Convince me not to buy a Surface Book

Discussion in 'Alternatives to Mac Hardware' started by Nimrad, Mar 1, 2017.

  1. Nimrad macrumors 6502

    Jul 28, 2010
    I've been with Apple for about 10 years now currently owning an iPhone 6 Plus, an Apple TV and the first gen retina MacBook Pro 15". It's nearing the time to exchange this for a new one, but Apple has kept disappointing me. Even though I generally like the design a lot better on Apple computers (yes, it's important to me), competitors are better looking compared to Apple than they used to. Also, Apple still insist on using huge bezels on their screens for some reason.

    Switching to Windows is gonna be hard to do, but when Microsoft has gone in Apple's footsteps of taking control over both hardware and software I think the end products seems pretty amazing. If I only had one Apple-product I would not even think twice about switching. The problem is I love the handover-functions and use either iMessage, FaceTime, AirPlay/AirDrop or regular phone calling once a day.
    The problem is I also love the SD slot, HDMI-port and MagSafe, all of which Apple seems to hate lately. I can, of course, carry around a dongle and buy third-party MagSafes, but that is of course more of a hassle.

    Switching to Windows is a big thing. It feels like the start of a new era (overstated, but still...) as it probably will free me more from Apple's mighty hand when it comes to choosing a new smartphone and TV box in the future.

    I use my MacBook A LOT, but mainly for day-to-day tasks and studying. As I'm gonna start working in the fall I'm probably going to change user habits a bit and hopefully also use my personal computer a bit at work. That's when I fell in love with the possibility of a touch screen with a pen for meetings etc.

    Maybe this post is mainly for me to organise my feelings, but I still would love to hear your stories/arguments. Why should or shouldn't I switch?
  2. SB-MBP Suspended


    May 11, 2013
    N. Ireland
    To be honest, I can't think of any reason. You're right about MagSafe etc. Maybe you NEED those ports, and for the next few years aren't happy spending SO MUCH to have to carry added hassle.

    Maybe it's time to jump ship? I know when my Mac is as good as finished its service, I'll be in the same place.
  3. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Buy what you want it's your money.

    I wouldn't because it's just MacBook Air with a touchscreen and windows both things I hate.
  4. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    I've actually just got a SurfaceBook for the same reasons - the new MBPs don't float my boat, I need something lighter than my trusty 17" MBP for forthcoming trips (it's fine shuttling between home and work but not "on the road") and I saw the SurfaceBook i7/16GB/512GB on sale for £2024 (UK, John Lewis) which was about £300 below list, which was a dealmaker.

    Cheapness isn't the SurfaceBook's selling point - generally the prices are firmly in the Mac range, but that price was certainly very competitive with the non-touchbar i7/16GB/512GB 2016 MBP at £2079 which is the closest Apple spec.

    To that fight, the Mac brings Thunderbolt 3, a trackpad the size of a football pitch, and OSX, verses the SurfaceBook's detachable touch screen and excellent stylus. With the model I have, the SB's Nvidia dGPU probably trumps the Mac's Iris graphics.

    The big minus for the SurfaceBook is the lack of Thunderbolt 3 (or any equivalent such as USB 3.1Gen2) - the flipside of that is, with its USB 3 and MiniDisplayPort, it fits in perfectly with my existing displays and peripherals. I got the Surface Dock - which is a bit pricey - but gives you 4xUSB 3, 2 x Mini DP (can't be used at the same time as the built-in one) ethernet and charging (comes with its own PSU) via a single obviously MagSafe-inspired connector. Runs my 2x24" 1920x1200 displays nicely - as I understand it will only run a single 4k monitor at 60Hz, but - hey - do you seriously expect a mobile-class device to run 3 retina-class displays simultaneously?

