Microsoft Surface Book 2-in-1 with Skylake with NVIDIA Discrete GPU Announced

Subject: Mobile | October 6, 2015 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: video, surface book, surface, Skylake, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, geforce

Along with the announcement of the new Surface Pro 4, Microsoft surprised many with the release of the new Surface Book 2-in-1 convertible laptop. Sharing much of the same DNA as the Surface tablet line, the Surface Book adopts a more traditional notebook design while still adding enough to the formula to produce a unique product.

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The pivotal part of the design (no pun intended) is the new hinge, a "dynamic fulcrum" design that looks great and also (supposedly) will be incredibly strong. The screen / tablet attachment mechanism is called Muscle Wire and promises secure attachment as well as ease of release with a single button.

An interesting aspect of the fulcrum design is that, when closed, the Surface Book screen and keyboard do not actually touch near the hinge. Instead you have a small gap in this area. I'm curious how this will play out in real-world usage - it creates a natural angle for using the screen in its tablet form but also may find itself "catching" coin, pens and other things between the two sections. 

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The 13.5-in screen has a 3000 x 2000 resolution (3:2 aspect ratio obviously) with a 267 PPI pixel density. Just like the Surface Pro 4, it has a 10-point touch capability and uses the exclusive PixelSense display technology for improved image quality.

While most of the hardware is included in the tablet portion of the device, the keyboard dock includes some surprises of its own. You get a set of two USB 3.0 ports, a full size SD card slot and a proprietary SurfaceConnect port for an add-on dock. But most interestingly you'll find an optional discrete GPU from NVIDIA, an as-yet-undiscovered GeForce GPU with 1GB (??) of memory. I have sent inquiries to Microsoft and NVIDIA for details on the GPU, but haven't heard back yet. We think it is a 30 watt GeForce GPU of some kind (by looking at the power adapter differences) but I'm more interested in how the GPU changes both battery life and performance.

UPDATE: Just got official word from NVIDIA on the GPU, but unfortunately it doesn't tell us much.

The new GPU is a Maxwell based GPU with GDDR5 memory. It was designed to deliver the best performance in ultra-thin form factors such as the Surface Book keyboard dock. Given its unique implementation and design in the keyboard module, it cannot be compared to a traditional 900M series GPU. Contact Microsoft for performance information.

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Keyboard and touchpad performance looks to be impressive as well, with a full glass trackpad integration, backlit keyboard design and "class leading" key switch throw distance.

The Surface Book is powered by Intel Skylake processors, available in both Core i5 and Core i7 options, but does not offer Core m-based or Iris graphics options. Instead the integrated GPU will only be offered with the Intel HD 520.

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Microsoft promises "up to" 12 hours of battery life on the Surface Book, though that claim was made with the Core i5 / 256GB / 8GB configuration option; no discrete GPU included. 

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Pricing on the Surface Book starts at $1499 but can reach as high as $2699 with the maximum performance and storage capacity options. 

Source: Microsoft

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October 6, 2015 | 02:43 PM - Posted by GeekAvenger (not verified)

I had a SurfacePro 3 at my old job, it was fantastic for the light computing required in IT. This new device seems like it might end up being too powerful to make sense for light compute and too weak to replace heavy work loads like AutoCAD and AdobeCC. But if it can pull it off, that would be amazing, can't wait to see reviews come in.

October 8, 2015 | 12:50 AM - Posted by Shenook

They used ProE/Autocad to design the Surface Pro 4/Surface book on the Surface 3.

October 6, 2015 | 03:23 PM - Posted by ajoy39

Pretty bummed that you have to get the highest spec model to get 16GB of RAM. a i5/256GB SSD/integrated graphics with 16GB would have been a great option.

October 6, 2015 | 03:23 PM - Posted by ajoy39

Pretty bummed that you have to get the highest spec model to get 16GB of RAM. a i5/256GB SSD/integrated graphics with 16GB would have been a great option.

