by KEVIN KUO
The laptop is the single most important tool while in dental school. That is why it almost goes without saying that the most important purchase decision before dental school is the laptop. The default choice, these days, often appears to be the MacBook Air, Macbook, or MacBook Pro by Apple. In my class, at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, I would say almost 70 percent of the class owned an Apple laptop. It was very easy to distinguish Apple from PC laptops back then in 2010 as Apple laptops still carried the bright glowing Apple logo, which no longer exists since after the 2015 versions.
I also decided on the MacBook Pro when I was a dental student. It was a great choice at the time. I had no issues with the laptop at all. As with all things Apple, the 2010 MacBook Pro was well-built with an all-aluminum unibody. It was esthetic and durable. Because Apple also provides its own software for its hardware, the operating system was snappy without bloatware. My favorite two features were the best-in-class trackpad and battery life. The glossy, smooth glass trackpad allowed for incredibly precise and responsive scrolling and zooming. This tactile mouse moment is incredibly important as dental students need to scroll through thousands of pages of scientific and dental information over the course of four years. To this day, no laptop manufacturer is able to match the responsiveness of Apple's trackpads. A dental student will never feel the need to buy a physical mouse accessory with an Apple laptop. Similarly, the long battery life was crucial for dental school to literally outlast the often 8-hour a day lectures. This prevented any need to bring cumbersome charging cables or to find an outlet in the classroom, which can be limited when there are over a hundred students in one class.
Despite my positive review of my Apple laptop, the mobile computing space is much more competitive in 2019. Some manufacturers have been able to design laptops greatly inspired by Apple's, like Huawei Matebook Pro X. Other laptop makers, such as Dell's XPS 13, are great in their own design and features. However, right now, I actually think there is another laptop out there better than any Apple laptop or its top competitors for dental school.
The best laptop for dental school is the Microsoft Surface Pro.
I upgraded my old dental school MacBook Pro in 2015 to the Surface Pro 4 specifically. Microsoft updated the Surface Pro in 2017 and again in 2018. The 2017 and 2018 versions are only small updates to the Surface Pro 4 design.
Here are the top 6 reasons I recommend the Microsoft Surface Pro for dental school:
1) BUILD QUALITY
Although not aluminum, the Microsoft Surface Pro is equally esthetic and durable as it is made out of magnesium alloy. The benefit of magnesium is that it is lighter than aluminum and can be designed to be just as strong as aluminum. The Surface Pro has a modern and unique design. At first glance, it appears to be more of a tablet than a laptop with its thin touchscreen form factor. It is not until you lift open the famous kickstand and attach the removable microfiber keyboard cover does it start appearing more like a laptop.
My Surface Pro 4 is 3 years old now, and it still looks and runs brand new. It is so durable that I carry the device in my backpack without a case or sleeve, making the Surface Pro extremely convenient to transport. Because it is so light, I carry it with me all the time, allowing me the flexibility to do work anywhere at any time. This convenience is perfect for the busy dental student who can always spend some spare time studying.
3) 2-IN-1 CAPABILITY
The 2-in-1 feature is the most interesting part of the Surface Pro. In fact, it is famous for it. Microsoft is far from being the first to try to make a 2-in-1 laptop. But, in my opinion, Microsoft is the first and maybe the only one to make a 2-in-1 successfully. Other manufacturers' attempts involve just making a traditional laptop that happens to have a different hinge that allows the keyboard section to be folded more. This makes using those devices like a tablet very cumbersome as they are heavy, and one has to awkwardly grip the keyboard as the back of the device to hold in tablet mode. The Surface Pro is the opposite. It is built physically more like a tablet as in the iPad Pro by Apple. So it is ergonomic and easy to hold the touchscreen on its own. Windows 10 also perfectly adjusts to tablet mode when the keyboard cover is detached with the operating system and corresponding apps default into a more touch-friendly layout. Where the iPad Pro falters, the Microsoft Surface Pro also equally performs tremendously as a laptop too. I actually primarily use my Surface Pro in this manner rather than as a tablet. The keyboard cover has a great ergonomic layout, and when attached, Windows 10 converts to the regular desktop layout with just a touch of a button the screen. The keys make typing easy and comfortable. Also, the touchpad is very good--almost Apple good. And most importantly, the hardware and software are full desktop capable, meaning it can perform anything a laptop or desktop can do. It is certainly not limited to mobile apps like on the iPad.
That is why the Microsoft Surface Pro is called a laptop and not a tablet!
4) SURFACE PEN
The 2-in-1 functionality can arguably be 3-in-1 capable on the Surface Pro because of the Surface Pen accessory. Like the keyboard cover, the Surface Pen is technically an add-on. However, again like the keyboard cover, I highly recommend getting the Surface Pen as well. There were many times in dental school where the lecture was heavy on graphics and taking notes just via typing was not possible. A great example of a scenario is during a histology lecture. Histology involves discussion of a layer by layer of cells on various hematoxylin and eosin stain slides. The lecturer also often point to those layers via laser pointer and describes what each layer is called. Situations such as these could be made easy with the ability to draw and label along with the lecturer. You can actually do this right on PowerPoint with the draw function. The Surface Pen also has a digital eraser on the other end, so mistakes can be quickly correctly just as one is writing on pencil and paper.
5) BATTERY LIFE
The battery life on the Surface Pro is good. My particular version, the Surface Pro 4, could be better. It survives a full-day, but only after turning off somethings and reducing the screen brightness to low. For better battery life, I would highly recommend getting the 2017 or 2018 version instead. In the new models, the battery life is even better, mirroring the laptops made by Apple.
The last feature that I want to discuss is media consumption. Although your laptop will be primarily used for studying, having a device that can be useful during relaxation is a benefit too. Because the Surface Pro is built almost like a tablet, the device can be easily used to view movies or videos without the keyboard, making it very ergonomic and intimate. One can watch via kickstand at varying degrees on a table or view laying comfortably in bed with the device in hand.
Watch the corresponding video about this topic here on KevinKuoProductions YouTube Channel.