Tuesday was a big day.
As nice as it is to receive a new piece of Apple gear, it’s sometimes fun to take delivery of something that doesn’t feature the Apple logo.
That’s exactly what happened when the postman handed me a box from John Lewis. Inside lay a brand-new Microsoft Surface Laptop 4.
I think this is my first Windows laptop in around 20 years. That made this a significant event, and one I’d been looking forward to ever since I kicked up an almighty fuss about Windows 11 on YouTube.
I spent that evening filming myself unboxing my shiny new toy (the life of a YouTuber, eh?) and setting it up, ready for a day’s work.
Here’s what I learned during several hours with the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4.
1. Macs need touch support (and it isn’t a big deal)
I’ve heard so many opinions on why Apple should or shouldn’t add touch support to Macs.
There aren’t enough finger-sized touch targets. That’s what iPads are for. macOS isn’t designed for touch. Users will get themselves into a right state if they’re given touch control. It blurs the line between macOS and iPadOS.
None of this matters.
When you get your hands on a Windows laptop that has a touchscreen, it just makes sense. You reach out and touch stuff when it feels natural to do so and revert to the keyboard and trackpad when it doesn’t.
There’s so much fuss surrounding the addition of touch to macOS, and it’s entirely pointless. Just add it, Tim; it’s no big deal.
2. Re-learning keyboard shortcuts is damn hard
Wow, muscle memory is a pain in the arse, isn’t it?
I’d completely forgotten that Windows uses Ctrl as its main modifier key for keyboard shortcuts. On the Mac, it’s Cmd. Trust me, when you switch between the two platforms, this is the main annoyance.
And, yes, I know you can remap keys.
3. The Start Menu is an incomprehensible mess
I’ve only spent a day with the Surface Laptop 4, which meant I had little choice but to simply get the basics ready for work duties. As a result, I haven’t delved into its settings or spent much time at all having a play and snoop around Windows 10 itself.
However, curiosity got the better of me on a couple of occasions, and I couldn’t help but take a peek into the Start Menu.
Yikes. What a mess.
To the left, there’s an expandable menu that gives you access to common areas such as Settings and Documents. To the right of that, there’s an alphabetical list of – I think – installed apps. It is then capped off with a tile-based interface which reminds me of Windows Phone.
I have no idea what to do with it or what it expects from me.
Thankfully, I never felt the need to head into the Start Menu during my working day. So, I pretended it didn’t exist. Let’s chalk that one down as a tomorrow problem.
4. Macs should have Face ID (because they just should)
Can someone explain why Apple hasn’t added Face ID to a Mac yet? I’m yet to read or hear a single explanation that holds any water.
It feels as obnoxious an omission as their insistence on sticking with lightning.
Just do it, please. Just add Face ID to Macs.
Why? Because facial recognition on my Surface Laptop 4 is superbly convenient and characterful. There’s even a little red LED that flashes to reveal it’s checking out your face and a friendly little animation on the screen to confirm when it recognises you.
“Good morning, Mark!” it said when I lifted the lid today. Nice!
Get over yourselves, Apple; just add Face ID to the next bunch of MacBooks.
5. This might be the nicest laptop keyboard I’ve ever used
Now, I’m typing this on a Magic Keyboard which is attached to an iPad Air. So, I appreciate this particular point is a little ironic in my current setting. But there are reasons I’m not yet blogging on the Surface Laptop 4, which I’ll get to in a future article.
Regardless, I can confirm that the Surface Laptop 4 has possibly the nicest laptop keyboard I’ve ever used. I need more time with it, but first impressions are that it really is rather wonderful.
It has some quirks. For instance, I opted for the base-spec version of this laptop, which comes with an Alcantara-clad keyboard surface. The keys themselves are reassuringly made from plastic, but the area on which your palm rests is soft to the touch and unlike anything I’ve experienced on a laptop.
I appreciate this is a signature of the Surface line, and there is indeed a metal version available. But if your budget can only stretch to the base version, you’re stuck with Alcantara, which I’m pretty certain will wear terribly over time. We’ll see.
The other issue is something I wasn’t expecting, which is a significant amount of case flex over the keyboard area. It worsens the closer you get to the centre of the keyboard, where the admirable key travel is joined by a surface that gently bounces up and down with each keypress.
However, I have a feeling that both of these quirks actually add to the pleasurable typing experience. That Alcantara surface is really rather lovely to rest your palms on and aids long typing sessions. And that case flex doesn’t irritate at all; in fact, I think it simply compliments what is a very, very nice keyboard.
I need to spend more time with the Surface Laptop 4, but I loved my first foray back into Windows Land.
Using something that felt foreign-yet-familiar was a lot of fun, and, as a tech enthusiast, added an interesting new dimension to what was a typical, normal day’s work. I had a feeling it would be nice to broaden my horizons, and I wasn’t wrong.
Stay tuned. This is only the start of a Mac guy’s Windows adventure.