Microsoft Surface Book 2 Review

Posted on January 6, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 40 Comments

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Review

Technically a third-generation device, Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 is a portable workstation, a gaming rig, and a productivity monster. Few computers can do it all. But Surface Book 2 comes very close.

A look back

Microsoft announced the original Surface Book in October 2015, describing it as “the ultimate laptop.” Its unique hardware design, which has carried over almost unchanged in subsequent generations of the device, included a removable Surface Pen-compatible touchscreen, which Microsoft calls a clipboard, and a hardware keyboard base. This design has always been controversial, thanks to the odd teardrop-shaped hole that remains open when the device’s lid is closed; Microsoft says this hole is required by Surface Book’s unique fulcrum hinge.

I issued my first Surface Book review later that month, noting that it offered great performance and good looks. But I warned readers, somewhat presciently, that it was a first-generation and untested product too. Plus, Surface Book, like most Surface devices, has always been very expensive.

In the wake of my review, the Surface Book—and the related Surface Pro 4, which was announced at the same time—was the subject of an incredible series of reliability issues, which were followed by months of silence on Microsoft’s part. Eventually, I coined the phrase Surfacegate to describe this sad state of affairs and, over time, Microsoft finally began speaking about what it was doing to fix the flaws. (And Microsoft, of course, later ran afoul of Consumer Reports because of these reliability issues. I previously reported on Microsoft’s internal debates about this topic, and its evolving stance on the causes.)

With Microsoft getting ahead of the reliability issues by mid-2016, I also reviewed a more powerful Surface Book model, with a Core i7 processor and an unnamed NIVIDA dGPU. I found that the laptop was wonderful, thanks to the resolution of its power management issues and the enhanced productivity performance. And I was finally able to recommend Surface Book to others.

In January 2017, Microsoft announced what I think of, logically, as the second-generation version of this laptop, the Surface Book with Performance Base. The goal here was to provide a Surface Book version with much-improved performance, so Surface Book with Performance Base included a much more powerful dGPU (an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M dGPU with 2 GB of RAM) and a larger battery in the base. As a result, the keyboard angle was slightly raised as well.

In my review, I found that Surface Book with Performance Base delivered incredible performance compared to its predecessors and could even be used for light gaming. Better still, battery life was up, too, to about 11.5 hours.

Microsoft announced Surface Book 2 in October 2017, two years after it announced the original version. The form factor is the same as with the previous two generation devices, with Surface Book 2 taking on the raised keyboard design of the previous Performance Base version. But there are three other changes: Now there is a bigger 15-inch version of Surface Book 2 (with 13.5-inches being the more typical size), with almost all Surface Book 2 models offering dramatically better dGPUs. Microsoft has replaced the miniDisplayPort on each with a USB-C (not Thunderbolt 3) port, mostly for video out. And thanks to the larger device version, Microsoft also reworked the hinge connections for this release, which should further aid with reliability. (Part of the Surfacegate issues involved the unreliable connection between the Surface Book’s top and bottom halves.)

Brad received a 15-inch version and reviewed it on the Sams Report, with a separate side-bar on its gaming acumen. I am focusing here on the 13.5-inch version of Surface Book 2.

Design

As noted, Surface Book 2 retains the same form factor and professional-looking magnesium design as its predecessors: It is a 13.5-inch detachable laptop with batteries in both the display, called the clipboard, and the keyboard base.

The design is rightfully controversial; it’s just weird looking, really. But in two years of usage, I’ve found that its expected downsides—like its teardrop-shaped hole when closed and the top-heaviness of the battery-weighted display—have never been an issue. Indeed, despite the early reliability problems, Surface Book has emerged as my favorite overall portable PC in recent years. It’s the one I would pick if I could have just one.

The appeal is obvious, even if you’re not a fan of this design, per se. The Surface Book 2 is inarguably the most versatile laptop available today, and that is aided in part by the large, gorgeous display and the roomy keyboard that such a design enables.

Surface Book 2 owners can detach the clipboard display and use it like a really large tablet, which is surprisingly workable given the lightness of that clipboard, and the fact that this display part is fanless and thus silent.

