All posts in “Surface”

You may want to hold off buying that Microsoft Surface

Yikes! You should probably hold off on that Microsoft Surface purchase you’re thinking about, and hopefully you haven’t already been swindled.

Consumer Reports announced Thursday it’s withdrawing its coveted “recommendation” badge from four Microsoft Surface laptops that were previously blessed with the recognition.

The reason: It estimates about 25 percent of Surface computers will break within two years of ownership — an abysmal rate of reliability compared to other popular laptops and tablets.

The non-profit publication surveyed more than 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and discovered that about 25 percent of the sample who owned Microsoft Surface devices were presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.”

Brutal. So that means that if you buy a base price Microsoft Surface Laptop for $1,000, you’re basically paying about $41 per month to use it before it breaks. Compare that to comparable devices like the MacBook or even Razer Blade, and frankly, it’s just kind of sad.

However, keep in mind that there’s no way the survey could take into account Surface products made in the last two years. The new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop as well as the latest Surface Book are all less than two years old. Even the first Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 haven’t yet had their second birthdays. Mashable gave favorable reviews to all of those products, and the ones we’ve used for extended periods have held up.

In response to a query from Mashable, a Microsoft spokesperson responded, “While we respect Consumer Reports, we disagree with their findings. Microsoft’s real-world return and support rates and customer satisfaction data show we are on par if not better than other devices in the category. We stand firmly behind the quality and reliability of the Surface family of devices and continue to make quality our primary focus.”

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Surface Laptop lets you restore back to Windows 10 S if you suddenly decide you hate apps

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Good news — no great news — the one thing that crippled Microsoft’s first laptop, the Surface Laptop, is no more.

As we said in our review, Windows 10 S and the fact that it only lets you install apps from the Windows Store (there’s no Chrome!) is too restrictive, and anybody who buys a Surface Laptop should immediately upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

The downside to upgrading from 10 S to 10 Pro was that you couldn’t revert or “downgrade” back if you changed your mind later. Microsoft’s now reversed that somewhat hostile stance.

Less than week after releasing the Surface Laptop, Microsoft’s provided a “recovery image” for owners to effectively revert back to Windows 10 S if they made the upgrade to 10 Pro.

It’s a nice token for Surface Laptop owners, but it’s also not as simple as clicking a button. To get your machine running Windows 10 S again, you’ll need to perform a factory reset, which means it’ll erase everything. So you’ll want to backup your data onto an external hard drive or to the cloud before doing so.

You can find both the recovery image and instructions on how to restore your Surface Laptop to Windows 10 S on Microsoft’s website.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is one of the best Windows 10 laptops you can buy and a solid alternative to Apple’s MacBook Pro.

It’s got a high-res touchscreen, a keyboard wrapped in Alcantara fabric that doesn’t feel like you’re typing on a table, all-day battery life, and a full-sized USB 3.0 port so you can live a dongle-free life.

Surface Laptop owners can upgrade their machines from 10 S to 10 Pro for free until the end of the year. After that, it’s $50 for the upgrade, and will presumably cost you each time you want to upgrade again after factory resetting back to Windows 10 S. Although, it’s possible you could save your Windows 10 Pro license and reuse it later. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to clarify the upgrade fee after performing a factory reset.

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Microsoft’s slick new keyboard comes with a fingerprint sensor built in

Your next keyboard could have a fingerprint scanner built right into it.

Microsoft has put up product pages for two new Surface accessories – the Modern Keyboard and the Modern Mouse

For the new Modern Keyboard, the company has built a fingerprint reader right into the keyboard, similar to Apple’s offering on the Macbook Pro. The fingerprint scanner looks like any other key, is located between Alt and Ctrl keys on the keyboard, and gives users a new way to log into their Surface devices.

The built-in fingerprint scanner is just one of many ways users can log into their devices. Microsoft also currently offers a tool called Windows Hello, which allows users to log in with facial, iris, or fingerprint recognition.

