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Surface Book 2 15-inch review: The ultimate Windows laptop gets bigger and better

Windows Central Best Award

It's easy to dismiss the Surface Book 2 15-inch model as just a bigger version of the 13-inch. After all, it is physically bigger, heavier, and it sports a display that's one and a half inches larger. But to do so misses the more significant point: the Surface Book 2 15-inch is a monster of a PC for raw performance and computational power.

Microsoft calls Surface Book 2 a "powerhouse." It was not exaggerating. The 15-inch model may go down as the best laptop on the planet. I've spent the last week with it and I'm confident no other laptop can do as much as well as the Surface Book 2 15-inch.

About this Surface Book 2 review

Microsoft supplied a loaner Surface Book 2 15-inch for review purposes. The unit tested features a Core i7-8650U processor, with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. It costs $3,299. Starting price of the 15-inch model begins at $2,499 with the same specifications but only 256GB of storage. A middle variant has 512GB of storage and costs $2,899.

See at Microsoft (opens in new tab)

Check out our review of the smaller 13-inch Surface Book 2

Technically a beast

Microsoft Surface Book 2 15 specifications

Surface Book 2 15

The Surface Book 2. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The Surface Book 2 15 only has three tiers differing just in storage options: 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB. Everything else, including the Core i7 processor, RAM, and discrete NVIDIA graphics is the same.

CategorySurface Book 2 15 inch
ProcessorIntel Core i7-8650U (4.2GHz)
Display size15 inch
1600:1 contrast ratio
Display resolution3240 x 2160
3:2 aspect
260 PPI
RAM16GB
Native graphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
Discrete graphicsNVIDIA GTX 1060 (6GB)
Storage256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
WeightTotal: 1,905g (4.20lbs)
Tablet: 817g (1.80lbs)

Full Surface Book 2 specifications

The jump to an 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor is also a jump from dual-core to quad-core.

The big deal here with the Core i7 processor is it is the brand-new 8th generation version that goes from a dual-core to quad-core. Up until now, only more massive laptops with 45W processors were quad-core, but now Ultrabooks with 15W motherboards can get double the cores and threads. That matters less for running a web browser or Windows Store apps and more for CPU-intensive applications like CAD, video and photo rendering, 3D model makers, or crunching large amounts of data in Excel or engineering applications.

More interestingly, the Surface Book 2 15 has the same processor as the 13-inch Core i7 model, but it has a higher TDP at 20W instead of 15W. That means the 15-inch model should run and maintain higher CPU speeds for longer durations given the same test environment. Microsoft was able to do this by including active cooling – a CPU fan – in the 15-inch model, which is eschewed in the 13-inch variant.

Surface Book 2 15

At least with the 1TB version Microsoft is using a Samsung PCIe NVMe solid-state drive (SDD), which is an excellent choice for those concerned about performance.

As summarized, here is how the Surface Book 2 15 with Core i7 differs from the 13-inch variant:

  • Core i7 with a thermal design point (TDP) of 20W compared to just 15W in the 13-inch.
  • Fan for the CPU in the tablet half of the Surface Book 2 15.
  • NVIDIA GTX 1060 with 6GB of video memory instead of an NVIDIA GTX 1050 with 2GB.
  • Larger display (15- vs 13.5-inch) with a higher resolution (3240 x 2160 vs. 3000 x 2000), but a slightly lower dot-per-inch (260 DPI vs 267).
  • Xbox Wireless support built-in.
  • Larger battery (80WHr vs. 70 WHr).
  • Enhanced and sRGB color profiles.
  • Magnetic attachment for Surface Pen (optional) works on either side of the display instead of just the left.
  • Slightly thinner bezels.

For the CPU and GPU, those changes result in a significantly more powerful computer, which will be demonstrated in benchmarks below.

Not messing with a good thing

Surface Book 2 15 design

Microsoft did not deviate from the original Surface Book design with the Surface Book 2. Take the 13-inch Surface Book 2 and enlarge it and you now have Surface Book 2 15. Microsoft kept everything the same except for the larger display and matching base.

The magnesium chassis of the Surface Book 2 15 is stable, smooth, and very durable. Since there is no paint – unlike the Surface Laptop in various colors – there is only concern over light scuffing rather than paint scratches. There are no creaks or weak points due to the unibody design. That also means, however, there are no entry points for repairs on the Surface Book 2 nor any way to upgrade internal components.

Surface Book 2 15

The claim to fame with Surface Book 1 and 2 is the ability to press a release button on the keyboard that separates the display from the main laptop body. Microsoft achieved this by putting all the PC innards – CPU, RAM, storage, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, and some battery – into the display, while the base acts as a larger battery and houses the full NVIDIA GPU. It's a fantastic feat of engineering.

Microsoft did not deviate from the original Surface Book design — enlarge a 13-inch Surface Book 2 and you get a Surface Book 2 15.

The display removed from the base can act as a standalone PC tablet with multiple hours of battery life. It can also be reversed to bring the screen closer to the user (e.g., when watching a movie) or lay down flat ("studio mode"), which simulates a drafting table.

For 2017, the fulcrum hinge, which expands the base of the laptop when opened, has not changed from its predecessor. There is still the iconic "gap" when the Surface Book is closed giving the device its book-like shape. However, the muscle wire mechanism that releases the tablet from the base and the tabs that hold it secure have been rebuilt and simplified internally. The release is now much quieter when engaging, and the larger tabs reduced any screen wobble when using it as a laptop. The display can also be opened one-handed and is easy to do with the massive front notch.

