Surface Book 2 hands-on

Key Features

  • 13- and 15-inch models available
  • Quad core Intel Core i5 and i7 models
  • Intel UHD Graphics, Nvidia GTX 1050 or 1060 graphics options

We went hands-on with the new Surface Book 2 at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in London. Here’s our early take on the all-new Surface Book, plus UK release date details.

Earlier this year, Microsoft debuted the Surface Book 2 – successor to 2016’s highly popular Surface Book laptop. The new model comes in 13-inch and 15-inch variants, and features the same top-tier specs and design we’ve come to expect from Microsoft Surface releases.

At Microsoft’s Future Decoded event, the company confirmed that both iterations of the device would be available in the UK. According to Surface chief Panos Panay, the 13-inch model goes on sale on November 16, while the larger 15-inch version will arrive ‘early next year’.

But are they any good?

Surface Book 2

In terms of design, not much has changed since the original 2016 version – and that’s a good thing. The laptop remains svelte, offering smooth lines and a classy matte finish. The bezel is marginally thinner than it was last time around, but this is basically the same bit of kit.

Probably the biggest change is to the hinge. Microsoft famously loaded the first Surface Book with an uncoiling ‘fulcrum’ hinge that’s some distance from an Apple MacBook. Not surprisingly, Microsoft has since refined the design to provide stronger joint support this time around, as well as reducing the amount of internal space taken up by the hinge.

The hinge flexes easily, and provides a super-sturdy hold – even when the lid is in a near-closed position. Obtuse extension is also pretty flexible, although the maximum opening position doesn’t allow for a completely flat layout – unlike the Studio or Surface Pro. That said, the screen can still be detached and laid out like a tablet, so this isn’t an issue.

Surface Book 2

As far as laptops go, the new Surface Book 2 is a heavy bit of kit. The 13-inch model weighs 1.53kg, while the 15-inch model is 1.9kg.

Compare that to a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, which weighs 1.37kg. Similarly, a 12-inch Apple MacBook massively undercuts both models at a feathery 0.92kg. The biggest Surface Book is edging on lightweight gaming laptop territory, and so may not be ideal for lugging around.

Fortunately, to paraphrase (and butcher) Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, with great weight comes great computing power. Both models are configurable to a very high spec, with the 13-inch model touting a 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card, and the 15-inch device boasting a VR-ready 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060.

Surface Book 2

The two models are available with 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD storage options, and can be purchased with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor clocked at 4.2GHz. For memory, you have a choice of either 8GB or 16GB of 1833MHz LPDDR3 RAM.

During my time using the Surface Pro, I was impressed with its speed and fluidity. Heavy applications such as Adobe Photoshop ran with ease, and zooming into pixel-dense images was slick and immediate – even when using the Bluetooth-connected Surface Dial.

The screens on both models were super-sharp and colourful. The smaller model ships with a 13.5-inch 3000 x 2000-pixel touchscreen, while the 15-inch version is configurable up to a 2340 x 2160-pixel panel.

Surface Book 2

I didn’t get a chance to test out battery life, but Microsoft is claiming a fairly impressive 17 hours of video playback. That’s great, although we’re hearing that even this will be outlasted by Microsoft’s (admittedly more lightweight) Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered laptops due in December.

In any case, Microsoft reckons the Surface Book 2 will offer 70% more battery life than you’d get with the latest MacBook Pro, so the stakes are certainly high.

Naturally, both models run on Windows 10, and offer full support for both the Surface Dial peripheral and the Surface Pen stylus accessory. The devices work automatically with the touchscreen, and can be used with a range of applications – although the onus is on third-party developers to add specific support.

Surface Book 2

The downside is that both peripherals are premium add-ons, and don’t come bundled with the Surface Book 2 as standard. But they remain useful tools, nonetheless.

For instance, the Surface Pen can be used to scribble out paragraphs on Microsoft Word, prompting deletion, while the Dial can be used to time-shift through annotations that someone has made to your work.

One Microsoft staffer described them as ‘Harry Potter’ tools, but wands don’t come cheap – the Surface Dial costs £89.99, while the Surface Pen is priced at £99.99.

We’re still awaiting some pricing details, but Microsoft has confirmed that the 13-inch Surface Book 2 will start at a lofty £1,499, while the 15-inch model costs an incredibly high £2,500 for the base variant.

Surface Book 2

Early impressions

The Surface Book 2 is the perfect tool to showcase Microsoft’s ever-improved Windows 10 ecosystem, and comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect of a premium laptop.

However, it isn’t clear how Microsoft will achieve its goal of ‘helping everyone improve their lives with technology’ if you have to fork out over £2,500 for the luxury. Even business buyers may balk at that price.

Still, the Surface Book 2 appears – at this early stage – to be an excellent proposition for cash-flush consumers who want to get the most from their laptops for both leisure and productivity.