Display, Keyboard & Trackpad
The Surface Book is equipped with a 13.5-inch “PixelSense” IPS LCD display with a resolution of 3000 x 2000 (267 ppi). Its 3:2 aspect ratio is unconventional in a market dominated by 16:9 laptops, but during actual use the taller display is far more useful in productivity apps. Yes, you are going to get a letterbox effect when watching videos and movies, but this laptop is designed for productivity, where this sort of aspect ratio makes a ton of sense.
A resolution of 3000 x 2000 gives this device the equivalent density of a 13.3-inch 3200 x 1800 16:9 display. In other words, the Surface Book’s display is well suited to rendering text and imagery, with both looking extremely sharp on this display. When Windows is set to a scaling value of 200% (which is the default), the desktop is a perfect size for regular use, and thanks to the improvements in Windows 10, most apps don’t look completely terrible.
The display is quite bright, capable of reaching as high as 410 nits, while black levels are excellent, allowing the LCD to boast contrast ratios in excess of 1:1700. Viewing angles from this panel are superb for an LCD, which makes it easy for a group of people to content on the screen. I didn’t notice any significant levels of backlight bleed in typical usage either.
Microsoft has managed to calibrate this display extremely well out of the box. Using an i1Display Pro colorimeter and SpectraCal’s CALMAN 5 software, I determined that the Surface Book’s display falls under a dE2000 of 2 in our greyscale, saturation and general accuracy tests. Performance like this indicates the display is almost indistinguishable from correct sRGB calibration, which makes this the perfect laptop for content creators wanting a powerful machine for color accurate work on the go.
The Surface Book’s keyboard is a typical island laptop keyboard, which feels somewhat mushy but has decent travel for a thin laptop board. All keys except for the smaller up and down arrows are of decent size and are spaced adequately for quick typing. Writing a portion of this review on the keyboard was a breeze, and it’s definitely a lot better for typing than the Type Covers you can get for the Surface tablets (let alone other lesser covers).
Along the top row of the keyboard are a collection of function keys, which control things like the keyboard backlight, volume and media playback. There’s also a dedicated button for undocking the tablet from the keyboard base, which you need to hold down in order for the latches to disconnect.
The trackpad, centered below the keyboard, is fairly decent for a laptop. The material the trackpad is made of feels great, allowing you move your fingers across its surface with ease. The trackpad has a satisfying click, which made using the mouse easy, and in general I found gestures to work as intended. I had no issues with this part of the Surface Book, and it complements the touchscreen well when you need increased accuracy.