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Review: The Porsche Design Book One Is The Future

While this is a world's first review of the Porsche Design Book One, it's also one of the strangest reviews in my career. I’m a jaded journalist, having covered tech launches since the original iPhone. So when it comes to brand plays, my fallback position is skepticism, sarcasm and ultimately convincing recommendations of what you should buy instead. So Porsche + laptop + $2495 MSRP? Yeah, I immediately started fueling my snark machine, ready to body slam an overpriced pretender into the center of the earth.

But then I used the Porsche Book One aka the Surface Book Two aka The New Best Laptop Ever and here I am with a serious 5000 word analysis of the Book One, the PC industry and the future of consumer electronics branding.

But first, some Twitter fodder for the TLDR crowd:

     > Yes, this is the world’s first review, not a press event "review"
     > Yes, this is a real review -- I’ve had the Porsche for three weeks
     > Yes, the Porsche laptop is the new best laptop in the world
     > No, there is no brand tax, the $2495 price is justified
     > Yes, this is an important product in the evolution of laptops and electronics

While I’m slightly disappointed I can’t go all Super Saiyan Reviewer and decimate an overly pretentious product with a foolishly high brand tax, I am more than thrilled to do real journalism (or fancy blogging, let's not get crazy) with what I believe isn’t just a great product, but an important product in an industry facing declining sales and an identity crisis.

Pay attention to the Porsche, it's both the future of laptops and canary in the silicon coal mine. 

Origin Story

Porsche threw a press junket in Spain last month where the tech world got their first chance to party with the Porsche. A week after that, I got my sample. How? Newegg is the exclusive online partner for the Book One, lightning struck and I ended up with a review sample weeks before other reviewers.

The Porsche starts shipping April 21st

Porsche has a history of providing design services (and logos) to other companies. LaCie, owned by Seagate, makes fancy hard drives skinned by Porsche. Huawei, the world's third largest cell phone company, sells the Mate 9 Porsche Design for a $800 premium over the regular Mate 9. 

Originally, the Book One discussion focused on its "3-in-1" functionality. Given that I’ve reviewed almost all 2-in-1s on the market, a 3-in-1 was both interesting and giving me a sarcasm itch I was dying to scratch. 3-in-1? Laptop, tablet and...easy bake oven? Three is more than two which is more than one. More is better. Until it gets murdered in the press. 

Since then, the product has become the Porsche Design 2-in-1 with more involvement from Microsoft, Intel and Quanta in the push to give the Book One some credibility. 

You can see the Design One in all its glory here-

FULL DISCLOSURES

In case you’re wondering, I received no money from Porsche for this content. This is all pure opinion and analysis. Porsche won’t even see this article before it goes live, as much as they want/should.

So the opinions on these pages are my own. I believe having good content means having independent content. Manufacturers can’t buy our opinions -- I cover what I love and strive to grow Unlocked to be the Weekly World News of electronics. 

THE DEATH RATTLE OF INNOVATION?

I’ve personally reviewed or tested nearly every 2-in-1 on the market as well as most ultra performance gaming laptops, overclockable motherboards, graphics cards and all manner gadgets that have come through Newegg’s thermal paste covered walls.

I bring up my experience because, unlike most products, the Porsche Design Book One is a product truly understood when looking at larger industry trends rather than through the lens of ranked reviews or "Top 5" product roundups.

Our perception of what innovation looks like has changed dramatically over the years. In fact, I think our expectation of new tech changes the way we look at previous milestones. 

Remember the first iPad? Ask yourself or those around you when the iPad was released. Got a date in your mind's eye? Good. 

Answer: the iPad debuted January 27th, 2010 to what can only be described as a cultural facenuke.

It. Changed. Everything.

But most people think it wasn't that recent. A super scientific study of coworkers and non-nerds alike had a similar opinion -- they felt like the first iPad came out 15 years ago, though they said the announcement was probably more like ten.

And then, once I revealed the real date, the common refrain was, "Really? That's crazy!" Why do we think we have had tablets longer than we have? 

