Microsoft unveiled the Surface Book with Performance Base at their devices event in October 2016. While the tablet portion of the Surface Book remains unchanged, the base unit has picked up some significant upgrades and tweaks.
So, what is it?
The Surface Book with Performance Base is a 2016 refresh of Microsoft's ground-breaking 2-in-1 laptop. Like the original Surface Book, you can separate the screen from the base for "Clipboard mode" tablet use. You can even reverse the screen and lay it flat, making use of the fulcrum hinge to put the Surface Book into canvas mode, ideal for inking and digital art in programs like Sketchable and Photoshop.
As suggested by its clunky name, all the new features in the Surface Book with Performance Base are, well, in the base. The tablet portion of the device retains its dual-core configurations, up to a Skylake i7 processor, with up to 16GB of RAM packed into a gorgeous 3000x2000 PixelSense 267 PPI display.
The Performance Base includes an upgraded dedicated GPU, featuring a 2GB GDDR5 Nvidia 965M GPU. It also picks up a significant battery upgrade, rocking an advertised 16 hours of normal usage. The new base is also a little heavier and thicker than the previous, although while closed, it simply fills the previous Surface Book's "infamous" gap, keeping the overall size virtually the same.
The 2GB 965M d-GPU upgrade is a significant boost over the 1GB 940M GPU used in the older bases. You still won't be running DOOM on Ultra settings with this one, but the improvements should help keep the Surface Book keep pace with similar laptops out there.
Surface Book specs
|Operating System||Windows 10 Anniversary Update|
|Display Size||13.5-inch PixelSense Display|
|Display Resolution||3000x2000 (267 ppi)|
|Processor||6th Generation Intel Core i7 @2.6GHz (6600U)|
|RAM||8 or 16GB DDR3|
|Internal Storage||256GB, 512GB, or 1TB|
|Rear Camera||8MP with 1080P HD video|
|Front Camera||Windows Hello face-authentication & 5MP camera|
|Battery||Up to 16 hours|
|Dimensions as laptop||12.30 x 9.14 x 0.51 - 0.90 inches
312.3 x 232.1 x 13.0 - 22.8 mm
|Dimensions as tablet||8.67 x 12.3 x 0.30 inches|
|Weight as laptop||3.63 lbs. (1,647g)|
|Weight as tablet||1.6 lbs. (725g)|
|Price||Starts at $2,399
Max Config at $3,299
Our own Daniel Rubino reviewed the new base, praising its design, build quality and performance boosts.
"Microsoft has done an incredible job with the Surface Book with Performance Base. While it gains some weight and gets thicker in the middle, it still crushes the competition. If anything, the new Performance Base feels better to hold and use. The 965M GPU does wonders for mid-level gaming and graphic-intensive tasks."
"The downside is what comes next. Microsoft is expected to release a true Surface Book 2 sometime next year. There's little reason to doubt they won't include Kaby Lake, which brings improved battery life and a 10% bump in performance. We'll also likely see the inclusion of USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3."
Availability outside of the USA?
For now, the Surface Book with Performance Base is only available in the US. If the roll out of previous Surface devices is anything to go on, it will probably begin hitting other markets around February, initially with the UK and other European countries. By then, however, a Surface Book 2 might be looming on the horizon, begging the question...
Should you buy it?
For a maximum of $3,299, the Surface Book with Performance Base is not cheap. There are similar laptops on the market that have more powerful specs, at lower prices, but the Surface Book isn't your average laptop. And current Surface Book owners aren't getting the option to upgrade just the base of their machine — it's a full trade-out, even though there haven't been any changes to the tablet half of the equation.
When it comes to the Surface Book, you're paying not only for its touch screen with digital inking but also its 2-in-1 capabilities. The Surface Book is an incredible productivity device, serving creative individuals of all types, at all levels, with its versatility and power.
Not only that, but you're paying for premium build quality. It's the little things with the Surface Book. Heat dispensation, key travel, durability, and the general feel good factor that only expensive materials and engineering processes can muster.
Make sure to check out Daniel Rubino's full review for a more detailed analysis, but it's simply hard to not regard the Surface Book with Performance Base as one of, if not the greatest laptop on the market right now.
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