Multiple reviews state Surface book’s battery life is around 3 hours when run in Clipboard mode. This is definitely way too short to provide true tablet experience, but I had a hope. That was an assumption I made such that when the clipboard/screen is plugged back into the keyboard, it recharges the screen/clipboard. The concern here I had was how efficient such charge is. If it took hours to recharge the clipboard vs. rapid charge to give additional 30 minutes use etc. Well, it turned out that I was worrying for irrelevant thing.
Absolute 3 hours battery life
Clipboard does not charge from keyboard if it is not plugged in.
Well if the above reddit comments are to be believed, it is a big deal at least to me. Because it is truly 3 hours that the clipboard can run unless you can recharge the machine.
Imagine use case scenario this fails when someone wants to have tablet/laptop hybrid experience.
Currently, I use tablet for night time read in the bed. One can argue here this whole concept won’t work with Surface Book clipboard as it is too heavy, and I agree. So perhaps not a best case scenario, but nonetheless, I start with this scenario as it is truly my day to day tablet use. If I were to do this with Clipboard at night and don’t plug back in clipboard for charge, next morning/day the clipboard basically has no power despite keyboard may be fully charged. All I do right now is put iPad Air next to my bed and not really worry about its remaining charge next day.
Currently, my existing device lacks true note taking experience. I don’t want to carry my Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition in addition to iPad Air and Macbook Air in my back just to take handwriting note. Surface Pro (original one) is too small of keyboard so typing is compromised so again I am not taking that one either. I have Andoit bluetooth pressure sensitive stylus for iPad, but accuracy is horrible compared to active digitizer devices; hence, I haven’t touched the $100 pen since the 1st week of my purchase. But with this next generation of device, I have a hope to fill this gap.
Clipboard is a nice form factor with 1.6lb alone is pretty light and I know Microsoft surface pen technology is pretty accurate for my use. But 3 hours is too short to cover a day even with my work. So for college student with multiple classes every day, it just won’t work long enough.
No clipboard/tablet mode after clipboard battery runs out
if the clipboard’s battery is very low (below 10 percent), the system will not allow you to detach it from the base. Similarly, if an application is using the discrete GPU, it won’t allow you to remove the screen. You’ll have to stop the application first.
The Arstechnica site in their review brought up a good scenario when you want to detach the screen even when clipboard battery is low.
There are scenarios in which I would like to remove the screen even with the battery dead. For example, on planes, I will often flip the screen around backward and put the laptop into “tent” mode while watching movies. (It reduces the footprint and eliminates the risk of dumping a drink into the keyboard.) The Surface Book supports this fine. But if the battery goes flat and you want to put the screen the normal way around so that you can pack the thing up? You’re out of luck.
There are several reviews stating screen is still bit top heavy and wobbly so aside from the form factor, writing in laptop mode is probably not a best solution. But one can think of using screen attached in reverse way to use base keyboard battery and still having tablet interface (obviously too heavy to hold on hand). The issue here is if we used clipboard mode and run out of the battery on screen, I imagine scenario where you can put back your screen to keyboard but you have to make a decision there i.e. put back as laptop or put back as tablet as it won’t let you detach afterward until you can recharge. My guess is most will choose laptop mode; otherwise, you cannot even put the machine into back with screen full exposed.
I think this is going to be a huge issue, and Microsoft will likely to put out some driver in future to allow the detachment/reattachment even after screen’s battery goes empty. However, even with such approach the issue will still remain as clipboard will have empty battery if you detach the computer won’t be able to be in sleep mode i.e. each time you switch it probably has to be shut down and rebooted.
Now we are talking probably 1 minute or less but can become enough irritant/inconvenience, most people won’t readily be able to flip back and forth.
3 hours for easy switch?
So to me, already too short 3 hours battery life of the surface book requires further careful management to allow easy switch between laptop to tablet/presentation mode. Between the switch with battery remaining in screen allows instant switch rather than shutting down and rebooting, which is what everyone expect in this type of device.
So primary use style of the Surface book really now becomes base almost always attached even when you want to use as tablet. Clipboard function is there but requires very careful planning to truly utilize and in most use case scenario it may not even be practical.
Conclusion: Surface book is really a 360 hinge device just a different form factor?
So to me, the surface book is not really a true portable tablet + laptop two in one replacing both devices but rather more like a 360 degrees screen rotating device with active stylus (note: Yoga 900 does not have a active stylus support). So one must be careful understanding this limitation and don’t come to short conclusion that this device can be replacement of Tablet (Android or iPad) + Ultraportable laptop (e.g. Dell XPS 13 or Macbok Pro) Having said this, Surface Book still remains to have a lead over other 13 inch class laptops because of its discrete GPU. Personally, I am still interested in Surface Book, but now start also considering Surface Pro 4 for its balance between tablet and laptop with a bit difference emphasis.