    There's an occasional confusion if you have 2 x external displays and then undock the tablet section, and the odd program doesn't completely honour the magnification setting on the internal display (rather than "retina mode" windows lets you set the "magnification" for each display, so the 2 24" 1200p displays are at 100% and the internal "retina" display is set at 200%. I've had a few glitches when dragging windows between the displays. That said, I haven't tried OS X in a mixed retina/nonretina setup, but I assume its a bit more seamless.

    Keyboard is good and probably less love/hate than the new MBP style - trackpad is OK but not up to Apple standards (that said, the 2015 MBP trackpad was best-in-class, but I wonder if the 2016 trackpad isn't too big - looks for me that they've gone for size over function).

    It's early days yet, but the SB's tablet mode offers interesting possibilities - its too big and heavy for a true iPad replacement, but it can run full-fat desktop software and, with the stylus, could be good for art work. If you've got a large screen phone, though, it could meet your tablet needs - it's easy to pop the tablet section off and go and sit in a comfy chair while you read a document (and maybe mark it up with a pen).

    I've used Windows before, so its not too big a wrench for me - and many of the Win10 horror stories involved upgrades and third-party drivers - the Surface range is pretty much MS's reference windows platform so I'd hope they'll get that right. My main annoyance is that I really like the Unix-like filesystem underlying OS X (whereas WIndows hasn't really got rid of drive letters yet) which is great for web development - you can simulate the file structure on the target Linux system and run all the usual utilities without having to tweak paths all the time - but that's hardly insurmountable and there's a lot to be said for doing that sort of thing in a virtual linux machine (which the SB copes with easily). The Window Linux Subsystem is coming along and - although its not up to snuff yet - it's nearly there and could also solve that in the long term, and in the meantime there's Cygwin that gives you most of the Unix/Linux tools. Anyway, that's not a concern for most people.

    Overall, though - OS X does feel slicker and more responsive than Windows, but its no longer night and day and isn't compensating for the increasingly limited rage of Apple hardware.

    I'm going to play with the SB while waiting for Apple to (hopefully) announce their new desktop range. Then I'll decide whether to dump Apple and build a kick-butt PC tower to supplement the laptop, or get an Apple desktop and inter-work with the SB.
  5. BeefCake 15 macrumors 65816

    BeefCake 15

    May 15, 2015
    near Boston, MA
  6. willmtaylor macrumors G3


    Oct 31, 2009
    A Natural State
  7. Nimrad thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 28, 2010
    First of all, thank you so much for your lengthy answer. It helps a lot.

    I will probably wait for the Surface Book 2 (rumored this spring, I'm not in a rush) and I kind of expect them to add some of these ports for that model.
  8. willmtaylor macrumors G3


    Oct 31, 2009
    A Natural State
  9. hanser macrumors regular

    Aug 29, 2013
    i would rather consider a higher spec refurbished 2015 Macbook pro. This would last for many years to come.
  10. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    That reason was a factor for my choosing the SB over another machine, and I believe that decision has paid dividends.
  11. merkinmuffley macrumors 6502a

    Dec 3, 2010
    I tried to switch to W10 - bought a very nice Lenovo system, I7, 16gb, 512gb, beautiful 4k touch screen. I'm a photographer, the only application I run is PS CC, and it ran fine on the Lenovo. I've been using Macs since 1984 and prior to the Lenovo had never touched a Windows system. Using it was ok, but felt really odd. I found on the Lenovo every time I wanted to do something, regardless of how simple it was I had to think about how to do it and look up the steps. I wasn't comfortable using it, so I gave the Lenovo away and picked up a 15 inch MBP with basically the same specs as the Lenovo minus the 4k touch screen. I'm having a LOT of trouble running PS CC on it with the NIK filters - PS crashes every time I invoke one of the plugins. I've found a work around, but it's a real PIA (load photos into LR, run the filters I need there - all my plugins run fine in LR - and then switch to PS for some final edits and save the image - this workflow is bit cumbersome but I can get things done).
    Keyboard is fine on the MBP, took about a day to get used to it. Build quality and design is better than the Lenovo, one thing I noticed was the little indentation so I can lift the screen up with one hand. Don't know if the Surface books have that, but it's a nice touch. Haven't used the touchbar thing at all, other than to unlock the system. I doubt I'll use it much if at all. Fingerprint sensor works much better than on the Lenovo.
  12. Nimrad thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 28, 2010
    Sure, I felt the same way for quite a while when I switched to Mac. I actually expect it will be less of a hassle switching back to Windows than when I switched to Mac, because I have been using windows before and I've used it a lot for work.
    I still prefer macOS in general, but Apple is lagging behind on hardware.
  13. rhodesy22 macrumors member