Microsoft called the aluminum keyboard “virtually indestructible.” The keyboard works with Bluetooth and can also be connected directly. It’s compatible with Windows 10, 8.1 and 8, the Windows 10 phone, Android 4.4.2-5.0, Mac OS 10.10.5,Mac OS 10.10.5/10.11.1, and 10.11.4 and iOS8.1-9.2.1. The devices must support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher.

Two AAA rechargeable batteries are included, which give the keyboard a battery life of up to 2 months on full charge. The keyboard weighs 14.8 ounces.

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The Modern Keyboard isn’t the company’s only upgraded accessory. The Modern Mouse uses Bluetooth 4.0 as well and is an aesthetic upgrade from the company’s previous offerings.

Modern Mouse

Modern Mouse

Image: microsoft

The Modern Mouse will retail for $49.99 and the Modern Keyboard will be $129.99. Both devices are “coming soon“ with no other information from Microsoft.

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How Microsoft built a hardware empire with Surface

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

The Microsoft Surface line has grown a lot in the five years since its debut. It now encompasses the Surface Pro tablet, Surface Book convertible, Surface Studio all-in-one, Surface Hub digital “whiteboard,” and the brand-new Surface Laptop.

The man in charge of it all: Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Surface Computing.

Panay paid a visit to the MashTalk studio this week, and we took the opportunity to ask him about a few Surface facts that piqued our curiosity — and one or two that were irking us —about the Surface line.

Microsoft Surface boss Panos Panay.

Microsoft Surface boss Panos Panay.

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

Panay opened up about about the history of the Surface, going all the way back to before it was a consumer product (the name was first attached to Microsoft’s giant touchscreen tabletop, meant for retailers and restaurants). Starting with the 2012 unveiling of the first tablet, Panay gave us the inside story on how Microsoft built its own high-end hardware empire, revealed some insight into why it took so long for the company to build an actual laptop, and finally explained why they don’t just bundle the Surface Pro with a frickin’ keyboard already.

Also, will we ever see a Surface phone? Panay’s answer is … unsurprising.

Please subscribe to MashTalk on iTunes and give us a review if you have a sec. Feel free to hit us with questions and comments by tweeting to @Mash_Talk or attaching the #MashTalk hashtag. We welcome all feedback.

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Microsoft’s Surface Laptop comes with one big suck, but it’s easily fixable

Like so many students, the very first laptop I had was a MacBook (the plastic one, not the new 2-pounder). I bought it in the summer of 2007 after finishing my first year of college, and it lasted until I graduated.

I loved the machine even though it weighed a hefty five pounds and was an inch thick. It’s a tank by today’s thin and light laptop standards, but you have to remember something: Back then, a one-inch thick machine was the definition of thin.

Steve Jobs wouldn’t famously pull the MacBook Air out of a manila envelope until a year later, and the laptop wouldn’t go on to become the most popular laptop until 2010 when it got a redesign with more ports.

In the last decade, MacBooks have morphed into the gold standard. They’re still more expensive and underpowered compared to Windows laptops, but for students and professionals, Apple’s machines expertly balance style and performance.

Chromebooks are also a popular option for many students, but their inability to run many “real” apps outside of Google Docs, underpowered web apps, and Android apps (if your machine supports them), makes them less viable for many college students (at least according to the dozen or so that I asked).

Apple’s MacBook domination on campuses and in Starbucks is arguably the strongest case for why Microsoft’s first clamshell laptop, the Surface Laptop, exists. 

Unmistakably Surface-y

The Surface Laptop is made of durable aluminum.

The Surface Laptop is made of durable aluminum.

Image: lili sams/mashable

The Surface Laptop builds on the Surface Pro’s success. Although the Surface Pro was never meant to sell in volume — it’s mostly an aspirational reference design meant to nudge PC makers towards Microsoft’s 2-in-1 vision — it has helped ingrain this idea that Microsoft is an underdog that builds hardware Apple won’t.

