Microsoft Surface Book 2 15″ Review

The latest in the line of Microsoft Surface devices is the most powerful Surface ever. The Surface Book 2 isn’t just another 2-in-1 combo, but a powerful top end laptop, designed to compete with the likes of the MacBook Pro.

Has Microsoft really done enough with this latest Surface Book to tempt those creative types away from Apple?

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Specifications

Microsoft Surface Book 2 Specifications
Display: 15” PixelSense™ Display
Resolution: 3240 x 2160, 260 PPI
Processor: 1.9Ghz 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U, quad-core
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB GDDR5 RAM
Memory: 16GB LPDDR3 RAM
Storage: SSD options: 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe SSD
Wireless: Dual band 2 x 2 MIMO Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth version 4.1
Xbox Wireless
Connections: USB 3.1 type-A x 2
USB 3.1 type-C (1st Gen with Power Delivery Revision) x 1
3.5mm audio headphone jack
Surface Connect Ports x 2
SDXC card reader (full-size)
Cameras: Windows Hello camera (face authentication)
Front camera: 5MP, 1080p HD video
Rear camera: 8MP, 1080p HD video
Operating System: Windows 10 Pro Creators Update (64-bit)
Battery Life: Up to 17 hours, 90-watts per hour combined battery
Dimensions: 13.5” x 9.87” x 0.90” (0.568” tablet only)

First Impressions

Just looking at those impressive specs above should give you an idea of what a beast this latest Surface Book 2 is. Although it features the usual svelte magnesium design of the previous Surface models, everything about it is huge.

At over 4.2 pounds, the Surface Book 2 is over a pound heavier than its nearest rival, the ubiquitous MacBook Pro. The large fulcrum hinge which holds the two parts together makes it harder to cram into a backpack than many other high-end laptops.

However, in tablet mode, it’s one of the lightest 15-inch tablets you will have ever used—in fact, it feels deceptively small in your hands as a tablet.

Display and Audio

Microsoft Surface devices are renowned for their excellent displays, and the Surface Book 2 is no exception.

A 15-inch touchscreen offers a resolution of 3,240 x 2,160 pixels in a 3:2 aspect ratio. Although it just falls short of 4K, Microsoft has managed to cram 260 pixels into every inch, for a perfectly sharp image, free of pixelation or jagged edges.

A contrast ratio of 1600:1 really makes colors come alive and is higher than any of its direct competitors. More technology than ever has been packed into the Surface Book 2 screen, with Microsoft calibrating each screen individually.

A 15-inch screen is going to need a beefy sound to get the most from those games or movies. Front facing stereo speakers should have no problem filling a medium sized room with music. If anything, it gets too loud, with you able to feel vibrations when holding it in tablet mode.

Keyboard and Other Input Devices

Unlike the new Surface Pro 6, the Surface Book comes complete with a detachable keyboard. It has to really, as the base contains the discrete NVIDIA graphics chip and an extra battery pack.

The same quality keyboard as found on other Surface devices, it has keys which feel great with a good amount of travel, a nice linear feel, and a large responsive trackpad.

Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn’t seen fit to include the Surface Pen with this latest, top of the range 2-in-1. To fully make use of the digital inking system of Windows 10, the Surface Pen is going to be an essential purchase—we think it should be included with every Surface tablet, to be honest.

The Surface Pen is one of the best pen/stylus tools on the market, with 4096 levels of sensitivity, it can be used in virtually every app.

Just like the MacBook has introduced the new “touch bar” input method, Microsoft has developed the Surface Dial. A revolutionary productivity/input device, a metal dial can be placed on the screen for context-sensitive menus to be controlled.

This extra “dial” can help you change color, or zoom in on designs without removing your pen from its current task.

The following YouTube video from Microsoft demonstrates the innovative Surface Dial—we’re sure it won’t be the last you hear of it.

Getting to Know Surface Dial

Performance and Battery Life

Performance wise, the Surface Book 2 can go head-to-head against every hybrid 2-in-1 combo out there, as well as top-end laptops and gaming laptops.

The Intel 8th Gen i7 CPU, along with NVIDIA’s latest GTX 1060 chipset, can handle the very latest games, even at 1080p resolution. There’s even built-in support for Xbox One controllers to be used natively.

However, you could probably buy a dedicated gaming laptop from the likes of Razor or Alienware for less money, that would offer the same experience.

Where the Surface Book 2 wins out is in the versatility and excellent battery life it offers. When the keyboard base is attached, you can expect up to 17 hours of playback, due to the extra 67-watt battery enclosed in the base.

Remove the keyboard and the tablet features a 23-watt battery, but also uses the less power hungry integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics for more power efficiency.

We haven’t really spoken about the cameras as you don’t really spend this much on a laptop to use as a camera—your smartphone probably has a better camera, and fits in your pocket. The cameras are still pretty decent though, with the front-facing camera now supporting Windows Hello facial recognition.

Is Surface Book 2 the Best Microsoft Surface Device Ever?

Without a doubt, yes. The most expensive Surface device ever is the best. It addresses the issues of previous models like lack of connectivity and poor battery life.

This model even includes the addition of a USB-C port, although it still has a way to go, with no Thunderbolt 3 support.

With the latest 8th Gen Intel processor and discrete NVIDIA graphics, the Surface Book 2 offers enough creativity options to rival even the MacBook Pro. It’s beautiful, powerful and ultra-portable with an unprecedented level of versatility.

It may be expensive, but remember, you are also getting an impressive 15-inch tablet with one of the best screens seen on any laptop or tablet.

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