    Apr 9, 2015
    I tried the Surface Book for 10 days or so when it first came out. Hardware-wise I loved it for the most part but there were software issues that I just couldn't live with.

    The primary reason for taking it back was the quality of third-party apps. I know it'll improve with time as MS keeps pushing universal apps but where there's one or two great apps (in terms of the UX) for a task on macOS, there's usually 10 or so half-assed ones for Windows.

    Next on my list was how poor the touch interface is on Windows compared to iOS...I realised it's a desktop OS but with their efforts to make it touch compatible I'd expected better, I'd really hoped to replace both my Mac and my iPad.

    Following from that, the battery life of the screen while detached was pretty terrible and I couldn't get used to the fans being on the screen which were pretty loud compared to even my 2012 MacBook Pro but of course the real comparison for me was the iPad which doesn't have any fans or give me red marks when I'm toilet browsing :p I really missed the great touch gestures macOS has too.

    Back to software, I'm a developer and installed the new(ish) Windows bash shell to give me something similar to the terminal on macOS but it just felt like a bad work-around. HiDPI support is also a bit hit and miss so you're often going between great and terrible looking apps. I don't know if it's fixed yet but Atom and Slack could either be loaded as tiny windows or larger windows with blurred text. Windows 10 also has settings all over the place so you often have to check several places, sometimes in tablet mode and sometimes in desktop mode.

    Overall Windows 10 just doesn't feel as well thought out and streamlined yet. I look forward to a time where it is and I'll be happy to give it another shot.

    Finally, if you can deal with the above, they're due for a refresh fairly soon. I wouldn't buy a laptop right now without at least 2 USB-C ports.

    In summary:
    - 3rd-party apps not as good
    - Windows doesn't feel as stream-lined
    - Lack-luster battery life with display detached
    - Fan in display feels weird and is annoying when using it in tablet mode.
    - Lack of USB-C

    Personally I've just bought a new MacBook Pro 15" and have it hooked up to 3 USB-C monitors so the 4 TB3 ports are really useful. I'm not sold on the touchbar (which I keep tapping accidentally) though I love having the auto-complete fields easily accessible (email, phone number, address) and the media slider. When working 100% of the time I get 6.5h of battery (Atom, Xcode, Photoshop, Terminal, Safari) and if I need more (long-haul flights) I just grab use a USB-C battery though there's plugs there usually.

    If the current offering isn't good enough, you could always wait or buy it and replace when a new model comes out, they hold their resale value pretty well after all.

    You could also just buy one and trial it for 10 days or so like I did...use it as your primary machine.
  14. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    That's inevitable with any different system - you'll have to give it time to get used to it.

    Personally, I've been hopping between Windows, Macs and other multiple systems since forever so its not such a big deal for me (although Win10 is a new one on me, its quite familiar once you get down to it - and like the rest of the world I'd sorta skipped Windows 8). I still think MacOS has the usability edge, but its not the dealbreaker it was back in the good old days.

    If I'd been totally practical and boring about it and the SB hadn't tugged at my gadget bone, that's what I would have done. The SB was more interesting.

    Probably sensible if you're not in a hurry.
    Personally, I'm expecting to shift from my previous "1 laptop does it all" model using 17" MBP to a mobile + desktop model, so I'm not so fussed about having ultra-high-speed expansion on the laptop. USB-3 isn't going away soon and its more than fast enough for an external disc drive or two.
    However, its certainly one of the things ruling out the Surface Studio as my desktop choice (along with price and the minor complication that it still hasn't shown up in the UK).