Sure, sample sizes matter except in politics, but I think the general cultural perception is that tablets have been around longer than the reality. People I asked don't just shrug away their failure at identifying the year, they're genuinely surprised. The iPad came out recently. Or "recently." Has the cycle of electronics releases changed our perception of what is recent? 

What about 2-in-1s? The first real 2-in-1 was the Microsoft Surface Pro in 2013. And yet, it seems longer. Maybe world events have just worn me down. 

Whatever the reason, the need by consumers to adopt or upgrade has changed considerably since the days of "one more thing."

According to an IDC report, tablet shipments dropped 20.1% in Q4 2016 vs Q4 2015. That’s holidays, folks. That’s make-your-numbers time. That’s terrifying to electronics manufacturers and retailers. Actual tablet usage is down as well, meaning the standalone tablet could join antiquated gadgets like beepers and VR backpacks.

Of course, Moore’s Law still stands and innovation continues but the demand for Cupertino confetti cannons means recent innovation is mostly invisible to the consumer.

THE 2-IN-1 REALITY DISTORTION FIELD

Or is it? Our current era will be known as the “Post Steve Jobs Epoch.” You heard it here first. Or maybe the Verge circa 2011. Anyway, the biggest news out of Apple is a Red iPhone, a Bono-boosted marketing campaign Apple first launched in...2006. Not exactly cutting edge, Timothy. Heck, Apple can’t even release Macs with current gen CPUs. What’s going on?

Apple lost Jobs. Cook tried to keep the plates spinning, but it's not the same. As then Apple became the second biggest company in the world. Apple is the next Sony, the slide is happening.  

I like to think about Steve Jobs if he didn't go all paleo fruit-cures-cancer and enter the pantheon. What product would Jobs release today? What would be the new next big thing? 

In the past, I didn't have a good answer.

Now, I do -- The Porsche Design Book One. Simply, the Porsche is the Macbook Pro Steve Jobs would have made. Because 2-in-1s would have been a Jobs invention. And if he failed to invent it, he would have made sure everyone recognized that he perfected it. 

But products like the Porsche are missing the glossy hype drums at One Hyperloop Lane.

In fact, I like to imagine every new product if it had Apple-level marketing. Think about it, if Apple released some of the better 2-in-1s in the last four years, the tech press would have clutched their communal pearls over Apple’s daring genius. “Can you really combine a tablet and a laptop? And write ON the screen? Is the world ready for such brilliance?”

But since products like the Acer Aspire R13 Ezel (most useful hinge ever), ASUS Zenbook Flip (the better Macbook Air), and the Microsoft Surface Book (deserves even more praise than it’s getting), come from companies that aren’t Apple and can’t duplicate Steve’s reality distortion field, they remain niche products in the non-niche world.

I mean, the Acer Ezel seems like a gimmick until you imagine Jobs on the Moscone stage saying, “one more thing -- we updated our Macbook Pro...with a twist” and then flipped the screen backwards. The gasps from the tech punditry would have set off earthquake warning systems in Kyoto. “It’s an iPad and a Mac. It’s a tablet and a laptop. It’s the future. It’s $2999.” And it’s sold out.

The Acer? Discontinued.

GROWING ECOSYSTEMS, NOT BRANDS

Despite the doom and gloom, the future is bright. Because innovation is happening, it's the marketing that hasn’t caught up.

Since Microsoft and Intel typically sell products that go inside other products -- software and CPUs, specifically -- they want to boost the greater industry to get even more of their products in people’s hands.

Microsoft made the Surface line to push their 2-in-1 functionality that, since the first Surface launched, has pretty much met expectations and more. Today, Windows 10 is the best giant tablet experience and the best desktop experience and it’s all surprisingly great given Microsoft’s lackluster so-called game-changers of yore. Didn't know that, right?