Or they can reattach the clipboard display to the keyboard base backward.

Doing so and pushing the display down enables a nice raised writing surface on the display, perfect for Surface Pen and note-taking. (Less perfect: Surface Pen is not included in the price of Surface Book 2. If you need this peripheral, you will need to budget an additional $100.) This usage mode is also useful for those cramped airline seat situations. By attaching the clipboard backward, you get a large tablet that can use all of its battery power.

Granted, Surface Book 2 isn’t for everyone: It’s relatively big and bulky—with a weight of 3.4 to 3.6 pounds, depending on model—and the display and base halves of the design are roughly the same thickness at their thinnest (which isn’t thin). The device is overtly masculine, where Surface Laptop is feminine, and it will appeal to fans of Teutonic industrial design. Or perhaps those who prefer inner strength over flashiness.

There are some subtle design differences between Surface Book 2 and its predecessors.

Thanks to the addition of a 15-inch model, Microsoft has reworked the connectors in the hinge that bridge the clipboard display to the base. And those changes came to the 13.5-inch versions, too, which is great because they improve the reliability of that connection. In my admittedly short experience so far, I’ve never seen any of the hinge-related wonkiness that remains an issue on previous Surface Books today.

And the display seems more solid, with less of a wobble, even when you poke it aggressively.

And as noted, Microsoft replaced the miniDisplayPort port on older Surface Books with a USB-C port, mostly for video-out.

But that’s about it. Any but the most dedicated of Surface fans would have trouble telling Surface Book 2 from, say, Surface Book with Performance Base. They’re almost identical looking.

Display

The Surface Book 2 design may be controversial, but there is nothing controversial about its display: As with its predecessors, the 13.5-inch display has a perfect 3:2 aspect ratio and a high DPI 3000 x 2000 resolution, and it is a joy to use. Is, in fact, one of the best portable PC displays available today.

As you should expect of any PC in this class, the Surface Book 2 display offers 10 point multitouch and Surface Pen capabilities. But it is also compatible with Microsoft’s unique Surface Dial peripheral, which debuted alongside Surface Studio. It’s the right display in a perfect laptop for creatives, in other words.

Performance

While Microsoft used performance as a key selling point with previous Surface Book versions, each fell short of true portable workstation status thanks to their dual-core processors and middling graphics. But those issues are rectified nicely with Surface Book 2, which features quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core processors (except in the lowest-end model, so be careful) and powerful, gaming-class NVIDIA dGPUs.

Those dGPUs vary between the 13.5-inch and 15-inch Surface Book 2 versions. On the 13.5-inch models like the one I reviewed, you can get an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 dGPU and 2 GB of dedicated GDDR5 graphics memory in most models. That’s a portable gaming PC class GPU.

And I mean that literally: Surface Book 2 has handled every modern game I’ve thrown at it, and while you may need to lower the resolution and graphical effects somewhat, anyone but the most dedicated gamer will be happy with the performance and visual quality. It’s not like Surface Book with Performance Base: Surface Book 2 is a credible portable gaming PC, though you will be accompanied by a lot of fan hiss.

Consider two of the games I tested: Gears of War 4, which is a 4K-capable Microsoft Store-based Xbox Play Anywhere title, and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, from Steam. In both cases, the games were optimized by NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience software for this particular hardware, and I enabled Windows 10’s Game Mode.

Gears of War 4 on the Surface Book 2

Gears of War 4 provides a handy built-in benchmarking tool that reports that the game runs at 1080p (1621 x 1080 in this case, thanks to the 3:2 aspect ratio) with most effects set to Medium, and it delivers an average frame rate of 34 FPS. I think the visual quality looks great, and the game plays without any hitches or glitches.

PUBG, meanwhile, is a graphical dumpster fire in some ways, given its ever-in-preview status, but then that’s why it’s a good test, too. It was configured to run at 1280 x 800, which seems low, but many of the graphics settings were bumped to Ultra and I thought it looked fine.

Using the on-screen frame rate counter, the game consistently hits above 60 FPS once you’re on the island, with no noticeable glitching.