Just like how you know an Apple product when you see one, the same goes for Microsoft’s entire lineup of Surface devices.

The Surface Laptop is a very handsome machine. It comes in silver, gold, blue, and burgundy — all very attractive colors. The 2.76 pound laptop is lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and thinner, too.

Its aluminum body is sturdy and sits firmly on a table or on your lap. The Surface Laptop has a wedge-shaped design and flaunts it hard; you won’t find rounded tapers to create the illusion that its thinner.

You only get one USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, and headphone jack. Woulda been nice to get two USBs.

You only get one USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, and headphone jack. Woulda been nice to get two USBs.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

Most of its ports (USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, and headphone jack) sit on the left side. On the right side is a lone SurfaceConnect magnetic plug. I appreciate the full-sized USB 3.0 port, but one just isn’t enough; a second one would have been great, or at least one USB-C port. There’s also no SD card slot (a trend I don’t like), which basically means students will need to buy a separate memory card reader or a USB hub to get more ports. Even though Microsoft thinks USB-C isn’t ready for primetime, you’ll probably still end up in #donglehell.

That's not an SD card slot. It's the SurfaceConnect magnetic charging port.

That’s not an SD card slot. It’s the SurfaceConnect magnetic charging port.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The number of ports may be a little lacking, but the screen, keyboard and trackpad are sublime.

The 13.5-inch PixelSense touchscreen (2,256 x 1,504 resolution) has super slim bezels around it, and it’s covered with scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3. I found the screen both remarkably sharp and bright, and incredibly responsive. 

The touchscreen is excellent.

The touchscreen is excellent.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

I used to feel touchscreens on a laptop were silly, especially on Windows machines, which have tiny icons not designed for fingers, but I now really like them. “Gorilla arm” isn’t really an issue since you’re not using the touchscreen all the time, only sometimes. It’s a shame Apple thinks touchscreens are wrong for Macs. My only qualm with the touchscreen is how it wobbles when you poke at it, but that’s a necessary concession to get the screen so thin.

Hate the MacBook's flat keyboard? Surface Laptop's keys are superb.

Hate the MacBook’s flat keyboard? Surface Laptop’s keys are superb.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The keyboard and trackpad are some of the best I’ve ever used on a laptop. If you’ve typed on a Surface Pro or Surface Book, you’ll know how bouncy the keys are — the Surface Laptop’s keys with 1.5mm travel are satisfying and the opposite of the flat-as-hell keys on Apple’s MacBooks (the Air’s still got the old keys, though). 

Likewise, the trackpad is exceptionally smooth and nearly on par with a MacBook’s. That Microsoft can make a great trackpad only upsets me more that PC makers like HP and Lenovo still can’t get their shit together.

It looks great now, but how well will the Alcantara fabric hold up over time?

It looks great now, but how well will the Alcantara fabric hold up over time?

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The most eye-catching thing about the keyboard and trackpad is, of course, the Alcantara fabric that surrounds it. The soft touch material is indeed soft and really keeps your fingers warm when you’re typing and scrolling. Microsoft says the material’s got a “polyurethane covering for durability, including water and chemical resistance.” 

I’m not sure how well the Alcantara cover will hold up to years of Cheetos dust, Red Bull spills, and whatever other gross things it may come into contact with in a dorm room. But I can tell you the edges on my review unit started to fray a little after a week in my bag.

I tested the $1,299 model with 7th-gen Intel Core Intel Core i5-7200U, Intel HD 620 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage, and it powered through like a real champ. 

I wasn’t gaming on it or anything (mostly web browsing, typing, and streaming Netflix and YouTube videos) — just typical college student stuff — but even so it never chugged. I can’t speak for the 4GB model, though. But based on my past experience testing laptops with 4GB of RAM I can tell you they bottleneck very quickly.

Walled in

The Surface Laptop runs Windows 10 S. It’s Windows 10, but with one huge caveat: You can only install apps from the Windows Store. In this regard, Windows 10 S is basically like iOS.