    It's not like you can use your existing MagSafe with the Surface Book, but the SB does have a magnetically-attached "surface connect" charging cable which also carries USB and DisplayPort signals for the Surface Dock - so you get a true one (magnetic) cable docking solution.

    One missed opportunity on the surface book - the central connector between the tablet section and the base is actually the same as the surface connect one and sort-of works as a way of charging or docking the tablet section - except it has no magnets so the cable doesn't stay securely in place (NB: undocumented/unofficial feature - don't blame me if you try it and let the magic smoke out).
    --- Post Merged, Mar 1, 2017 ---
    I'd agree that this isn't a an iPad equivalent - if you need an iPad. There's no connectivity on the tablet section, either. I think its more of a solution if you occasionally want a pad for note-taking at meetings, or want to run some software (e.g. graphics) that benefits from touch and/or the stylus. With the SB, I probably won't bother carrying an iPad as well.

    The Ubuntu/Bash for Windows feature is interesting - but it is still clearly work-in-progress. I was able to use ssh to connect to other systems, install the Linux version of Apache and serve websites, via a symlink from /var/www to my Windows home directory, so it shows promise, but needs better integration with the Windows file system (e.g. permissions, symlinks). Give it a year...

    In the meantime, Cygwin is a better bet as a "Bash-for-windows" + collection of familiar Unix-y utilities.

    But, yeah, if my dalliance doesn't work out it will be the development thing.... but I could always run Linux or BSD in a VM.
  15. nordique, Mar 1, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2017

    nordique macrumors 65816

    Oct 12, 2014

    Honestly, OP - The Surface Book is an incredible device. It really is. You can just do so much with it, it is well built hardware, the screen is awesome, the pen is fantastic (and it has an "eraser" on it, something the Apple Pencil doesn't...oh and it's not sold separately) , it is a better investment dollar-for-dollar than getting a MacBook Pro + iPad Pro + Apple Pencil

    Its an incredible machine. As with anything, there is an adjustment period.

    For me, the one knock against it is it's price....if ALL you need is a laptop, then the Surface Book is too expensive for really is worth it if you're going to spend 2-3 grand on a Macbook Pro with equivalent specs, plus another grand on an iPad pro with the pencil (In Canada, that's how much it would cost)....then it's worth it because then it's cheaper

    But if all you need is a laptop, to type on, to surf the web with, to use office 365 with, etc.....your money will be better spent on a cheaper quality laptop like a Dell XPS, Yoga, or Macbook/Air/Last gen Pro/A few gens old used

    Also, CPU's are pretty good these days for what 90% of us use our computers can use a 3rd gen intel core i5 chip and it still performs just as good as skylake or kaby lake does for anything save maybe gaming (modern gaming is way more gpu dependent) or professional audio production, video production (but then you're limited by RAM for audio....) might save a minute or two here or there but my point is processing power is powerful enough that you could own a CPU for close to a decade at this point before you notice any significant (and I mean actually noticeable) performance reduction.

    Unless you are a professional, meaning you need every percent of processing power and ram to earn your living, you don't *need* that extra power.

    Is the Surface Book a better Pro machine than anything Apple offers right now? Yes. You can do more with it. If you care about macOS to the extent that you couldn't adjust, then that is fair - stick to what your preference is

    But if you are capable of adjusting, its a good idea to be open to what else is out there beyond Mac's. Apple's ecosystem is both efficient and wonderfully optimized, but it is also woefully limiting. I would macOS itself has the best computer-multitasking interface to this day (thanks to gestures on trackpad + multiple desktops) but you also handcuff yourself in ways with Apple's products (If you're into gaming, Mac's are pointless or iOS for example is years behind Android in many aspects)

    With Windows 10, you'll go back to the days of constant security updates and the ilk, but Windows 10 is also a significantly improved OS over its predecessors... and it's actually better optimized in many ways than macOS is, since it is designed to run with much lower performance parameters than macOS is...think of it like the inverse of the terrible OS that Vista was.