Surface Book 2 can even deliver the 90 Hz “Ultra” experience in Windows Mixed Reality, albeit with a lot of fan yowl. Plus, you’ll need to buy an adapter for video-out: Fortunately, Microsoft sells a $40 Surface USB-C to HDMI 2.0 Adapter that fits the bill nicely.

If you’re interested in an actual gaming benchmark, Surface Book scores 1,782 on the 3DMark Time Spy test, with a graphics score of 1643 and a CPU score of 3429. That’s OK by laptop standards, but an OMEN desktop gaming rig with dual GTX1080 graphics scored 11,261 on this same test.

For productivity performance, I routinely put my review PCs through a video encoding test in which I use Handbrake to convert a 4K video called Tears of Steel 4K to 1080p using the app’s “Super HQ 1080p 30 Surround” preset. And this confirmed a theory I had about the move from dual-core to quad-core CPUs: Surface Book 2 indeed performs far better than its predecessors in real-world power user tasks.

That is, Surface Book 2 finished nearly neck-and-neck with the previous portable PC champion, the Dell XPS 15, on this test. Surface Book 2 converted the video in almost exactly one hour, just behind the Dell, which finished in 54:29. That Dell, you may recall, sported a quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor and the same dGPU as Surface Book 2, so it’s a great comparison. And it suggests that Intel’s newer generation U-series chips are now basically the equivalent of the previous-generation HQ-series chips.

By comparison, Surface Book with Performance Base required 1:34 to convert the video. That’s over half again as long, and about average for portable PCs based on a dual-core U-series chip.

Components and ports

With the exception of the base model, Surface Book 2 ships with quad-core 8th generation Core i7-8650U processors that are significantly faster than their dual-core predecessors. (The entry-level 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 utilizes an old-school and dual-core 7th generation Core i5 processor.)

Surface Book 2 can be configured with 8 or 16 GB of RAM. Given its new prowess as a workstation, I’m surprised a battery life-killing 32 GB option isn’t available this time around.

But the storage options are more well-rounded: Depending on configuration, you will see 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB of speedy PCIe-based SSD storage.

From a noise and heat perspective, Surface Book 2 doesn’t suffer from the phantom fan sound problems that plagued earlier versions, and it’s been notably quiet and cool all along. Obviously, you can stress the system by playing a video game—or, worse, by using Windows Mixed Reality. And in such cases, the fan noise will kick in, and loudly, as should be expected. Aside from gaming, however, it’s been very quiet.

Part of the reason for this, I’m told, is that Microsoft removed the fans from the clipboard display. That means that the 13.5-inch Surface Book is technically a very large and fanless tablet with a Core i7 processor, 8 or 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB to 1 TB of storage. (The dGPU is in the base.)

Surface Book supports reasonably modern connectivity, of course, with 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 support. But Microsoft does not offer LTE/4G capabilities, even as an option. (The 15-inch models include a built-in Xbox Wireless chipset. Why this is not available on the 13.5-inch models is unclear.)

From an expansion perspective, Surface Book 2 offers the dated Surface Connector (for power and an optional dock), two full-sized USB 3.0 ports, and an SD card reader. All are found in the keyboard base. (As with other Surface device’s the Surface Book 2’s power brick has a spare USB 2.0 port for charging phones too.)

There’s also a USB-C port, but it does not include Thunderbolt 3 capabilities, so you cannot drive two 4K displays at 60 Hz or add an external GPU. Yes, you can use it for video-out (with a dongle, probably, as before), or for power or external storage. But there is no excuse for a new premium PC to not support Thunderbolt 3 for expansion. This is a curious omission in this class.

Also, I will note that the headphone jack is in the same terrible place it’s always been located, on the top right of the display. This means that the headphone cord will often lay naturally in front of the display as you’re trying to look at. It should be at the bottom right of the display, not the top right. Obviously.

The stereo speakers, housed on the left and right sides of the display as before, are excellent, with deep sound and nicely separated stereo.

Keyboard, touchpad, and pen

Like previous Surface Book versions, Surface Book 2 delivers what I consider to be nearly ideal keyboard and touchpad experiences.