Surface Book 2 15

At 4.2 pounds (1,905 grams) the Surface Book 2 15 is just below the average weight for 15-inch laptops with touch displays and discrete graphics.

As a tablet the Surface Book 2 15, while a bit large to hold one-handed, weighs 1.8 pounds (817 grams). Giving the tablet portion to friends and everyone remarks how much lighter it is than expected. Considering there is a full, quad-core Core i7 processor with 1TB of storage and 16GB of RAM behind that display, the tablet is quite remarkable for its size and weight.

A delight to behold

Surface Book 2 display and inking

Featuring a 3240 x 2160 PixelSense LCD touch display with a 1600:1 contrast ratio and 3:2 aspect the screen in the Surface Book 2 15 is excellent.

A calibration test revealed 98 percent sRGB and 75 percent Adobe RGB coverage, which is near the high-end, but slightly below the 13-inch model at 99 percent and 80 percent, respectively. Colors looked bright, contrasty, and the backlight is evenly distributed. Glare is also not an issue though it is a glossy display. The bezels are slightly thinner on the 15-inch model than the 13-inch.

Surface Book 2 15

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Display brightness is also excellent, though not extraordinary, compared to some newer laptops with an outdoor mode. There is an auto-adjust sensor to manipulate display brightness based on ambient room light. It works well and evidently uses direct current to reduce some subtle screen flickering that cheaper displays exhibit.

There is some minor light bleed found in all LCD type displays, but it is only noticeable during initial boot when the display brightness is maxed on a gray background and not during usage.

Microsoft no longer includes a Surface Pen with the Surface Book – just like with Surface Pro – so users will need to pay another $99 (or use an older Surface Pen). The Surface Book 2 supports 4,096 levels of pressure and tilt support, and offers a mere 21-millisecond latency thanks to Microsoft's custom PixelSense Accelerator chip — though that's only with the new Surface Pen (opens in new tab).

While I'm no artist, I enjoyed using the Surface Pen especially with the display in "studio mode" (reversed display). For taking notes, signing a PDF document, or drawing the Surface Book 2 appears to deliver the same level of digital inking as the new Surface Pro.

In the upper bezel of the display sits a 5MP front-facing camera with dual microphones capable of 1080P video for Skype calls. Video quality is excellent; the Surface team worked with their Microsoft cohorts on the Skype team to make sure viewing angles, width, and color were optimized for the video phone service.

Surface Book 2 color profiles

That camera area also houses the Windows Hello infrared facial recognition system. Matching Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, the Surface Book 2 now has an instant-on mode for quicker resume times from standby. With Windows Hello, biometric login times are significantly faster than the original Surface Book due to improved hardware.

Clickity

Surface Book 2 15 trackpad and keyboard

There are a few subtle changes in the new Surface Book 2 keyboard. Key travel was marginally reduced from 1.6mm to 1.55mm (that difference is less than the width of a human hair). The response curve for key return now matches the tuning of Surface Laptop. The F1 and F2 secondary functions now control display backlight (instead of FN + Backspace).

The Surface Book 2 typing experience is better than the original Surface Book. Key clicking is also now quieter, drawing less attention when you're mashing away at that term paper in a silent library.

There is still a three-stage backlight for the keyboard. It works well, but you'll have to manually enable it through the F7 key.

The trackpad is glass-covered, very smooth and broad. Like the keyboard, the trackpad in the 15-inch is the same size as the 13-inch model. That seems like a missed opportunity as the Surface Book 2 15 has more deck space to accommodate a larger trackpad, but at no time did I feel the current size was too small, either.

Microsoft, of course, uses its Precision drivers, so all Windows 10 gestures, tracking, and tapping are perfected.

Compared to the last Surface Book the new trackpad is better for clicking and smooth for tracking. It is subtle, but Microsoft tuned the Surface Book 2 to the Surface Laptop's trackpad. These are all excellent modifications.

I have no qualms about claiming – like the Surface Book 2 13 – the Surface Book 2 15 easily has the best keyboard and trackpad of any Windows device I have ever tested. It's no contest.

Why no Thunderbolt 3?

Surface Book 2 15 ports

Whereas the Surface Laptop is now the "true" Surface Ultrabook, the Surface Book 2 is now a full-fledged workstation. That is reflected in performance as well port selection.

Microsoft kept the two USB Type-A 3.1 ports on the left side with a full SD card slot for photographers. On the right is the proprietary Surface Connect port used for the modestly-sized 102W charger. That port also doubles as a connector for the Surface Dock port expander.

Surface Book 2 15

Instead of a DisplayPort, however, Microsoft chose a USB Type-C 3.1 port, bringing the Surface Book 2 a bit more into the future compared to Surface Laptop and Surface Pro. The port can charge Surface Book 2 – if the wall charger is high enough – charge other devices, act as a display-out or can be used for data, e.g., a Type-C hub.

When splitting it between power, data, and display, such as through a port hub, users will get only two data lanes for the screen. That results in a maximum secondary display resolution of 2880 x 1800 at 60Hz allowing the most popular resolution today — QHD (2560 x 1440) — to be used.

Surface Book 2 15

Alternatively, if you are only using a secondary display through USB Type-C (using all four data lanes), the Surface Book 2 supports up to a 4K output resolution at 60Hz.

What is lacking is Thunderbolt 3 – a variant and superior specification of USB Type-C. That means users will not be able to utilize an external GPU (eGPU) with the Surface Book 2 nor power multiple 4K displays at 60Hz through a single port. It's not clear why Microsoft went with USB Type-C 3.1 – which lays the groundwork for Thunderbolt 3 – but did not go all the way. I'll concede eGPU use is very niche and with a GTX 1060 graphics card not entirely necessary, but it would have been excellent future proofing for such an expensive product.

