Microsoft recently launched the Surface Book 2 in India, ahead of the unveiling of the Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Pro 6.
South Africans were not so lucky, with Microsoft confirming it has no plans to sell its laptop and tablet computers in the country.
If you want to get your hands on Microsoft’s Surface devices, you have to buy a parallel import.
While there are retailers that import Surface devices, ongoing support remains a concern. Surface devices are not easily repairable or self-serviceable, with the Surface Book 2 obtaining close to the lowest possible repairability score from iFixit.
Despite the lack of at-home repairability, it’s a shame that Microsoft’s Surface computers aren’t available in South Africa as they have received favourable reviews.
The Surface Book and Surface Pro, in particular, offer a great alternative in an underserved niche.
Beyond the spec sheet
Comparisons of specifications and pricing abound between the Surface range and its competitors.
Broadly, they show that the Surface Pro is an excellent productivity-focused Windows alternative to the iPad and Android slates on the market, albeit a little pricey when you factor in its Type Cover keyboard.
The Surface Laptop 2 compares favourably to the new MacBook Air, and presents a different set of trade-offs to machines like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre 13.
Specifically at lower price points, the Surface Laptop 2 offers a slightly larger and better display than similar non-Mac notebooks in the field, but it doesn’t offer any USB 3 Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Similarly, the Surface Book 2 offers an interesting alternative in the market of laptops aimed at professionals, whether software developers or video editors.
Like Microsoft’s other Surface devices, its selection of ports is limited and the single Type-C USB port on the Surface Book 2 does not support Thunderbolt 3.
A great set of internals is a requirement to compete in the ultraportable and professional notebook market. However, there are features that simply don’t make it onto the basic spec sheet – in this case the materials used for the case and the feel of the keyboard.
By all accounts, the keyboards on the Surface Laptop and Surface Book are a cut above the rest — a dream for writers, developers, and other keyboard jockeys who regularly find themselves away from their desk.
The Surface Laptop then pairs the solid design of its keyboard with the option of an Alcantara finish.
Thanks to the design of the hinge and detachable display, the Surface Book is also a multipurpose device. You can use it in a standard laptop configuration, or uncouple the screen from the keyboard base to use it like a tablet.
While Microsoft opted for a detachable display rather than a swivel hinge for the Surface Book, it can provide similar functionality to laptops that have touchscreen displays on a swivel.
This is necessary because Surface Book models with Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 or 1060 graphics cards house them in the keyboard base, along with a secondary battery.
You are therefore able to detach the screen and reattach to the hinge backwards so it can close screen-side-up on top of the keyboard. You can also use the keyboard base as a screen stand in this configuration, something Microsoft calls “View Mode.”
The various forms the Surface Book may be transformed into make it an interesting middle-ground between a professional notebook, a creator’s workstation, and an entertainment device.
If you take a Surface Book model with a discrete Nvidia graphics cards, the laptop could even double as a gaming device.
This is why it is sad that after more than six years, Microsoft still doesn’t officially sell any Surface devices in South Africa. What a pleasure it would have been to welcome them to our shores in 2019.