The keyboard is backlit and full-sized, and it has a great typing feel with a perfect 1.5 mm key throw. It’s slightly raised towards the back to accommodate the base’s cooling and battery systems, but I’m not sure that did much to improve the typing experience. No matter, as it’s excellent.

My only real nit here is the backlighting: It can be configured to three levels of brightness, plus off, and it turns off when not in use. But because gray keys are not that much darker than the white lighting, the keys can be hard to read in certain conditions. And I find myself manually turning backlighting on and off as the ambient lighting conditions change. (This was true of previous Surface Books, too.)

The touchpad is a precision touchpad, of course, and that means you have all kinds of configuration capabilities, especially for gestures. But I like that Microsoft has ignored the giant touchpad mania that is sweeping the industry: The Surface Book 2 touchpad is right-sized, not too big and not too small. And unlike many PC touchpads, it is accurate and silky-smooth.

Surface Book 2 no longer includes a Surface Pen in any configuration, so you will need to buy that separately if you need such a peripheral.

Battery

Microsoft claims a battery life of about 17 hours for Surface Book 2, and I generally see about two-thirds of what the manufacturer estimates in my own testing.

But Surface Book 2 surprised me in this regard, as it delivered 15:20 of battery in my streaming HD video rundown test. That’s considerably better than Surface Book with Performance Base, which hit 11:30. And it’s better battery life than any PC I’ve tested over the past year, including Surface Laptop, which delivered a bit over 13 hours.

There’s no fast-charging per se, and while I haven’t tested full time to charge, it’s somewhere in the 2-to-3 hour range. This is another area in which USB-C/Thunderbolt-3 would help. Just saying.

Software

Within the context of the growing creep of crap that Microsoft adds to a basic install of Windows 10, Surface Book arrives from the factory relatively clean. There’s an innocuous—OK, nearly useless—Surface app and not much else. As a business-class device, Surface Book 2 ships with Windows 10 Pro, not the cheaper and less capable Windows 10 S or Home.

Pricing and configurations

Microsoft offers a variety of Surface Book 2 configurations. All but one—the base model—provides a quad-core 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics.

That base model is a curious one-off, with a dual-core 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of SSD storage, and integrated graphics at a cost of $1499. (You may recall that previous-generation Surface Book laptops were based on the 6th-generation Intel Core processors.)

You get more if you pay more. For an additional $500, or a total of $1999, you can step up to that quad-core 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics. And you can add RAM to 16 GB and storage to a full 1 TB, with various configurations in the $2499 to $2999 range.

There no way around it, Surface Book 2 is expensive. And that is particularly true when you factor in the loss of Surface Pen (an additional $100) and the fact that this year’s base model is so much less enticing than the other models. In my mind, the sweet spot is the Core i7/16 GB of RAM/512 GB SSD configuration, but that costs a whopping $2499 before adding the cost of Surface Pen. Warm up that credit card and your spousal explaining skills.

Recommendations and conclusions

With Surface Book 2, Microsoft has kept what works and improved almost everything else in meaningful ways. The display, keyboard, and touchpad were all excellent in previous Surface Book versions, and those carry forward basically unchanged here. But the processor and dGPU are both significant advances that Surface Book 2 firmly into portable workstation and gaming PC territory. It’s a good fit for the form factor.

But Microsoft’s inability to move forward to USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 remains a mystery, especially in this class of device. That Surface Book 2 includes a USB-C port but without Thunderbolt 3 capabilities is even more maddening: Such a change would make the device a clear recommendation for any power user. In its current form, Surface Book 2 owners will need to deal with something that is almost perfect. It’s so close.

One might be tempted to compare Surface Book 2 to other Surface devices, like Surface Pro (2017) and Surface Laptop. But these devices all occupy their own niches: Someone seriously considering Surface Book 2 probably won’t look twice at Surface Laptop, and vice versa. You either need—or want—this level of performance and sophistication or you don’t.

