Monday, May 16, 2022

Microsoft Surface Book 2 review: The ultimate laptop improves in every way but one

Editor’s Note: We’ve updated this Surface Book 2 review on Nov. 27 after reflecting on the Surface Book 2 power problem we discovered recently. We’ve left our review score unchanged, and we’ll discuss why later on.

Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 solves a big problem for Microsoft: How do you market the Surface Book as a performance notebook when it’s two years out of date? As our review shows, by making it bigger and faster, with longer battery life. Only a power problem slows it down.

With the Surface Book 2, Microsoft brings 8th-generation Intel Core processors and powerful, discrete Nvidia GPUs with enough horsepower to start thinking of the Surface Book 2 as a graphics workstation. But Microsoft’s big October surprise was the debut of not one, but two Surface Book 2 devices: a 13.5-inch and a new 15-inch model (we reviewed the latter). Neither is a simple clamshell notebook, though calling them convertible 2-in-1s instead seems like we’re selling them short.

As our review of the 15-inch Surface Book 2 shows, however, the new generation isn’t perfect. An ambitious decision to use a USB-C port has ripple effects for expansion capabilities. There’s a power issue. And then there’s the price: up to almost $3,300! Should you buy it? Yes, there’s reason to look elsewhere. But none of its flaws are deal-breakers.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 IDG / Mark Hachman

The 15-inch Surface Book 2 (left) sits next to the original 13.5-inch Surface Book, which otherwise looks nearly identical. 

Surface Book 2: Basic specs

With a name like Surface Laptop,” you’d think that the Laptop, not the Book, would be Microsoft’s flagship notebook. It’s not. I very rarely ever undocked either the first- or second-generation Surface Book, and the combination of a sturdy construction, full-sized ports, terrific battery life, and excellent performance makes the Surface Book 2 the undisputed star of Microsoft’s mobile lineup. Compare it to Apple’s MacBook Pro, if you’d like: On paper, the Surface Book 2 tops it.

If you already own a Surface Book, you know what the Surface Book 2 looks like: It’s virtually identical. But now it has a bigger sibling, as the Surface Book 2 ships in either a 13.5-inch or a 15-inch form factor. The cheapest Surface Book 2 is priced at $1,499 (with a 10 percent discount for military, students, faculty and even parents of K-12 or higher-ed students). Though it uses a 7th-gen Intel Core i5-7300U with an integrated GPU, the other models will ship with the 8th-gen Core i7-8650U, as shown below.

We tested the priciest Surface Book 2 available: the $3,299 (!!) 15-inch model, which ships on December 15. The other SKUs will be available on November 16, Microsoft says.

Here are the basic specifications of the Surface Book 2:


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