Microsoft Surface Book 2 Review

Microsoft Surface Book 2 is an even stronger MacBook Pro competitor than before. Mostly, that’s because there’s finally a 15-inch model for people who need a bit more screen real estate. But the company has fixed most of the issues we had with last year’s 13-inch model, as well. That’s particularly true when it comes to the Surface Book 2’s unique hinge, which lets you remove and flip around the display.

It’s the ideal follow up one that does everything its predecessor did well without any compromises. Microsoft Surface Book 2 is another strong entry for Microsoft, in a year where it already launched the excellent Surface Laptop and Surface Pro.

Let’s take a close look at Microsoft’s surface book 2.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Price And Availability:

The 15 inch Surface Book 2 starts at exactly the same price in the UK as the 15 inches MacBook Pro at £2,349. This is a lot more than the £1,149 13.5 inch Surface Book, but you’re getting a much more capable machine.

You have to go for a Core i7 and at least 16 GB RAM and 256 GB storage for the base price. The model we reviewed had 512 GB storage and sells for £2,749 while upgrading to a 1 TB hard drive maxes out the Surface Book 2 at £3,149.

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For the specs you get, particularly the detachable engineering element and included discrete GPU, this is actually industry-reasonable pricing.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Design And Build:

The Surface Book 2, like the incredibly similar first generation, is a fine piece of industrial engineering. While the Surface Go, Pro and Laptop all have fancy Alcantara material keyboards, the Surface Book keeps it strictly metallic.

It’s a 2-in-1 convertible with a display that detaches from the base. In this 15 inch version, the base holds a dedicated NVIDIA GPU and its own fan system.

Microsoft Surface Book 2
Image Credit: digitaltrends

The design suits the 15-inch model more than the 13.5 – the larger size owns its space on your worktop as a desktop class machine albeit in laptop form. The unique space-age hinge holds up a robust screen in a design that is still unique.

The base of the device is a hardy silver magnesium build. It is attractively slim when in laptop mode. The trackpad isn’t as large as it could be but it is best in class for accuracy and responsiveness while the full-size keyboard is fully backlit, but it will annoy some that this is a laptop that doesn’t close flat because of the design choice.

It equipped with a pro-pleasing two USB 3.1 Type A ports (ports no longer found on any MacBook Pro Apple sells) a USB-C port, SD card reader and the proprietary Surface Connect port. There is also a Surface Connect port on the display for docking with the base or charging if disconnected.

The base very gently raises the keyboard at a subtle angle for the screen to close onto. The fully adjustable hinge gives great flexibility of up to 50 degrees to the detachable display that you can have in a drawing or viewing mode as well as a standalone tablet.

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The Surface Book 2 offers full Windows and Core i7 power, but admittedly in a much bulkier package – the screen and base together weigh 1.9 Kg.

The tablet display has good cooling vent integration (there are fans in the base only) all around its grilled edges that also house a headphone jack and power and volume buttons. The lid is clean save for the Windows logo and a small camera.

It is the design and size to cater for the demands of the professional market.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Keyboard And Trackpad:

The Surface Book trackpad is the best one on a Windows laptop. It has a tad small on this 15-inch model but is offset by a phenomenal keyboard.

Microsoft has stuck with lovely responsive keys that have just the right amount of travel for our taste. It is comfortable to type on all day, and so it is a shame that the back-light to the keys is awful.

It only looks good on the third and highest brightness and on the lowest setting means you can’t see what some of the keys are and is a peculiar slack oversight on otherwise extremely competent hardware. Admittedly it is clearer in the dark but on most occasions, we turned it off completely.

A key part of the keyboard is the button that you need to press to disconnect the tablet from the base. The tablet is cleverly attached via small clamps rather than magnetically. Pressing the button turns a light on it red, then green and you’re good to go. Sometimes the machine will require you to close down certain software before it disconnects though.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Screen:

The 15-inch display looks incredible. It has a 3:2 3.2K IPS LCD (3240×2160, 260ppi) with full 10-touch input with the Surface Pen or your fingers. Despite being detachable the Surface Book best performs as a laptop with display docked to the base.

The industry moves to 3:2 ratios is a pleasing one. It is conducive to multi-tasking while maintaining a compact as possible form factor.

If you do want to use it as a 15-inch tablet you can, but it is difficult to hold with one hand. We only used it to draw directly onto when detached and on a table, something you can’t do in laptop mode because of the hinge.

Colour reproduction is stunning and while Microsoft will try to upsell you to the Surface Studio. If you are a graphic designer or digital artist, the Surface Book can more useful in this department.