With the Surface Book, Microsoft wants to push a specific form factor -- the hard detachable/convertible they believe is the future of laptops. And they’re not wrong. Unlike the soft detachable Surface 4, the “hard” part is the laptop keyboard and nifty release mechanism. The convertible part is the flip backwards part.

Basically, the hard detachable AND convertible 2-in-1 is the true evolution of the laptop. Microsoft, Intel and others want to make sure the evolution happens.

And the Porsche Design Book One is it. But Porsche doesn't make laptops. 

IS IT PRONOUNCED PORSCHE OR PORSCH-A?

It will come as no surprise to learn that the Porsche Design Book One isn’t actually made by Porsche (pronounced “Porsch-a” according to a genuine German). Porsche hasn’t transitioned their Kuka six axis robot arms to making keyboard instead of body panels.

Also, this is technically a Porsche Design product, a division of the Porsche family and responsible for other Porsche Design products including pens, bikes and $3500 exhaust-turned-loudspeakers.

So Porsche is not, in any real sense, manufacturing laptops.

In fact, Porsche doesn’t even manufacture cars. At least, not all of them. It’s understood that Porsche SUVs are made by VW, their parent group. But independent car manufacturers like Karmann, Valmet and others make/made Porsche Boxsters as well as Audis, BMWs and other vehicles. Gasp, right?

But think about it -- Apple doesn’t manufacture, well, anything. Foxconn and an assortment of other megafactories sprinkled throughout the eastern isles make every Apple product. Apple is basically a fancy design/marketing/hype train.

So who is really creating the Book One? Taiwan’s Quanta, the world’s true number one manufacturer of laptops, spitting out products featuring logos from fine companies like Apple, HP, Dell, Lenovo, LG and Amazon.

THE PORSCHE BOOK ONE IS THE SURFACE BOOK TWO

The industry consensus is the Microsoft Surface Book is basically the best laptop made. And I agree. It makes sense that Microsoft, seeing a need in their Windows world, would craft the ultimate 2-in-1 device to pursue new consumer segments. 

But shouldn’t Microsoft be in a tricky position competing directly with the companies that sell their products? After all, the other laptop manufacturers don’t like being second rank to Microsoft. But that’s what happened the day the Surface Book was released.

Microsoft has a history of doing this. After all, Microsoft makes keyboards but it’s not actively trying to muscle Logitech out of the input game. Browsers, well, that’s a different story.

For the Surface Book, I'd wager a pint that Microsoft loses money on each Surface sale simply to get premium consumers to switch to a 2-in-1.

And it worked -- my wife purchased a Surface Book after two years of trying to convince her to try a 2-in-1. As she would say, “I’ll never switch from Mac and when are you getting a real job?”

Actually, I purchased the Surface Book and she has since claimed it as her own. Hashtage marriage or something. 

The reason she decided to replace her Mac with a Surface is two fold -- first, the Surface is excellent and, two, she looks cool when popping off the screen in a meeting or coffee shop. She won’t admit it but it’s true.

The Porsche Book One leverages Microsoft’s Surface Book experiment. In fact it’s not hard to call the Book One the Surface Book Two. It uses the same double battery design, same tablet release mechanism, same overall ethos.

Is Porsche copying the Surface Book? How could it? Microsoft essentially developed a new product line and handed it to Porsche. 

For the consumer, the Porsche Book One fulfills the Surface Book promise and more.

And I believe this is exactly what Microsoft wants -- jumpstart an industry, show other companies that premium 2-in-1s are viable and then let them leverage their marketing budgets to sell even more products with Microsoft OS inside. 

The question is if Porsche will reach the target demos better than a Microsoft product ever could. 

GAMING THE PR GAME

Porsche is not known for laptops, though selling performance products with reality-distorting marketing is kinda their game.

And they're already running into problems and not just with consumers. 

The Porsche Design Book One press gaggle in Spain last month didn’t set the world on fire. Here’s an exaggerated but accurate summary from the hard hitting tech naysayers:

  1. ”Fail -- LPDDR3 1866MHz instead of DDR4 2133MHz.”
  2. ”Big fail -- HD 620 instead of GTX 965m dGPU.”
  3. “Mega fail -- 1600p QHD+ IPS instead of 4K UHD Quantum Dot OLED Pixie Magic.”

