Microsoft Surface Book: Solving the wonky trackpad, mostly

The reviews of the Surface Book are in and it's worth looking to see if Microsoft has been able to eliminate the flaky trackpad issues that have plagued laptop owners for years.

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CNET
In the world of Windows laptops one thing that owners have been able to count on is that the trackpad at some point would give them fits.

Trackpad issues include laggy scrolling, intermittent inaction when touched, and the big one -- the cursor that suddenly jumps across the screen when you merely touch the trackpad. And the most troublesome: The disappearing trackpad after the laptop resumes from sleep or is powered up.

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Most agree that trackpads on MacBooks are the standard against which Windows trackpads are judged. Apple has long made them perform without issues, and reviews of Windows laptops often compare them to the Apple standard.

This week is Microsoft review week with numerous online reviews appearing of the Surface Book. I've been reading every review I could find to see if Microsoft has solved the riddle of producing a trackpad that just works. Overall most reviewers are impressed with the trackpad on the Surface Book, although some had issues.

A common theme running through the reviews when it comes to the trackpad is that the one on the Surface Book is the best on any Windows laptop. This isn't surprising as Microsoft, like Apple, controls all aspects of the Surface Book from hardware to software.

Here are comments from a few reviews:

Joanna Stern/ WSJ:

"...the Surface Book's glass pad is righting all the wrongs of past plasticky, finger-bruising Windows trackpads. Two-finger scrolling is very smooth-though not in Google's Chrome browser-and other gestures work on the first try. But it doesn't quite reach Apple's trackpad perfection. Sometimes my cursor would jump, stick or just disappear. Microsoft says this too will soon be fixed."

Edward C. Baig/ USA Today:

"Fast and powerful Windows 10 laptop has gorgeous display, excellent keyboard and trackpad and can turn into a tablet. Terrific battery life. Surface Pen."

Paul Thurrott/ Thurrott.com:

"The trackpad, too, is larger and offers a first-rate pointing experience that is on part with the best from Lenovo and HP. (Apple still has little to worry about in this category, but it's fair to say that Windows PCs are finally starting to catch up to MacBook Air, if belatedly.)"

David Pierce/ Wired:

"The trackpad is virtually unparalleled in the Windows world, glassy and smooth and easy to use in a way I didn't think Windows trackpads could be."

Dana Wollman/ Engadget:

"It's already the best Windows trackpad, and it mostly works well here, with smooth two-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom for things like maps and fine-print pages. As a warning, there were a few times when I booted up the system only to find the touchpad was unresponsive."

Mario Aguilar/ Gizmodo:

"Then there are the downsides. The first is an inconsistent trackpad that's jumpy, and often too sensitive or not sensitive enough. After nearly two weeks using the Surface Book, I've grown accustomed to the trackpad's wonky behavior."

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It seems Microsoft has given a lot of attention to the lowly trackpad and it shows. It's important to note that reviewers received evaluation units that are pre-production and Microsoft has indicated it will be soon be fixing a lot of issues in those units.

The Surface Book trackpad is arguably the best in the Windows world, and that's a good feat for Microsoft's first laptop. Having control over the whole process definitely has an advantage when you look at the results.

Sadly, the bottom line is that the trackpad on the Surface Book is almost as good as that of the MacBook. The objective should be to make one as good or better than Apple's, and it's not yet apparent that even Microsoft can do that.