Microsoft Announces Surface Book 2

Posted on October 17, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 28 Comments

Microsoft Announces Surface Book 2

Surprise! Microsoft will ship its second-generation Surface Book next month. And this version comes in both 13- and 15-inch variants.

“Surface Book owners use that product more hours per week than any other Surface device,” Microsoft’s Panos Panay told me last week, describing what the firm learned in the two years since it first shipped Surface Book. “And they use Microsoft Office more hours per week than other Surface owners.”

For Surface Book 2, he said, Microsoft focused on performance. So where Surface Pro is about versatility and Surface Laptop is about beauty, Surface Book is moving into that niche that I predicted for the product: It will essentially become a portable workstation.

“With Surface Book 2, we’re taking performance to the next level,” Mr. Panay noted.

At a high level, Surface Book 2 is very obviously a Surface Book: It shares the same design as its predecessor, with the same detachable Clipbook screen/tablet, the same odd teardrop-shaped hinge hole, and the same basic selection of ports and expansion. Well, not totally: The mini-DisplayPort port has been replaced by a USB-C (not Thunderbolt 3) port, which is pretty much good only for driving a second display.

But other than that, and some mostly-internal hinge updates, Surface Book 2 looks exactly like its predecessor. At least the 13-inch version. Which is really 13.5-inches, but whatever. The 15-inch expands on the original as you’d expect: A bigger display, naturally, and a bit more space to the left and right of the keyboard in the base.

Internally, there have been some nice changes.

As you should expect of a late 2017 laptop, Surface Book can be had with a choice of 8th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. They’re not all quad-core processors, which I think is a bit odd, and perhaps even disappointing: The “entry level” 13-inch Surface Book 2 models still use dual-core Core i5 parts.

And while it’s not entirely clear which models will be available as I write this, at least the 15-inch Core i7 versions will feature NVIDIA GTX1060 graphics, a significant improvement over the current generation Performance Base models. Mr. Panay says that this will enable “full 1080p gaming at 60 fps,” and that sounds about right to me.

Microsoft was a bit vague about other tech specs at a special Surface Book 2 preview last week—Panay seems to want us to stop emphasizing that stuff and think about these devices more heuristically—so I can just say, for now, that we’re looking at super high DPI displays (260 dpi and 7 million pixels on the 15-inch), as expected, and the same basic Surface Connect infrastructure.

More impresssive, and more specifically, Microsoft did state that both versions of Surface Book 2 are good for up to 17 hours of battery life, a huge improvement over the previous generation, even when you factor in about a 30 percent decrement for the real-world experience; I’m guessing we’ll see close to 12 hours.

Also impressive: There’s no fan in the Clipbook/tablet part, even with a Core i7 processor. So it’s a “true tablet in your hands,” Panay says.

Pricing remains premium, as you should expect. The dual-core Surface Book 2 13-inch will start at $1499, while the quad-core 15-inch versions, which weigh four pounds, will go for $2499 and up. They’ll be available for preorder on November 9 and go on sale one week later.

“When Satya [Nadella] talks about hardware and software, and how all of Microsoft comes together on these devices as a stage,” Panay said, “we internalize this. Surface Book 2 comes to life through human emotion. It’s quite powerful … It’s for people who want to use it to create the future.”

Going hands-on with the devices, there were no major surprises, though initial excitement over the USB-C port quickly faded when we discovered that charging over this port would be a slow drizzle, essentially making it pointless for that use: Like its MDP predecessor, it’s for display out only.

The hinges, as noted, have been improved, mostly to accommodate the larger 15-inch display, but those improvements were brought back to the 13-inch version too. The keyboard and touchpad, already first-rate on the initial Surface Book, appear unchanged.

And … that’s about it. There’s a new large Surface-branded mouse shipping concurrently with Surface Book 2. And while it’s very plasticky, I like the size of it and may give it a go.

So kudos to Microsoft for this October surprise: As I noted earlier, I hadn’t heard a single rumor about a new Surface Book version this year, though there was a single Twitter-based rumor about a 15-inch Surface Book. This device, despite its early reliability issues, has always been a favorite of mine. And I’m delighted that Microsoft is taking it in the exact right direction.

 

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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Microsoft Announces Surface Book 2”

  1. skborders

    While I like the look of these and would love to own one, I cannot justify the cost. I buy used Lenovos for the quality hardware at a substantial savings. My current one is a T430S and it runs Windows 10 flawlessly.