I know what those numbers mean. But do you? It’s okay if you don’t because people buying tablets and laptops sure don’t. As my wife says on the regs, “Who the hell cares and, seriously, when are you getting a real job?”  I’m sensing a theme here.

For the true target demo, specs just aren’t important. Feelings and emotions rule. The feeling of style and construction as well as technological advancement. Jobs knew this and grew Apple into the biggest company in the world.

Then Apple forgot Jobs. So the door has been opened for Microsoft to nudge Porsche to try and steal the crown.

But how can Porsche avoid the natural skepticism inherent in an unknown brand trying to enter a new market?

THE PORSCHE BOOK ONE IS THE BEST LAPTOP IN THE WORLD. PERIOD.

The hyperbole cannon, that’s how.

And I'm going to fire this sucker off. But glowing quotes have to be true because Silicon Valley companies -- and the tech press --- have cried world-changing wolf too many times. Given tech industry grew during the age of shocking innovations every half minute, the lack of enthusiasm these days for cutting-edge products is troubling.

So let me rephrase: Porsche Book One is currently the “best” “laptop” in the “world.” I’ll get to real review notes below to support my claim, but to really hit that hot marketing jargon:

"The Porsche Design Book One is the 2-in-1 perfected."

Let’s load the cannon again:

"The Porsche Design Book One is the new benchmark by which all laptops will be judged."

One more time:

"The Porsche Design Book One is better than the Macbook in every way."

Or to chum the fanboy waters:

"Porsche is the next Apple."

Let’s go high level:

"The Porsche Design Book One makes laptops relevant again."

So many marketing worthy quotes. Quotes that Porsche deserves and I'll stand by. Quotes that Apple would get if it released a 2-in-1, let alone the Book One. Use these quotes, Porsche, you need them because you're facing:  

THE PORSCHE TRAP

The name “Porsche” is, in many ways, going to be Porsche’s biggest hurdle. Porsche Design, BMW and every car manufacturer has been selling overpriced pens and jackets with car logos for years. Porsche has no laptop cred so the perception is Porsche is slapping a logo on a generic product. Lamborghini and ASUS did it back in 2011.

Also, because of the price, it’s easy for journalists to assume there is a brand tax -- add a Porsche logo and jack up the price $500. I made this assumption as well but, after crunching the numbers (shown below), there is no tax. But people are definitely expecting one.

Personally, I’m not a fan of logos or brand plays. I don’t want people to think I bought a Book One because it’s a Porsche. It’s like people who wear Ferrari hats but don’t own Ferraris. It’s just cheesy.

I’d be more interested in a laptop by Lockheed Martin or Herman Miller, but that’s just me.

Porsche needs to move as fast as possible to get away from the brand tax perception.

That said, the Book One is so normal, no one recognized I had the only sample in North America for a few weeks. Even in meetings with tech companies or at geek conventions, Porsche simply didn’t come up. And I didn’t feel like a poser, so that’s a plus (at least, not any more than normal).

GETTING TO THE REAL REVIEW

Now I’ll explain why the Book One convinced my jaded heart it’s the future.

To review the Book One, I wanted to give it a real world performance test. This means getting down and dirty.

So I took it to the dirtiest place on earth: PAX East, a wretched hive of scum and villany. And like Mos Eisley, a place where I belong.

My time with the Porsche at PAX included typical meme-mining as well as Photoshop and Lightroom. My camera of choice is a Sony A7Rii, a 42MP beast that Lightroom loves to hate.

As for comparisons, I like to have a variety of devices -- my PC daily driver has an i7-6900k overclocked 8 core CPU, GTX 1080 and buckets of RAM on a DIY test bench. I also use an ASUS Zenbook 3 7th gen, Acer Predator gaming laptop and a regular rotation of other review gear.

