Microsoft’s answer to the MacBook suffers one big flaw

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Surface Laptop
Beware the Surface Laptop's reliability.
Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop, with its sleek design and a super-sharp display, might look like a worthy competitor to the MacBook. But there’s one big flaw holding it back.


Unveiled today, the Windows 10 S-powered laptop might not be quite as pretty as an Apple notebook. But the Surface Laptop is still a good-looking machine. It sports a traditional laptop design — you won’t be pulling the touchscreen off this one — with a keyboard covered in soft Alcantara fabric like the Surface Pro 4’s premium Type Cover.

You won’t find any holes or speaker grilles in the Surface Laptop’s casing. Microsoft integrated “vapor chambers” into the notebook’s chassis to keep it cool. Its speakers sit beneath the keyboard, so sound comes up through the base of the machine.

The Surface Laptop’s 13.5-inch PixelSense display boasts 3.4 million pixels, and it’s packed into a cool aluminum casing that extends across the bottom of the machine. Microsoft says its new display is the “thinnest LCD touch model ever created and put into a laptop.”

Starting at $999, the Surface Laptop ships with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a battery that lasts up to 14.5 hours in between charges. If you have more to spend, you’ll be able to upgrade to a Core i7 processor and add more RAM and storage.

Windows 10 S is the Surface Laptop’s Achilles’ heel

What makes the Surface Laptop unlike the rest of the Surface lineup is its Windows 10 S operating system. It’s Microsoft answer to Google’s Chrome OS, and it has been designed to run smoothly on low-end hardware.

Although the Surface Laptop is pricey, other Windows 10 S laptops will be available from third-party manufacturers soon for as little as $189. But there’s one thing you should know about Microsoft’s new Windows spinoff.

Windows 10 S only runs apps downloaded from the Windows Store — much like the failed Windows RT operating system that Microsoft abandoned. That means you cannot run software you’ve downloaded from the web and other third-party sources.

If the apps you use aren’t available from Microsoft’s marketplace, then, forget about using them on your Surface Laptop.

If that major limitation doesn’t put you off, you can bag your own Surface Laptop starting June 15 in platinum, burgundy, cobalt blue or graphite gold.