    It is good to see them updating them in meaningful ways.

  2. MutualCore

    I'll believe the 17 hour battery claim when Paul gets his hands on one for a month.


    Also now what's left for October 31st?

  3. DF

    And couldn't they have gone with the Intel Wifi this time around since it's shown clear advantages in this generation?


    I'm posting this separately because opinions may vary on this area. Intel is mentioned because it's the durable "corporate" solution if you will and even creative types and power users are going to be connecting to corporate networks. And these days gigabit fiber is becoming pretty commonplace, so the nearly doubling in speed of the Intel 8265 vs traditional Surface solution (across the products) is quite likely to be noticed in day to day use unless you are wired into a dock. But if you are in a meeting room presenting your work or collaborating over a Surface Hub you are likely to want a better solution. The basis here is looking up Surface Pro network testing which is using the same chip I'm guessing.


    It just seems to me that all the "serious" machines in this class and similar light workstation varieties would be using an Intel 2x2 solution and it seems strange that MS, aiming for the premium market, would have ignored this. Others may well differ in this thinking. I just thought I'd throw the thought out there.

    • DF

      In reply to DF:

      I have done more research and of no surprise is that testing of the S Pro 2017 has varied results. It seems the Avastar is sometimes worse than the Intel solution but not always by much. I few % here or there isn't something I find a bother. So I'm updating my own comment, but keeping the thread in case others have results of their own to chime in.


  4. DF

    Is there any chance of seeing a dark base model? Surface Pro recognizes the contrast usefulness of white letters on dark keys so I wonder if a dark model will come to life?


    Is the usb-c going to output dp 1.4? HDMI seems to be 2.0 on the new adapter so I'm hopeful. Anyone know?


    Is there going to be SRGB enhanced mode?


    Will the current dock provide enough power for the 15?





  5. ecumenical

    What's with the weird line about "The mini-DisplayPort port has been replaced by a USB-C (not Thunderbolt 3) port, which is pretty much good only for driving a second display." Wouldn't it mainly be useful for, you know, USB-C devices? External hard drives, flash drives, etc.? Cool that it also has display out and can charge in a pinch, but those are secondary uses.

  6. robincapper

    Glad they kept the form factor, won't decide between 13 & 15 until I see them (why only US?) but GPU on 15 is attractive.

  7. SDreamer

    My goodness, that 15" version's trackpad is embarassing. They should have thrown in a huge track pad like it is on Macbook Pros. Size matters.

    • DF

      In reply to SDreamer:

      I'm actually appreciating that it's not any bigger. I can see you may want it bigger. But one of "my" plus points is that it is not as big as some manufacturers make their touchpads. It creates more oopses when typing with my big hands if the pad is too large. It's not an end all be all thing. Only that I prefer something medium, enough to use gestures which I do use a lot, but that helps me reduce the accidental bumps when typing.


  8. derylmccarty

    In reply to Nickel:


    Can't wait to order and get this 15 inch jewel. I had hoped that this next version would be a 4+ GHz capable machine and able though not focused on hi-res/high frame-rate gaming. And Panos delivered. I had also thought that a USB C T'Bolt might have been the way to go, but could have lived with an mDP. Unlike Paul, I had no issues with the hinge tear-drop design since the number of chocolate chip cookies I put in my carrying case is low, hence cookie crumbs, cracker crumbs and dust bunnies do NOT coagulate in the tear-drop The hinge issues I had on SB1 were related to a manufacturers fingernail being lodged in the detachable hinge slot, not through any design issues. Still and all, making the hinge stronger and more stable is a plus not a minus especially because the moment arm on a 15 was probably a tougher engineering challenge.


    A less well covered change is that it looks like there are 2 Surface Connect slots - one on the base and one on the tablet. That is definitely cool for tablet only operations and presentations. More importantly, if the tablet connection were a USB C or even USB 3 micro the number of times I would have picked up the tablet and jerked on the cord and its housing would have eventually ruined the machine. With it appearing to be a Surface Connect with its shallow magnetic connection and "lay flat" against the housing, the "jerking" damage potential is minimized.


    My question is whether, compared to a T'bolt at 40Gbs, the USB 3.1 Type C at 10 Gbs to feed data to a DP or HDMI monitor will throttle a 60-90 FPS experience.

    • Nickel

      In reply to derylmccarty:

      "A less well covered change is that it looks like there are 2 Surface Connect slots - one on the base and one on the tablet." Probably because it isn't a change? the original surface book has the same...