And I own the Microsoft Surface Book with the dGPU (that’s a Dedicated Graphics Processing Ultron for the non-tech readers) so I’m familiar with the fam.

WHY THE REAL WORLD MATTERS

I also brought an ASUS GL752VS gaming laptop with an overclocked i7 CPU, overclocked GTX 1070 graphics card, 32GB RAM and NVMe SSDs to PAX.

Despite having the ASUS (aka “The Boat” as the guys at the office call it), I found myself using the Porsche instead of the ASUS..

The Porsche, at 3.77lbs, fits in my camera laptop bag for easy travel. I brought it everywhere. While the monster 9.5lb ASUS is faster for everything, I found it easier to just work off the Porsche for my entire trip. That means starting a Lightroom batch of edits at breakfast and finishing it on the show floor. Or slamming out some articles in the Intel/Newegg control room, using the tablet mode to show scripts for our videos, switching to tent mode when I needed to do a presentation or knocking out some Photoshopped gifs before passing out from nerd flu.

My instinctual desire to grab the Porsche during PAX speaks volumes. It just worked for me.

But this can be said about any number of laptops or 2-in-1s. 

The truth is my writing/photo/video needs were met by the 7th gen CPU's power. The latest generation of CPUs has already surpassed most consumers' daily computing needs. Even for me, the 7th gen i7 with integrated graphics, combined with the Porsche's usefulness, was a better work solution than more powerful laptops available. 

THE ENDGAME FORM FACTOR

While the power of the Book One was sufficient, the design of the 2-in-1 is why the Porsche is the laptop/tablet perfected. It simply does each 2-in-1 mode better than any competing product.

In many ways, it's that "oh yeah, this is how it should have been done from the beginning" moment. There is some smart engineer -- probably not at Porsche -- who came up with the design for the Book One. She/he gets all the credit in the world. 

So let’s review the Book One’s modes:

CONVERTIBLE:

Like other convertibles, the Porsche converts to a tablet by flipping the screen back. But, unlike every other 2-in-1 out there, the Porsche design and profile is uniform regardless of top or bottom. So in tablet mode, there's no gap to be found, no unaligned corners, no bouncing hinges. From the side, the Book One looks the same regardless of screen orientation.

It’s surprising that Porsche is the first company to really nail the perfect convertible design, but this is it. And many 2-in-1s on the market simply shouldn’t be 2-in-1s. They’re laptops with bendy screen hinges and sad experiences.

DETACHABLE:

LIke the Surface Book, the Porsche detaches with a single button. In Porsche’s case, the button is on the side of the screen rather than on the keyboard like the Surface. The hard detachable experience is just wildly better than any soft detachable with a floppy keyboard out there. No Surface 4 or iPad Pro will ever beat a real keyboard with machined aluminum keys. The detach mechanism used in the Porsche and Surface Book is simply the best available.

DETACHABLE/CONVERTIBLE HYBRID:

There is only one other detachable/convertible on the market, the Surface Book. Whole articles can and will be written comparing the two, but the Porsche Book One is simply a better overall design than the Surface. And that’s no mistake -- Microsoft took what they learned from the Surface Book One and made the Porsche Surface Book One.

The reason the Porsche is better is the limitations of Microsoft's much-discussed hinge. But not because of the spacing, but because why the gap is there in the first place. And I don’t mind the gap (except in London) and I love the Surface Book. I bought one, remember?

The issue with the Surface Book is it’s not a true convertible. In order to convert it into a tablet with the keyboard behind the screen, one must first detach the screen and reattach it backwards. So the conversion takes much longer than a traditional convertible or the Porsche.

That said, if the Surface spine allowed for true convertible usage, I’d be pleased. But then it'd be called the Porsche Book One. 

At this point, the Porsche is the only true laptop convertible/detachable on the market. And it’s not a gimmick, it’s perfect. So perfect that this design will surely be copied by nearly 2-in-1 manufacturer. Or should be.