What is lacking is Thunderbolt 3, and with it eGPU and support for multiple 4K 60Hz displays.

Otherwise, the port selection on Surface Book 2 is excellent. Many professionals still need the SD card slot and USB Type-C 3.1 is still much more useful and flexible than a DisplayPort going into 2018.

Loud and proud

Surface Book 2 audio and speakers

There are two front-firing speakers located in the upper side area of the display. Microsoft had to precision cut the glass for the barely visible speakers.

Audio quality is excellent despite the small size. The speakers are improved for 2017 and are aimed right at the user's ears. The sound was loud, crisp, and overall just excellent. Audio separation is excellent delivering a substantial stereo effect.

Surface Book 2 15

Dolby Audio is supported out the box and users can use Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos for headphones to enhance the audio further.

Off. The. Charts.

Surface Book 2 15 performance

Microsoft made some hefty boasts and claims about the Surface Book 2 when it came to horsepower and performance. I'm happy to report the company was not exaggerating.

While there are straight up gaming laptops with higher benchmark scores the Surface Book 2 15 leads the class of full, non-Ultrabook laptops for this size. In fact, it competes with and even beats the Razer Blade 14 with a 45W quad-core i7 processor and the same GTX 1060 GPU for processor tests.

CPU

Geekbench 4.0 benchmarks (higher is better)

DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Surface Book 2 15i7-8650U5,03614,237
Surface Book 2 13i7-8650U4,86214,694
XPS 15 (9560)i7-7700HQ4,50313,587
Razer Blade 2017i7-7700HQ4,27713,597
Surface Laptop i7i7-7660U4,7149,535
Surface Pro 2017i7-7660U4,5139,346
Surface Booki7-6600U3,9777,486

Compared to the original Surface Book the Surface Book 2 has a higher single core score and nearly doubles the multi-core, due to the new quad-core abilities. More significantly, a 20W Ultrabook processor handily beat a 45W quad-core chip – last year's flagship Intel i7-7700HQ. That's remarkable progress.

GPU

Geekbench 4.0 CUDA (higher is better)

LaptopGPUScore
Razer Blade 2017GTX 1060138,758
Surface Book 2 15GTX 1060132,785
Surface Book 2 13GTX 105075,665
XPS 15GTX 105075,636
Surface BookGTX 965M59,945

While the Razer Blade's GTX 1060 edges out the Surface Book 2's GTX 1060, it's very close. Considering the Razer Blade is a straight performance gaming laptop and Surface Book 2 is not reveals its power. Compared to Surface Book with Performance Base (GTX 965M) the Surface Book 2 15 doubles its CUDA score.

PCMark

PCMark Home Conventional 3.0

DeviceScoreComparison
Razer Blade3,280Better than 66 percent of all results
Razer Blade Stealth3,115Better than 58 percent of all results
Surface Laptop i73,156Better than 62 percent of all results
Surface Book 2 153,038Better than 57 percent of all results
Surface Book 2 133,090Better than 57 percent of all results
Surface Pro 2017 i73,055Better than 57 percent of all results
Surface Laptop i52,494Better than 40 percent of all results

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (higher is better)

DeviceReadWrite
Surface Book 2 1TB1,411 MB/s1,202 MB/s
Surface Book 2 (updates)2,428 MB/s730 MB/s
Surface Laptop i7486 MB/s244 MB/s
Surface Pro 20171,284 MB/s963 MB/s
Surface Book 1TB1,018 MB/s967 MB/s
Surface Laptop i5423 MB/s237 MB/s

The Samsung PCIe NVMe SSD appears to be a good one with solid read and write speeds for this class of device. While there are faster storage options, e.g., Samsung 960 PRO for most users the storage speeds are excellent and performant.

Update August 15, 2018: Re-testing Surface Book 2 after many firmware updates reveals that Microsoft has dramatically increased read speed from 1,411 MB/s to 2,428 MB/s. However, write speeds took a bit of a tumble likely related to Intel and Specture patches.

Taking a closer look at the new PCMark 10 the Surface Book 2 15 gets a score of 4,323, which is better than 51 percent of all results. That number puts the Surface Book 2 15 just below a gaming PC classification and well ahead of a standard productivity laptop.

Putting aside synthetic benchmarks is real-world gaming. Comparing 2016's Gears of War 4, which has multiple graphics configurations and a built-in benchmark, we can compare the Surface Book 2 15 to the newer 13-inch model with a GTX 1050 and the older Surface Book with Performance Base and its GTX 965M:

Gears of War 4 UWP

LaptopResolutionGraphics presetsV-SyncAverage frame rate
Surface Book 2 15"Medium1620 x 1080Off96 FPS
Surface Book 2 13"Medium1620 x 1080Off65 FPS
Surface Book P. BaseMedium1620 x 1080Off47 FPS

Surface Book 2 15 effectively doubles the frames-per-second (FPS) rate of the Surface Book with Performance Base. That is a massive improvement. With that much overhead, a user could enable high or ultra-graphics while still being well above 30 FPS.

In Id's DOOM (2016) I was able to get over 30 FPS when set to High graphics and native resolution (3240 x 2160). Destiny 2 hits 60 FPS as well, though only at 1282 x 728, which is still very enjoyable. Playing an intense game like Resident Evil 7 biohazard is also a cinch for the Surface Book 2.

Rig for silent running

Surface Book 2 15 fan, heat, noise, and battery

Microsoft did an excellent job of thermal dissipation with the Surface Book 2 15. That's due in part to having fans in the tablet area for the CPU and adequate ventilation and active cooling for the GPU in the base.

