Microsoft SurfaceStyle Event
I made the two-hour trek down the 401 to Toronto’s Sherway Gardens to attend an event thrown by Microsoft Canada. SurfaceStyle was put together by the company as a way to showcase all its new Surface hardware: the new Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and related accessories (namely the Surface Arc Touch Mouse, new Surface Pen and latest Surface Pro Signature Type Cover). Also on display were the Surface Book convertible laptop and the Surface Studio All-in-One PC.
The Sherway Gardens venue was chosen to emphasize Microsoft’s focus on creative professionals. While the Surface Laptop in particular will appeal to just about everyone from students to business people, the focus was the measures Microsoft has taken to make its Surface lineup meet the demanding needs of those who make a living from being creative. That includes visual artists, photographers, and clothing designers. And in that context, a shopping mall filled with high end clothing stores was probably the perfect venue.
When I arrived shortly before the 1pm start time, there was already a crowd forming around the entrance to the SurfaceStyle event. Tables loaded with the latest new Microsoft gear, floral bouquets, platters of colourful cookies and cameras everywhere have a way of drawing attention.
Just about this time last year, I reviewed the new Signature Type Cover for the Surface Pro, with its Alcantara fabric. It was a pretty impressive upgrade for the Surface Pro, and the Alcantara fabric gave the tablet a real premium look and feel.
Obviously I wasn’t the only one who liked it because Microsoft is doubling down on its use of Alcantara. There are new Signature Type Covers to go along with the new Surface Pro, offering Alcantara in a variety of stylish shades. And for the Surface Laptop, the company chose to skip the customary metal or plastic deck, instead covering the entire keyboard area with Alcantara fabric. In photos it looks good. But hands on, I was able to appreciate the choice even more. The fabric offers cushioning for your palms while typing, it’s “warmer” material than metal and the use of Alcantara definitely makes the Surface Laptop stand out in a crowd.
The fabric is hard-wearing and Microsoft reps assured me it’s easy to clean if you get it dirty.
Hands on With the Surface Laptop
The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first attempt at a traditional laptop and it’s a very good one. It’s everything a road warrior wants—thin, light, and with excellent battery life. It features 7th generation intel Core processors. Its 13.5-inch PixelSense display is big, bright and sharp, making it ideal for mobile work when it’s not possible to be hooked up to an external monitor. And as pointed out during the presentation, that display is also perfectly colour calibrated so what you see onscreen is what you you get in real life.
This laptop is designed to be ideal for designers, photographers and other creative professionals for whom colour accuracy is a must-have. For me, it simply looked great with colours that popped and type that was crisp: perfect for writing, web browsing and for watching streaming video. Also good to see was its standard USB 3.0 port. USB-C may be the future, but many people have existing peripherals that use that familiar old USB connector, and with the Surface Laptop (unlike some competitors), there’s no dongle needed.
It’s worth mentioning here that if you prefer using a mouse to a trackpad, Microsoft was also showing off its new Surface Arc Mouse. It takes a little getting used to, but is very comfortable and the touch surface works well as a trackpad replacement.
The new Surface Pro is Reassuringly Familiar, and That’s a Good Thing
This is the fifth generation of the Surface Pro tablet and not much has changed visually from the previous Surface Pro 4. In this case, that lack of visual change is reassuring (why mess with a good thing?) but also a little misleading, because inside it’s very much an-all new tablet with Kaby Lake processors and other new components. Its corners are a little more rounded and the kickstand can now lie almost flat (a trick borrowed from the Surface Studio), but it’s still the professional tablet to beat. Oh, and as mentioned previously, it also gets new Signature Type Cover options, with different shades of Alcantara fabric.
I did notice that the new Surface Pro seemed small at first glance, which is weird, because with a 12.3-inch PixelSense display it’s always been firmly on the large end of the tablet spectrum. But with many of the Surface Pros set up beside Surface Laptops with their larger displays, the Surface Pro tablet looked even more compact.
I Want a Surface Studio
I’m a Mac guy, but ever since Microsoft unveiled the Surface Studio, I’ve thought that it was a brilliant piece of engineering. Photos don’t do this innovative All-in-One PC justice. After seeing one in person at the SurfaceEvent, I’m even more hooked. The display is absolutely stunning, the way it pivots is genius and I’ve decided I want one. I’m not sure how I can justify it—the Surface Pen support and ability to fold into a drafting table-like form factor is more appropriate for visual arts than writing—but it’s a magnet for people who appreciate minimalist design.
Get the Hands-on Microsoft Surface Experience at Best Buy
You may not see the fashion designers, flowers and cookies, but you can definitely get the same hands-on Surface experience by visiting your local Best Buy store. You can check out the specs online, but hands-on time with those new Surface products is a great way to decide whether you’d be better off with a Surface laptop or a new Surface Pro. You can compare the feel of the keyboards, touch that premium Alcantara fabric, get a first-hand view of the displays, try writing with a Surface Pen and physically pick up the laptops and tablets to see which is the easiest to carry.
Plus, when you check out the Microsoft Surface gear at Best Buy, you’ll also have easy access to all the accessories you might want to pick up, including protective cases.
You can find the Surface Book and other Surface gear in stock now at Best Buy, with the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop coming soon. And if Surface isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other computer options available.