Microsoft Surface Book 2 comes in two sizes, packs NVIDIA graphics and USB Type-C

Microsoft Surface Book 2

The original Surface Book celebrates its two-year anniversary this month. With Surface Book 2, there are now two sizes with a 13.5-inch and new 15-inch version. Packing powerful Intel eighth-generation quad-core processors and either a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (13.5 inch) or GTX 1060 (15 inch) these new Surface Books are five times more potent than their predecessor (and twice as powerful as the 2017 Apple MacBook Pro).

With up to 17 hours of battery life and the addition of USB Type-C 3.1, the Surface Book 2 could very well be the best all-around Windows laptop.

Surface Book 2 features and tech specs

Microsoft is not playing around, as the new Surface Book 2 brings some serious computing power to the table.

The most significant additions are the new ultra-low-voltage (ULV) Intel eighth-generation quad-core processors and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 and 1060 GPUs, with the latter bringing some serious gaming-level power to the Surface line.

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CategorySurface Book 2 13 inchSurface Book 2 15 inch
ProcessorIntel Core i5 (3.2GHz)Intel Core i7 (4.2GHz)Intel Core i7 (4.2GHz)
Display size13.5 inch1600:1 contrast ratio15 inch1600:1 contrast ratio
Display resolution3000 x 20003:2 aspect267 PPI3240 x 21603:2 aspect260 PPI
RAM8GB or 16GB16GB
Native graphicsIntel HD Graphics 620Intel UHD Graphics 620Intel UHD Graphics 620
Discrete graphicsi5: Nonei7: NVIDIA GTX 1050 (2GB)NVIDIA GTX 1060 (6GB)
Storage256GB, 512GB, or 1TB256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
Weighti5 total: 1,533g (3.38lbs)i7 total: 1,642g (3.62lbs)Tablet: 719g (1.59lbs)Total: 1,905g (4.20lbs)Tablet: 817g (1.80lbs)

Full Surface Book 2 specifications

Only the 13-inch Core i5 Surface Book 2 is dual-core (the older, seventh-generation Intel) while all the Intel Core i7 models are the newer eighth-generation quad-core variety.

For ports, Microsoft still uses its proprietary Surface Connect for power and the optional Surface Dock. There are also two USB Type-A ports, a full SD card reader, and now USB Type-C instead of a mini DisplayPort.

Surface Book 2 finally gets USB Type-C

All Surface Book 2's come with USB Type-C 3.1 instead of a mini DisplayPort. That Type-C port can handle data, video out, and power charging (in and out). However, it is not Thunderbolt 3, meaning there won't be support for external GPUs (eGPU), which is still very niche, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft Surface Book 2

The new Type-C port on the Surface Book 2.

What the Type-C port can do for output depends on how it is used. When splitting it between power, data, and display, such a third-party USB Type-C dock or port expander, users will get only two DisplayPort lanes. 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.

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

For charging, like all Type-C charging solutions, users will need a powerful enough wall charger to power the Surface Book 2, especially while using it. The 15-inch model can draw up to 75W between the CPU and GTX 1060. If a user slaps on the magnetic Surface Connect charger it will override a USB Type-C charge.

Surface Book 2 13-inch drops the fan

For the 13-inch model, there is no fan in the top half of the Surface Book 2, unlike the original Surface Book. That means when you use the 13-inch model as a tablet it will be completely silent even if running the new Intel quad-core i7 version.

For the base, there is a fan for the Core i7 model because it features a GTX 1050 GPU. The Core i5 model only uses native Intel HD graphics and is 100 percent fanless for both the top and bottom.

The 15-inch model has a small fan in the tablet-half, but for a good reason. The 15-inch model runs the Intel quad-core i7 processor at a full 20W compared to the 15W found in the 13-inch version. The idea is that unless under extreme circumstances (a sweltering room), the 15-inch model should not throttle. Users will always get max performance.