During intense gaming, while maximizing the CPU and GPU the bottom of the Surface Book 2 15 did get warm peaking at 106 degrees F (41 degrees C), but it was never hot or uncomfortable. Likewise, the back of the display where the CPU resides also got warm, but never got hot to the touch.

Fan noise when gaming and using the CPU and GPU at 100 percent is audible at 53dB – you certainly will hear the rush of air being pushed out from the Surface Book's GPU. The noise, however, is never annoying like a high pitch whine, more like just rushing air being pushed out a small vent.

During normal PC use, e.g., web browsing, watching videos, using standard Windows applications noise levels were barely audible with only the CPU fan whirring on occasion. Even then, you would need to put your ear near the upper tablet area to listen for it.

While plugged in and with the processor set to performance I did hear some mild coil whine, but it was much less than the 13-inch model. Off AC power I did not hear any such noise.

Battery life gets complicated. Microsoft claims 17 hours based on a closed-video feedback loop. It's a decent benchmark to compare with other laptops tested the same way, but it's also a rare use case for a laptop. Real world use, loading websites, editing photos, some light gaming, and the like will hit the battery harder. I was able to comfortably get 8-10 hours a day out of the Surface Book 2 15, and I'm a relatively heavy work user. Throwing on battery saver and keeping the display brightness down should easily yield a few more hours.

Those numbers shift, however, if taxing that GTX 1060 GPU. For instance, I played Destiny 2 (2017) for 80 minutes and the battery dropped from 99 percent to 57. That yields around two and half hours of intense gameplay — even the massive batteries in the Surface Book 2 15 can't hold up for hours on end, but that's long been the story for mobile PC gamers. In normal day-to-day use most tasks won't call upon the GPU for nearly as long or as hard as hours of gaming will.

The battery life is outstanding — I never felt I had to take the wall charger with me or worry about my use to make it through a day

As a tablet the Surface Book 2's top half is about 20 percent of its total capacity. When used alone you can expect about 20 percent of the battery life of the whole Surface Book 2, though that's also without the battery-taxing GPU in the base. I fired up Netflix and set the display brightness to 50 percent and the tablet half alone got close to two and a half hours of non-stop Stranger Things. That's not terrible, but also not fantastic. It's also right in line with what I get from the smaller 13-inch Surface Book 2 in tablet mode, as well as the original Surface Book. Pushing display brightness down to 25%, which is still very enjoyable, or using Battery Saver pushes tablet battery life closer to three hours.

After depleting the battery dropping the tablet back onto the base leaves around 80 percent battery in total.

The Surface Book 2 15 simply has outstanding battery life. I never felt I had to take the 102W AC wall charger with me for the day or monitor my usage to preserve the battery. Of course, how you use the Surface Book 2 untethered will significantly affect your experience, but even for those pushing the device hard should be pleased.

One note of caution, however. During intense gaming with the screen brightness set to high and performance mode engaged the power supply unit (PSU) cannot recharge the battery faster than it can deplete - the 102W charger is simply not enough for the GTX 1060. That means if you game for two or three hours straight you may drain the battery. To alleviate this Microsoft should sell a larger wattage PSU for those who need more power. While not a gaming laptop per se the Surface Book 2 15 clearly blurs the lines, its power brick may be too small for real power users.

Update 11/17/17: A Microsoft spokesperson has responded to the battery drain issue. We'll have more about this is in the coming days.

Surface Book 2 was designed to deliver unmatched power and performance for anyone who needs a powerful machine to work and create, making it a great option for STEM professionals (designers, developers, engineers). The Surface Book 2 Power Mode Slider is provided as a means to give the user control over the range of performance and battery life. In some intense, prolonged gaming scenarios with Power Mode Slider set to 'best performance' the battery may discharge while connected to the power supply provided in-box with Surface Book 2. However, through power management design, the battery will never drain entirely, ensuring that users are able to keep working, creating or gaming." – Microsoft

Finally, for stress testing the CPU held up after extended duration in a 68 degree F room (20 degrees C) with some minor power-limit throttling, but still maintained above 2.5GHz for max core frequency. Core TDP wattage dropped down to 12W from a high of 25W, but overall CPU speeds never veered far from the maximum. This contrasts with the Surface Book 2 13, which being passively cooled, did see greater reduced CPU speeds during extended usage while running at 100 percent.

Exceeding lofty expectations

Surface Book 2 15: The Bottom Line

It's not hyperbolic to state that the Surface Book 2 15 is a real monster for performance. The experience is like combining a Dell XPS 15 (9560) with the gaming ability of the Razer Blade (2017), but with the inking and tablet abilities known to Surface.

The hardware is outstanding. Everything is a delightful experience to use whether it is the keyboard, display, trackpad, audio, and especially raw performance. Being able to seriously game on a Surface is a first for Microsoft hardware, and it's exciting. Sure, the Surface Book with Performance Base could game too, but it was more a foot in the door rather than a serious gaming PC.

As seen in my results the Surface Book 2 15 effectively doubles that device's graphics performance, which is incredible. Forget the comparison to the original Surface Book with its discrete 1GB GPU, which is barely a blip in comparison.

Crazy performance though is one thing, but the battery life is the icing on the cake. Sitting on the couch and using Surface Book 2 15 for 3 hours and seeing 78 percent battery still left makes it hard to kill for casual usage. At night, playing Destiny 2 for over an hour without plugging in for power yet still have 60 percent battery left was also striking.