      • derylmccarty

        In reply to Nickel:


        Strangely I figured that out later on the same day I wrote the comment and I am a day one buyer of the SB. I read in another article that that there were two Surface Connect slots on the SB2. Ok, well and good, but in looking at the pictures presented by Paul/Brad, Dan Rubino etc I could not find a second slot. So I figured someone had it wrong. But even a MSFT site said two. So where would the second slot be - and then I had that "oh shit what kinda idiot am I" moment where I looked at the base-tablet connector slot and figured out for the first time where that second slot had been all along and tested it to make sure I could at least get power. And I could have used it several times. Once more, I have proved that "there are none so blind as those who would not see."

  9. alexoughton

    "...told me last week"


    You were holding out on us, Paul? :-P

  10. MacLiam

    Nice. But I bet for most users the clipboard will usually stay attached to the base on the larger model. A 15-inch tablet? There are times when the detached small clipboard on my current Book seems an inch larger than convenience would require.


    The upgraded CPU and graphics unit are appealing, as is the tougher hinge engineering. I never had a hinge problem with either my first Book or its warranty replacement, but I am always in favor of beefing up mechanical systems in answer to a sometime problem. Good to hear the Book 2 has strengthened both the physical device and its processing power.


    The usage stats that Panos Panay reported are interesting. Sounds like Book owners are somewhat more focused on productivity and enterprise than owners of other Surface devices. I'm not sure I would have predicted that, but I am not surprised to learn it.


    That mouse looks like the one I have wanted to use with a Surface for a long time, so I'll get one. I have been switching off between a Logitech MX Master 2S and Microsoft's blobby ergonomic mouse on different Surfaces. The former verges on overkill and the latter is just a little basic. This one looks like it might hit the sweet spot.


    The Book's teardrop hinge gap never bothered me in the first place and still doesn't, maybe because I find the armadillo hinge so appealing as a design element. When my current Book gives up the ghost I expect I will replace it with the smaller Book 2, or maybe even a Book 3 if the trend continues. I don't think I am likely to dispose of the current Book just to move into one of the new ones, but the possibility exists. I'll have a better idea by the end of the year.


    This announcement lifts my spirits. Microsoft hasn't really impressed me with anything since it revealed the Studio, and the upgraded Book is unexpected evidence that the company continues to explore new dimensions of hybrid design.

  11. dstrauss

    Interesting choice of photos with two journalists in the background packing Macs. In that regard, neither MS not Apple "get it" - MS still has no Thunderbolt 3 and Apple has nothing but - both are extreme inconveniences, compounded by MS' failure to even future proof with USB-C/Thunderbolt 3.


    Although technically less powerful (especially GPU), the new Spectre x360 15 has 8th gen quad-core i7, MX150 dGPU, 16gb ram, 11tb ssd, 3840x2160 4k display, Thunderbolt 3 plus standard USB-C, HDMI, and USB-A for $1819.99, and the "cheap" SB2 15 starts at $2499 - that's a lot of scratch for 1060 graphics...can't even imagine what the 1TB ssd will cost you...

  12. rameshthanikodi

    The GTX 1050 in the 13-inch version is pretty good, definitely a huge upgrade over the 940MX in the previous Surface Book, and i'm really glad that they didn't choose the MX 150 for the successor. However, I feel like the sweet spot for dedicated laptop graphics would be the 1050ti. But on the other hand, the 1060 in the 15-inch version is going to kick ass!

    • DF

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      Agreed. That is exactly what I hoped for (but didn't think would be possible) in a Book 2. In fact the larger size, the 1060 were wish items I hadn't thought would happen but have me thrilled they did. Yes I'm likely in line to buy.


  13. Chris_Kez

    I was interested to hear Mr. Panay's comments about usage patterns (i.e. Surface Book owners log more hours and more Office hours than other Surface device owners) but I would like to know how much time is spent with the keyboard detached.

  14. rmlounsbury

    I wonder if Microsoft will add Surface Book 2 to their Surface Plus program. Today they only offer Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, and the Surface Studio. I was debating the merits of leveraging the Surface Plus program the same way I do with T-Mobile's jump on demand. I rather like the idea of just paying $X per month with the option to upgrade after 18 months or run out the lease term and own it outright. Unlike a MacBook the Surface line just doesn't hold it's value on resale.

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