Surface Book 2: Serious performance and battery life

Microsoft is betting that people who purchase the Surface Book 2 will be professionals, such as engineers, data scientists, architects, software developers, or even prosumer gamers who want a Surface but need desktop-class power.

Our Xbox editor Jez Corden recently gave up on the Surface Book precisely because it was underpowered for his job, which includes gaming. The new 15-inch model, however, with a GTX 1060 (6GB), Xbox Wireless built-in for an Xbox Controller, and a new Quad-Core Intel CPU means he can finally move back to Surface without compromise.

When we benchmarked Gears of War 4 on the15-inch Surface Book 2, it managed a very respectable 80 frames per second (FPS) when configured at a resolution of 1620 x 1080 and graphics set to "Ultra." Combined with the native Xbox Wireless support, the 15-inch model is going to be a beast for gaming.

Microsoft claims "up to 17 hours" of battery life, but that number will vary depending on how you use the Surface Book 2. Like all PC manufacturers, Microsoft uses a standard video-rundown test due to its repeatability when measuring battery. When gaming and taxing the GTX 1050 or GTX 1060 to its max, battery life may be as low as two-hours, which is common for all gaming laptops. However, for typical usage of Windows 10 with modest GPU execution, pushing 10 hours in a real-world scenario should be possible.

Surface Book 2 rebuilt from the ground up

While the Surface Book 2 looks like the original, Microsoft says it is completely rebuilt. Besides the refreshed hardware there are many smaller changes:

  • Reworked fulcrum hinge — While Microsoft is keeping the gapped hinge, it has been rebuilt to be sturdier, and now both models can easily be opened with one hand.
  • Keyboard — The Surface Book 2 keyboard and trackpad both borrow from the Surface Laptop's design, with 1.55mm of key travel and the same overall response curve. There are also now dedicated keys for display brightness.
  • Display — Microsoft has improved the display with thinner materials and a higher contrast ratio, plus it fully supports that latest Surface Pen and Surface Dial on the display.
  • Improved audio — Surface Book 2 has reworked the speakers, which are now slightly more powerful but also take up less space
  • Front camera for Skype — Microsoft worked closely with the Skype team to make the front-facing camera work well with Skype.
  • Windows Mixed Reality ready — Both Surface Book 2's support Windows Mixed Reality. A USB Type-C to HDMI adapter will let current head-mounted displays (HMDs) connect easily.

Despite no massive redesigns for the external appearance underneath the Surface Book 2 is a significant upgrade over the original. With improved battery life – the tablet jumps from "up to 3 hours" to 5 – and those NVIDIA graphics the Surface Book 2 should be a contender for one of the best – and most versatile – laptops in the world.

Why name it Surface Book 2?

Despite Microsoft ditching the number in the name of the Surface Pro (see explanation), the company is adding a "2" to Surface Book for a few reasons.

First, it is introducing a second size, with the larger 15-inch version. That's a significant expansion and change for Surface Book, which was originally only available as a 13.5-inch PC.

Secondly, Microsoft is obviously still iterating, learning, and improving Surface Book. The laptop debuted in 2015 as a fancy Ultrabook with an optional discrete GPU, but it couldn't match the performance of gaming laptops or workstations or the MacBook Pro.

That all changes now, as Surface Book 2 features a very powerful quad-core Core i7 processor and some serious graphics cards with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 or 1060. In fact, these new Surface Book 2s are basically another class of PC compared to the original, and they rival many desktop systems. Microsoft even claims these are twice as powerful as the latest MacBook Pro laptops.

That sounds deserving of a proper sequel and number designation.

Surface Book 2 price and availability

The new Surface Book 2 laptops start at $1,499 for the 13-inch model and $2,499 for the 15-inch version (topping out at $2,999 for the 1TB version). Both are expected to launch on November 16 in the U.S.

The Surface Book 2 13-inch should launch in 10 additional markets that same day.

Microsoft says the Surface Book 2 will be available for preorder on November 9.

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Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.