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I'm one of the people that switched from a MacBook Pro to the new Surface Book.

The ENTIRE experience was dreadful for me.

The day I went into the Microsoft store to purchase it (Black Friday), their credit card system was down, so I had to wait around for nearly 2 hours until they finally figured things out. That wouldn't typically upset me, but my brother-in-law went through something similar just 2 weeks prior. Aside from that, the reps in the store were constantly trying to up-sell me on different items and get me to purchase other things throughout the store. This is something that is extremely irritating to me and something that I appreciated the reps at the Apple Store not doing.

As far as the actual product goes - I found the trackpad to be lacking. It just FELT a bit buggy and non-responsive at times. I have yet to find a trackpad as solid as the ones that Apple ship. This became more apparent of time after using the product. Aside from the trackpad I don't have too many complaints, except for things that are of personal preference (I can't say I like the design / functionality of the snake hinge). I also realized, as mainly a pro user, that I don't have much use / need for the touch screen or tablet portion of the device.

Needless to say, I ended up returning the device and buying the new touch-bar 15" MBP a few days ago. Aside from how annoying it is to locate / use the touch-based Esc key, it's a really solid device.




Trackpads are one of the main things that other companies just can't get right, even on premium devices. Given how long ago Apple 'solved' trackpads, I'm amazed that the rest of the industry hasn't caught up.


True story: I still have one of the old white plastic MacBook 4,1s (w/ Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.4 GHz) from 2008. Even though it's eight years old and runs Snow Leopard, and will not run current XCode or Chrome/Firefox, and has slightly outdated command-line tools, it's still a functional rig that I can do a surprising amount of work on (especially since it remains plugged in all the time, SL is very stable, and I do a lot of work in vim/zsh/tmux).

Well, my wife has a brand-new Lenovo ThinkPad running Windows 10, which is probably one of the better-quality non-Apple laptops. My five-year-old son recently tried my old MacBook for the first time after using nothing but Mommy's before to watch Minecraft videos, and the first thing he said to me was, "Wow, Daddy! The trackpad on your old laptop is so much better than the one on Mommy's laptop."

This was not prompted by any audible parental Apple fanboyism. Somewhere, Steve Jobs is smiling...


It's a tricky thing. From my experience, the capacitive sensing chip vendors (e.g. Broadcom, Cypress, Atmel) want to move units but don't want to spend the time working on the necessary physical integration to make the sensing pad work correctly. A trackpad is really nothing more than a phone-class touchscreen without an LCD behind it. There's a lot of sensitivity tuning and noise rejection that needs to be performed to refine the performance.

It's not their field of specialization, and they don't want to manufacture the finished components themselves. Apple obviously has taken the time and care to get it right. A lot of others...it seems like they went with the reference design as being good enough.


It's not just the hardware either, it's the drivers. Try using bootcamp on a macbook pro. The previously-perfect trackpad becomes unusable. There is an apple-recommended driver you can install that helps, but not much.


The thing that bugs me is that companies are mindlessly copying Apple.

PC makers are basically copying Apple's implementation of trackpads without consideration to the execution. They spend a lot of time copying the superficial features of the Apple track pads, but no time on the actual functionality of the trackpads.


My main problem with trackpads on Windows laptops is actually a software problem: there's no separate sensitivity/acceleration settings for trackpads vs mice for Windows (MacOS has this).

Acceleration is pretty much a necessity for trackpads to be usable with high-res/multi monitor setups for me, but I cannot stand to use mice with acceleration enabled (probably a relic from my hardcore PC FPS gaming days... I get horribly distracted when my mouse movements don't map 1:1 to movements of my cursor). Not being able to keep separate settings for these different classes of input devices means I simply can't get any decent amount of work done on my laptop without connecting a mouse or going into my settings and enabling acceleration (and of course, disabling it afterwards when I need to use a mouse again, which is a huge PITA).

Having touch alleviates the problem somewhat, but there are still plenty of instances where having the precision of a touchpad is necessary.


Doesn't show up on a checklist. The checklist will just say the thing has a trackpad. Is it any good? Who knows, who knows.


Mainly, from what I can gather, because laptop makers (or trackpad makers) still haven't got their act together about including "precision touchpads". That was meant to sort out the touchpad issues a few years ago!

Mostly they seem not to bother fitting the newer type.


I've heard the new "Precision Touchpad" based devices are much better than the current crop of bad trackpads. They are on all "Surface" branded products and some OEMs. I haven't used any personally. YMMV.


Why is this so? Has anyone ever investigated the root causes?


I believe that Apple has patented a lot of what makes their touchpads so great, which makes it difficult for competitors to make an equivalent.


I don't think that's the reason why. Track pads are just another part of Apple's obsession with UX. They invest millions (literally) into track pad placement, feel, and ability knowing that users care about it and they'll make it up with volume. It's hard to justify UX spend.