October 6, 2015 | 03:26 PM - Posted by JohnGR

If this was Apple's, people would be melting in front of the screen from awesomeness, watching this video. Congrats to MS's designers.

October 6, 2015 | 03:53 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No they would be crying about Apple Tax.
See Microsoft doesn't charge $100 for incremental SSD and RAM unlike evil Apple.

Now you no longer have to envy Apple.

Apple can't get away with comparing 2012 Macbook Pro which not even retina
with Microsoft highest priced tab-book.

So much innovation that Apple filed patent for that hinge like 5 years ago.

October 6, 2015 | 03:31 PM - Posted by Bogative (not verified)

PLEASE tell me you are going to have a review asap. The maxed out model is what I want just for storage and ram but I need to know what downsides there are at that price. Way more than I wanted to spend.

Though I expect Dell on thursday to announce the new XPS 15 so that will be my competition.

October 6, 2015 | 04:09 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I ordered a Core i5 model of each to review.

October 13, 2015 | 03:52 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

NO! Please review the i7 models!!!! Or at least figure out all the gory details regarding how the Surface Pro 4 with i7 and Iris graphics compares to the Surface Book i7 with and without the custom NVidia GPU. This is the kind of info I was looking forward to (especially after your preliminary discussion about this on TWICH). Thanks!

October 6, 2015 | 06:48 PM - Posted by The O (not verified)

I simply must have one of these. What a piece of art; p**ses all over any MacBook.

October 6, 2015 | 07:30 PM - Posted by Richard (not verified)

I have a surface pro3, and then bought a Dell XPS 13. The dell is faster, doesn't heat up. I thought the pen would be nice, but found I didn't really use it. The dell with a i5 gives me around 10 hours without a touch screen, and that's at 3/4 brightness, not turned down to readable. The surface now sits, Don't use it, only to update it.

October 7, 2015 | 12:57 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I love my Dell XPS 13 as well - I will be curious if either the Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book replaces it.

October 6, 2015 | 09:10 PM - Posted by ThorAxe

Microsoft really hit this one out of the park. I want one and I don't even need it!

October 6, 2015 | 09:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Just like Apple, Microsoft can make overpriced Chinese shit and they were kind enough to add their latest government spyware... i mean operating system.

October 6, 2015 | 11:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I think you swallowed the wrong pill... Hit the reset button and try again.

October 6, 2015 | 09:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Way too overpriced just like Apple, and not that great! Hopefully the AMD K12 with AMD graphics will arrive in 2017 but I'm not buying anything with windows 10 the Key-logger OS! It would be nice to see some AMD K12, or x86, based APU Kit running a full Linux distro, I'm just never going to accept Android, iOS, or any Windows OS above 7, and M$ has once again tried today to slip that telemetry gathering crap onto my windows 7 laptop, fat chance of that happening! No nagware from Redmond allowed!

October 6, 2015 | 10:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

cool...have fun getting left behind in hardware.

2017, linux fan still rocking 2007 laptop because WINDOZEEEEEEEEEE EVIL RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

October 6, 2015 | 11:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Tinfoil hats set to maximum!

October 7, 2015 | 12:31 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

you're an idiot.....get off the internet

October 7, 2015 | 03:56 AM - Posted by AnonymousLOLOLOLOLOLOL (not verified)

Except that he's right about the operating system being nothing but government spyware in disguise!

October 7, 2015 | 10:22 AM - Posted by -- (not verified)

the OS requires your address so black NSA vans can park in front of your house


October 7, 2015 | 08:23 PM - Posted by dan87rfebfdbfg (not verified)

Knock Knock!

October 8, 2015 | 10:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Or your IP address. same difference...

October 6, 2015 | 10:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)


Good job guys! Upping the game, your move apple... ha they won't even try. Who are we kidding, the cult of apple is fully indoctrinated.

