Microsoft's Surface Laptop feels beautiful

Microsoft finally made a real laptop, and it’s beautiful. I got a chance to get a closer look at the new Surface Laptop during Microsoft’s event in New York City, and I’m impressed. This could be the laptop I've been waiting for Microsoft to create. The Surface Book was always a little too top-heavy and chunky, but this new Surface Laptop is under three pounds and feels high end, thanks to its aluminum finish and design. Microsoft has made some interesting hardware choices here, and they genuinely add up to an impressive Windows laptop at first glance.

The first thing I noticed about the Surface Laptop is that you can open it with a single hand. That might not sound impressive, but it’s one of the most irritating experiences you’ll notice across a range of laptops these days. You try to open a device to work and it jumps around on the table. The Surface Laptop just stays still, as if it’s bolted to the desk. Once I started typing I also immediately felt the alcantara fabric that surrounds the keys and trackpad. Microsoft’s Panos Panay wasn’t joking when he said it feels warm. It’s an unusual fabric to have on a laptop; it feels like glowing leather underneath your palms. My only concern will be liquid and food spillages, but it seems to be coated in a way that it’s probably not an issue. We’ll see when we review the Surface Laptop.

Inside the Surface Laptop on the base model, which will debut on June 15th priced at $999, is Intel’s latest Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD. Microsoft is using a 13.5-inch PixelSense display, running at a 2256 x 1504 resolution, along with support for the Surface Pen and touch. It’s a 3:2 aspect ratio, so it looks just like a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book display. I noticed there's still a little bit of screen wobble when you touch the display, like most Windows laptops, but the hinge and body of the laptop feel study otherwise. Microsoft has made the Surface Laptop display look like it’s glued directly to the keyboard without a hinge, thanks to a repositioning of the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas.

That repositioning creates the only ugly part of the Surface Laptop design in my opinion. There are antenna lines on each side of the Surface Laptop, just like you’d find on smartphones like the iPhone 7. On the right-hand side there’s a Surface connector for power and connections to docks, and on the left there’s a regular USB port, a mini DisplayPort, and a headphone jack. Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn’t added USB-C here, and that’s disappointing given that the majority of high-end laptops are shipping with at least one USB-C port.

Microsoft is claiming battery life will be 14.5 hours on the Windows 10 S, and that you’ll be able to put the device to sleep and resume it days later without any loss of battery. Windows 10 S is the operating system that powers the Surface Laptop, and it’s designed to only run apps from the Windows Store, which means traditional desktop apps will need to be specially packaged to work with the Surface Laptop. If you want to use Chrome, you’ll have to wait for Google to list it in the Windows Store, or pay $49 to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro and unlock every desktop app.

An extra $49 for the functionality you’d expect from a Windows laptop seems like a bad idea from Microsoft. Fortunately, Microsoft is allowing potential Surface Laptop owners to avoid the fee until the end of the year, and throwing Office 365 Personal in for free so it should be a non-issue for early adopters, at least.

Operating system aside, I love the design of this Surface Laptop. I rarely get impressed by Windows laptops, unless they do something truly unique. Microsoft hasn’t done anything unique here to change the idea of a laptop, but it’s clear the company has focused on what actually matters. The keyboard and trackpad feel great, the display looks crisp, and it’s all packaged into a design that looks and feels beautiful. I’m excited to review the Surface Laptop, and if Microsoft’s battery life claims are accurate then this could be the Windows laptop I've been waiting for.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Microsoft unveils $999 Surface Laptop running Windows 10 S

Microsoft is launching a new Surface-branded device today: the Surface Laptop. While the device leaked last night, Microsoft's devices chief Panos Panay came onstage at the company's New York City event to unveil it officially today. It's a 13.5-inch laptop that's designed to work with the company's new Windows 10 S operating system.

Panay says Microsoft has focused this hardware on students who are just about to leave high schools. "We talk to a lot of them... they're asking for a laptop, they're asking for a Surface laptop," says Panay. "So we built a laptop, and it's beautiful."

Microsoft's true Surface Laptop uses a fabric alcantara keyboard just like its premium Surface Pro 4 keyboard, with a 1.5mm travel for the backlit keys. A teaser video for the device shows it's clearly designed to be a high-end device to promote this new Windows 10 S operating system. As it runs Windows 10 S, the only apps available will be from the Windows Store unless you opt to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

The Surface Laptop is a clamshell device, a true laptop unlike the Surface Book 2-in-1. As is tradition, Panos Panay handed out the Surface Laptop to an audience member to demonstrate the new burgundy color. The Surface Laptop will ship in four colors: platinum, burgundy, cobalt blue, and graphite gold, and it's under three pounds in weight.

Microsoft is using a 13.5-inch PixelSense display with a 3:2 aspect ratio. "This is the thinnest LCD touch model ever created and put into a laptop," says Panay, complete with 3.4 million pixels. The screen even supports Microsoft's Surface Pen, so you can draw on the display just like other Surface devices.

"The performance on this device is absolutely amazing," says Panay. Microsoft is using the latest Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, and claims the battery life will last for 14.5 hours as a result. Microsoft claims the Surface Laptop is faster than the i7 MacBook Pro, and it has "more battery life than any MacBook Air on the market today."

Microsoft has integrated vapor chambers into the aluminum finish on the rear of the device to help keep the Surface Laptop cool. "It allows us to pack everything we need in there," says Panay. There are no speaker grilles or holes, and Microsoft has integrated the speakers underneath the keyboard so the sound comes from under your fingers.

Microsoft is starting preorders for the Surface Laptop today, priced starting at $999 for the Core i5 version with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. The Surface Laptop will start shipping on June 15th.

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