Surface Book 2 and Dell WMR

Surface Book 2 and Dell WMR (Image credit: Windows Central)

That's not to say everything is perfect. Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality Ultra seems to be an afterthought with the Surface Book 2. With no HDMI port – which all Windows Mixed Reality headsets use – consumers need to get a USB Type-C to HDMI converter. Moreover, they should get a USB-C hub with HDMI and USB Type-A, because those Type-A ports are on the other side of the laptop which makes splitting the cable difficult. Even then, the display looked weird to me with a subtle pulsing almost as if the refresh rate was off. It was not enjoyable compared to other laptops. My hunch is this is a software or converter issue. Microsoft has a special HDMI converter that can be used for Windows Mixed Reality, and I am told the experience should be fine, so this may be just an early-adopter issue with matching the right components (I'll update this review if that changes).

Microsoft missed an opportunity by not including Thunderbolt 3 support, which just seems weird since there's already a USB Type-C port. I can already hear some enthusiasts lamenting how close this laptop is to perfection – and they're not wrong. It's a bizarre oversight when so much else was done right.

Others will opine that Microsoft does not include the Surface Pen this time around, but I see that as forgivable mostly because I rarely use the pen myself (even if I think it works great). Microsoft says they sunk those costs from the pen back into using higher quality components – we'll have to take them at their word.

Sure, it's expensive as hell. But the Surface Book 2 15 is worth it if you can justify it. Easily.

But those complaints are minimal. The overall experience with Surface Book 2 is fabulous. During my testing, I didn't experience any bugs, quirks, crashes, failure of the Windows Hello camera, random battery drains, or failures to turn on. I mention those because those were all common issues with the original Surface Book launch two years ago. Like the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop, the Surface Book 2 feels complete and not rushed to market like the original (it was timed to launch with Windows 10).

Sure, it's expensive as hell. Paying $3,299 for the 1TB model is crazy, but it is $100 cheaper than a similarly configured Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch. And that laptop doesn't have a touch display, turn into a tablet, or handle graphics as well. I won't even mention that butterfly-switch keyboard, missing ports or SD card slot. Compared to other PC laptops you can find better deals – and still be very happy – but the Surface Book 2 15 is worth it if you can afford it.

Surface Book 2 13-inch and 15-inch

Surface Book 2 13-inch and 15-inch (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

I have a lot of laptops at my disposal, but it is the Surface Book 2 15 that does everything. Gaming, inking, tablet, productivity, all the ports I need, excellent typing and that outstanding battery life. There is no other device on the planet right now that is as capable as the Surface Book 2 15 and that says a lot seeing all the great hardware HP, Dell, Lenovo and the rest are bringing to market.

The Surface Book 2 15 is not just the ultimate laptop it may very well be the ultimate PC.

See at Microsoft (opens in new tab)

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality and features.
  • A true gaming PC with outstanding performance.
  • All-day battery life.
  • It does everything a PC an do in 2017.

Cons:

  • Very expensive.
  • No Thunderbolt 3 or eGPU support.
  • Windows Mixed Reality seems like an afterthought.
Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

