This is it.
At long last, we finally got our hands on Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 to review. It’s taken awhile, but we view it as a chance to prove ourselves worthy, reviewing other members in the Surface family (the Surface Go, the Surface Pro 6 and the Surface Laptop 2) before finally being able to tackle the sacred Surface Book 2.
Worthy we are. Reviewed it I did.
Read on and see what I think about most badass Surface product in Microsoft’s current arsenal.
What is the Surface Book 2?
The Microsoft Surface Book 2 is poised as the ultimate Surface machine. The Don Corleone of the Surface family; the big boss, the big kahuna…the King of Kings.
It is a 15” laptop/tablet hybrid with an Intel Core i7-8650U processor, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD and depending on which mode it’s being used in, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 and Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated GPU.
It is both a HUGE tablet AND a laptop, because unlike most products in the Surface family, the Surface Book 2 comes with its own dock. Not the Type Covers usually paired with Surfaces, but its own custom made dock (which houses the keyboard and the extra hardware) to make it into a full-fledged multimedia notebook.
While past Surfaces (like the Surface Pro 2) have dipped their toes in trying to do more than your usual office tasks, none of them have been particularly well equipped for multimedia work as the Surface Book 2.
That’s mainly due to the fact that the machine is packing an NVIDIA GeForce 1060 in its dock, which gives it a punch that other Surface machines don’t have.
Here are the full specs for our review machine.
|Display||15” 3240 x 2160, (260 PPI) 10 point multi-touch G5.|
|RAM||16GB RAM 1866Mhz LPDDR3.|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-8650U.|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated GPU (undocked).|
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB).
|Ports||2 x USB type-A (version 3.1 Gen 1).|
1 x USB type-C (version 3.1 Gen 1 with USB Power Delivery revision 3.0).
3.5mm headphone jack.
2 x Surface Connect ports.
Full-size SDXC card reader.
Compatible with Surface Dial on- and off-screen interaction.
|Wireless||Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac compatible. |
Bluetooth Wireless 4.1 technology.
Xbox Wireless built-in.
|Dimensions||343 mm x 251 mm x 15 mm-23 mm.|
Notice, that while other Surfaces are geared towards office productivity, the Surface Book 2 is a step above. The hardware is certainly representative of that, being beefier and faster than previous incarnations of the device.
We’re a bit puzzled as to why there’s no DisplayPort (mini or otherwise) or HDMI output for the machine. Certainly the dock portion could have been fitted with one. Alas, neither are on the machine, which is a misstep in my opinion.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a look at what makes the Surface Book 2 unique first.
By now, the Surface line should be synonymous with the word ‘Sleek’. The design might not change that much from the various products in the line-up, but therein lies the beauty.
You know what you’re going to get no matter which Surface product you’re looking at. Sleek lines, smooth brushed aluminium coupled with a sexy dock (or Type Cover in other instances) that enhances the whole ensemble.
All the buttons are exactly as you’d expect on the Surface Book 2. If you’ve had experience handling any of the new Surface products, you’ll see the button placement is replicated on the Surface Book 2. The only thing different here is the size, the tablet portion of it is huge!
Everything feels smooth and cool to the touch, and the keyboard embedded in the dock is simply heavenly to use. The keys have superb travel for a mobile keyboard, and it’s very satisfying to use. The matte finish of both the dock and the keys themselves simply enhance the tactile treat your fingers are getting.
The keyboard is TKL (meaning it lacks a Numpad) but it’s still relatively large enough to be comfortable to those with bigger hands. I personally had no problem adapting to its layout, typing like a pro after just a few minutes of orientation.
The dock also has its own track pad, set almost flush into the chassis. It’s unmarred by markings of any kind, which is a good or bad thing, depending on your preference.
Like the keyboard above it, the trackpad is also remarkably resistant to finger oils. I’ve had the pleasure of using the Surface Notebook for more than a week now and the keyboard is still relatively clean and pristine. That statement applies to the trackpad as well, even with the constant rubbing and pressing of fingers.
There’s one big difference between the Surface Book 2’s custom dock and the Type Covers used with the other Surface machines; it possess its own locking mechanism.
You’ll need to press a button (or deactivate the lock through Windows) to remove the tablet from the dock. It’s a good thing too, as ironically, the hinge part of the dock is one of the weaker design aspects of the machine.
The hinge looks nice, but is a bit wobbly in practice. While it does hold the tablet in place, any slight push on the tablet is enough to move the whole notebook, dock and all. I wish the hinge was more secure, because I can foresee this being a problem if you’re using the Surface Book 2 while in a moving transport (perhaps a train or a plane).
The tablet is held securely in place by lock and magnets but it can be a bit of a pain aligning the slots properly to lock the tablet portion back in once it’s been removed. One thing I particular fear is scratching the paint job on the underside, due to it being rubbed against the exposed connectors.
Lest we almost forget, the dock is also home to a multitude of connectors; 2 USB 3.1 ports, 1 USB Type-C port, a SDXC card reader and a Surface Connect port. It’s almost the perfect complement of ports that you’d want in a notebook…almost.
