With the exception of gaming laptops, the traditional laptop has become quite boring. Hey, look: it’s another system backfiring! These glasses are slightly thinner! You know the chorus.
But the Surface Laptop is a laptop that looks – and feels – really different.
The most innovative aspect of Microsoft’s new creation is the way it uses Alcantara fabric around the keyboard. It’s soft and much more comfortable than your typical hard metal wrist rest. I immediately noticed this glaring difference when I first typed on the Surface Laptop.
In an interview with Laptop Mag, Peter Kyriacou, program manager for the Surface team at Microsoft, explained why the company chose to use this material for the new laptop.
“We wanted to create a personal laptop, something that invites you in and is soft and warm to use,” Kyriacou said. “It was the first step.”
This is not the first time that Microsoft has used this fabric; it’s also found on the Signature Type Cover for the Surface Pro 4. “We’ve learned how the material works and processed it to be part of the Surface Laptop,” Kyriacou told Laptop Mag. This time around, the Surface team has evolved and refined the “feel” while expanding the color offerings, he said.
Worried about stains? The Alcantara coated keyboard is treated with a polyurethane coating, designed to make it a little easier to clean and more durable. Kyriacou told us that you can easily maintain the fabric by wiping it regularly with a damp, lint-free cloth.
The folks at VentureBeat tested the Alcantera keyboard for the Surface Pro and found it to hold up well to pizza and wine. It can skip the coffee too, but only if you wipe it up right away.
FOLLOWING: Microsoft Surface Laptop vs Surface Book: Which One is Right for You?
The second step to personalizing the Surface Laptop was to offer a variety of colors. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay $ 300 more than the base model to go beyond the platinum blah hue to get your hands on the cobalt blue, graphite gold, or burgundy models. But I really like how the anodized aluminum cover and bottom matches the fabric deck, making it a nice 360 degree design.
“The Alcantara is device-friendly, and it’s something we’ve worked closely with Alcantara to make our products,” Kyriacou said.
The sight of silence
Another defining feature of the Surface Laptop is what you can’t see. The designers have taken care to ensure that all seams and screws remain hidden. That’s why Microsoft calls it a “silent design”.
“We believe that the hardware should disappear in the background and have no distractions for the user,” Kyriacou said. “You will notice in this design that the glass is optically aligned directly into the aluminum top and there is no break in the fabric.”
Microsoft took a similar approach when designing the Surface Pro, and based on that knowledge, developed a special process that laminates the fabric on the chassis.
It was just as important for the team to make sure the Surface Laptop stays cool under pressure. Microsoft has designed a thermal cooling system that allows the Surface Laptop to run a full dual-core processor at peak performance.
“We integrated the thermal vapor chambers into the lower chassis of the laptop, engineering the heat quickly as the vapor inside changes state,” Kyriacou said.
What is missing
Despite these innovative components, there are some things we don’t like about the design of the Surface Laptop. For example, you don’t get a USB Type-C port or Thunderbolt 3 connection, which many high-end laptops have these days.
Microsoft defended the move citing confusion around standard and quality control issues related to the multitude of devices.
“While we see the industry trend towards USB-C, the promise of consistency and efficiency isn’t quite there,” Kyriacou said. “Customers should always carry dongles and may find themselves in situations where certain cables and power supplies will not work with their device. “
Instead, Microsoft decided to continue with its Surface Connect port, which offers power, video, and data. It’s a port the company uses from the Surface Pro 3.
Microsoft also omitted an SD card slot in the Surface Laptop – an omission that may embarrass some buyers. This means that you will not be able to easily transfer photos from a digital camera. But Kyriacou said that wasn’t even a consideration for this device, naming the Surface Book as the right machine for mobile professionals who need the option.
Finally, the Surface Laptop screen doesn’t fully fold like convertibles like Lenovo’s Yoga 910. The screen doesn’t even lay flat when folded up, even though it’s a touchscreen. You are limited to 135 degrees, instead of the 180 degrees offered by other machines.
For students or the masses?
So who should buy the Surface Laptop? Obviously, Microsoft is targeting students, which is why the company is putting so much emphasis on the streamlined but limited Windows 10 S operating system. But Microsoft also believes the Surface Laptop has mass appeal.
Microsoft knows this from experience, as the appeal of the Surface Pro and Surface Book extends beyond the target buyer. “They have an audience that we focused on, but there are a lot of people who love them,” Kyriacou said. “It fits in well with the family in general.”
But that doesn’t mean the Surface Laptop fits in with the tons of other laptops lining store shelves. In fact, that’s exactly why it could be this year’s go-to Windows machine.