86 Comments
  • Why the heck they can't throw a $99 Surface Pen for free with a high end machine.
  • I'm going to say that it is because profit margins on PC/Laptops are already razor thin.
  • At that price point, those who will actually use the pen will pay the extra $99. I'm a little concerned that unbundling the pen will eventually hurt the inking strategy, but it's the Surface Pro and the Surface Laptop where that battle will be won or lost.
  • I have the same concern too.  They should offer a bundled package, with Surface Pen, which costs an extra $79 maybe.  This would encourage more potential pen lovers to buy the pen.
  • I suspect the unbundling of the pen is a "test" if you will of who actually wants inking and who was just taking it as "coming with the device".  Not to mention since they already knew the prices were going to be a concern, it is logical to make optional anything that would keep it from getting more stratospheric.  I'm probably going to use my SP4 pen for now if it works.  But if I use it more (as I'm likely to on the bigger screen) I may well get one of the new ones.  
  • Because there's too many bad YouTube posts about free pen cannot attached to the Surface Book or Surface Pro so why give free pen... It could have been that the pen keep in the bag safe until you need to need to use it...
  • Brilliant.
  • Excited for my 512GB model to arrive! Is there any way to confirm if the same type of Samsung drive is also present in the 512GB? Performance is a huge concern if mine but with OneDrive files on demand, I don't need the whole 1TB anymore.
  • I can tell you're using WP because it always puts "if" instead of "of".........
  • Used to, but now using Android, with the SwiftKey keyboard. Always changes of to if and I'm to I. Very irritating.
  • Awesome, but the lack of focus on MR is typical MS. SMDH...
    But, this thing is awesome.
  • Thunderbolt 3 still requires a dedicated controller, while USB 3.1 Gen 1 is run straight from the CPU. In a space-constrained device like the Surface Book, there just wouldn't be room for the controller. Future generations will have Thunderbolt integrated in the chipset, so this may not be an issue for the next Surface Book. Additionally, all of the PCIE lanes that would be used for an external GPU are instead used for the GPU in the dock. There isn't enough PCIE bandwidth for both the GPU in the base and an external GPU via Thunderbolt 3.
  • Thank you sir, that is enlightening! 😄💖🗽
  • Yes, thank you for the info. Nice to have an informed opinion, instead of the usual complaints that they didn't do it just because they're idiots.
  • Couldn't they make it switchable though? As in "when a TB device is connected, disable the PCIE access to the built in GPU"?  I guess that's maybe difficult to do in a standard compliant way.
  • Dan, you knocked your review out of the park just like Microsoft knocked this product out of the park.  Thank you for the detail in text and video.  You and everyone at WC always do an amazing job taking deep dives into products and it is appreciated.  You also answered a lot of my questions. The company I work for often has to send sales people out to demo our software products with two machines - a higer end gaming laptop and a productivity machine to do work on, especially on the road.  My productivity machine and may gaming work machine together cost around $3700 - Spectre x360 15" and Razer Blade.  That shows you the value of even the 1TB version of the Book 2.  It has the touch screen.  You can add a pen to it and write on it like the Spectre, but it can also do game demos quite well.  It's an incredible merger between the two, also giving you a tablet to show demos on or flip on the base for demo as well. There are always price complaints for things like the Surface Book 2 - and those woul dbe real if it was a consumer device.  But this is a serious device for professionals and creatives.  Battery life, power, portability.  Your assessment appears spot on.  This is probably the best laptop every built up until this point in time.
  • How do i get that amazing wallpaper!
  • Thanks! We did sweat blood on these reviews, spent the whole week just focusing on it, running tests, benchmarking, and listening to what YOU folks find important ;) I try to not review things in a bubble, so paying attention what people here and elsewhere are looking for e.g. tablet battery life, is important.
  • I think it's wonderful. I don't need to buy a new laptop now, but if money was no object and I needed a new laptop/tablet, this is definitely what I would buy.
    I agree with your concern about the USB-C port, but I differ on a possible fix. For enterprise and higher-end users, what the Surface Book really needs is an honest-to-God docking station. Microsoft already has the technology available to make a *REALLY* Great(!) docking station unlike any other - magnetic connections. No huge docking station port on the bottom, open to the elements and spilled coffee. Just a small indentation housing a magnetic connector to transmit the video and PCIe buss to a docking station much like Dell's E-Dock with dual DisplayPort/HDMI connectors, a full-size Gig-E, more USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, eSATA, audio connectors and maybe a port for the remote un-dock switch on a nicely-styled monitor stand (perhaps even expandable to mount multiple monitors, a-la-Ergotron.
    And I want it in a sleek Black Anodized livery.
    Give me that, and I'll be first in line, aging E6430 be damned.
  • So, as with gaming battery life it's suggested to do so with it plugged in...the issues with WMR can be easily dealt with by using the surface dock since it has all the necessary ports closer together in a tiny brick. Although I do understand that this adds a substantial cost to it, like the pen I feel like its only a problem if this is your first ever purchase in the surface line. I can't count how many pens I have, although tbh i haven't jumped on buying my own dock thus far lol 😅
  • The Surface Studio needs a refresh to match the CPU and GPU of SB2 15.
  • Yes,   they also need a surface studio monitor so you can connect your book 2 to just the monitor and have the same useability of them.  
  • I'd buy a standalone studio monitor blindfolded.
  • Me too.   I would go all in with MS with a 13 max spec book 2 and studio monitor.  DONE like DINNER!
  • Remove the retarded gap, add two USB type C thunderbolts and im bying the top tier in a heartbeat. Until then - no.
  • Would like to see a picture of this next to an XPS 15 to gague how much bigger it is.  Perhaps you could do a comparison, size-wise, between a few different laptops from the same class, Dan?
  • Sure, we're planning to do a few comparisons and that one makes a ton of sense. Although, my hunch is we'll see Dell at CES with a revamped XPS 15. They won't go down without a fight.
  • I am thinking The new XPS will maybe give us book functionality.   With a removable screen.
  • "Very expensive".   So is a macbook pro,  and thats a peice of crap compared to the book 2.   So,  looking at it from a realists perspective...the Book 2 is a Bargian Compared to the UBER expensive ****** macbook pro.
  • True, but I also totally say that ;)
  • I put linux Mint on my macbook as I could not stand MacOS.   It's almost useable now.  my lowly little 570 dollar dell 13 " kills it.  
