Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review. I purchased the Microsoft Surface Book 2 with my own money and have received no intensives to swing my review one way or the other.
With that said, this is my review of the Microsoft Surface Book 2 15 Inch hybrid laptop/tablet from my personal and business use.
I've always been a diehard build it yourself computer guy since my first 486 and a few more recent builds. Laptops to me have always been less powerful, cut down device which, at the time when I could upgrade individual components at whim, laptops were sealed units. Laptops were handy but limited, so I always stuck with the trusty 2-tonne desktops.
Well, now it's 2018 and technology, especially mobile technology has advanced a lot. My desktop PC I've had for about 8 years now and haven't really needed to upgrade anything aside from storage. No longer do I have to upgrade the CPU every year because of a new Pentium version, or added MMX, SSE2 instructions added, nor do I have to upgrade my VLB graphics cards to PCI, AGP and back to PCIe.
So towards the end of 2018, I was shopping around for some new tech, either a desktop or what about laptops? How do they compare with desktops nowadays? What I discovered was quite amazing.
I wrote a list of what I wanted from a new computer.
- Must be portable - I will be working from multiple locations, not just my home office anymore.
- Must be able to play some games.
- Must be light and cool for working on the sofa/lap
- Enough storage and power to do complex programming, SQL server, Visual Studio etc.
- Able to run Photoshop and Lightroom
- Touchscreen for graphic design
After considering many of the available 2-in-1 hybrid laptop/tablets the only one that stood out and able to tick all my requirements was the Surface Book. It is Microsoft's flagship laptop, a do-it-all laptop you can use for office work and on the road, as a graphics, video or photo editing workstation, a sketch or notepad and even a games console. The best competitor for Microsoft's new Surface Book 2 is Apple's MacBook Pro, and since I hate the macOS (and iTunes) with a passion, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 was the clear winner.
I opted for the 15" version because of the extra battery life offered in the extra physical size, the improved nVidia 1060 GPU with 6GB RAM. The 13.5" model has a less powerful 1050 GPU with only 2GB RAM. The 15" comes with the Intel i7 processor, while that is an option for the 13.5" model, the extra cost and lesser battery make the 15" more attractive.
The overall specs I chose were:
- Surface Book 2 15"
- Intel Core i7-8650U 1.9GHz - 2.2Ghz (4Ghz Max Turbo)
- 16GB of RAM
- 512TB SSD
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
When the box was delivered I was very surprised by its weight, I was expecting something much lighter. This thing weighed a ton! Tearing into the packaging and opening the box however, it turns out that the box is heavier than the laptop! I don't know what they made the box from, some kind of super heavy cardboard.
The laptop itself isn't the lightest, but it's certainly a lot lighter than what I'm used to. Detaching the screen it's clear that all the weight is in the keyboard/battery dock. The tablet weighs practically nothing. Ideal!
The Surface Book 2 has a sleek silver magnesium finish throughout, a fantastic almost 4k screen (3240x2160) and a multi-touch trackpad. Typing on the Surface Book 2 keyboard is a joy. It's a far better experience than smaller laptops as there isn't any flex underneath the full-travel keys, and the spacing just feels spot on.
Powering on the Surface Book 2 Windows 10 Professional loads fast thanks to the speedy SSD and in no time at all its setup ready to play with.
First things first, a quick benchmark using 3DMark Basic Timespy. The Surface Book 2 scores 3207 which puts it well above other non-gaming laptops and on par with regular gaming PC's. For comparison, my old desktop scored and my old laptop.
EVE Online, Mirrors Edge and Tomb Raider all play wonderfully smoothly even at highest resolution and quality settings. The sound from the two tiny speakers is good as well, although the bass is somewhat lacking.
Photoshop and Lightroom have given me a few problems due to the screen resolution. The version I am using does not seem to scale well with the very high DPI this screen offers, so all the menus and controls are very tiny indeed. This can be fixed by adjusting the compatibility mode.
The Surface Book 2 has limited connectivity, and all but the headphone jack are on the dock. The dock features two USB3 ports, a USB-C port, an SD card reader and a funky magnetic charging connector.
The keyboard dock includes an additional battery and the device's primary GPU, meaning the tablet is less powerful when used in isolation, with limited battery and a much less powerful GPU. Some graphics-intensive applications need to be closed before the display and keyboard dock can be separated. Doing so then gives you the option to switch Windows 10 into 'tablet mode', which is optimised for a touchscreen experience.
The screen on the Surface Book is amazing. You really have to see it in person to experience the full extent of the quality it gives. It's not without its annoyances, however. It features an "enhanced" colour mode which, if you like the colourful, oversaturated look that is common on smart TVs, is very good. It is however not so good for photography and photo editing or anything where you need accurate colour representation. You will be better off heading into the settings (
Settings > System > Display) and under the night light settings, there is a drop-down menu for a colour profile. From here you can select the sRGB profile which will give a less vibrant, more accurate display for the web, games and photography.
Another problem with the high resolution is that some older apps do not support the high density ("Retina" display on Apple products) meaning that UI elements are often very, very tiny. You can set DPI to 200% for some apps by editing their shortcut. Right-click the shortcut, then "Properties". Select the "Compatibility" tab. Under "Settings," click the Change high DPI settings button. Under "Program DPI," check the Use this setting to fix scaling problems for this program instead of the one in Settings option. Using the available drop-down menu, specify whether an app should use the display DPI settings when you sign in to Windows 10 or when opening the app. (Usually, you want to use the default option). This should fix most applications.
The Surface Book 2 is easy to use as a desktop replacement, a laptop on-the-go and a tablet in the evenings. Build quality is superb, one of the best laptop keyboards I've worked on and the general feel of a well-made product. It does everything I wanted it to do and more. Highly recommended, just watch out for the hefty price tag.