Moreover, given how good the Porsche is at being just a normal laptop, it’s easy to surmise that premium aka non-plastic laptops will be 2-in-1s in the future. It just makes sense.

LET’S CRACK NUTS AKA WHY PORSCHE COULD FAIL

Now, the big talking point from Porsche has been, at least thus far, the vaguely automotive gear hinge they call the VarioGear. The Variogear, pulled from Nurburing-crushing Porsches, gives the Book One performance precision, etc. etc. etc. 

But all I wanted to do was crack some nuts.

And I think this is a problem. I like cars. I'm not a true car buff but I have opinions on the GT3 vs the Turbo. So whatever hope Porsche Design has for Porsche Automotive's engineering cred to influence buying isn't working. 

And here's the worst part -- the fancy Porsche gearbox hinge is 100% irrelevant.

Because the gear is the least important element of the Book One. In fact, see that second non-gear hinge part? I believe -- and I’m completely speculating here -- that the second hinge is the real hinge. From Porsche's product description: "The innovative VarioGrip ensures excellent stability and supreme comfort at all times." Supreme comfort? 

I wanted to do a teardown of the gear but I'll leave the messy work to iFixit.

Now, I could be entirely wrong and the gears really are brilliant engineering. But even if it is useful, a gear is not enough to sell a laptop. A logo is not enough to sell a laptop. Both combined are still not enough to sell a $2495 laptop.

Which is a shame. The main talking point should be, "We decided to make the best laptop ever. And we did."

SWEATSHOP SPEC WARS

Since armchair spec comparisons have dominated the Book One conversation, let’s cover our bases and talk specs and dollar signs.

First, $2495 is the magic number here. There’s a single Book One model with a 7th gen i7, 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD.

And because Porsche launched a single product,the entry level price is much higher than the Surface Book or Macbook Pro. 

And this is a problem -- spec comparisons are, unfortunately, the crutch of reviewing. It’s easy to declare winners and losers in a race for the bottom of the clickbate barrel.

And it’s a sad secret of the industry -- many “reviews” or “guides” you read are written by people who haven’t tested the hardware. They're churned out by low-value content shops that will make a chart, throw up some ratings and call it a day. You can usually tell it’s faked when it starts with “Top 5” or “Guide To" with stock images and lots of ads. Low quality doesn’t cut it anymore.

That said, there are many excellent tech reviewers out there. Read them, listen to them, believe them.

But here’s something most people and reviewers don’t know -- specs don’t ultimately sell product. I’ve seen it in the Newegg numbers. The spec game is a trap for manufacturers, even in the DIY PC market. Style matters -- just look at the pages of Unlocked. PCs are damn cool with tempered glass, edgy lighting and cutting edge tech. While no $25 RGB fan will improve performance, it does speak to a performance mindset where high end looks match high end performance.

And Apple knew this. They sold the whole package, from style and fit/finish to software and service. They sold “the best” despite a market filled with budget laptops with the same specs for half the price.

And the same is true for the Porsche. If you start spec shopping 7th gen i7s, you’ll find a numerous models under $1k. But then you’re getting a plastic chassis that flexes like a wet cracker with a screen barely visible off-center and dumpster construction. And this is experience talking -- I’ve received brand new budget 2-in-1s with non-functional screens and faulty power supplies. They’re cheap for a reason.

But, until now, only Apple and now Microsoft have been able to market the whole package to the premium consumer. Dell, Lenovo, and HP try and have some success, but not the real success needed to grow consumer adoption. 

So let’s compare the Porsche to the competitors that matter:

PORSCHE VS MACBOOK PRO 13

The Macbook Pro 13” is the true rival to the Porsche because Macbook Pro owners are the target pumpkin spicers Porsche is trying to seduce. And they’re a big demographic -- if Porsche gets a fraction of Apple’s MacBook users, it’ll have a healthy chunk of the premium market.

The Macbook Pro version that lands at $2499 has an i7, 512GB SSD and 16GB RAM. So absolutely identical to the Porsche.

