Microsoft Continues to Innovate Portable Computing

Microsoft recently announced the newest in their line of Microsoft-branded computers. They’ve updated the Surface Pro to model number 4, and they’ve come out with the Surface Book, which is a larger, beefier, more powerful machine that looks more like a laptop than the other Surface models.

It seems that most laptops these days have touch screens, and tablets are everywhere. But convertible machines where the screen detaches and can be used as its own thing with a sophisticated, pressure-sensitive stylus are not the norm. I’m very glad to be seeing Microsoft think outside the box. And for people solidly in the PC world, these new offerings expand their purchasing options.

Compared with the Surface Pro 3, the new Surface Pro 4 has a higher screen resolution, a slightly larger screen, is a little bit lighter, more and higher storage and memory options, a better rear-facing camera, and comes with Windows 10. You can see complete specs on the Microsoft website.

If you want a larger, more versatile computing experience, the Surface Book has a bigger screen than the Surface Pro 4 (at 13.5″ compared with the Surface Pro 4’s 12.3″), and a much sturdier keyboard with a better attachment mechanism. It’s less like a nice tablet with a minimal keyboard and more like an actual laptop. The Surface Pro has a kickstand on the back for propping up, without a semi-rigid hinge. It’s tough to use on your lap unless your legs are very long (mine aren’t). But the Surface Book has a hinge that is more of what you’d expect from a laptop, even though the tablet portion is still removable from the base. Check out its specs.

On either model, the tablet can be used on its own, paired with the keyboard portion for a laptop experience, or flipped around, with the keyboard portion behind the screen. Both function as full laptops and generously sized tablets. With each, you can use a mouse, the pen, or your fingers. Kind of the best of all worlds, I think. I have a Surface Pro 3, which has to be one of my favorite portable devices that I’ve used. But it’s difficult to use when you’re working without a table. The Surface Book solves that problem, though with the much heftier price tag. Still, with its 6th Generation Intel Core i5 or i7 chip and solid state storage, this could serve as your only machine, stable for travel and flexible for home use as well.

Both of these new devices come with the Surface Pen, which is a precision, Bluetooth-enabled stylus. There’s no bubble on the end, but rather a firm point. The screen senses when the pen is near the screen, so you’re even able to rest your hand on the screen as you draw or write. Click the button on the “eraser” end once, and bring up Microsoft OneNote, ready for you to write or draw. Double click to make a screen capture. Click and hold to bring up Cortana.

Both the Surface Book and the Surface Pro 4 come in many different model levels, fitting many budgets, though the top end ones are quite pricey. Regardless, I really like the direction that portable computing is going. Consumers are getting more and more options to choose from, so they can pick a machine that fits their needs and lifestyle.

Note: As part of the Microsoft Bloggers program, I have occasionally been provided hardware and software for review, but the views expressed in these posts are my honest opinions about the subjects involved.

Jenny Bristol is an Editor at GeekDad and a founding Director at GeekMom. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, losing herself in history, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.