October 8, 2015 | 02:47 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You do realize this is probably just a dual-core machine with entry-level mobile graphics - bereft of next generation I/O like Thunderbolt or USB Type C. All for the wallet unfriendly price of $1899. I could easily get a 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (matching Ram & SSD Space) *AND* an iPad Air 2 for the same money. And when my wife wants to borrow my tablet...I can keep using my laptop. I don't think MS fanboys have thought this all the way through.

October 9, 2015 | 01:23 AM - Posted by Aname (not verified)

Quite sure it will all be 2-core models (Skylake-U, BGA 1356). If you don't use pen/multitouch you better stick with that rMBP. Or spend similar amounts on a 17" mobile workstation for more power.

The highlight for Surface Pro/Book here is for use with many desktop-level creation/production apps that would benefit greatly from pen and multitouch, and portability (as you can see from featured apps on the videos). It's been a premium niche market since long.

October 6, 2015 | 11:40 PM - Posted by amadsilentthirst

So, it's a tablet with a PPI about the same as a 3 year old Nexus7.
and it comes with a mobile GPU Dock with an included keyboard and extra battery.

12h battery is only when using the dock's battery as well as the tablets. and not using the mobile gpu.

It is pretty, but I'm not sure I see the use case here, or the cost v performance.

October 7, 2015 | 08:26 AM - Posted by Polycrastinator (not verified)

It's definitely not for everyone, but this is kind of my perfect device. I'm going to have to wait for reviews to see the performance of the GPU before I decide which model to get, but I was going to move from my Surface Pro to a proper laptop, and knew I'd miss the tablet/pen which I use for note taking. This gives me both. I'm really excited for it.

October 8, 2015 | 12:47 AM - Posted by Shenook

ROFLMAO and the AppleMacbook Pro with 220 PPI roflmao.

Comparing a 5 inch phone screen to a laptop/tablet screen lol.

October 7, 2015 | 05:32 AM - Posted by indy (not verified)

I would consider it if it didn't have a ridiculous screen resolution.

October 7, 2015 | 05:34 AM - Posted by indy (not verified)

I should clarify: 1080p on 13 inches and under should be the norm.

October 7, 2015 | 09:47 AM - Posted by PCPerFan (not verified)

Wake me up when Microsoft puts out a proper laptop opposed to these shitty 2-in-1s.

October 8, 2015 | 12:49 AM - Posted by Shenook

?? Proper laptop. Put this is laptop mode against any Apple laptop or other "proper" laptop out there? Other than 8 pound enterprise workstation laptops and gaming systems, nothing is going to beat it.

October 9, 2015 | 04:58 PM - Posted by MarkT (not verified)

"Contact Microsoft" for, nuff said.

October 18, 2015 | 02:03 PM - Posted by FXa (not verified)

Darker keyboard surface, either the surface grey or dark grey like the pro 3/4 keyboards. Creates way better contrast on the key markings since people are not only working in the dark. If you look at the greyish photo of the keyboard above I think they were gave a darker keyboard a "try". Should have made it dark grey.
Fingerprint reader should have gone into the keyboard base - there was plenty of space and the added cost would have been negligible.
Should have more carefully considered pricing - pretty steep when you start putting on standard size items that come on most notebooks like 16GB ram these days.
Should have had an Iris I7 chip option.
16GB RAM should not have required the second GPU. You are more likely to need the extra RAM when using Intel GPU anyway.
$400 increase to go from a 256GB drive to a 512GB? Ok, these days that's a $200 increase on most products. This drive had better cook us breakfast.
The hinge does not allow the screen to tilt all the way backwards. While this would may have given rise to some balancing issues, the current degree to which it leans back will make it not as versatile as the current Surface Pro 3/4 in terms of angled use while also having the keyboard available. I think of it like the old days of the Pro 1/2 where you didn't have that fully adjustable stand. Being able to pick your own angle down to nearly flat on a surface is a pretty dramatic improvement in ergonomics.

A few things changed and they might well have made a device they couldn't keep on the shelves. Maybe a tiny bit less profit taking on keeping the SSD and other upgrades more reasonable, but volumes would have more than made up for it.

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