But the Porsche has a 7th gen i7-7500U CPU to the Mac’s 6th gen i7-6567U (the first number of the second part is the generation -- 7500 means it’s 7th gen). And this is despite the Mac being released after 7th gen was released.

The Porsche has newer HD 620 graphics vs older HD 540 graphics.

The Porsche has a 3200x1800 screen vs 2560x1600 of the Mac.

The Porsche has a 70Wh battery vs the Mac’s 49.2Wh. That’s a big deal.

The Porsche gets 14 hours battery life vs the Mac’s 10 hours. That’s the real deal.

The Porsche has two USB 3.0 ports, microSD as well as two USB-C, including Thunderbolt 3. The Mac has only four USB-C ports and a dongle burden.

The Mac is lighter and thinner -- 3.02lbs vs 3.77lbs and .59” vs Porsche’s .63”.

The Porsche has a full touch screen and pen by Wacom. The Mac has a touch bar.

The Porsche is a laptop, tablet and even smaller tablet. And the Mac is not.

PORSCHE VS SURFACE BOOK

The Microsoft Surface Book is widely recognized as the best laptop in the world. The Porsche Book One is the new best laptop in the world. Even though I own the Surface Book with the dedicated GPU, I’d rather have the Porsche. The Porsche is thinner, more refined, and quickly converts into a tablet and back again. The Surface is a laptop first, tablet second.

As for spec talk, remember that the Surface Book has a large family of options, while the Porsche is launching with a single model at a price point that is at the upper end of a traditional product assortment. 

When the full lineup comes out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see options with graphics cards on the high end and i5s with smaller SSDs on the low end.

If you were to compare the two products directly, the Surface Book has a lot of advantages and disadvantages which is why it’s nearly impossible to declare a winner. And that’s no mistake, Microsoft wants both to be winners.

But to play the comparison game, the Surface Book has an optional NVIDIA GPU, full size SD card vs miniSD, 10Wh more battery and really impressive construction.

The Porsche Book One beats the Surface in a number of areas: 7th gen vs 6th gen CPU, Thunderbolt 3 ports vs DP ports, universal USB-C charging vs expensive proprietary Microsoft charging cable, better integrated graphics, Wacom pen with 2048 points of pressure vs 1024.

And, of course, the Book One is a true convertible/detachable while the Surface is not.

As for pricing, there is no $2499 MSRP Surface Book. The $2399 Surface Book has only 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 6th Gen CPU but includes the GPU. The $2799 model has 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD with the GPU but costs $200 more.

Microsoft doesn’t offer an i7, 16GB, 512GB SSD Surface Book sans GPU but, if I were a betting man, I’d guess it come in right at $2499.

So, yes, the Porsche is priced in line with the Surface Book. Again, no mistake.

UPGRADE AND REFRESH

Of course, all this is meaningless once Microsoft releases the Surface Book 2. Or Porsche releases more models, maybe ones with GPUs.

But I believe the Porsche Book One is a design for the Surface Book 2. Rumors hint at Microsoft moving the Surface Book 2 to a clamshell design. Why? Because Porsche could be better at selling expensive laptops than Clippy.

It's not a stretch to imagine that Microsoft simply handed Porsche their Surface Book 2 design (or a parallel design) and said, "Let's see if you can sell this."

Or this all speculation and the truth is buried in PowerPoint decks stretching back years. Regardless, the Porsche and Surface are two very similar though slightly different products clearly made by identical twins. How the industry shakes out is up to the consumers.

THE HYPOTHETICAL CONNECTION TO RULE THEM ALL

To continue this exceedingly long review, there is one amazing potential of the Porsche and Surface design that's rarely mentioned -- upgradable keyboard bases.

Hypothetically, Porsche could release new keyboard bases allowing users to pop off the current base and attach a new one. Imagine you buy the Book One today. But then Porsche releases a keyboard base with a NVIDIA GPU. You simply send in your old base for a rebate and get the new one.

