The Surface Laptop might not have turned many heads if it had been the first mobile computer from Microsoft. It’s not as radical and influential as the Surface Pro or as crazy looking as the Surface Book. From afar, the silver notebook looks like something as easily made by Apple or Asus as by Microsoft. It feels like that too, with the same heft as a powerful premium laptop like the 2016 MacBook Pro or the exceptional Asus ZenBook 3. Despite being a good looking hunk of hardware, the Surface Laptop is remarkable for how perfectly mundane it is in light of recent Microsoft computer products.
It’s also notable how aggressively Microsoft is labeling it a MacBook Air killer. Much of the Surface Laptop’s announcement today was devoted to comparing the two, noting the better battery life and speedier processor of the Surface versus the now two-year-old MacBook Air. Which...yes Microsoft, I would expect a computer made in 2017 to be better in every way than a laptop last updated in 2015.
The device generated a lot of excitement immediately, and following the event I had to fight for space to check it out. There were only eight laptops available for what felt like ten times as many journalists. People clamored and pressed, but once you’d made it through the thick knot of human you were at the table faced with a laptop that feels immediately familiar.
Closed, the device looks very similar to a MacBook, though, with its 13.5-inch display in a 3:2 aspect ratio, it’s necessarily larger than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with 16:10 display.
But when you open it, you’re faced with a Surface-like situation. The inside bottom half of the keyboard is covered in the same fabric as the cover for the Surface Pro 4, and the keys have the same flat square design as we’ve seen across every Surface-branded device.
This is unmistakably a Microsoft machine.
If you pre-order the Surface Laptop you’re pre-ordering something much cheaper than the same spec’d device from Apple, but you’ll still be paying for a brand name. That’s something Microsoft has painstakingly developed in hardware with funky hybrids like the Surface Pro and Surface Book, and high-priced systems like the Surface Studio. The Laptop isn’t any of that; it’s just a nice looking laptop, which neatly slots into the big vacant space Apple has left open by refusing to update the MacBook Air. It’s impossible to know if this is the true successor to the MacBook Air until it’s available around June 15th. For now, all I know is Microsoft has designed a solid looking laptop with solid specs at a reasonable price, which incredibly, feels like what I’ve wanted all along.