Skip to main content

Surface Book 2 Hands-on: Microsoft's MacBook Pro Killer Is Here

The wait is finally over. After two years of barely updating its flagship 2-in-1, Microsoft has unveiled the Surface Book 2. Available in both the original 13-inch and new 15-inch sizes, the Surface Book 2 will feature powerful components such as Intel 8th Gen Core processors and Nvidia GTX 1050 or GTX 1060 graphics when it launches in November for a starting price of $1,499.

Microsoft is so confident in its new 2-in-1 that the company is directly targeting the same creative professionals and power users who want a MacBook Pro. During a media event, Microsoft Corporate VP of Devices Panos Panay claimed that each Surface Book 2 is twice as fast as a MacBook Pro of the same screen size while delivering 70 percent more battery life and up to 17 hours of endurance in total.

"There's no device that's ever been created with this much computational power in this form factor," he said.

Hands-on Experience, Design

We had a chance to spend some time with demo units of both the 13 and 15-inch Surface Book 2s and came away impressed. The design is almost identical to the original Surface Book, with the same silver color scheme and detachable screen mechanism  The fulcrum hinge has been redesigned to be stronger (so it can hold a 15-inch display), but it still leaves an awkward gap between the lid and the deck when the system is closed.  

Both versions of the laptop are extremely light, given their components and screen sizes. The 13-inch model starts at 3.38 pounds with a 1.59-pound tablet section, though the overall weight increases to 3.62 pounds when you buy a model with discrete graphics. The 15-inch model is 4.2 pounds with a 1.8 pound screen.

Though Microsoft is sticking with its proprietary charging port, the company has included a USB Type-C port, which can both power the laptop and connect it to a huge ecosystem of peripherals and docks. We were pleased to see that Microsoft has finally embraced USB-C, a standard that's become common on most premium laptops, but we don't get why the company wouldn't give you a Thunderbolt 3 port, which can connect to both USB-C and higher-speed devices. The Surface Book 2 laptops can also has dual USB Type-A ports, an SD card reader and a headphone jack.

MORE: Best 2-in-1s - Laptop/Tablet Hybrids - Laptop Mag

The keyboard and touchpad have also been redesigned. The keys, which have 1.5 millimeters of travel, are meant to offer a better feel while emitting less noise than on the prior generation. However, we're not sure whether they are an improvement, because they didn't feel quite as snappy as we remembered from the Surface Book. The touchpad seemed more than accurate in our brief experience with it.

The Surface Book 2's bright, colorful PixelSense displays are a joy to behold. The smaller Suface Book 2 has the same 13.5-inch, 3000 x 2000 display as its predecessor, but the 15-inch model kicks the resolution up to 3240 x 2160. Both panels boast a 1600:1 contrast ratio, 10-point multi touch interaction and compatibility with both the optional Surface Pen and the Surface Dial. 

Battery Life

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Surface Book 2 is that Microsoft is able to fit such powerful components into a detachable 2-in-1 and still boast that either model will get 17 hours of battery life. We'll have to see how the different configurations fare on the Laptop Battery Test (continuous surfing over Wi-Fi). The original Surface Book with integrated graphics lasted 12 hours and 29 minutes on a charge, but the model with the performance base and Nvidia 965m graphics died after 9 hours and 10 minutes. 

Microsoft also claims that the tablet portion of either Surface Book 2 will last up to 5 hours on a charge, which would be a huge improvement over the original Surface Book, which managed only 1 hours and 53 minutes while detached. 

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life 

Configs and Pricing

The 13-inch Surface Book 2 starts at $1,499 and comes with a 7th Gen Core i5-7300U processor, integrated Intel UHD graphics, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB PCIe SSD. You'll pay $1,999 to step up to a model with Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics and an 8th Gen Core i7-8650U CPU. You can pay even more to get models with larger SSDs and more RAM.

Starting at $2,499 the 15-inch Sufrace Book 2 comes standard with Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics, a Core i7-8650U CPU and 16GB of RAM. You can pay extra to upgrade from a 256GB SSD to a 512GB or 1TB drive.

The Surface Book 2 will be available for purchase starting in mid-November.

Outlook

The 13-inch and 15-inch Surface Book 2 are not for the masses. They are premium machines aimed at creative pros, just like the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro. But if Microsoft's performance and battery life claims are close to accurate, Apple should be nervous. Plus, Apple doesn't even give you a discrete graphics option on its 13-inch MacBook Pro. 

We look forward to testing both of these 2-in-1s to see if they are as fast and long-lasting as they are versatile.

Surface Book 2 (13-inch)Surface Book 2 (15-inch)
Starting Price$1,499 / $1,999 (discrete GPU)$2,499
Screen13.5-inch, 3000 x 200015-inch, 3240 x 2160
CPUCore i5-7300U, Core i7-8650UCore i7-8650U
GraphicsIntel HD / UHD Graphics 620, Nvidia GTX 1050Nvidia GTX 1060
RAM8 - 16GB16GB
SSD256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Estimated Battery Life17 hours 5 hours (tablet)
Ports2 USB Type-A, 1 USB-C, SD Card, 3.5mm audio
Cameras5-MP Front, 8-MP Back
Dimensions12.3 x 9.1 x 0.9 inches13.5 x 9.87 x 0.9 inches
Total Weight3.38 / 3.62 pounds (discrete GPU)4.2 pounds
Tablet Weight1.59 pounds1.8 pounds

Laptop Guide

The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.