    What you need to determine, I think, is whether or not you're able to readjust and go through a period where you have to learn the ins and outs of a new product. This is why Windows die hards and Android die hards themselves are so certain they should stay away from Apple products: they are unable to try something new, for long enough to adjust to it, and see the benefits it brings. iOS is behind the times in a lot of ways, yes - but the current interface with 3D touch is very fast to use. macOS can improve anyone's work flow with gestures and the way apple implements multiple desktops seamlessly.

    Vice versa goes for Apple die hards; just look at the iPhone or news sections of this forum and see how many Apple loyalists berate anything positive that an Android phone does or any time a high end Windows laptop is mentioned as a viable alternative

    Point is, you're allowed to like what you like - just be open minded and understand if you do switch there's an adjustment period that will take place.

    Is the Surface Book worth it, if you can afford it and it fits your budget then yes. But is it right for you? If its not right for your budget, then no its not - get a cheaper Apple laptop instead. But you will have to use a Surface Book regularly (meaning not just for a week) to really see how it would benefit. And you have to be open to the positive aspects of the Surface Book.

    Surface Book is something I would have expected the Apple of old to make, not Microsoft. Rather than thinking of it as a "switch" think of it as you're expanding your boundaries.
  16. rjbruce macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2011
    St. Louis, MO
    This. I was pretty psyched about the new Macbook Pros until they actually hit. Then I was looking at the Surface Book and I just couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger. There are better spec'd Windows laptops for the price, even if the design is pretty good. I ended up hanging on to my limping 2011 MBP and bought my wife a $700 2 in 1 Dell from Costco. i7 Kaby Lake, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM. She uses it with office, the web and not much else. She rarely uses the touchscreen so far, and while she would rather have the Mac it really wasn't worth double the price for an (arguably) marginally better Macbook. Also, not sure if Windows PC makers have changed or if it was because it was a Costco model, but it seems free of the bloatware that I remember coming with HP/Dell based machines.

    It's a tough call, but I agree, I'd wait for the refresh of the Surface Book if you don't need it right away. I may be doing the same.
  17. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    For my needs, I opted for the non-dGPU model, and that I thought was priced nicely, I wasn't looking for that was high powered and the base model was more then enough computer for my needs.

    Agree, I think the SB is an awesome laptop and injected some excitement into the laptop market. Where as the touchbar only seemed to introduce some head scratching and complaints. I'm not saying its useless but rather the response from most people was less then positive, at least initially.
  18. Crazy Badger macrumors 65816

    Crazy Badger

    Apr 1, 2008
    Have you actually picked one up? It's like a brick :)
  19. willmtaylor macrumors G3


    Oct 31, 2009
    A Natural State
    While that does sound a bit silly, with keyboard cover, it is the equivalent of carrying 3-4 iPad airs.
  20. hajime macrumors 603

    Jul 23, 2007
    Isn't the new SurfaceBook 2 and Surface Pro 5 coming this month?
  21. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    MS in the past has released their computers in the March/April time frame. I haven't followed along enough to know if there's any rumors on when this will occur with MS
  22. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Problem is, the same is true about Macs, but the Macs are, at the end of the day, just regular ultraportable laptops (particularly the non-TB MBP which is the closest SurfaceBook competitor). The SurfaceBook brings something different to the table.

    I think that's the killer: if you want the stylus functionality the SB blows the iPad + Pencil + a mac for serious stuff out of the water.

    The SB tablet section is too big and heavy (and lacks any ports) to replace the iPad as a standalone mobile device for when a tablet is all that you need. However, if you find yourself carrying an iPad and a Mac then the SB is probably the solution. The flipside to the weight and size of the tablet section is all that screen real estate you get if you want to use the stylus with a full-fat graphics application.

