We finally have the successor. After a troubled launch in late 2015 of the original Surface Book, Microsoft seemed to drag their feet when it came to updating what was one of the most interesting notebooks released in the last couple of years. The original Surface Book launched with some serious power management concerns, which were eventually sorted out, but then the company just left the model relatively untouched, except for a mid-generation update with a stronger GPU.

The wait is over though. Microsoft has released the Surface Book 2 as a worthy successor to the original, with many improvements. With the launch of the Surface Laptop earlier this year, which targets the $1000 price point, Microsoft was free to ratchet the Surface Book 2 up in performance, and price, and they’ve doubled the number of models, with both a 13.5-inch version, being the upgrade from the original, and a new 15-inch model which clearly targets the performance-starved users. For this review, Microsoft sent us the larger 15-inch model.

Both the 13.5 and 15-inch models are shipping with the latest Intel Core i7-8650U CPUs, offering four cores and eight threads, and a 4.2 GHz Turbo. RAM stays the same with either 8 or 16 GB of LPDDR3, and that’s because Intel CPUs don’t yet support LPDDR4, which is a shame. Storage is 256 GB to 1 TB of NVMe SSD. So far, we have a pretty typical notebook for late 2017. The difference with the Surface Book 2 is the GPU, which is optional on the smaller model but standard on the 15-inch version we have today. Microsoft packed as much GPU as possible into the Surface Book 2 models, with the 13.5-inch offered with an impressive GTX 1050, and the 15-inch model shipping with a GTX 1060. To put that into perspective, the 15.6-inch Dell XPS 15 offers the GTX 1050, so the smaller Surface Book 2 has as much GPU power as the Dell, which is fantastic. The larger Surface Book 2 gets the much more powerful GTX 1060, featuring twice the CUDA cores as its smaller brother, and four times the ROPs. The model numbers are similar, but the  GTX 1060 is going to offer a lot more compute.

Microsoft Surface Book 2
  13.5 No GPU 13.5 GPU 15 (Model Reviewed)
CPU Intel Core i5-7300U
Dual-Core w/Hyperthreading
2.6-3.5 GHz 3MB Cache 15W TDP
Intel Core i7-8650U
Quad-Core w/Hyperthreading
1.9-4.2 GHz 8MB Cache 15W TDP
RAM 8GB LPDDR3 8-16 GB LPDDR3 16 GB LPDDR3
GPU Intel HD 620 Intel HD 620 + NVIDIA GTX 1050 2GB Intel HD 620 + NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB
Storage 256 GB NVMe 256GB, 512 GB, 1TB
Display 13.5" PixelSense
3000x2000 3:2 sRGB
Touch and Pen enabled
15" PixelSense
3240x2160 3:2 sRGB
Touch and Pen enabled
Networking 802.11ac 2x2:2 866Mbps max
Bluetooth 4.1
Marvell AVASTAR
Audio Stereo Speakers (front facing)
Dolby Audio Premium
Battery 23 Wh (Tablet) plus 46 Wh (Base) 23 Wh (Tablet) plus 52 Wh (Base) 23 Wh (Tablet) plus 63 Wh (Base)
Xbox Wireless No Yes
Right Side Surface Connect
USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 1 with USB Power Delivery
Headset Jack
Left Side 2 x USB 3.0 Type-ASD Card Reader
Dimensions 312 x 232 x 13-23mm
12.3 x 9.14 x 0.51-0.90 inches
343 x 251 x 15-23 mm
13.5 x 9.87 x 0.57-0.90 inches
Weight 1.53 kg
3.38 lbs
1.64 kg
3.62 lbs
1.90 kg
4.2 lbs
Cameras 8.0 MP Rear-facing camera with autofocus
5.0 MP front-facing camera with 1080p video
Windows Hello IR camera
Pricing $1499 $1999-$2999 $2499-$3200

After shunning the port for the last couple of years, Microsoft has finally added USB-C to the Surface Book 2, replacing the mini-DisplayPort. Their reasoning for not including it before was that USB-C is a confusing port, where they all look the same, but offer different capabilities, and that’s a fair point, but it also makes it more confusing that they didn’t include Thunderbolt 3 on the Surface Book 2, meaning the USB-C port on the Surface Book 2 doesn’t offer the full capabilities of the port. The company seems to have an aversion to making everyone happy. The USB-C port does offer DisplayPort output, as well as power delivery, but the lack of Thunderbolt 3 deprives the owner of the ability to output dual UHD video feeds, despite the performance of this machine, and that’s a shame.