Indeed. They purchased FingerWorks[1], a maker of obscure touchpad-based keyboards, in order to get their touchpad experts.

Most other companies would just integrate Synaptic's reference design and call it a day.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FingerWorks


Yes, these comments are exactly right. The other companies resigned to it being Good Enough for them, and don't care about making the trackpad excellent.


I'm not positive but I would guess that the hardware is pretty similar. The same manufacturer, synaptics, made the touchpad in my MBP and Thinkpad. Yet the Apple touchpad is far superior. Aside from the fact that my lenovo has a textured tract pad, I think the Apple software is just that much better.


Apple acquired FingerWorks[1] in 2005. They were pioneers in multi-touch pads. I believe their technology is one of the reasons the original iPhone was successful.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FingerWorks


Samsung seemed to manage to do somewhat decent trackpads with their New Series 9 models, now discontinued in most parts of the world.


It's interesting, because my experience has been the opposite. I've found the Surface and Windows 10 to consistently exceed my overall expectations for the platform and are mostly on par with my experiences with OSX.

But I have found with some units, after you move the device the trackpad does have issues. In a few cases (perhaps once every 2 weeks) I have to disconnect and reconnect the base to fix them.

> The day I went into the Microsoft store to purchase it (Black Friday), their credit card system was down, so I had to wait around for nearly 2 hours until they finally figured things out.

Every store's shopping experience on black friday ranges from barely tolerable to unbearable. You know where I had to drop by on black friday to do a chore for my hospital-bound sister? The Apple Store. It was an unpleasant experience.

> I also realized, as mainly a pro user, that I don't have much use / need for the touch screen or tablet portion of the device.

What does this mean? Do pro users not look at or create webpages, mobile apps? Touch works everywhere but IDEs.

I find myself accidentally touching my corporate macbook's screen all the time to click a distant link because it's so much faster than the trackpad travel, and I'm better at home-rowing my hands from a high position rather than a wrist swivel.

Needless to say, I am sick of being "forced" to use OSX. It's slower for my purposes, it's less developer friendly, and the battery life on most of these devices is just atrocious the instant you start doing I/O intensive things like compilation.

My Surface book w/ battery saver mode on still goes 6+ hours doing clojure and kotlin compilations periodically with battery saver on, with only maybe a 10-15% speed loss (which amounts to less than 10 seconds per compile in my worst case). That's substantially better than any mac product I have.


> Every store's shopping experience on black friday ranges from barely tolerable to unbearable.

This is true and I would be completely sympathetic to this if the same thing hadn't happened to my brother-in-law (also purchasing a Surface Book) a couple of weeks prior. Note: this isn't a dig on Microsoft or even the product - I was more trying to make the point that I went into the store super excited about a product, and the experience alone completely turned me off to it in the long run. Granted, I probably didn't give the product enough of a chance in the end.

I'm glad to hear you're enjoying yours.


I am sorry you didn't, and I do want to sincerely invite you to try powershell on your mac and other MS dev stuff. You don't need a surface book to enjoy the environment improvements.


We don't have Microsoft stores here in Asia so I really cannot compare.

But I absolutely hate going into Apple or iStudio stores.

They try to upsell and add all sorts of crap. When I bought my 12" Macbook I ended up leaving the store and buying it online.

I just went in to the store today to buy a case for my new iPhone 7 and I wanted a flip case just so i didn't need a screen protector and the guy kept insisting on getting a screen protector. Despite me saying no a dozen times. I ended up taking my stuff and handing it to another staff member at the counter.


Let me guess. Singapore? Good news is, an Apple store is coming.


Yup Singapore. Had similar experience in Sydney when I lived there too.

I can't deny tho that both Apple and iStudio are great in regards to support. Something doesn't work, take it in, they sort it out ASAP.

Also: There's a real Apple store coming here?


Unless there's specific reasons (like credit card extended warranty), it's probably best to avoid those chains like iStudio. Third party support via AppleCare has been great though.

> Also: There's a real Apple store coming here?

Yes, opposite Paragon.


Though this was just my very limited experience with the apple store , I really did appreciate the lack of upsell. When I bought my macbook air, I walked in, asked for a macbook air, and the only questions were screen size and amount of ram. Same experience when I had to get a replacement power cord after a cat got at it. Only question was "what model?" And wss donr


Lol

>The ENTIRE experience was dreadful for me.

Entire list of complaints: found the trackpad to be lacking. It just FELT a bit buggy.


I think that sentence was talking about the experience at the store, not the device itself.

I picked up a Surface 4 Pro on Black Friday as well, and my experience was fine. Then again, I live in the middle of nowhere.


> I think that sentence was talking about the experience at the store, not the device itself.

I would've thought so too except:

> Needless to say, I ended up returning the device and buying the new touch-bar 15" MBP a few days ago

I can't imagine anybody returning a device a few weeks later due to their experience buying it but :S


I've got a laptop that I hate using precisely because of it's awful trackpad. Anymore I use it only for watching old episodes of adventure time and playing sega genesis games.