    I think Apple are being complacent about 2-in-ones and touchscreens: Steve's "gorilla arms" theory is correct as far as it goes - but it assumes a traditional laptop/desktop arrangement and doesn't factor in detachable/flippable screens on laptops or desktops that can swivel into "drawing board" mode (e.g. the Surface Studio and new Dell XPS27).

    Apple's alternative: work hard at seamless inter-working between desktop & tablet OS is a nice theory, provided you are happy to buy in to a limited ecosystem of compliant applications. One way Apple have knobbled the iPad is their "iCloud or nothing" approach.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 2, 2017 ---
    Maybe, but personally I'd give it 6 months for the teething troubles to show up... It's pretty common for PC makers to court the "Osbourne effect" and announce the new shiny long before you can actually buy it.

    Anyway, I'm in the UK and they haven't released the Surface Studio or "Performance Base" Surface Book here yet, so I'm not holding my breath.
  23. itguy06 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 8, 2006
    This. Despite being a diehard Mac guy since 2002 I got my first Windows PC last month - the 2017 Spectre x360. It blows the MBP out of the water with the features - 4k screen, Kaby Lake, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Intel and nVidia graphics, touch + pen and USB 3.0,AND regular USB, Thunderbolt, SD card reader. $1499.

    Windows 10 isn't as bad as previous versions - it's reliable so far, having uptimes about the same as my previous MBA and iMac. It looks gorgeous and has decent battery life. The 2-in-1 is a great concept and with touch + pen is a great experience. It does need some refinement but it is very good.

    For the price savings I can put up with the quirks vs the Mac. I could buy nearly 2 of these for a comparable MBP.

    So, yes buy it and try it - if you don't like it return it.

    Not sure I'd put any Dell in the "quality" camp. Work gives me one every 3 years from their Latitude or Precision line and they are utter garbage.
  24. David58117 macrumors 65816

    Jan 24, 2013
    The SB & W10 (post anniversary update) are very nice. I bought one a few months ago hoping to condense my MBP and iPad into a single device...however, the Apple quality absolutely isn't there. I had issue after issue:

    The First: discolored rings on the display.
    Second: The IR camera wasn't working at all. After 2 hours of surface support (where they diagnosed a motherboard issue, and requested I mail it to them instead of returning it to the store - despite just buying it 3 hours prior).
    Third: GPU failure right at start up. Constant BSODs that wouldn't even let me finish activating it.
    Fourth: No issues, but I was too jaded at this point and I eventually returned it.

    All of them had pretty bad light bleed, which I didn't have at all on my iPad Pro 12.9. When I was able to spend time with the 4th one, I realized how much of a compromise device it actually was.

    Simply - it was too large and awkward to use as a tablet (even more so than the iPad Pro 12.9), and the display wobble/top heaviness made it awkward to use as a laptop. Not to mention the constant tearing at tables the hinge did. It's a nice idea, but it didn't feel like Microsoft was there yet. Windows 10 is awesome though..

    I ended up downsizing from a 15" rMBP & 12.9" iPad Pro to the 2016 13" rMB (non-TB), and the 9.7" iPad Pro. I think 2 devices that are arguably the best in their class is much better than 1 device that is mediocre at both categories.
  25. Nimrad thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jul 28, 2010
    First of all, thanks for all the lengthy replies. Really appreciate it. It helps me not spending too much $$ on my gadget addiction. Let's see what happens. Still don't know what I will be able to get from work as I start this August. Currently my fascination of the Surface Book is slightly less than when I started. If Apple just could update the retina MacBook to a 13 inch with same size and battery and one extra USB-port at 300 dollars less :D

    Totally up to you, but when it comes to bugs/faulty products I prefer statistics to personal stories. I know a guy that won the lottery, but that doesn't mean I will play. Bad luck could happen no matter which one I buy.

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