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Surface Laptop 2 vs. Surface Book 2: Which should you buy?

The Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Book 2 are two stellar Microsoft devices, but they fill separate roles. One is a more traditional laptop that albeit comes with a touch display, while the other is a versatile powerhouse with removable display and a couple of size options. Let's break down what really sets these two devices apart to help you decide which is best.

Surface Laptop 2 vs. Surface Book 2 tech specs

Surface Laptop 2Surface Book 2 (13.5 inch)Surface Book 2 (15 inch)
Processor8th Gen
Intel Core i5-8250U
Intel Core i7-8650U
7th Gen
Intel Core i5-7300U
8th Gen
Intel Core i7-8650U
8th Gen
Intel Core i7-8650U
RAM8, 16 GB8, 16 GB16 GB
Storage128, 256, 512 GB
1 TB
256, 512 GB
1 TB
256, 512 GB
1 TB
Display size13.5 inches
Touch
13.5 inches
Touch
15 inches
Touch
Display resolution2,256 x 1,504
3:2 aspect ratio
3,000 x 2,000
3:2 aspect ratio
3,240 x 2,160
3:2 aspect ratio
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620Intel UHD Graphics 620
NVIDIA GTX 1050
NVIDIA GTX 1060
PortsUSB-A 3.0
Mini DisplayPort
Surface Connect
3.5 mm audio
Two USB-A 3.1
USB-C 3.1
Two Surface Connect
3.5 mm audio
SD card reader
Two USB-A 3.1
USB-C 3.1
Two Surface Connect
3.5 mm audio
SD card reader
BiometricsIR camera for Windows HelloIR camera for Windows HelloIR camera for Windows Hello
BatteryUp to 14.5 hours70 Wh80 Wh
Dimensions12.13 inches x 8.79 inches x 0.57 inches
(308.1 mm x 223.37 mm x 14.48 mm)
12.3 inches x 9.14 inches x 0.51 - 0.90 inches
(312 mm x 232 mm x 13 - 23 mm)
13.5 inches x 9.14 inches x 0.59 - 0.90 inches
(343 mm x 251 mm x 15 - 23 mm)
WeightFrom 2.76 poundsFrom 3.38 poundsFrom 4.20 pounds

Design and features

These two Surface devices have quite different designs that translate into different usage scenarios. The Surface Laptop 2's clamshell build means the lid can't rotate around for tablet mode, so you're stuck using it as a standard notebook. This is fine for a lot of people, but those who want to use their device as both a notebook and as a tablet will want to check out the Surface Book 2's modular design. You can remove the display from the keyboard and touchpad and use it on its own, or you can replace it backward for a complete package with the extra power and dedicated GPU in the keyboard portion.

There are two different sizes available for the Book 2, so if you need a display larger than 13.5 inches, you'll want to go with the 15.6-inch model. The Surface Laptop 2 weighs less than the Book 2 — 2.76 pounds compared to up to 4.20 pounds for the 15-inch Book 2 — but it's about as thick. For ports, the Surface Book 2 is stocked with twice as many USB-A and a USB-C, which the Laptop 2 does not have. You also get an SD card reader, which the Laptop 2 does not have either. For best connectivity, stick with the Book 2.

When it comes to build quality and design, either of these laptops is a premium device. Keyboard and touchpad are both excellent, but only the Surface Laptop 2 has an Alcantara finish that makes it a bit more comfy for long typing sessions. It's also available in four colors — black, platinum, burgundy, and cobalt blue — whereas the Book 2 comes only in the standard platinum finish.

Extra features, like an IR camera for Windows Hello, TPM 2.0 chip for added security, and all-day battery life, are available on either the Laptop 2 or Book 2.

Display

Whether you choose the Laptop 2 or Book 2, you're getting a touch display with 3:2 aspect ratio that's compatible with the Surface Pen and Surface Dial for an excellent inking experience. The Laptop 2's display is the same size as the smaller Book 2's display at 13.5 inches, but it doesn't quite have the same resolution. The former option hits 2256x1504, while the latter is 3000x2000. The 15.6-inch model has an even higher resolution at 3240x2160.

If you're interested in design or editing, the Book 2 makes more sense, especially with the modular design that allows the display to be removed. The Book 2 also works with Surface Dial on-screen interactions, while the Surface Laptop 2 only supports off-screen interactions.

Want the best display? The Book 2 should be your choice, though the Laptop 2's display will still be quite a knockout.

Performance

The Surface Laptop 2 has hardware inside that will get through a normal day's work, but it simply won't stand up to what the Book 2 can offer. Top Laptop 2 models come with up to 16 GB of RAM, a quad-core 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U CPU, and a 1 TB solid-state drive, with no discrete GPU options available.

The Book 2, on the other hand, is available with the same 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and 1 TB SSD, though the inclusion of either a NVIDIA GTX 1050 or NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU pushes it over the edge. For gaming or design, it's the Book 2 you'll want to check out with.

Stick with Surface Laptop 2 for a traditional notebook

The Surface Laptop 2, despite not having as high of a resolution for its touch display and no discrete GPU, is still an Ultrabook that can handle a whole lot and look good doing it. You get Surface Pen and Surface Dial support, plus it's available in four different colors.

The Surface Book 2 is more versatile and offers better performance

The Surface Book 2's modular design provides more versatility. Use it as a tablet or a notebook, and take advantage of powerful hardware inside that's more suited to design or gaming purposes.

Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.