Last week I received my Microsoft Surface Book and it looks more like it belongs on a pedestal in a gallery then on a desktop. It is that good looking in person. The only other product that I can recall hitting me as looking this good was the Dell Adamo 13 which was first shown in January of 2009 at CES. I thought it would be interesting to contrast these two products to give you an idea how far we have come since this decade began.
The Dell Adamo 13
Made of metal with a glass inlay and coming in black or “pearl” white this was arguably the best looking laptop shipped last decade. This beauty came at a price though as the laptop cost $2,000. Performance was state of the art for a design forward product and it shipped with a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U9300 processor. This allowed it to be thin and light, still have decent performance and get an as tested 2 to 3 hours of battery life running that gem of an operating system Windows Vista. Actually, while Vista started out pretty nasty by the time the Adamo launched it largely been patched and fixed.
Screen size was 13.4”, it had 720P (low end of HD) resolution, and carry weight was an acceptably light 4 pounds when fully loaded. The glass inlay on the laptop lid wasn’t just for eye candy it also provided far stronger Wi-Fi performance. The touchpad was small, metal, and one of the best available that year. Ports were decent with 3 USB 2.0 ports. The hard drive was large, for the time, 64GB flash drive to start.
So, for about $2K you could get a pretty laptop that weighed in at 4 pounds and cost $2K for the basic model. (Or $2,200 adjusting for inflation).
Microsoft Surface Book
Microsoft Surface Book looks like it was carved out of a single piece of aluminum and you can have any color you want as long as that color is silver. Weight is about 3.5 pounds, battery life up to 12 hours, resolution approaches 4k and this has a Pixel Sense high performance touch screen. The screen separates from the keyboard electronically which not only contains a booster battery but NVIDIA booster graphics. This uses the new 6th Generation Skylake processor, SD storage starts at 128G and can go to 1tb. It has two USB 3.0 ports. It has two HD cameras and has the high resolution Surface Pen. Cost for a mid-level configuration (256GB, Core i5, NVIDIA Graphics) is $1,899.
Compared directly to the Adamo the high end touchpad is both much larger and uses a glass surface rather than metal. The keyboard has a better throw and touch. And the power connection is magnetic not the traditional mechanical socket.
So for $300 less in today’s dollars you get a laptop that is lighter, has up to 4x the battery life, nearly 4x the resolution, touch, a far faster processor, discrete graphics, a built in tablet, and it still looks damn sharp.
It’s amazing how far we have come over the last 6 years. Back in 2009 the Adamo was state of the art and while it still looks contemporary technically it is ages behind the Surface Book which is vastly improved in every major category including performance, weight, and battery life. It is a 2-in-1 and it still looks damned good. If this was a Corvette back in 2009 top speed was 190, quarter mile was 4.5s, and gas Mileage was 25 mpg freeway. This same improvement would give us something that looked like the 2016 Stingray, but got 100 mpg freeway, had a top speed of nearly 800 mph, and did the quarter mile in around 1 second. Oh and the price would be around $10K less in today’s dollars than its 6 year older sibling. Granted we likely couldn’t find road we could drive it on.
Now that’d be a car and this is one heck of a laptop, given this product is causing the PC OEMs to chase design much more aggressively this means we are going to get some amazing new laptops in 2016.