If you do, Surface Book 2 is very much recommended. But go into this knowing that your expansion options will be limited, especially if you want the future-proofing performance of Thunderbolt 3.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Gaming PC-class performance
  • Stellar battery life
  • Superior 3:2 PixelSense display
  • Superior typing and touchpad experiences
  • Versatile design

Cons

  • Dated expansion options
  • Surface Pen is not included
  • Hinge is awkward
  • Expensive

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Comments (40)

40 responses to “Microsoft Surface Book 2 Review”

  1. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    Seems only MSFT is willing to make Windows laptops/tablets with 3:2 screens. I guess they don't sell enough to budge OEMs from the 16:9 rut. It'd be nice to have more choices in 3:2 than Surface devices and Google Pixelbooks. It'd be especially nice to have any choices with 3:2 screens and NOT Surface[and HP]-type keyboard layouts.

    • Avatar

      lilmoe

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      16:10 is superior IMHO for the majority of productivity applications. 3:2 is only great for documents, spreadsheets and browsing.


      SurfaceBook is nice, but niche, VERY niche. No one wants it but some designers who aren't buying it with their money, or journalists that want to look cool in a MacBook dominated profession. Or, of course, enthusiasts like Paul. Darnit, Microsoft, just build a damn ThinkPad and MacBook Pro competitor already. Get the damn pro mainstream basics right, THEN flirt with these frankincense designs.


      I'm sick and tired of false screen size advertising with 16:9. ThinkPads, Dells and HPs all have massive chins on the top or bottom, it's frustrating. Just fill the darn empty space with more LCD and extra pixels ffs.


      I hate how the entire supply chain is nothing but 16:9. Like why? Who ever thought it was a great idea on laptops? It makes sense on large desktop screens since that larger size makes small text on higher resolutions comfortably visible, and mouse click targets actually clickable. The extra width actually adds more work area in that case. But on a laptop? You either suffer with unworkable vertical space or with TINY text to make the working space more productive. I have great eye sight, but even 1080p on a 15" screen is TINY at 100% scaling for the type of work that needs it.


      As much as I loath Apple, it's just astonishing how no one knows how to get the basics right in one package as much as they did (past tense, unfortunately). It's like none of these OEMS actually use their products in their intended context.


      Is it really that hard for Lenovo to build a better 15" ThinkPad and source 16:10 IPS screens that don't SUCK, and integrate a smooth/glass touchpad that doesn't have to deal with USB interface latency and crappy drivers? You know, like Apple?


      The problem with the PC industry is their compete inability to vertically integrate, design and build laptops with custom parts that aren't off the shelf with finicky drivers. They used to do a much better job 15 years ago, but not anymore after all the separate parts became commodities, sold on the streets in ShinZhen using a common (crappy) usb interface designed 10+ years ago.


      Microsoft is the only PC OEM taking the right approach in that aspect, but they completely missed the mark with design. I don't get the surface book. Just design a performance base for the surface pro and build a completely different pro laptop with a 45w cpu..... But Microsoft being Microsoft have no clue when it comes to product identity. Apple cleared that ages ago and are in the process of abusing their loyal following.

      • Avatar

        MutualCore

        In reply to lilmoe:

        3:2 is also better for coding which is a big deal to millions of software developers.

      • Avatar

        RobertJasiek

        In reply to lilmoe:

        Everybody needs a different display ratio and orientation. E.g., I need 5:4 or 4:3 in portrait mode for productivity applications (and for consumption) 99.5% of my time. My occasional, exceptional need for 1:1 (square board game editing and viewing) is greater than that for 16:9 (live TV).

        Where I agree with you: the manufacturers (not just HP and Lenovo) really should offer a variety of display ratios so we can choose an almost good one for our preferred product series.

        • Avatar

          lilmoe

          In reply to RobertJasiek:

          Ok. What type of work do you do? How common are your needs? I'm talking about the lowest common denominator. But at least we agree that 16:9 isn't it. Laptops are not primarily for video.

          • Avatar

            RobertJasiek

            In reply to lilmoe:

            My major work is textbook writing (DIN format text in portrait mode, one page viewed at a time, import and editing of related vector graphics). So my basic needs are very common.

            • Avatar

              lilmoe

              In reply to RobertJasiek:


              Yea, read the very first paragraph in my first reply.

