically found in sports cars; it is one of our favorite materials on steering wheels and car seats. Microsoft covers the Surface Laptop keyboard with it for a luxurious, yet unique feel that no other company has. It gives the palm rests a smooth and grippy feel without showing fingerprints and oily smudges. There are concerns of staining the Alcantara with simple spills and sweaty palms, but wear and tear is expected on laptop palm rests regardless of the material used. We’re fans of the synthetic material and would like to see more notebooks employ it.

Microsoft Surface Keyboard

Typing on the keyboard is excellent. It’s not a full-size keyboard but we found the key-spacing adequate for everyday typing. It’s no match for a mechanical keyboard, but each key produces a soft, yet satisfying click with each keypress and doesn’t feel mushy. It’s one of our favorite keyboards to type on.

Going with a 3:2 aspect ratio lets Microsoft have space for a larger touchpad, too. The Surface Laptop’s touchpad glides smoothly with the responsiveness of a MacBook Pro. Gestures respond quickly and on the first try. While I love my personal Dell XPS 13 (9350), the keyboard and touchpad on the Surface Laptop feel better to type on and glides smoother.

Microsoft Surface Left Side

You give up a lot of connectivity for the Surface Laptop’s stunning design, unfortunately. There’s only four ports on the Surface Laptop – one USB 3.0, a 3.5mm head-phone jack, mini-DisplayPort and Surface Connect. Microsoft doesn’t integrate an SD or micro SD card reader either, so you’ll have to connect your camera and camcorder via USB or carry a separate card reader. There is a USB Type A charging port on the Surface Laptop’s power adapter to charge your phone at least.

Microsoft will also sell you the $200 Surface Dock that connects to the Surface Connect port, if you’d like more I/O options. The Surface Dock adds four USB 3.0 ports, two mini-DisplayPorts, Gigabit Ethernet and audio output, and plugs into where the charger typically goes.

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