The first generation Surface Book was a feat of engineering that took Microsoft’s Surface tablet PC and turned it on its head, making it a laptop first and a tablet second. The Surface Book 2 refines a few things, adds much more power and finally adopts USB-C. If you’re a regular laptop user, who occasionally wants to take just the screen with you and needs some brawn for your processing duties, the Surface Book 2 is the machine for you.
But getting your head around what the machine can do is the first challenge. With the screen attached to a laptop, it behaves just like any other Windows 10 laptop with an interesting hinge. Press the detach key and the screen pops off, turning into a full tablet PC with up to five hours of battery life. But you can also turn the screen over and re-attach it to the base to either have the screen facing away from the keyboard or folded down to make an angled drawing pad.
It means you can go from a laptop one minute to a note-taking tablet the next to a graphics tablet then. In tough situations the Surface Book 2 excels, all thanks to some accessories, including the excellent Surface Pen and Dial. The screen on its own is thin and light for a PC tablet, but I would not be comfortable taking it out and about on its own as it doesn’t feel as robust as the Surface Pro or similar. As a laptop, the fulcrum hinge extends out further away from the user than a traditional laptop hinge would, meaning the base of the laptop is quite long and I struggled to fit it between my gut and the back of the seat in front of me on a train. On a desk, though, the Surface Book 2 is arguably the best Windows laptop available.
The keyboard is brilliant at least better than most dedicated keyboards. The trackpad is a bit clicky but smooth and precise, while the screen is crisp, beautiful and bright. The machine also runs cool. The only time I could detect the fans going was when playing XCOM 2, and even then they weren’t very loud. Most of the time the Surface Book 2 was completely silent. Battery life was really awesome, but couldn’t last for 17 hours as Microsoft’s quote suggested. With 10 or so tabs open in Chrome and with Spotify, nextgenreader, Windows Mail, Typora and Affinity Photo open at different times, as well as 45 minutes of watching video on Netflix with the tablet detached (and all with recommended brightness and recommended power mode active), the Surface Book 2 lasted around nine hours before powering down. The tablet alone would easily last around three hours of movie watching, or more with the brightness turned down.
Specifications For Surface Book 2:
Screen: 13.5″ LCD 3000 x 2000 (267 ppi)
Processor: Intel Core i5 or i7 (7 or 8th generation)
Storage: 256/512GB or 1TB
Operating system: Windows 10
Camera: 8MP rear, 5MP front-facing
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, USB 3.0, USB-C, SD, Surface Connector
Laptop dimensions: 232 x 312 x 23mm
Laptop weight: 1.533 or 1.642Kg
Tablet weight: 719g
Price => Starting from £1,499 – £2,999 depending on the model.
One of the important updates for the Surface Book 2 is Microsoft’s eventual use of USB-C, which has gradually become an important standard, not only for connecting accessories such as displays but also for charging. The Surface Book 2 has one USB-C port, which will also charge the machine, along with the Surface Connector. But unlike most other high-end devices, the USB-C port does not double as a Thunderbolt 3 port, which is a shame for such an expensive computer.
The Surface Book 2 features a 4K check at 60Hz, as you would expect, via the USB-C port, but if you want more than one display you’ll have to switch to the Surface Connector and Microsoft’s optional extra docking solution, which will drive two external displays, provide power and USB connectivity. The improved £100 Surface Pen is the best stylus in the business, correct, with low latency, pressure, and tilt sensing, it stays firmly attached to the side of the screen with magnets. It’s the first stylus that has not come off in my bag while transporting any machine.
The new machine also supports Microsoft’s £90 Surface Dial rotary accessory, both on and off the screen similar to the company’s Surface Studio desktop computer. While using it on the screen can be a bit cramped, it works very well indeed. It will work as a general computing advice for things like scrolling through web pages, zooming or adjusting the volume, and can be set to do certain tasks on an app-by-app basis. It comes into its own when used with photo editors and other creative tools.
- The hinge has been greatly improved, but it still has played when positioned
- Microsoft’s Windows Hello camera is great, it recognizes you and logs you in instantly
- Full sized SD card slot is a rarity on any machine in 2017
- The speakers on the screen are loud and clear, making watching a film a pretty good experience
- The tablet can be charged without the keyboard using the Surface power adapter
- You need a very powerful USB-C power adapter of at least 45 Watts to safely and fully charge the Surface Book 2.