              I disagree that your use case is common for pro machines. A Surface Laptop, or a MacBook air, meets all your needs and then some. You don't need the extra power of the Surface Book, or a MacBook pro. The latter are better served with a 16:10 screen for the type of work they potentially serve.


              I stand by my argument. The graphics design aspect is better served by a surface pro, and Microsoft should just build a performance base for that and redesign the surface book you be a dedicated pro machine with a 45w cpu and dedicated graphics with better, custom parts which no other oem is willing to do for some reason, but are more happy you charge you MacBook and surface pro prices using off the shelf components.

              • Avatar

                RobertJasiek

                In reply to lilmoe:

                So with "pro machine" you mean "speedy power horse"? Then we use a different terminology.

                Surface Laptop (with W10 Pro) meets none of my needs because I need portrait position. The inner hardware of Surface Laptop is more than enough, of course. I work on a Core i3-530 (slowest first generation Core) and it (and its integrated graphics) is enough for me. My needs are others: longeivity (incl. battery), reliability, security, ergnomics (incl. matte display, its rotation, excellent keyboard). The Surface series is good at some of these aspects but completely neglects (partly even opposes) some others of these aspects.

                Concerning uses of various display ratios, see my earlier explanations on that topic during the previous years. The most condensed summary: different people have different needs. Quite a few people are not served by the offered ratios of a product series.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        In reply to lilmoe:

        16:10 is not "superior" for anything but watching videos. 3:2 should be the standard on productivity laptops.

        • Avatar

          Peter Hamlin

          In reply to paul-thurrott: I just bought a Surface Book 2 15" (Thanks for your excellent review -- it was very helpful!) I do a lot of music production and scoring, among other things. This discussion reminded me that a favorite size for traditional paper music scores is around 9x12. It's a size that's small enough to be manageable, and large enough to feel roomy. That's almost the exact size of the SB2 15" screen, and, for me, it strikes the same kind of visual/functional balance.
      • Avatar

        hrlngrv

        In reply to lilmoe:

        16:10 is superior . . .

        It's certainly superior to 16:9.

        The problem from my perspective is lack of choice, and other than some Macbooks, 16:10 isn't an option.

        Picky: many say wider aspect ratios are better for productivity because it's possible to show 2 windows side by side. Split in half horizontally, 16:9 gives 2 nearly square 8:9 panes, 16:10 gives 2 8:10 panes, and 3:2 gives 2 3:4 panes. FWIW, 3:4 falls between the aspect ratios of US letter and A4 paper. For what I do, that's better.

        Immobile desktop PCs can be customized. Laptops are much harder to customize, especially for ultrabooks designed to be as thin as possible. Then there's cost. I understand OEMs' reasons for 16:9 only, I just don't like it.

  2. Avatar

    joeaxberg

    I bought one and used it for about a month and ended up returning it. It still seemed wobbly and top heavy to me. I found myself wishing I could sometimes push the screen farther back. The hinge is indeed weird. The specs are awesome and it is still the only Windows laptop I've used whose trackpad matches the smoothness and accuracy of a Macbook Pro. I wish Microsoft made a 15" version of the Surface Laptop with specs like the Book 2.

  3. Avatar

    Soundtweaker

    The Surface Pen is included if you just ask them nicely in the store.

  4. Avatar

    jpwalters

    So did you get a sense in any of your testing that the CPU was throttled at all do to heat issues, and potentially having that fan-less display? I just tried an XPS 13 2-in-1 with that somewhat gimped i7-7Y75. I had to return it, though it broke my heart. Loved the form factor. Simple software updates and other tasks seemingly benign were causing the CPU to spike get hot and then ultimately get throttle down to .68GHz. At that point it became painfully slow. I think the fanless design hurt an already crippled processor.


    I agree about i7/16GB/512GB being the sweet spot. The question I wonder is for this "$2500" price point, gulp!! -- you can either have the 13.5" / i7 / 16GB / 512GB, or the 15" / i7 / 16GB / 256GB. Which one would you pick? I suppose the 256GB limitation could partially be offset by microSD storage.


    The other hard choice is in this range includes the Thinkpad X1 Yoga. Although the dGPU would be nice to have, I suppose it could be sacrificed. Being another generation behind on the i7 though seems like second sacrifice at least at this price range. Any thoughts?