  • So how macbook pro is a crap when all its software its extraordinarily optimized for the hardware EXCLUSIVELY like Final Cut Pro and others and its not a bug/viruses/malware collector like Windows? Not to mention the consistent UI of the OS.
  • You need 20 fingers to control it correctly....And I don't use those programs...I use what I like to use and they are better on windows...and btw...you are totally wearing tinfoil if you think 1 windows is full of bugs/virius/malware and 2. think mac has none of that....The UI of MacOS is pure *****!
  • Nice looking machine to bad iti s running windows.
  • Go put Ubuntu or whatever on it.
  • Unfortunately "whatever" does not include MacOS and its exclusive software/hardware optimizations that are not even comparable in the MS world and Surface.
  • Thank god....Surfacebook would be garbage with MacOS on it...thats for sure...slow it down to a crawl..etc.  plus workflow is much better on touchscreen than the finger Gymnastics needed with MacOS....
  • lol, k
  • Hi Dan, Thanks for the review. I pre-ordered the one you reviewed and I can't wait until it comes it. I hear about delays from another post but heck, its worth the wait! Thanks again for such a thorough review. Well done MS...
  • Thanks! Hope you like it.
  • What is the real life battery life of the slate?
  • Assuming you missed the part that says: "I fired up Netflix and set the display brightness to 50 percent and the tablet half alone got close to two and a half hours of non-stop Stranger Things."
  • I find it hard to believe the battery boost is so atrocious that you would wipe out the battery in 2-3 hours while gaming AND plugged into the wall.  Are you saying that while gaming and plugged in you are still losing 33% of battery each hour?  Considering you also mention you can game on battery for 2-3 hours, none of that anlaysis makes any sense.  In my experience on other devices, battery boost can take 5-10% of battery capacity every hour, meaning that you would have to game 10-20 hours on a fully charged battery before it was empty.
  • It means I drained 5% of battery playing a game for about 15 minutes plugged in. So, while you may not knock the battery down to 0% in 3 hours, you will take a 60% hit, which, depending on where you started at, could be terrible.
    "Considering you also mention you can game on battery for 2-3 hours"
    That's on battery, not AC where the power draw from the GPU and CPU is not as intense. Clearly, when plugged in to AC and set to Max Perfm the GPU and CPU is drawing the full 102W from the wall, and then you're losing power due to the display, ram, and storage on top of that.
  • I heard MS is looking into the drainage plugged in, if it could be made more efficient maybe? Don't know if it could handle a higher wattage a.c. adaptor?
  • Nice review. Makes me want to sell my Original Performance Base Book, but I'll never get enough to make it worth while.
  • surface plus plan 
  • Didn't see the book offered on the plan. At least not with preorders.
  • Sometimes it's not about economics Missionsparta,  sometimes is just about "goddamn I WANT THAT"!
  • Amazing review Daniel. Very in depth and having played with one of these at Future Decoded a couple of weeks back I can't wait for the 15" to make it over to the UK so I can replace my SP3 and gaming PC. Couple of questions: 1) how is the Xbox controller connection? Does it "just work" or is there some setup involved? 2) Can you talk any more about battery drain while utilising the GPU plugged in? Gaming is one thing but if I'm doing GPU intensive work all day is this just not an option?
  • On the Original Surface Book, the control just worked....painless.
  • For (1) it's just PC > Settings > Devices > "add Bluetooth and other devices" and it just pairs there. You'll see the third options for Xbox controllers, etc. For (2) you won't have a problem; this is a rare instance of where the CPU/GPU is pulling the full 102W for the entire time. Applications don't really do that, even big ones.
  • Ugh...still no right side Ctrl key. I love Surface products but had to abandon because of such a lame keyboard design decision.
  • Beautiful machine, but way out of my budget.
  • It's expensive but I still want to get it.  I work as a teacher - a 15" touch screen would be very useful especially when using OneNote!
  • "The unit tested features a Core i7-8650U processor, with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. It costs $3,299. Starting price of the 15-inch model begins at $2,499 with the same specifications but only 256GB of storage. A middle variant has 512GB of storage and costs $2,899." Why is the price difference between 256 GB and 1TB $800 if the rest of the specs are the same?????
  • Well if it's the same as the Surface laptops the 256 GB SSD are Toshiba's and the larger ones are Samsung SSD's. The Samsungs are more than twice the read and write speeds of the Toshibas.  
  • Problem is when someone decides to produce the same precise and beautiful (although beauty is in the ey..) hardware specs-wise, the experience will be exactly the same as the SB2, because this is no exclusive deal of unique software/hardware optimization by MS, having in mind that they own both here. So they basically just produced powerful hardware and slapped the unconsistent buggy mess with 3 decades of UIs, that is Windows on top of it, just like any other OEM would. So what exactly is the hype around Surface line? MS became just another OEM that is using Windows just like others. Nothing like Apple premium exclusive-ness and seamless interplay between Software and Hardware. Poor Microsoft, they want to be Apple so bad, but are mediocre at best. Also pitty for the Surface team, that are bringing cool ideas. (Oh yeah, Panos said they were exclusively working with the Office team.. sure, like no other OEM that is using Windows cannot bring the exact same XP)
  • Lol, Apple is crap. I just tried a iMac yesterday, and that is junk interface. Not intuitive at all. Hate the mouse too. You are deluded when you think Apple is exclusive. There are everywhere, even my dad who can't even type has one.
  • By exclusive I mean the seamless interplay between hardware and software that they make BECAUSE ITS ALL THEIR to optimize their OS and programs for the mac. Dont twist my words or talk irrelevant bs about what your dad has. Learn to read, before talking
  • BTW....Exclusive is not the word you are looking for...Integrated is.  there is NOTHING EXCLUSIVE about Macs.  other than they have terrible UI,  WAY overpriced since you are getting last gen,  and older hardware,  no touchscreen,  no pen support,  no detachable screen etc.   The macbook pro should be 800-1000 dollars MAX...just like the insprion 7000 series.   actually,  the 7000 series are better than the macbook pro.  
  • Agreed...I took MacOS off my macbook because it was Garbage.  It's a much better computer with Linux mint and the more windows esque OS.   But no where near w10.   MacOS is a janky mess.  Also...WTF is that crappy touchbar?   thats an attempt at trying to convince Mac faithful that we were right about touch interface on the macbook, but actaully being wrong but trying to save face with the lemmings.
