Microsoft’s latest Surface is a laptop… cleverly called the Surface Laptop. It’s a thin and light computer with a 13.5 inch PixelSense display, Alcantara fabric covering the palm rest and and keyboard area, and it’s designed to be easy to open the lid with a single finger.
Oh yeah, and it runs Windows 10 S and Microsoft is positioning the Surface Laptop as a computer for students, promising that it will last a college student from day one of orientation to graduation.
While some Windows 10S systems are expected to sell for as little as $189, the Surface Laptop is a premium device: prices start at $999 for a model with a Core i5 Kaby Lake processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of solid state storage.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop goes up for pre-order today, and it should be available starting June 15th.
Microsoft will offer models with up to a Core i7 processor with Intel Iris Plus graphics, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of PCIe storage (although I currently only see options for up to 512GB on the Microsoft Store website).
The storage is integrated on the motherboard. That means the storage won’t be upgradeable, but Microsoft says the advantage is that the SSD uses less power, helping ensure long battery life (up to 14.5 hours).
Microsoft says the Surface Laptop has the thinnest touchscreen LCD module on any laptop and it also supports the Surface Pen for writing or drawing. The Surface Dial is also compatible with the laptop. Both accessories are sold separately though, neither comes with the laptop.
The notebook measures about 14.5mm thick, weighs 2.76 pounds, and comes in burgundy, gold, blue, or platinum color options.
The Surface Laptop has a 2,256 x 1504 pixel touchscreen display with Corning Gorilla Glass, and Microsoft will offer models with a Core i5-7200U or unspecified Core i7 processor (although the fact that the Core i7 version has Iris Plus 640 graphics suggests it’ll be a Core i7-6570U chip).
Microsoft says the Core i7 model offers better performance and longer battery life than a MacBook Pro (although it’s best to take that with a grain of salt until the company explains how it measured those things… or we start to see third-party tests).
The notebook features integrated vapor chambers shaped as heat pipes and integrated into the aluminum back panel to help keep the system cool. The keyboard features 1.5mm key travel and backlit keys.
The speakers are integrated into the keyboard, with sound pushed up through the Alcantara fabric, so you won’t see any speaker grilles, but sound should be loud and clear.
A few more specs: the notebook measures 12.13″ x 8.79″ x 0.57″, has an aluminum case, features 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, and has headset, mini DisplayPort, and USB 3.0 ports. There’s an ambient light sensor, stereo microphones, and a 720p HD webcam with support for Windows Hello face sign-in.
Microsoft says Windows 10 S offers speedy performance, quick book and resume times, and tighter security than you’d get from the full version of Windows 10. But users can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro because the hardware should be compatible with it.
All told, if Windows 10 S is Microsoft’s answer to Google’s Chrome OS, the Surface Laptop is the company’s response to the Google Chromebook Pixel. It’s a premium notebook with hardware designed to best show off the hardware. Microsoft is taking a page out of Google’s book and leaving it up to third-party device makers to offer cheaper models for folks that don’t want a premium experience.
The move makes sense when you consider that neither Google nor Microsoft want to really compete with third-party hardware makers, because the companies rely on those partners to sell the bulk of products running Chrome OS, Android, or Windows software.
But in Microsoft’s case, this is a bit of a gamble: the Surface Laptop will be one of the first devices to ship with Windows 10 S, an unproven platform. One sure way to make it more attractive to first-time users would have been to offer an affordable Surface product that comes with the OS. Priced at $999 and up, it’s likely that the Surface Laptop won’t appeal to education customers or folks that aren’t die-hard Windows fans… or perhaps customers who plan to upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro.
At today’s pres event, Microsoft officials made it clear that you can “switch” to Windows 10 Pro, but didn’t touch on one key thing: how much you’ll have to pay to do that.
Update: The upgrade is free for all Surface Laptop users if they switch to Windows 10 Pro before the end of the year. After that, an upgrade will cost $50. Customers also get a free 1-year subscription to Office 365.
Another thing to keep in mind? While prices start at $999, the can climb as high as $2199 if you want a model with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and Intel Iris Plus 640 graphics.