Sounds like you were looking for excuse to go back to Apple.


Agreed. Though I have no idea what motivates other people, and opinions vary, so I can't say the decision to go back to Apple is wrong.

I am surprised that for all of the online ordering we do in today's society, so many people use bricks-and-mortar stores for their high-tech purchases. I had my Surface Book shipped to my doorstep like most anything else I purchase in my life. I find it unpleasant to go into Apple stores or Microsoft stores. I've had negative experiences with both and prefer to just get things shipped to my home now.

In my experience, the Surface Book trackpad is as good as any Mac trackpad. I'd say both trackpads are about 80%, if a good mouse is 100%.


"I am surprised that for all of the online ordering we do in today's society, so many people use bricks-and-mortar stores for their high-tech purchases."

Many tech products, like laptops, are quite personal. You're going to be staring at this thing for several hours a day, almost every day. It makes sense that most people would want to see it in person and try it out. And, at least regarding the Apple Store (and presumably the Microsoft store; I haven't checked), it's not cheaper to buy online than it is in the store.

"In my experience, the Surface Book trackpad is as good as any Mac trackpad. I'd say both trackpads are about 80%, if a good mouse is 100%."

I cannot agree, but I have a feeling that this is one of those things like Pepsi vs Coke: There's no objective measurement, so no one can say they're right or wrong.


I work around a 5 min walk from both Apple & Microsoft stores. When my old Thinkpad laptop died, I went over to the Microsoft store and got a Surface Pro. Much more convenient than waiting for one to be delivered. The annoying thing with the Microsoft store is that you can't order online and pick up in-store. I did the same thing when buying my iPhone. Ordered it online and picked it up in store a few hours later. If you have the store close by, you can get your stuff much quicker.


When I purchased my Surface Book, I was told it's best to purchase it in the Microsoft physical store so I could return it with no questions asked if I encountered any problems. Whereas if I purchase it online, from a website like Amazon, I would have to deal with Amazon's customer service.

Edit: The only problem I have with my SB trackpad is that I normally use two finger swipe to scroll down with my hand slightly at an angle to the touchpad (since I'm right handed). I've never had a problem with any MacBook, but on the SB it frequently registers that as a pinch and attempts to zoom.


The Microsoft Store itself has online ordering, so why not order online from there. The return policy specifically allows returning an online purchase at a retail store ( see near bottom of https://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/DisplayHelp... ).


I ordered at launch and it was sold out for some time.


For something like a laptop, I <i>have</i> to get my hands on it. I <i>hate</i> any kind of keyboard flex.


Think about it this way: people who leave an ecosystem for mostly-aesthetic or status-signalling reasons (e.g. a small touchscreen replacing some keys they don't use, making their favoured device appear less 'professional' according to people who've never used it) are likely willing to discard other options for reasons that are just as petty.


I haven't heard any criticism of the touchbar predicated on it making the device "appear less 'professional'" at all; I don't even understand why anyone would think that.


It also sounds like MS has a few issues to work on.


I wonder what the hourly rate and shift schedule is in Apple stores versus Microsoft stores.

There's nothing like low pay and long hours to ruin a product because employees are treated like cattle.

If that's what's going on.


Funny you should mention that experience you had at an MS store, that what I THOUGHT it was going to be like but when I ended up buying myself a SB it was the exact opposite. I guess each store is going to be different, I remember when the Apple store in my city first opened - they hired younglings from similar stores nearby and for the first month or so they were really pushy when it came to upselling stuff.

Overall though I'm a huge fan of my Surface Book, I wouldn't say it's 'better' than my previous MBP but it's definitely better at different things. For example the MBP was a bit nicer to type on and the trackpad felt nicer, but it's screen wasn't as good. I've also found the pen to be a HUGE benefit for me, anything from meetings to note taking has gotten a lot easier.

Plus I'm pretty happy with Windows 10 overall, nice and easy to use and I have to say I like the aesthetics of it a little more than the current OSX.


I had the opposite experience. The MS Store was quick and easy. The Apple store was more than a 2 hour wait to buy something I had already picked out. It wasn't even Black Friday. I'd happily return to the Windows store. If I had to go to the Apple store, I'd expect it to be a bad experience.


It seems like you're basing your judgement largely on your Black Friday shopping experience. You go from saying the "ENTIRE experience was dreadful" to "Aside from the trackpad I don't have too many complaints". This is a rant about Black Friday, not Microsoft.


I heard that people were having terrible times with the surface book. its a shame. wonderful concept.


I think Microsoft is still resolving scalability challenges producing a mass-market in-house hardware line. A friend of mine purchased a Surface Book shortly after release and it had a litany of hardware and software issues, the Microsoft Store replaced it free of charge and he hasn't had issues with the new device.


That makes a lot of sense.




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