We just wish that a HDMI port made the cut too. As it stands, there’s no way to output the display to an external device, which is a shame if you’re hoping to use a wired projector or monitor.
The top part.
The top part is obviously the tablet. There are two variations of the Surface Book 2, one with a 13.5” display and the higher end model with a 15” display. Microsoft’s awesomely sent us the premium model, with its bigger sized screen and higher resolution.
Weirdly, the Surface Book 2 is on a 3:2 aspect ratio, exactly like the Surface Laptop 2. The display’s just under 4K resolution, with it being 3240 x 2160 and is still capable of registering up to 10 points of touch at once, just like the other Surface machines we’ve reviewed.
As a tablet, the 15” size of the premium model is a tad unwieldy. We REALLY enjoyed the humongous screen, but it’s a bit too large to be used comfortably unless you’re watching Netflix or a something while lying down.
The Dolby Audio Premium speakers embedded in the tablet offer decent quality for being portable speakers. They’re definitely loud enough at full volume, though the lack of a strong bass makes them sound a bit flat. Luckily the Surface Book 2 also has a 3.5mm jack, which means you can plug in headphones for your audio needs.
Microsoft’s also taken out the built-in stand that’s present in most iterations of the Surface line, so the tablet can’t stand on its own. We’re wondering why that’s so, since we can see no particular important reason for removing it.
Perhaps that’s in part due to the Surface Port now being under that tablet (if you’re using it in landscape mode). That’s understandable since there’d be no way to charge the tablet if it was being propped up by a stand. It’s still a glaringly weird omission in my eyes nonetheless.
The power of two.
The Surface Book 2 is unique in the Surface line in that the dock boosts the capability of the machine.
While I’ve already questioned the use of the hinge on the dock, there’s also another issue with the Surface Book 2 you might notice when it’s closed.
Aesthetically, it’s questionable on how cool it looks.. Functionally, it’s a problem just waiting to happen, especially if you lug around the Surface Book 2 in your bag without a dedicated laptop sleeve. Loose objects like small pens, keys and whatnot can easily slip in the opening and scratch the screen.
That issue aside, there’s barely any reason to diss on the machine, performance or looks-wise.
Undocked, the tablet simply uses the integrated Intel HD Graphics 620. Docked however, the GPU is swapped to the NVIDIA GeForce 1060. That means the machine performs MUCH better (especially for gaming and multimedia duties) when it’s docked.
Don’t just take our word for it, here are the benchmarks for the machine in both states.
We’ve done four different sets of benchmarks; docked, docked (on battery), undocked and undocked (on battery). Settings are all left on default, with the drivers all updated to the most recent ones.
For games, the machine was tested on our usual gamut of titles, this time in docked mode, with power supplied by an outlet.
The results are actually on par with what the Dell G7 produced, which isn’t surprising considering the relatively similar hardware in both machines.
As the benchmarks show, the Surface Book 2 is still quite a machine, whether docked or undocked, on battery or outlet power.
Speaking of battery power, here’s how long the machine lasted.
In my testing, doing our usual Youtube loop test (where we loop a YouTube music video at 50% brightness and volume), it lasted 11 hours and 6 mins when docked. Undocked, the tablet lasted 3 hours 49 mins.
If for some reason the tablet runs out of battery, you can just slot it back into the dock and pick up where you left off, provided there’s still energy in the dock’s battery.
Yep, Microsoft’s designed the Surface Book 2 to have TWO separate batteries; one in the tablet, and another in the dock.
For gaming, docked performance is decent for modern games, though you’re not going to be able to run them with everything turned up high, at least not at the default resolution. Cooling isn’t much of an issue, as even after all the benchmarks, the laptop’s keyboard was still relatively cool.
At the end of the day, you get a machine that can handle normal work well undocked, and multimedia duties (including gaming) just as well when docked. It’s like getting two machines in one.
The bottom line.
If you’re enamored with the Surface line but want something with a bit more power to it, the Surface Book 2 is what you’ve been looking for all along.
While I wished Microsoft would’ve made the leap and included an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (or at least a 1070), the 1060 present in the Surface Book 2 is still a decent mid-range GPU, more than enough for modern gaming on medium or lower settings.
The only real issues I have with the machine are that it only comes with a single SSD storage option, it has no HDMI or DisplayPort output and the battery.
While the lack of storage option can be alleviated somewhat with an external drive, it’s a major issue not to be able to output the display to an external device.
The base definitely has more than enough space and capability for a HDMI port or DisplayPort so it’s a mind mindbogglingly questionable decision to not have either port present, especially at the premium price you’re paying for the machine.
Ultimately, I understand the lackluster battery life for the device. The size and resolution of the tablet’s display is undoubted a major drain on the battery. Coupled with the need to fit everything into the chassis and something’s definitely got to give.
That still doesn’t mean I don’t wish for a longer lasting battery though, which is something I hope Microsoft looks into for the inevitable Surface Book 3.
Hands down the best Surface machine in terms of performance. Might be a bit too expensive for some and there are definitely some design issues, but overall, a great machine for multimedia consumption and work.
– Decent hardware.
– Great display.
– Great keyboard.
– Hinge makes the display unstable.
– Battery life.
– No HDMI or DisplayPort.