The world was again in awe of Microsoft’s new foray into hardware with their new Surface Laptop; it’s supposed Chromebook killer. Loaded with the laptop is Microsoft’s new Windows 10 variant, Windows 10 S, not Windows 10 Cloud. According to Microsoft, the Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S are meant for the education market. However, unlike the Chromebooks they’re supposed to compete with, the Surface Laptops are pricey starting at $999. But fear not, Microsoft’s OEM partners are also on board with Windows 10 S with less pricey hardware of their own.
Let’s first discuss the Surface Laptop and what makes it different from the Surface Pro and Surface Book. First off, the Surface laptop is a dedicated laptop. It’s not a tablet nor is it a two-in-one but it still sports a touchscreen. The Surface Pro line is basically a tablet-first device which works as a laptop when the keyboard touch cover is attached. The Surface Book is a two-in-one which is a laptop-first device with a detachable tablet. Unlike the Surface Pro and Surface Book, the Surface laptop is a traditional clamshell laptop. Its elegant keyboard is covered in Alcantara fabric similar to what’s on the Surface Pro 4 Signature Type Cover. With its 999 starting price, this laptop sounds like it caters more to Harvard or Princeton students and teachers instead of the Chromebook market. We’re not surprised though as Microsoft is still competing against Apple in pricing and style.
So what can 999 get you? The Surface Laptop is an elegant-looking laptop which Microsoft is aiming not just at Chromebooks but at Macbooks as well. The unit is just 0.57-inch thick at its thickest point. It has a 13.5-inch display with a resolution of 2256×1504 pixels at 201ppi. At 999, you’d want nothing less. Again, the keyboard is similar to the Signature Touch Cover of the Surface Pro 4. The battery life, if what Microsoft says is true will provide 14.5 hours of video playback which is quite amazing. That sort of performance could easily get one through an 8-hour workday. Speaking from experience though, the real test is an 8-hour continuous wi-fi connection while browsing, typing documents and crunching numbers on spreadsheets.
The starter model sports an Intel Core i5 processor, with 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD storage. At 1299, you’ll get a unit with Core i5, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. At 1599, you’ll get an Intel Core i7 processor with 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD. At 2199, you’ll get an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. At 2199, any student named Winklevoss probably won’t mind getting one. But for students who prefer Windows 10 over Chrome OS, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Samsung and Toshiba have you covered. Their Windows 10 S devices will start at $189.
Regarding ports, the new MacBook Pro’s lack of ports except for USB-C has been written to death on the web. But now, with the gradual appearance of USB-C devices, it might be Microsoft’s turn to be in hot water. The Surface Laptop has the Surface connector, a mini-display port, one Type-A USB 3 connector and nothing else. It doesn’t have an SD card slot, not even MicroSD which the Raspberry Pi3 managed to include. The glaring omission here is that there is no USB-C port for a device so modern.
Despite being aimed at the education market, professionals are more than welcome to take advantage of the Surface Laptop as an alternative to getting a Surface Pro 4 or a Surface Book. A good work-worthy unit begins at 1299. Windows 10 S, however, can be quite stifling since it will only allow programs to be installed from the Windows Store if it’s okay from a security standpoint. Owners have the option of upgrading to Windows 10 Professional for free which is great.
So what about Windows 10S? It’s basically a better version of Windows RT. Better name too. Like RT, S could mean anything, but it now sounds more like a mobile OS instead of something completely alien. As per Microsoft’s Terry Myerson, the S stands for Security, Superior Performance, Simplicity and Soul. The Soul of Windows 10, of course, is the Windows Store. But before anyone balks at the mention of the Store, it has pretty much improved over the years. It just needed time. If there’s any time for Windows RT, it’s probably now. Well, Windows 10 S is basically RT on x64 instead of ARM. Some mainstream apps are still not present in the Store, but one can always watch YouTube on Edge, which is the only browser available if Firefox and Chrome doesn’t pop up in Windows Store.
In terms of security, the walled garden approach is the best way to go to avoid getting malware and unwanted baggage that automatically install themselves when users browse where they’re not supposed to. The walled garden is cool though as long as the gardener does his job at curating new entries. The advantage of Windows 10 S is that the apps use less battery life than their traditional and more system-intrusive counterparts.
“Technology should make teachers’ lives simpler and spark student creativity, not distract from it,”
— Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
As per Mr. Nadella, an operating system intended for education should be simple to use and maintain. There should be no headache-inducing BSODs and other system errors that traditional apps often cause as they dig deeper into system resources and trample over each other. Store apps are run in their respective sandboxes. But if Windows 10 S doesn’t satisfy you, Surface Laptop owners can always upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free from the laptop’s release in June up to the end of the year. Laptops installed with Windows 10 from OEM partners are entitled to a free one-year subscription to Minecraft: Education Edition. Schools also get free subscriptions to Office 365 for Education.
Speaking of Office, users can get touch-friendly Mobile Office apps from the store sufficient for simple needs. Microsoft says the full-featured Office packages will be available at the Windows Store in the near future.
Windows 10 S can also be installed on school computers. Microsoft already made inroads in Colorado by installing a customized version in over 600 laptops.