Thursday, October 8, 2015

Microsoft Surface Book

I really want to like the Surface Book that Microsoft has just announced, but boy is Microsoft making it hard! As of writing this post, the dedicated website for the Surface Book lacks the showmanship and technical details needed to persuade a reader to buy the damn thing. It just looks like an uninformative and half-finished website. The website has been split into four sections: key features, innovation, in action, and tech specs.


Key Features

This section of the website gives a broad overview of the key features of the Surface Book. Unfortunately, none of the key features that are mentioned do much to reel in an interested reader:
  • Powerful laptop
    "The first full laptop has arrived in the Surface family. Surface Book is a powerful laptop with a full sized, backlit keyboard for fast and natural typing."
    No mention of the awesome processors/brands that are used or how fast it can accomplish standard tasks.
  • Portable clipboard
    "The 13.5” PixelSense™display detaches easily from the keyboard to become a thin, light tablet that works perfectly with OneNote and Surface Pen."
    No mention of the awesome weight, dimensions, and battery life of the screen.
  • Creative canvas
    "Turn the screen around and reattach it to use Surface Book like a creative canvas. By reconnecting it to the keyboard, you unlock its full creative power in a pen first mode."
    The need to reattach the screen sounds more like a nuisance than a feature. 
  • Graphic horsepower
    "With an optional discrete graphics chip, Surface Book is built for even the most intensive creative tasks like photo and video editing."
    No mention of the awesome graphics chips/brands that are used. No mention of whether multiple external monitors is possible.
  • Serious creativity
    "Use the multi-touch PixelSense™ screen and Surface Pen to create with all the desktop software you already use, like Adobe® Photoshop® and Illustrator."
    No mention of the ability to sense 1024 levels of pen pressure. No mention of the awesome pen resolution, sampling rate, and output latency.
  • Mobile studio
    "Surface Book is the creative professional’s laptop, designed to power through professional grade photo and video editing."
    No mention of the awesome battery life under typical "creative usage".
  • Full Office
    "Surface Book works perfectly with the full suite of Office products, driving your productivity to new heights."
    Hardly a feature.
  • Markup webpages
    "Write directly on webpages with Surface Pen in the all-new Microsoft Edge browser and share your notes easily."
    Surely a better "feature" would be the ability to markup work documents in Office, PDF,  etc, and images.
  • Limitless apps
    "Surface Book has all the power you’ll need for even the most demanding creative apps. Use Adobe® software with a pen or mouse."
    Again, hardly a feature. Everyone expects a Windows PC to run all Windows apps.
At the very least, Microsoft should give links to extra information for each of the key features.

Innovation

This section is just like the "Key Features" section. A bit of text with nothing to show for:
  • Meticulously crafted
    "Surface Book’s one-of-a-kind hinge folds and detaches to transform from laptop, to clipboard mode, and then into a creative canvas."
    No video or pictures showing how the hinge works. Personally, I think the hinge on the Lenovo Yoga Pro laptops look much better and you don't need to detach the screen to use it as a "canvas".
  • One click to Cortana
    "Click and hold the top of Surface Pen to activate Cortana, your truly personal digital assistant."
    Is there a special microphone in the pen that picks up your voice? Difficult to see why this one button is innovative.
  • One click to OneNote
    "With one click of Surface Pen, a blank OneNote page appears for quick notes."
    Shortcut keys are hardly innovative.
  • Rest your hand
    "With Palm Block technology you can rest your hand on the screen to write naturally, just like a pad of paper."
    No videos of this working to show to the "creative professional" how well it works. 
  • Detachable Keyboard
    "Surface Book uses Muscle Wire to hold its screen in place securely, while still allowing it to detach perfectly with the push of a button."
    How exactly does Muscle Wire work? What problem did it solve? How is this detachable keyboard better than the Surface Type Cover? This is one of the key selling points of Surface Book.
  • PixelSense™
    "Our PixelSense™is a true-to-life screen technology designed for beauty, touch and pen."
    No video explaining and describing what PixelSense is. This is one of the key selling points of Surface Book.
  • Natural writing experience
    "Surface Pen combines 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity with low latency for a real pen on paper feeling."
    No video demonstrating the natural writing experience.
This section was extremely underwhelming and lacks any innovation. The thought I'm left with is why the Surface Book laptop is any better than the Surface Pro tablet. I mean, the Surface Pro is marketed as "The tablet that can replace your laptop."

In Action

This section is supposed to showcase the use of Surface Book in real-life situations. Yet, all it has are a few stock images and a short sentences listing out some situations. No videos, pictures, or stories to illustrate and persuade the reader. Hopefully Microsoft will update their website with some nice multimedia.

Tech Specs

This section gives confusing technical details on the Surface Book. I know from looking at the Surface Book teaser on YouTube that the detachable keyboard contains some batteries, discrete graphics chip, and external ports. Unfortunately, the technical details provided in this section does not clearly delineate the hardware features that resides in the screen or in the keyboard. For example:
  • Weight
    "Starting at 3.34 pounds (1,516 grams) including keyboard"
    What about the weight of the screen? Will I be carrying around a 1kg screen?
  • Dimensions
    "12.30” x 9.14” x 0.51 - 0.90” (312.3mm x 232.1mm x 13.0 - 22.8mm)"
    How "thin" is the thin screen?
  • Battery life
    "Up to 12 hours of video playback"
    What is the battery life of the screen by itself? How much battery life is provided by the batteries in the keyboard?
  • Memory
    "8GB or 16GB RAM"
    Are all the memory located in the screen?
  • Ports
    "Two full-size USB 3.0,  Full-size SD™ card reader, SurfaceConnect, Headset jack, Mini DisplayPort"
    As far as I can see from the stock images, only the headset jack resides on the screen. All other ports reside on the keyboard. I think this is crippling because the screen cannot be used as a standalone tablet, like the Surface Pro.

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