The larger Surface Book 2 15 offers an impressive 85 Wh of battery capacity, and that’s due to the unique design of the Book, where the detachable tablet offers 23 Wh of capacity, and the base offers another 62 Wh. The device is designed to have the tablet attached most of the time, but with the ability to remove it for certain tasks.

This isn’t an Ultrabook though. The smaller 13.5-inch model starts at 3.38 lbs (1.5 kg) and goes up if you add a GPU, and the larger 15-inch model weighs in at 4.2 lbs (1.9 kg). This is a device designed to offer portable performance, and here the weight isn’t as much of an issue. It still comes in slightly lighter than an XPS 15, despite a GPU with double the CUDA cores.

The most interesting aspect to the Surface Book 2 continues to be the design though, so let’s start there.

Design
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  • tyaty1 - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    In modern language , fan and fanatic are became distinct words. Reply
  • HStewart - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    In my opinion "fanboy" is typically a term that is on tech website often in an attempt to discredit someone who has different - this I found mostly used by people that like AMD products and hate Intel. Most Intel people pretty much ignore technical sites - except if they are gamers.

    I am not an Intel "Fanboy" but I do support Intel - and why is simple, I have a long history of using there products and for graphics had a bad history with Ati GPU's - which is now part of AMD. i also believe that when a company creates a product you should buy from one's that created it.

    But things to change - I used to pro-Microsoft almost Fanboy and refused used Android, but I have great success with Samsung Tab S series ( both an S and now S3 ) and I also have Surface like Samsung TabPro S series.

    I serious doubt in my lifetime I will support AMD - it really kind of technical thing - I was highly into CPU internals at my first job and my experience with AMD and ATI maybe me not trust them. But I would state - that a lot of this influence by AMD Fanboys ( not supporter ) on the Internet who seem to attack Intel users every where they go.
    Reply
  • HStewart - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    One note like everything else on Internet, this is my opinion. For example you could Intel for AMD and ATI/AMD for NVidia and all except the line about who created - have a totally different point of view Reply
  • Reflex - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    Odd that your issue with AMD would be due to technical experience. I worked on the Windows kernel for a number of years and during that time AMD developed both the Athlon and Athlon64/Opteron line. It was the technical perspective that brought me and so many other engineers towards AMD, they understood good architecture while Intel understood good marketing. Dave Cutler famously embraced AMD64 when it became clear to him what a mess IA64 was.

    That isn't to besmirch Intel as an engineering company. They got religion when Netburst hit its wall at only 40% of its design specification. But for Intel the limiting factor has long been marketing and management, for AMD it has always been resources. The latter reasons I respect a lot more than the former.

    I've used both extensively. Currently I have a pure Intel setup across my devices (well, ARM in my phone). But I'd happily build a Ryzen based system and having read many of the technical docs around it, its a fantastic engineering achievement.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    I've pointed this out repeatedly, but TB support is a non-starter for a corporate focused laptop. It is considered a security risk as it is a direct line to the PCIe bus and can be used to easily bypass Bitlocker and other security measures. Devices with TB on them are almost never permitted for government or sensitive corporate sales.

    There also really isn't much demand, while I'd like to see more USB-C if only for future compatibility, to date only my phone actually uses it (and most connectors use standard USB on the other end) and eGPU or external storage simply aren't rational for a system based on a 15W CPU. The available 1060 already is bottlenecked by that CPU so I'm not certain what an eGPU would gain you (or really fast storage vs just having it on the network).

    I feel like a lot of the 'must haves' you read in these comments are theoretical rather than practical. People want to believe they have certain capabilities and expect the hardware to support the scenario yet in the real world it would almost never be used and arguably be non-sensical if they did.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Friday, December 22, 2017 - link

    Shhhhh! Stop it... you're making sense! Reply
  • Icehawk - Friday, December 22, 2017 - link

    TB3 is like firewire, nobody uses it except for a few use cases. I’d much prefer a dp/mini dp port for ease of connecting to monitors. Mind you I am coming from a corporate pov here. Reply
  • jabber - Saturday, December 23, 2017 - link

    Yeah I'm looking around at all the Thunderbolt devices...I don't and probably never will have. Reply
  • KPOM - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Even if they are concerned about TB3, they should at least have a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port. Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Tuesday, January 02, 2018 - link

    Then make the functions switchable in the BIOS.

    The reality (after taking off the corporate tinfoil hat) is: If you have physical access to a device, you can take it over -- TB or not.
    Reply

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