Surface Book 2 power issues under heavy load working as intended, Microsoft says

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

Shortly after the Surface Book 2 started arriving in people's hands, an issue arose with how the 15-inch model handles power draw during heavy gaming. While operating on its highest performance mode, the system can draw more power than the included charger can supply while running particularly intense games under heavy load, leading to a situation where the battery is drained even when plugged in.

In a statement to The Verge, which spotted the problem with Destiny 2, Microsoft says that this behavior is intended. Says Microsoft:

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.

With a Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GTX 1060 graphics, the Surface Book 2 is a powerful machine for its size. And while that enables it to power some high-end games at top quality, that also comes with considerable power draw; too much, as it turns out, for its included charger to supply. For anyone experiencing the issue, it's reassuring to know that it isn't the result of any defects, but it's still limiting.

Keep in mind that this appears to apply only to the 15-inch model, and under very heavy load. You can avoid battery drain with intensive games by stepping your resolution down or opting for lower graphics settings.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

73 Comments
  • No, that means it is broken.
  • Asus and MSI laptops (Some) do the exact... same... thing.
  • Nope those two companies make laptops with much larger power supplies. You must be looking at old information. If a company can figure out how to make a 1300 dollar laptop who's power brick can keep it charged without throttling why can't Microsoft figure it out on an over 2k laptop?
  • Apparantly, It really doesn't ever completely discharge (No benchmarks or anything just long CAD sessions)
  • How long u have to play Destiny on full power until the battery is drained? 10h? Or if MS suggest, it will never drain to empty. Non issue for me. But gamers will be worried i suppose. Rubino said NVidia app does a better job, and doesn't drain the battery while on AC.
  • Don't worry, the battery doesn't ever seem to run out... MS is right for once
  • oh MSFT, trying to describe a bug as a feature. Typical.
  • All developers do it 😁😂
  • Ohh well then no wonder it was causing a power drain if the slider was set to the performance end of the sliders scale. I was under the impression that there was just no possibility it could provide enough power when fully under load. People are expecting miracles if they think a device of that form factor wouldn't experience power drain under full load and fully clocked.
  • Although I feel this issue is being blown way out of proportion, MS really could have saved themself some grief here. I'd like to hear if this problem ever causes any issues while processing large video files or doing 3d CAD work.
  • This won't happen when doing 3d cad or even Processing videos as everything is not maxed out for power at once like it is for gaming.  
  • Looks like an unnecessary constraint. I assume there is no such problem with the 13.5 inch? (Which to me is more appealing -- I like the size/weight of the Surface Pro line, but has been quite disappointed by the battery capacity of the i7 SP4 -- the 15" is simply too big for my intended use.)
  • The 13.5" model uses a lower powered GPU (the 1050 rather than the 1060) , so it can't consume as much power as the 15" model. However, the 13.5" model comes with a smaller power supply than the 15", so the 1050 GPU might need more power than the included brick can supply.
  • It's not like it shuts down, people. I fail to see the problem here. You're using a laptop for heavy gaming, unless it's a laptop specifically built for gaming exclusively, it's bound to have compromises.
    In the end, all of this it's just solved with a bigger power supply.
  • If you fail to see the problem, you are being far too rational. You must become emotional and expect a PC not designed as a gaming laptop to perform as one because reasons. Oh, and its Nadella's fault.
  • "... not designed as a gaming laptop"  Why did Microsoft show of Gears of War 4 on it?  Why did Microsoft include a built in wireless Xbox controller receiver if it wasn't meant for gaming?  Why would Microsoft put a 1060 and the newest i7 in it if a user couldn't fully use those components?  Would you buy an expensive TV that only showed 4K images for part of the time?
  • A bigger power supply will not fix it as the port itself has a 95W limit.  USB-C power use cancels the power port (one or the other only) so that avenue doesn't create more power input either.  It's just a balancing act that comes up once in a while in very intense game situations.  So the device has one hindrance.  I suppose some might prefer something like the XPS 15 when it gets the 1060 in the next model (9570).  But even if they improve battery life, some of that improvement will vanish with the 5K screen they want to put in it.  But you have alternative choices.  XPS has a far worse keyboard and weighs more.
  • Use 2 chargers then. Use the included power supply and then use a USB-C power caple connected to the wall jack.  ;)   I actually would like to see someone try that.  :)  I know there are probably built in safe guards that tell the PC to charge using 1 or the other input.
  • This isn't a big deal, to me... For me, it's the fact that you can't run two monitors at once (no Thunderbolt 3). If they quickly started to manufacture it to include Thunderbolt 3, I'd buy it. The 15".
  • Doesn't the Surface dock provide the ability to have 2 4K displays? It is overpriced but at least there is a solution.
  • Hmm I didn't know that. I'll have to check that out.
