If you recall, a couple of weeks ago, Microsoft announced a Cloudbook primarily aimed at being a direct competitor to the Chromebook. Well, that announcement just became a reality. Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled the new Surface Laptop along with Microsoft Windows 10 S.
So what’s the deal with the Surface Laptop?
The Surface Laptop is essentially a 13.5-inch laptop that runs Windows 10S. What is Windows 10S, you ask? Well we’ll explain that a little later on. For now, let’s talk about the Surface Laptop. Priced at $999, the device is available in four colors: Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold. Weighing a little under 3 pounds, the Surface Laptop sports an aluminum finish to give it that premium look. In terms of hardware and specifications, the Surface Laptop sports either Intel’s latest Core i5 or Core i7 processor backed by 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Everything is soldered to the Motherboard so if you want more RAM or a larger SSD, you will have to buy the model with the exact requirements you need and upgrading later on is not possible.
Open the laptop and you’ll (literally) see a 13.5″ PixelSense display. The resolution here is a bit weird at 2256 x 1504 but then again it has a 3:2 aspect ratio much like the Surface Pro 4. The screen also supports Microsoft’s Surface Pen, which means you can actually draw on the display akin to other Surface devices. The other thing you would notice about the Surface Laptop is the keyboard. Its backlit and uses the same material (Alcantara fabric) that was used on the Surface Pro 4.
In terms of physical connectivity, you get a Surface connector for power and connections to docks on the right side of the Surface laptop. The left side houses a USB 2.0 port along with a mini DisplayPort and thankfully, a headphone jack. There’s no USB Type-C port though.
As for the battery, which is a key factor when it comes to laptops and ultraportables, Microsoft claims that the Surface Laptop will have 14.5 hours on the Windows 10 S. They also claim that you can put the Surface Laptop to sleep and resume it days later and it still would not have any battery drainage. We cannot verify the truth in this till we get a Surface Laptop ourselves though.
What Is Windows 10 S?
Simply put, Windows 10 S is the operating system that runs on the Surface Laptop. This is Microsoft’s answer to ChromeOS. Think of it as a modified, slightly lighter version of Windows 10. So what exactly does this stripped down version of Windows 10 bring to the table? For starters: better performance. This means a computer running Windows 10 S will be up and running in a mere 15 seconds. This is because while it’s built on the same foundation as Windows 10, it’s stripped down to the most essential of components. Thus making it more lightweight and compatible on lesser hardware configurations.
Windows 10 S being lightweight also translates to better battery life. Furthermore, Microsoft claims that Windows 10 S will also work with most third party devices. So you don’t have to worry about whether your mouse or printer will work with a PC running Windows 10 S. But what’s the catch here if this is a stripped down version of Windows? The catch is that you can only install apps from the Windows Store.
This essentially halves the amount of apps you can use on the Surface Laptop. For example, even running Chrome would not be possible. However, Microsoft has provided a solution for this, but you’re not going to like it. For $49, you can upgrade your version of Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro and proceed to use any and all apps, just like a regular laptop. Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro until the 31st of December 2017 along with 1 year of Office 365 Personal, but after that, you would have to pay $49.
Why Only Allows Apps from the App Store for Windows 10 S?
Well, according to Microsoft, it’s all about security. In Windows 10 S, apps that are installed are isolated from each other and from the Operating System itself. This ensures that none of the apps are making unauthorized changes to the operating system or installing and running unwanted background services.Furthermore, such services can have a drastic effect on battery life as they run even when a laptop is put to sleep. Nonetheless, this approach to apps does tend to have its fair share of disadvantages.
For example, even if you download a new browser, Microsoft’s Edge browser will still be the default and open all web pages even if you want to open them in another browser. The other disadvantage is the search itself. I strongly believe that Google is a far superior search engine to Bing but with Windows 10 S, the default search engine I for both Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer is Bing. And it cannot be changed. If you want to change it, you will have to upgrade your version of Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro. Therein lies the other catch. If, for whatever reason, you need to switch back to Windows 10 S, you cannot. This is due to the App isolation that I explained above.
It makes sense though
Then again, Microsoft is targeting the Chromebook and as such, the somewhat closed environment of Windows 10 S (similar to that of the Chromebook) makes sense as it offers better security, a suite of educational tools such as Office 365 Personal and more importantly improved battery life. Given the fact that you can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free till December 2017, I actually see no reason to complain about Windows 10 S.
If you are a student using the Surface Laptop and the functionality that you need is present in Windows 10 S, then by all means you can stick to it, else you can always upgrade. If, for example, you’re getting the Surface Laptop from abroad via friend or relative, as a Christmas Gift, you can always ask them to upgrade the Operating System to Windows 10 Pro before the deadline in order to get all the functionality you could possibly need.
Microsoft is starting preorders for the Surface Laptop from today and shipping starts on the 15th of June 2017. You can head over here to see more about the Surface Laptop.
Are you planning on getting a Surface Laptop? What are your thoughts on Windows 10 S? Leave a comment below.