Microsoft gives a few reasons for why Windows 10 S is better for students. One, it’s safer. Barring users from downloading and installing apps (from who knows where) means fewer virus-infested machines. Two, allowing Windows Store-approved apps improves performance and battery life. And three, Windows 10 S computers are easier to manage by network admins who want to quickly deploy a specific version and set of apps to devices.

You’d be stupid to say no to security and better performance, but are they worth restricting yourself to apps only in the Windows Store?

For me, the answer is no. I need Chrome for work and I use many apps that aren’t available in the Windows Store. But I’m not the target audience — students are — so I asked a bunch of my friends’ siblings who are in high school or college. 

What happens when you search for Chrome (it doesn't exist) n the Windows Store.

What happens when you search for Chrome (it doesn’t exist) n the Windows Store.

Image: screenshot: raymond wong/mashable

No surprise, all of them gave Windows 10 S’s huge app restriction a thumbs down. Sure, Windows 10 S runs Office 365, Google Docs works just fine in Edge, and you’ll find some popular apps like Netflix, VLC Player, but if you want, for example, Adobe’s Create Suite (Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere, etc.) or even another web browser, you’re totally screwed unless the app makes it into the Windows Store.

You could probably find alternative apps, but college students often use custom apps that come with their textbooks — none of which will work on the Surface Laptop unless… you upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Students I asked all gave Windows 10 S’s huge app restriction a thumbs down.

Surface Laptop owners can upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro and basically remove the Windows Store-only apps restriction until December 31, 2017. After that, upgrading will cost $50. 

But while upgrading to Windows 10 Pro will “un-cripple” the Surface Laptop (there’s no going back to Windows 10 S), it comes at the expense of the aforementioned advantages.

You could argue that there’s no such thing as a truly secure computer — it’ll always be a cat and mouse game between Microsoft and hackers — and no laptop truly gets all-day battery life with real-world usage (I got around 6-8 hours of mixed usage; Microsoft advertises up to 14.5 hours of local video playback), and I agree.

How’s a student supposed to pick? I say be fearless and just upgrade. The Surface Laptop doesn’t get significantly slower and the power adapter’s compact enough to lug around. It’s not like it’s 2005 and laptops only get two hours of battery life on a single charge.

Making a decision

Surface Laptop might be the best alternative to the MacBook Air/Pro.

Surface Laptop might be the best alternative to the MacBook Air/Pro.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The Surface Laptop can be summed up in a single word: finally.

After years of beating the 2-in-1 drum, Microsoft’s finally made a laptop that’s a real laptop through and through (sorry, but the Surface Pro isn’t a laptop if the keyboard isn’t included).

The Surface Laptop starts at $999, but nobody should buy this model; 4GB of RAM won’t get anyone very far. Which means the lowest-priced model to consider is the $1,299 version I tested. (Don’t forget to add $50 to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro if you miss the cutoff by the end of year.)

A $999 MacBook Air (2017) gets you more ports and double the RAM, but also a lower non-touch display and punier graphics. The new $1,299 MacBook Pro (non-Touch Bar) is a more comparable machine, and it’s got the better specs for the same money (without a touchscreen, of course).

It’s a tough call. How important is a touchscreen to you?

For a first laptop, Microsoft got a lot right. It’s not perfect (no laptop is), but it’s damn close and it’s still one of the better Windows 10 laptops that I actually wanted to keep using because the hardware is so nice. 

But if you buy one, do your self a favor and upgrade to Windows 10 Pro ASAP.

Microsoft Surface Laptop

The Good

Bright, high-res touchscreen Fantastic keyboard and trackpad Speedy performance Great battery life

The Bad

Apps restricted to Windows Store unless you upgrade to 10 Pro No SD card slot No USB-C port $50 to upgrade to Win 10 Pro in 2018

The Bottom Line

Microsoft’s first laptop is a winner, but only if you upgrade it.

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