  5. Avatar

    MutualCore

    What about sleep/wake, hot bag issues?

  6. Avatar

    boots

    "Microsoft says this hole is required by Surface Book’s unique fulcrum hinge."


    Then what is the point of having this "unique fulcrum hinge" design, other than making the Surface Book thicker than necessary?

    • Avatar

      ibmthink

      In reply to Boots:

      The problem is the Detachable design with the hardware in the display - due to this, Detachables like the Surface Book are usually top-heavy, which means that they will often fall over when you open the display too far.


      The fulcrum hinge is a fix to this problem, I think. Microsoft needs this special hinge to balance out the system better.

    • Avatar

      Peter Hamlin

      In reply to Boots: I just bought the 15" model. This is a really large computer, but it's very well balanced. It seems to me that the design of the hinge contributes to this weight balance and stability, as well as the minimal amount of wobble when you touch the screen. I don't mind the aesthetics of the gap, but setting that aside, it functions extremely well.


  7. Avatar

    DRG

    I purchased the 13" 1TB and returned it the next day due to coil whine in two locations. I could live with the static sound generated where the power adapter connects to the base because I could only hear it if I placed my ear right above it. The whine coming from the area of the back logo on the tablet was audible under normal use. All I had to do to get the whine was use the high performance setting and launch XTU. I've never encountered this problem in any other laptop before.

  8. Avatar

    dstrauss

    I love the design and concept of the SB2 13.5, but the pricing is just indefensible. The maxed out version (i7/16gb/1tb) is $2999 PLUS another $99 for the pen. The HP Spectre x360 13.3", for same base specs, is $1709, and that includes a pen. Granted, no game playing (it only has integrated Intel 620 UHD graphics), but if having a removable tablet (rather than 360 degree hinge) and GTX 1050 graphics are worth $1389, knock yourself out.


    Oh, by the way, the Spectre x360 has TWO full speed (4 lane 40gb) Thunderbolt 3 ports to go with that $1389 savings...that should cover just about any eGPU powerhouse dock with plenty of room to spare.

    • Avatar

      jpwalters

      In reply to dstrauss:

      I guess this story evolves that quickly. At least the 15" x360 will now get the Intel w/AMD Vega GPU, which could make the gaming a more realistic possibility. I wonder if that's the direction the Thinkpad X1 Yoga will go also or are we only going to see this in the 15" form factor. Next day or two will be interesting!

      • Avatar

        dstrauss

        In reply to jpwalters: The current 15" has the MX 150 dGPU - not a gaming quality dGPU but more "oomph" to Adobe CC, etc. Never having been a gamer (too old I guess), those things don't bother me, and even if I were, I'd really want a 32" 4k display and high end graphics box to begin with, so I think TB3 would help fill that bill.


  9. Avatar

    zankfrappa

    I'm guessing by all the comments i'm seeing about the pen that people think Microsoft included it for free in the last version? Sorry to tell you all but Microsoft doesn't like you that much. They're not a charity, they have to make money like every other company so giving out a free $100 pen with every computer is not an option


    Considering that lots of people wont even use the pen it makes sense not to include it. Doing so would only drive up the cost even more and then those people would end up with a useless paperweight


    For people who want the pen, its pretty simple, just two extra clicks should do it: "continue shopping" then "add pen to cart"... or if they are buying in a store they will have to say something like "give me the pen" to the person behind the counter

  10. Avatar

    Vladimir Carli

    Great review. I have this device and it’s great for productivity and gaming. Typing on it is a joy, especially coming from a MacBook Pro. My only downside is that it doesn’t replace the iPad, due to lack of apps. I really wish that the tablet usage will improve. Is there any hope?

    V.

  11. Avatar

    brettscoast

    Good write up Paul

    Comprehensive with all options and features well explained, it is a real workhorse in every sense of the word with the 13.5" preferred model for portability reasons. The show stopper here is what i would consider the exorbitant price of this machine with the sweet spot option weighing in around $3700+ AUD here which is a significant cost for any new system. The core i5 256GB8GB RAMdGPU comes in at at a more manageable $1999 AUD price point. Battery life is quite incredible given those numbers and coming with Windows 10 Pro installed over home or S is appreciated. The ports are adequate if slightly underwhelming but not a deal breaker. Looking forward to yourself and Brad's reports and videos from CES in Vegas next week.

