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My month with the Surface Book i7 with Performance Base

Sarah K. White | Jan. 13, 2017
After using the Surface Book i7 with Performance Base every day for a month, senior writer Sarah K. White offers her impressions.

The size and form factor are what would prevent the Surface Book from replacing my need for another device. But that's because my average workday consists of a steady Wi-Fi connection, the Microsoft Suite, Slack and, on rare occasion, Adobe Photoshop Elements. For me, carrying this updated Surface Book i7 on a work trip would feel excessive. I just don't need that level of performance on an average day and it would be too expensive to replace if stolen or damaged.

If I needed to use 3D software or other high-powered design and editing software as part of my job, I I would be excited to travel with the Surface Book. It's certainly light and compact for someone who needs that level of performance, but for the average business user, or at least in my case, the Surface Pro 4 offers more than enough in a smaller package.

It's not a tablet

There's always a caveat to hybrid devices; they promise you both a tablet and notebook experience, but the truth is that they always fit more into one category. With its built-in trackpad and full Windows 10 OS, the Surface Pro 4 feels more like a notebook, while the iPad Pro, running iOS 10 and lacking a track pad, feels more like a tablet. They each fit different needs -- some people need a notebook more often than a tablet and vice versa.

While the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4 share more overlap in each category, the Surface Book is almost entirely a notebook that happens to have a detachable display. Without the keyboard dock, the tablet feels cumbersome and, since it lacks the kickstand on the Surface Pro 4, you can't just prop it up.

Personally, I haven't found a need to use the Surface Book display as a tablet, and the same goes for my HP Spectre x360. I rarely find myself using either device in tablet mode, but I do frequently interact with the touch displays. I can see how if you were an artist, designer or worked in the field, the detachable display might be a bonus when combined with the Surface Pen. But for my personal needs, I'd be more inclined to reach for my iPad Air 2 or Surface Pro 4 before the Surface Book display.

The little things

There are so many minimal, thoughtful features that stand out on the Surface Book. The design is unique -- and love or hate the hinge, it's still a sleek device. Most of all, I appreciate that Microsoft nods to the industrial-chic design popularized by Apple without mimicking it the way other manufacturers have.

Beyond the overall design, I also can't say enough good things about the Surface Book keyboard -- an often-overlooked feature on notebooks. It has the perfect key travel and the chiclet keys are spaced out just enough to make it comfortable to type. The Surface Book's trackpad offers just the right amount of responsiveness, especially compared to the hyper-sensitive trackpad on my HP Spectre x360.


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