Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 First Impressions

Posted on October 23, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft Surface with 19 Comments

In the wake of Microsoft’s Surface PC launch event three weeks ago, Panos Panay, carrying a Surface Laptop 2, brushed by me, leaned in, and said, “we’re going to put one of these in your hands.” It was a nice and private moment, as he had plucked my first-generation Surface Laptop out of my hands earlier during the event and had used it to make a point about how people like me really value Surface products.

What he didn’t tell me, of course—and he had no way of knowing, hopefully—is that his PR team would forget that I existed and then make me beg for a review unit, repeatedly, before finally giving in. In doing so, they have put me and my readers at a two-week disadvantage. But now that I’ve aired this latest bit of dirty laundry, it’s time to move on. So here’s what’s happening, belatedly, with Surface Laptop 2.

First and most obviously, the design appears to be literally the same as that of the first-generation Surface Laptop. I’ve compared the two side-by-side from every angle, and I just don’t see any difference.

Well, except for the color, of course: Surface Laptop 2 can be had in black, a color that hasn’t been offered in the Surface lineup since the Surface Pro 2, back in 2013. As with that device, the color is basically a coating, or a paint, and is not integral to the material. But thanks to advances in anodizing—the Surface Laptop 2 is made of aluminum, not magnesium—the hope is that the color won’t easily scratch off. As you may recall, early black Surface PCs had major scratching issues.

Even the power supply is identical.

Based on my long experience with the original Surface Laptop, I’m not overly worried about this. I take Surface Laptop with me everywhere, and it’s constantly moving in and out of my travel bag. So far, so good, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye on the black finish to ensure there is no weirdness there.

Tied to the color, of course, is a new color for the Alcantara keyboard deck covering.

This is more of a dark gray than a black, which I like, and it provides a nice contrast with the keyboard and touchpad. Microsoft’s use of Alcantara is, of course, controversial in some circles. But I’ve not experienced any noticeable wear in the first Surface Laptop, and I like the way it looks and feels.

Beyond the new color choice, the other big change with Surface Laptop 2 is inside the box: Microsoft finally provides 8th-generation quad-core Intel Core CPUs in this lineup—the review unit has a garden-variety i5-8250U for the curious—and the results should be very positive: Dramatically better performance with no loss of battery life when compared to the first generation unit. I will, of course, test both.

They keyboard and touchpad are identical, as expected. This is great news: Surface Laptops typing and pointing experiences are among the best I’ve ever experienced.

On a less positive note, Microsoft has opted to go all “S year” on us with this device: It hasn’t changed the port allotment at all, which means we’re stuck with one full-sized USB 3 port, zero USB-C ports, and one legacy mini-DisplayPort.

I’m of two minds on this decision. On the one hand, I feel very strongly that Microsoft needs to lead in the PC market, and that these legacy ports indicate that it is unable to do so. On the other … it hasn’t really impacted me in real life (with the first Surface Laptop). As I’ve experienced, Microsoft’s inability to embrace modern technologies has not had any real-world impact.

Surface Connect port continues forward unchanged as well.

There’s one more minor controversy here, I guess: Surface Laptop 2 ships with Windows 10 Home, not Pro. This isn’t a first for Surface per se—Surface 2, 3, and Go all shipped with non-Pro OS versions, and even the first Surface Laptop shipped with Windows 10 S originally—but the concern here is misplaced. When sold to individuals, Surface Laptop should come with Windows 10 Home. If you buy one through Microsoft’s business store, you will get Pro. And you will pay more, too, for functionality that most individuals do not need.

I’ve only just received Surface Laptop 2 for review, so I’ll get the PC configured—it comes with Windows 10 version 1803, so that will need to be upgraded—and charged, and put in some real time with it. Again, based on my experiences with its predecessor, I expect this to be a positive experience. And that I may have a new and regular companion for my trips, both personal and professional.

More soon. And, again, sorry for the delay on this.


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