  • Technically the Surface Book shouldn't need the dock though as the base is a dock in and of itself.
  • They can run 2 1440p screens through Surface dock, not 2 4Ks.
  • I think it does two 4K, but only at 30fps.
  • While it isn't much of an issue right now, dual 4k monitors will become more common as time goes by.  That hurts a bit given that the 1060 could have supported it.  But this again, was not having enough pci-e lanes in this CPU.  The lanes were cut to help fit the quad core into this power envelope.  So again, some penalties for some advantages.  The only 15W quad core cpu's to have TB3 will have to forego a good GPU. Oh and the dock only does dual 1440p monitors.
  • There are USB-C monitors out there, they go up pretty high in res, not sure if they go as far as 4K, though.
  • 😂😂😂😂😂😂 Nice try, Microsoft
  • This is confusing. If the battery can and will drain while under heavy load while plugged in, what methods to they employ for it to deplete in order for your system to stay running? That means that they must throttle CPU/GPU performance at that point. Also, and I know these machines are made with having batteries always connected, but doesn't that mean that it can't operate at full load while fully charged and connected to power by just the power brick source, bypassing the battery?
  • Look around for the same issue with XPS line, for example, will change how you think of this problem.
  • The Dell XPS Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming laptop costs $1299 has a 7th Gen i7 (so not 8th gen), a 1060 and a 180w powersupply.  Why can't a more than $2k laptop from a company with massive resources not come up with a slightly more powerful powersupply?  The Inspiron is also available with a 4k or 1080p display, which I think is much better than their weird 3:2 aspect ratio, for gaming at least, since no available lower resolution is 3:2.
  • the gpu drops its max clock speed down to 1Ghz when power gets low. this is a bug, not a feature, and a more powerful power supply would rectify this problem. All they'd need to do was give people a beefier power supply and the problem is gone. 
  • It seems like all the need to do is offer a higher wattage power supply for gamers as an upgrade - or will that melt the battery under full load?
  • This is probably the reason why they didn't give that power brick. The device would probably get way too hot for comfort under full load while also charging at full power.
  • Hopefully people don't make such an issue that MS simply downgrades the performance when the slider is at max as a "fix".
  • Looks like Microsoft wanted to keep the power adapter of the system small and compact, something is highly critised to oems especially on gaming laptops and portable workstations. 90W Power supplies are pretty bulky as it is.   Also, this is not new. Surface Pro like charges much slower when under any load, and no one complained, and Apple older MacBook Pro had the same problem, and again, people where fine. Considering that the Surface Book line system aren't aim to be a gaming laptop, I don't see the problem, let alone why others gets a pass.
  • That isn't accurate.  Razor's 165w powersully is very compact and only weights 370ish grams.
  • You must have missed the marketing on Microsoft's own Surface Book 2 web page, they call it "A gaming powerhouse".  The 165w powersupply used by the Razor is quite compact.
  • For the price, they should give you a larger power supply. What's the point of all that power if it's throttled one way or another?
  • This is never marketed as a heavy gaming machine. It is listed as moderate gaming, the dGPU is more for creative tasks. I don't see this as an issue. If you want a heavy gaming machine get a Razer. If you want the versatility the SB offers, plus some gaming, get the dGPU SB.
  • That is not true.  It has a 1060 not a 1070 so it will never be a heaving gaming computer.  Also In Microsofts reveal they showed it running games and it has a built in Xbox contoller receiver. Furthermore it's priced at over $2k and one would expect to be able to use all of the hardware Microsoft is bragging about and the consumer has paid for.  Would you complain about a $3,000 65" 4K TV that could only play 4K content for a hour before down grading resolution to 1080p?
  • My Surface Pro 4 does that pretty regularly when I'm using it with an external 4K monitor, Surface Dock, and running Premiere and After Effects at the same time.  This isn't new, and it's not specific to the Surface Book 2.  I'm glad I can squeeze as much performace out of it as possible, at the expense of battery charing, when I want to.  
  • I wouldn't want my battery to be chared. Sounds like a Samsung problem. ;)
  • Ah, the Samsung battery jokes never get old.
  • It's good that it's not being shut down when the juice gets low, but still strange behaviour of you ask me. I had only Xperia Z1 which would run out of juice even while on charger when playing Real Racing 3. Still it was no big deal so it would not turn me down from SB2.
  • Did your Xperia Z1 cost over $2,000? Why would a premium priced laptop Microsoft is calling "A gaming powerhouse" on their webpage have such issues?
  • I have one question only for Microsoft, I'd their 102 watt power supply doesn't charge the battery when gaming, what does that say about the 90 watt surface dock?
  • Hmm, what about adding a charging through USB C?
  • You can't charge through both ports (Surface Connect and USB C) at the same time, the Surface Connect port overrides the USB-C port.