  12. Avatar

    ibmthink

    Nice review Paul!


    I do like this design, which isn't afraid to show its thickness. Love the 3:2 aspect ratio.


    Being a TrackPoint addict, I wish there would be a ThinkPad version of this (in black, of course). With Thunderbolt 3, that would be close to perfect for me. One downside would be the glossy screen.

  13. Avatar

    chadhassler

    Great write up!


    I've been using the original surface book at work for the last 2 years. The stability problems (surfacegate) on that device are legendary in my office. However, once they got their firmware issues sorted out, it's been super solid ever since. I prefer typing on it more than any other device.


    It sounds like SB2 brings all the things I love about the original along with better specs and zero stability issues. Still, for nearly $3000, I can't understand why/how USB-C with thunderbolt 3 did not make it to this device!

  14. Avatar

    SocialDanny123

    I think Microsoft showed that you don't need thinness to achieve a good product, something that the tech industry is currently suffering from. As long there is a good reason for the thicker product then people won't mind the thickness. The SB design has benefits like you said with keyboard and versatility, but also heat management.

  15. Avatar

    pesos

    Great machines but portability is key for me, so the Surface Pro is still the winner. Frustrating to not be able to drive dual 4k displays at 60hz with either product, but have gotten around that by getting the LG 40" 4k monitor lol. Would still be nice to drive a wall mounted tv as well though. Hopefully next year!

  16. Avatar

    will

    It is a good laptop, I would have liked to have seen a little more improvement to the overall design and weight. It is ok, but at 3+ lbs it is in heavy side for a 13”. Plus like you mentioned Paul the keyboard backlighting is very bad in any sort of office lighting, not that I need to see the keys, but something I would have liked to have seen them improve.


    The kicker is poor docked performance you get from something so powerful. Using the Surface Dock limits you to dual 4K 30Hz. This is 100% limited buy the dock and this is because they did not go with TB3 or a new Surface Connect. While the laptop itself can do a lot more, you are stuck with the slow underpowered Surface Connect.


    It will be interesting see what the new Lenovo X1 Yoga 3rd gen can do.....

  17. Avatar

    RobertJasiek

    If I needed a notebook with that much performance, these aspects would still prevent me from buying Surface Book 2:

    • tiny arrow keys (example of a solution: make the right shift key a bit shorter, move the menu key right of the arrow keys),
    • no version with matte display,
    • terrible repairability,
    • non-removeable battery,
    • non-standard battery format (Where is the initiative for an industry standard format of batteries in mobile devices?!),
    • ultra-expensive battery replacement,
    • missing promise of battery replacement service for 7+ years,
    • Windows 10 telemetry.


    Thunderbolt 3 would be nice to have but I understand that Microsoft has not been able yet to figure out all related hardware and driver reliability issues. The Intel CPU bugs are another consideration. Furthermore, I am not happy with the limited low-end configuation choices. 7th generation CPU, really?!

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      The kind of machine you're looking for is rare these days. Perhaps the ThinkPad workstations (P-series, I think)?

      • Avatar

        RobertJasiek

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        In the mid 90s, I had something similar to ThinkPads. Nowadays, I hone my patience and wait for the hybrid of Windows-tablet / detachable, ebook reader, iPad and desktop monitor / display put on a stand. It can be a single mobile device or a composition of display with attached or wirelessly linked computing card / stick / smartphone. The technology has been ripe for some 2 years now. I just need to wait for the first such quality product(s) meeting my essential criteria (incl. silence).

        I do not want to throw lots of money on some half-baked device now knowing that within a few years the (almost) perfect device(s) might appear. Why should it not appear? Desktops reached perfection after their infancy years. I expect mobile devices to also reach perfection after overcoming the current wild west years, whose major characterisation is to take as much money as possible from the impatient endconsumers until everybody knows what lasting quality is.

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