A Surface for All Occasions: Microsoft Surface Buying Guide


We all know of Microsoft, thanks to its reputation and most popular products: the Windows operating system and its accompanying software. Since 2012, Microsoft has made a comeback into the consumer computer market with the release of the Surface, a 2-in-1 hybrid tablet laptop. Now the Surface lineup includes upgraded and redesigned systems, as well as new models. So, if you’re still looking for a holiday gift this season, read on for a short course on what Microsoft Surface products have to offer and what they can do for you.

Surface Pro

The Surface Pro is the current generation of the original Surface 2-in-1 hybrid tablet laptop. Available with up to an Intel® Core™ i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive, it has the power you need to create, study, and work, all in a compact and portable form factor. It also features a 12.3" 2736 x 1824 PixelSense 10-point touch display, which is compatible with the separately sold Surface Dial and Surface Pen (more on these later) to help expand your creative capabilities. Thanks to its built-in kickstand, you can use it in laptop mode, studio mode, and tablet mode, but please note that the base system does not include the Surface Pro Signature Type Cover, which is needed if you want to use it as a traditional laptop.

Microsoft Surface Pro 12.3" 128GB Multi-Touch Tablet

tl;dr (too long, didn’t read): Overall, the Surface Pro is a solid choice for users looking for a portable 2-in-1 system that can keep up with them through varying uses, handle everyday tasks, and then some.

Surface Laptop

Designed for students, the Surface Laptop ships with Windows 10 S, a streamlined version of Windows 10 with a focus on security and performance. Spec-wise, it’s also available with up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive. Unlike the Surface Pro, it has a slightly larger 13.5" multi-touch display with a lower 2256 x 1504 resolution. As a traditional laptop, the keyboard is not removable and it does not support any additional viewing modes. Windows 10 S is only capable of running Microsoft Store apps, ensuring that they’re Microsoft-verified for security and integrity. Please note that if needed, you can switch to Windows 10 Pro via the Windows Store.

Microsoft 13.5" Surface Laptop

tl;dr: With a thin and light chassis, the Surface Laptop offers you a balance between performance, portability, and battery life. It’s ideal for users who need a stylish, all-day system without the hassle of extra apps.

Surface Book 2

If you liked the Surface Pro, think of the Surface Book 2 as its stronger, bigger brother. Also sporting a 2-in-1 design, the Surface Book 2 is available in both 13.5 and 15" screen sizes, depending on your preference of course, and equipped with up to Intel Core i7 processing power, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive. Most importantly, it has a dedicated graphics card (excluding a single model) with your choice of an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 or 1060, which lets you tackle professional-grade software, games, and even VR applications. Additionally, for the gamers out there, it has Xbox Wireless built-in (15" model only), so you won’t have to buy a separate adapter to use your controller.

Microsoft 13.5" Surface Book 2 Multi-Touch 2-in-1 Notebook

tl;dr: The Surface Book 2 delivers enhanced performance compared to the Surface Pro. It’s worth considering if you’re running professional-grade software, playing graphically demanding games, or working with VR applications.

Surface Studio

The Surface Studio is an all-in-one desktop with a large 28" 4500 x 3000 multi-touch display built for creative and professional use. It has a compact and minimalistic design, and a Zero Gravity Hinge that lets you adjust the display down into Studio Mode with one hand for an easier time writing and drawing. You can configure it to support up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive with a 2TB hard drive. To handle graphical processing, it’s equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M graphics card. Moreover, it’s designed to be used with the Surface Pen and Surface Dial to complete the creative experience.

Microsoft 28" Surface Studio Multi-Touch All-in-One Desktop Computer

tl;dr: The Surface Studio is for artists, designers, architects, and others who work in a creative field that would benefit from working with a large and adjustable multi-touch display, which allows them to work directly on the screen.

Surface Dial & Surface Pen

The Surface Pen is compatible with all the previously mentioned Surface products and is designed to provide you with a natural writing and drawing experience. It has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt support, virtually no lag, a side button for quick access to shortcuts and commands, and an eraser tip. The tips can be changed out as needed, and it’s powered by a single AAAA battery.

Microsoft Surface Pen

The Surface Dial is a trickier device because it’s compatible with the previously mentioned Surface devices, but in different capacities. It supports on- and off-screen interactions with all models, aside from the Surface Laptop, which only supports off-screen functions. The dial itself is somewhat of a stand-alone command system that provides you with quick and easy shortcuts to in-app tasks such as selecting tools, adjusting the volume, and scrolling through articles. On-screen functions differ, allowing you to watch as you scroll through colors, brush sizes, and more.

Microsoft Surface Dial

tl;dr: The Surface Pen is the go-to stylus for Surface products if you’re planning to write or draw often. The Surface Dial is more of a niche item that can help enhance and simplify your workflow.

These are all the Surface products for now and, hopefully, Microsoft continues to expand its lineup with new and interesting systems—in fun colors, of course. Do you already have a Surface? If so, what are you mainly using it for? Let us know in the Comments section, below, to help others decide.