  • I don't know about others but I'm seeing this as the glass mostly full rather than a problem.  The 15 has an unprecedented level of CPU and GPU power in this size form, along with a battery life that again is fantastic.  And I can game on it too at native resolution?  Fantastic!  So once in a while for a game I should probably be playing on the desktop machine anyway the need to lower a setting or two is perfectly ok with me.  I take this thing with me everywhere.  And much of the time there is no need for a PSU at all.  It's fine if this isn't for everyone, but I'm very happy and the thing is a solid well built machine for sure.
  • It really can't game well at it's native resolution.  A 1060 isn't powerful enough for near 4k gaming. It's also too bad no game I play has no other lower resolution compatible with the 3:2 aspect ratio at least none that I tried on my Surface Book 1
  • People seem to want all the advantages that the SB2 provides while also getting all the advantages of a full gaming laptop. Do these people know that Harry Potter was fiction? Magic isn't real people. Laptops are constrained by the laws of physics. Most people who buy the SB2 will not be using it for heavy gaming so why should those people be lumbered with the hardware required for heavy gaming? If you want a gaming laptop then buy a gaming laptop.
  • Stop it.  People want to take advanage of the hardware they purchased for a premium price.  A gaming laptop with an i7 and a 1060 cost half of the price of the Surface Book 2 15inch.
  • Per Microsofts own Surface Book 2 webpage it calls their device "A gaming powerhouse" and Microsoft built in a wireless Xbox controller receiver.  So if it's not for gaming why does Microsoft call it a gaming powerhouse and include an wireless controller module?
  • OEM may release a 120 wat power cord to fix it
  • Maybe as an accessory for those that game for hrs. It will add more bulk and weight when you travel far, say to another country. Or maybe a trade in program for those that care. I'm not one of them. Keeping my preorder.
  • Razors 165w powersupply is quite small.  I'm returning the laptop as soon as I get it. 
  • Also of note here, there are clearly two batteries in the device. If you happen to run a gaming session under these circumstances and then finish it only to want to detach the tablet portion, will that battery be exhausted as well or is it only draining the GPU bases battery?
  • @aphrophyre: If the system works as my first generation SB, then this is what happens...  The keyboard battery drains first until it reaches around 40%... Then the clipboard battery will drain (faster since it only has a small one) until it reaches a similar value... And then both batteries diminish their respective charges fairly evenly...  So yes, both will be exhausted if you are not careful... But if you drain only 50% of your battery, then the clipboard will most likely be at 100%
  • This also happened to my asus strix laptop with an i7-7700hq and a 1070 playing GOW4 and recore. Hated it, returned it.
  • A 15 inch laptop should come with a 85 watt charger in the box period. There is no excuse for having a device drain while plugged in. 
  • The Book 2 has a 102W watt charger in the box. 
  • Colton,  1.   It is not designed to be a hard core gaming laptop.  2.  It is working as intended since doing ANYTHING other than long gaming sessions,  it keeps full.   So....there is no excuse as there is no issue...if you want to game...DON'T BUY THE SURFACE.  Buy a gaming system. The book 2 is not designed to be a gaming platform...It is built for photo/video/work.  Not playtime.
  • A 1060 is hardly "hard core gaming".  During the reveal Microsoft showed the laptop playing games and it has a built in wireless Xbox controller receiver so Microsoft did design it for gaming and work loads.
  • On the Microsoft webpage it calls the Surface Book 2 "A gaming powerhouse" and the Surface book 2 has a built in wireless Xbox controller receiver. 
  • Whiners abound!!
  • Jim....One hundred Million thumbs up for you...you win the internet!!!!
  • Whiners?  Its well over $2k and a user can't use the components to their full potential due to poor design choices.  What's the point in buying laptop with an i7 and a 1060 if those components get throttled when the battery starts to drain?  That's not whining that's a legitimate complaint.
  • No....it's not.  It was never developed to be a GAMING computer.   Using it as a GAMING computer is not one of it's inteneded uses.  Therefore....if someone uses it as such,  and starting WHINING.....That's exactly what it is....WHINING.    It is developed for photo/video/graphics professionals who use the hardware as intended...with no battery drain while plugged in...SIMPLE.    Try Again.
  • Total lies by MS. The statement doesn’t say the machine lowers performance to stop the drain. This is a total scam by MS. Another embarrassment for the Surface line of products.
  • Battery drain occurs when the AC adapter doesn't have enough wattage or GPU pulls more voltage. One way to reduce that drain is using undervolting CPU using throttleStop and GPU using MSI afterburner. Undervolt pascal in MSI AB https://www.reddit.com/r/nvidia/comments/6muuuh/how_to_undervolt_in_msi_... ThrottleStop guide http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/the-throttlestop-guide.531329/
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  • Really dont understand why people are complaining this. Isn’t too obvious ? Heavy task burns battery. what do you want, your battery drained but the thermal is safe, or battery level remain , get hot and catch fire. It is a battery inside a seal chassic, want to know what happen when u push the battery, look at the Galaxy Note 7.   This is world of muggle, not Hogward
  • Perhaps you don't fully understand the situation.  It drains the battery when it's plugged in ie the power supply isn't powerful enough to supply the device with enough power to keep it charged while it is using the powerful components Microsoft has bragged about and charged a premium price for.