Because the hinge is a part of the base and not the screen, they could even offer thicker bases with longer hinges.

Here’s some ideas off the top of my head:

  1. Bigger gaming base with a GTX 1070 or larger
  2. VR base with GPU and HDMI
  3. Streaming base with a second system for dedicated video encoding
  4. Video base with multiple SDI connections for mobile video production
  5. Extra-big battery base

Additionally, because Intel Optane is around the corner, the potential of Optane SSDs with hybrid SSD/DRAM makes for some really interesting scenarios in this quasi modular playground.

NIT PICKS

Because I have endless opinions, I’ll give a few of my thoughts on what could be improved. Of course, I had a near-production model, not a final consumer model, so some of these details might be tweaked before consumer samples arrive.

With the Porsche, finding flaws is hard but doable. I want to make it clear that, unlike a traditional review, these tiny issues aren't on the level of, say, the Macbook Pro with only USB-C ports. The Porsche Book One is doing almost everything right. 

First, microSD is mostly useless to this audience. Normal SD is the absolute standard for the amateure and pro alike. Ditch micro for macro.

Second, the tension on the hinge was a little loose for my taste. I’m guessing the final model will be firmer, which I’d prefer.

Third, there’s a tiny bit of plastic next to the hinge -- it felt out of place and a potentially weak spot in an otherwise solid aluminum creation.

Finally, I prefer the finish on the Surface Book’s magnesium alloy chassis over shinier aluminum Book One. Automotive finishes? I'd be game. 

And that’s it.

There were a handful of other quirks but those are mostly early release software bugs. In fact, the model I had is consumer ready. I wanted to keep it.

MAKING RECOMMENDATIONS

What should you do, the coveted consumer with $2499 to spend? Simple, buy the Porsche -- it’s the more realistic laptop for what you’ll be doing. And I have no idea what you’ll be doing. But given that 95% of users will be impressed by a convertible/detachable hybrid like my wife, it’s a safe bet.

And, remember, no 13” Mac has a GPU. So there is absolutely no reason to buy a Macbook Pro while Apple continues to wander in the desert.

Personally, I want to see Porsche release more configurations, including budget options. The cheapest Surface Book is $1499 with an i5, 8GB RAM and a 128GB SSD while the most expensive is $3299 with an i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD and GPU. The Porsche would theoretically match Microsoft’s price structure.

Also, I’d love to see 15” or even 17” Porsche models. 17” 2-in-1? Yup.

Moreover, if you really need a GPU, then there are other products to consider -- the Surface Book's "performance" GTX 965m isn’t remotely close to the GTX 1060s found in thin performance laptops only a pound heavier like the under appreciated GIGABYTE Aero 14 or RGBtastic Razer Blade 14. But those are laptops, not 2-in-1s. There is currently no real performance or VR ready 2-in-1. Is that an important niche? I think it’s a natural progression. I know I’d be very interested in a Porsche Book One with a GTX 1060.

EMBRACE THE FUTURE

The Porsche isn’t just a great laptop, it’s the beginning of the next stage of laptops. If Porsche’s marketing aligns and gets the “Porsche is the new Apple” PR it deserves, then Apple will have no choice but to copy the Book One design. In fact, everyone will copy it -- this is the endgame form factor. Years from now, people will look back and go, “Oh yeah, Porsche was the first to do it right.”

That said, if the Book One is relegated to the pages of failed 2-in-1 experiments, then it will be a sad day for technology, tech journalists and, most importantly, consumers. We’ll look back and say, “Hey, remember when Porsche released the best laptop ever? Why wasn't that a bigger deal?”

So for consumers reading this -- if you want the best laptop made, buy the Porsche Design Book One. But please don’t buy it because it has a Porsche logo or nut cracking gears. Buy it because Microsoft, Intel, Quanta and Porsche just changed the industry and no one noticed.

The Book One is important.

 

  • 4/11/2017 - Edited to correct manufacturing details