Microsoft scheduled a release event yesterday.....and Apple showed up.
For me, it was an Apple fanboy-like experience, and over at Tablet PC Review I opined that we saw the "birth of the next Apple." If you haven't seen it, watch for the "reveal of the Surface Book" at the very end of Panos' one more thing moment. Perfect showmanship befitting the king of teh reality distortion field.
After a little overnight reflection, I wanted to take a minute for a more serious thought about why I didn't pre-order yesterday, for the benefit of any newbies and lurkers who are hanging around here.
Readers Digest version:
- Surface Book is stunning, but truly geared for those who crave a great laptop experience with occasional tablet functionality
- Surface Pro 4 - a nice evolution of the Surface Pro series, with great additions of 16gb RAM and 1tb SSD options, near perfect for first time buyers wanting a tablet that can stand in (pun intended) for an ultrabook
- Current Surface Pro 3 owners - not much reason to upgrade to SP4, especially if you have a higher end SP3 SKU (i5/8/256 or i7/8/512)
Microsoft held an Apple-like presentation yesterday and wowed the tech universe.
The "big surprise" and the star of the show was the Surface Book. The design is gorgeous; the specs are top of the line; the tablet alone is groundbreaking and adding the keyboard/base with discrete GPU is just brilliant. All of the specs and goodies of MacBook Pro, with touch, pen, and tablet built in. Apple has to be reeling a bit, especially the MacBook Pro team.
The Surface Pro 4 is a very good evolution of the Surface Pro line, especially the new top end SKU's (16gb RAM and 1tb SSD). A bit thinner, a bit lighter, and it looks to have much better cooling system between the fans and liquid cooling. Surprisingly, battery life is about the same as the SP3. The new "cabled" docking solution is a godsend, and it looks (and from reviewers, sounds) like it may be the best tablet keyboard ever. It is a great successor to the brand, but I just don't feel it is a compelling upgrade for SP3 users, unless you crave silence or more RAM/SSD space.
- Microsoft NOT specifying the CPU's and GPU's it is using, nor the benchmarks or other standards for their hyperbole - ripped directly from the Apple playbook
- No smart frame (guess we were all chasing ghosts)
- SP4 screen size is less than 1/2" bigger, but has even smaller pixels (old eyes say "enough already")
- No USB 3 Type C (really - there is plenty of room)*
- No Thunderbolt 3 (the shame, the shame)
- No optional LTE (really?)
The biggest downer was not replacing the mini-DP port with either a single Type C or Thunderbolt 3 port. Either could provide high quality external video PLUS a higher speed data connection. This is particularly a failure in the Surface Book where there is more than enough space for additional small ports. In fact, even Panos admitted that the SP4 was as thick as it is only for the need to keep a USB 3 port. I agree with that decision, but that doesn't excuse the absence of the better port - but his comment may be a mini-leak in itself that SP5 will be thinner because it can use thinner ports. Hope springs eternal.
The Net Result:
I stick by my emotional outbursts yesterday - we have witnessed the birth of the next Apple, but I am going to stand pat for now.
With the exception of the phones, the product line is the highest quality, best made, visually stunning, and highly functional Windows product line out there - every bit as compelling as the apple lineup. Hopefully they will announce a Surface phone in the near future to complete the circle. Here's also hoping next year's event brings Smart Frame (especially with a 15" version of the Surface Book) and Thunderbolt 3 (maybe they are just going to skip Type C altogether).
For me, on paper (on screen?) the SP4 is not enough of an upgrade to warrant dealing with eBay for now. I have ordered the new Type Cover, dock, and pen, but it is likely the pen will go back if it just duplicates the SP3 pen on our older tablet. For me, I love the thinness of the SP line over the thicker SB package. However, it is still the Surface Book that holds the most attraction - it's design aesthetic; great keyboard (according to every reviewer I've seen); discrete GPU; and split personality.
Later this week I'll grade my predictions (witht eh exception of the missing smart frame, I think I may have gotten a B).