After reviewing Microsoft’s Surface machines, a number of our readers requested us to also review other competing products that sport enough processing power to run photo applications like Lightroom and Photoshop. Since in my past corporate life I spent quite a bit of time with Dell PCs and servers, it was my first natural selection. Having previously owned a Dell XPS 13 (when it was first introduced a while back), I wanted to take a look at the newest-generation version to see how well it would do for photography needs. Although a more direct competitor to Microsoft’s Surface Pro line would be the XPS 12, once I found out that it was maxed out at 8 GB of RAM and only 256 GB of storage, I had to move up in size. And since my goal was to find something light and compact to travel with, I did not consider the Dell XPS 15, which boasts the most power among the three models and comes with a dedicated GPU. When the Dell XPS 13 finally arrived, I got ready to put it through some tests to see how it would do. After a two-week trip to California and four more weeks of heavy work on the XPS 13, I decided to share my thoughts on the machine with our readers in a detailed review.
Along with the new Surface Book, Microsoft also revealed a highly anticipated update to the Surface Pro line – the Surface Pro 4. Being a huge fan of the SP 3, I have been patiently waiting to see what Microsoft would bring in the SP 4. Although the Surface Book sounds like a dream come true for serious work, it is both heavier and larger than the Surface Pro 3 once you add up the keyboard shell (which is what hosts an additional battery, external connectors and an optional GPU). My Surface Pro 3 is always with me and it fits nicely in the front compartment of my Think Tank Airport Commuter backpack (the best camera backpack I have used to date), so I will have to evaluate the size differences between the two to decide which one would suit my needs the best. Thankfully, Microsoft kept the Surface Pro 4 nice and compact. In fact, compared to its predecessor, the SP 4 is both thinner and slightly lighter at 8.45mm and 1.73 pounds (high-end models), vs 9.14mm and 1.76 pounds on the SP 3.
Today is a big day at Microsoft, because the company revealed the Surface Book, Microsoft’s first ever laptop. With its 13.5 inch display packing 3,000 x 2,000 pixels (3:2 aspect ratio, which is great for photography) the screen is very impressive with 267 pixels per inch. And since this machine just like the Surface Pro and Surface 3 can run the full version of Windows 10, you can run any calibration software to get the color precision you need. The cool thing about the Surface Book is that you can use it both as a tablet and a laptop – something Apple MacBook Pro cannot compete with. That’s a neat feature, because some tasks, like online browsing do not require a keyboard, so the ability to disconnect the screen from the keyboard is amazing. The keyboard module is not just a keyboard – it is actually another shell that hosts another battery and an optional NVIDIA graphics card (GPU), which is something I did not expect to see. This means that the Surface Book will be perfectly usable not only for gaming, but also for many challenging tasks, including 3D modeling. GPU speed was the weakness of the Surface Pro line and a lot of people have been asking for a way to hook up an external GPU. Looks like Microsoft listened and delivered. There is, however, a caveat with the tablet vs full laptop mode: since the larger capacity battery sits in the keyboard shell, the battery life is greatly diminished, with the tablet only being able to run for up to 3 hours. Still, that’s pretty darn impressive for such a small powerhouse. And speaking of battery life, once you hook up the keyboard, you will be able to get up to 12 hours of battery life!
Within the next few weeks, Microsoft will be releasing the new generation model of its successful laptop for professionals, the Surface Pro 4. Having been using the Surface Pro 3 since it came out, I have taken it all over – from the dusty Race Track playa of Death Valley to the red sands of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Being light and portable, it has been in my camera bag pretty much everywhere I go. I have always been a PC guy (although I recently bought an iMac), so I have had quite a bit of experience using all kinds of PCs for my needs. And although I have never had issues with PCs, my biggest struggle has always been laptops. Having tried everything from expensive Dell Precision models to lightweight ultrabooks, I pretty much hated them all for one reason – the amount of heat they generate, particularly when using them on my lap.