It is set to an enhanced colour mode as standard but you can switch to the RGB profile if required.

The Core i7 chip is in the tablet display rather than the base and uses a passive cooling system instead of a fan.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Core Specification And Performance:

The 15 inches Surface Book is functional. It measures a fairly hefty 343 mm x 251 mm x 15-23 mm.  Talking about its other specification:

  • Processor, Memory, And Storage

On the 15 inch model, you get 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U quad-core processor that can peak at 4.2GHz, and it has the same chip no matter which configuration you used. Similarly, all models of the 15 inch equipped with 16GB 1866Mhz LPDDR3 RAM.

Storage is either 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSD depending on your needs or budget.

The most interesting part of the set-up is the Nvidia GTX 1060 discrete GPU Microsoft has put in the base unit of the Surface Book. This, along with 6GB GDDR5 graphics memory means the laptop can cope with high-end, graphically intense gaming as well as the creative design functions for which it is marketed.

Microsoft Surface Book 2
Image Credit: bestbuy

This makes the high-end Surface Book 2 an incredibly capable machine. It doesn’t drop frames even when running games like Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Microsoft has integrated a user-controlled power mode slider so you can control whether you want better performance of better battery life. If you run the Surface Book clocked out graphically and plugged in on best performance mode, it actually can’t charge and loses power despite being plugged in.

  • Surface Pen And Surface Dial

No Surface is complete without the Surface Pen. It offers  4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and some of the best response and latency we’ve seen on a Windows tablet screen. It magnetically clips to either side of the tablet for easy supply.

Using it with Sketchable was a pleasure and the 15in display feels incredibly generous. It can rest on a table or on the display itself to act as a navigation tool. Click down and rotating it in various programs allows you to, for example, change the color of a brush mid-stroke or undo incremental inputs. In other simpler apps, it can simply zoom or scroll.

  • Ports And Other Features:

The Surface Book 2 retains two USB 3.1 Type ports proving its disappearance is premature. There’s a USB-C 3.1 port which can be used for power delivery to the tablet but is primarily for attaching monitors or docks to smartphones.

There’s the Surface Connect port too for charging. The Surface Book also supports two 4K monitor outputs at 30Hz through the USB-C port. There’s a 5 MP front-facing camera that takes care of Windows Hello login and authentication and can record HD video at 1080p. You also get an 8 MP rear facing the camera with the same recording capabilities that will likely be mostly used in a pro capacity for quick pictures to notate given the flexibility of the form factor.

Its best feature is set of dual mics, front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium compatibility, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, Xbox Wireless built in so you can connect an Xbox controller straight to the laptop with no extra hardware or software.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Battery Life:

Battery life is outstanding as well as class-leading. It lasts for 17 hours and 15 min in moderate use. There are two batteries, one in the tablet and one in the base, necessary for a 2-in-1.

It is regularly comfortable lasted us a whole work day away from the power.

It’s a laptop that’s heavy to carry around but you could take it out for the day without the charger, and that is awesome.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Software:

The 15-inch Surface Book 2 runs on Windows 10 Pro as standard. This version costs £219.99 if you buy it separately and have all the right security and IT management features in place.

For the average consumer it is a little overkill but at no extra cost, you can’t complain. Even though the Microsoft Laptop is a lot cheaper, it’s still annoying that it comes with the feeble Windows 10.

In Windows 10 everything runs flawlessly and it is much more fun to use on an extremely capable piece of hardware.

Microsoft Surface Book 2: Final Verdict:

Astonishingly capable and beautiful device, the Surface Book 2 is too much laptop for the average buyer.

But the Surface Book 2 remains its hero product. The industrial design is bulky and won’t be to all tastes, but we love its proud bulk and desktop power. The keyboard and display are best in class and the clever integration into the base of a high-end GPU is commendable.

But if you are a creative professional who wants Windows, excellent stylus input and lag-free performance than Microsoft Surface 2 is the best option to opt.

Take a look at highs and lows of Microsoft Surface Book 2:

Why You Should Buy Microsoft Surface Book 2:

  • The hinge is stronger than before.
  • Better CPU and graphics.
  • 15-inch screen can fully compete with the MacBook Pro.
  • Works well as a tablet.
  • Great keyboard and touchpad.
  • Sharp, high-contrast, pixel-dense touchscreen.
  • Excellent performance in all areas.
  • Unparalleled battery life.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Microsoft Surface Book 2:

  • Expensive if you need more storage.
  • Doesn’t come with Surface Pen.
  • Display’s colour accuracy could be better

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