  • The thing is the OEM's don't use the same engineering and hardware specs as MS. The OEM's convertible or 2 in 1's are staying out of the Surface high end hardware design and specs . The OEM's devices aren't targeting the same market and don't 2 batteries and typically don't have high end discrete graphic cards. The OEM's save the discrete card and same pricing for their gaming machines.    
  • Tried the demo unit at NYC flagship store. The typing and trackpad is better than my original SB. One hand open works on 15", detach is smoother, and tablet is still light and balanced. Less screen wobble is nice. I ordered the 15" 1TB. It just fits in my work and camera bag, so that was the clincher.
  • I wish they would get rid of that proprietary charging connector. It's too big.
  • Aside from the larger screen how does this compare with the Surface Book - performance base? I bought that the day it was released and have really enjoyed it as it seems to handle anything I have thrown at the system.
  • The 8th gerneration i7 used is a true 4 core and the 6th generation is a 2 duo core processor. It just the newest technology.
  • One other note to reviewers and Microsoft. Much has been said about the pen, inking, etc. all in the context of an artist. I use both my surface book and my surface studio in my law practice and that is where the inking really shines. I can review and mark-up documents much faster with the Microsoft inking and Drawboard pdf than I ever could using traditional pen and paper. Given Microsoft loves to concentrate on business applications, I am really surprised the inking for business/lawyers is not emphasized more. Same comment goes to the drawboard pdf developer - they focus on graphic artists and architects, but document review and mark-up, especially in the legal field, is where the rubber meets the road for me.
  • I'm a teacher, and use the computer screen as a blackboard. I can project images (in my case, music scores), discuss them, mark them up, then send the marked copy to the students. And, yes, I use it for digital art. I'm a musician, and the pen is fantastic for intuitively drawing notes on musical scores, just to name one of many examples. So, yes, I agree -- there are many more dimensions to the pen than many people think. 
  • Hopefully MS does a surface book 2.5 where we can order them in all the colors of the laptop.  It would be awesome to have the burgandy and blue book 2!  
  • Is the 1TB model a single physical drive or 2 512's under a storage spaces layer?  This has an impact on backup and restoration amongst other things so I'm curious.
  • Dragon Age Inquisition, native 3240x2160 benchmark ran about 50fps avg and 40fps minimum.  Frankly I'd bet running this on a full 4k display would be possible.  Settings were at high just AA was turned off because at this DPI it's not that necessary.  Game is a bit older but gives you an idea of just how much GPU power this can manage.
  • Anyone knows what the wallpaper is on the article's front picture?
  • Just to help people get comfortable with the lack of TB3 in the SB2, I'll point out that Intel cut the # of pci-e lanes in the 8650u.  Some folks assume that they only cut the clocks from the 7700HQ.  But that isn't the case.  Remember that they didn't use a new process for the new U series quad cores.  That won't happen till next year or early 2019.  So there were some compromises to be made to get that much quad core power into a low heat package.  It could be possible to use pci-e switches but those have another set of issues to go with them. What you will probably see is more TB+ designs on the quad core U series when we get to 10nm chip designs.  Remember there was a news announcement a few months ago about how Microsoft was working with Intel to incorporate TB3 right onto the CPU itself.  I suspect that this fruit will bear on the advent of 10nm designs. So the SB3 or SB2 with "enhanced base" may get such an update.  For now we have a ton of improved engineering in a box that can last over 10 hours on a battery.  
  • No stylus? Good. No one on YouTube can complain the stylus won't stick or hardly stick which will drop the rating badly! This is just like they never complain iPad expensive pencil! If you want one stylus, buy one. It's not expensive! Cheaper then iPad pencil and don't complain because you willing to buy it!
  • I'm with you on this! Another reason -- I already own two MS pens. (I got one with my Surface Pro 3, and later bought the SP4 version which had a few improvements.) I didn't want or need another pen when I recently bought my Surface Book 2. I also have an iPad Pro and bought their Pencil. Same thing -- it's nice, it's expensive, not everyone wants/needs it, so you buy it only if you need it.
  • Can someone (Daniel) please verify if MSFT is using any type of protective coating on the screen, in the form of Gorilla Glass or something similar? Thanks.
  • i would not complain about the surface pro book 2 it years ahead of the samsung tabs and the ipad there memorie still under the 128 gigs  you or other people can,t see the automotive screen that runs andriod now in your new car but how long will it be selfautomated cars with a surface pro mainframe of above well lets say more than 10 tarabites seems not true take a good look here a pen you kidding the V.R is just a ad on to that driving as a extra vehicular direction help the millitary was use,ing V.R for targeting there war plains and helecopter systems  
  • Can someone post links to the two wallpapers in the review above?  
  • Any rumors of a Surface Book 2 (13.5" or 15") with 32GB of RAM to compete with the HP ZBook x2? I'm looking to run Hyper-V or VMWare Workstation with multiple VMs running at once.
  • Thanks for a very helpful review. I bought a Surface Book 2 15" a couple weeks ago, and it's fantastic. No downsides for me. This is the first time I've had power and portability enough so I can use the same computer for my home multi-media studio and also for travel and toting to work. Not to mention a great quality graphics tablet included in the package. That's why the cost doesn't seem unreasonable to me. (Not having Thunderbolt seemed odd to me at first, but the SurfaceConnect port provides the connectivity I need.) As I say, no downsides. It's a little bigger/heavier than I'm used to -- I have s Surface Pro 3 -- but still very totable/lapable. I guess I'm spoiled now for life from this 15" screen!)  
  • Umm, I purchased a surface tablet and paid for the extra warranty and still have NOT gatten my refund yet!   I have a brickede WORTHLESS tablet and I want my money back. YOU KEEP saying it was the manufacturer fault, NONSENSE. I want my money for you damaging my stuff with an udate so I have to buy more of your junk. WORTHLESS FRAUD COMPANY!!!
      GIVE ME MY MONEY BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
  • You guys in the US can get the SB2 for a true bargain price....
    Here in Sweden the i7 16GB ram 512GB SSD cost the insane amount of 4042 USD. Suck on that one.
    The i7 16GB ram 1TB SSD is 4562 USD. I can get a direct flight back and forth for 400 USD to New York, buy the 512GB SSD version and STILL save 1000USD, I really hate MS pricing here in Sweden... I really want one!
  • Where can we get those wallpapers? Surface book 2 and Dell XPS 2in1 review wallpapers are gorgeous....
  • conclusion... You buy now yes? You buy now yes?
  • Great review would just like to take the time to thank you for all the great work you do 👍