Microsoft set the bar for the 2-in-1 market with the top Pro line, and in 2015, started out to push the marketplace further with the a lot more laptop-like Surface Book. After a year that included an iterative upgrade, the full-fledged sequel is here in the aptly named Surface Book 2 (the 15-inch model reviewed here starts at $2,499; $3,299 as tested). This beautifully designed machine can do everything, maintaining the signature capability to detach its screen from its keyboard while now acting as the best gaming notebook computer and delivering near-workstation degrees of performance. It is rather spendy as configured, but a swath of configuration options means you are not locked in at the best price.
With a fresh 15-inch screen size and an able Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card inside, the top Book 2 makes a compelling case for itself as the premium mobile computer. It provides more versatility and features, faster performance, and longer battery life than its main competitor, the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro, and is a far more fully realized professional’s PC compared to the Surface Pro. It easily follows in its predecessor’s footsteps earning our Editors’ Choice badge.
Best of Both Worlds
For all practical purposes, the top Book line looks and behaves such as a laptop, with the added ability of detaching the screen from its base and making it a tablet at the press of a button. Here is the inverse of the pioneering Surface Pro’s proposition, which is more of a tablet that closely mimics the proper execution and functionality of a laptop. It’s an excellent distinction, but I believe speaks to accurately what you’re expecting from each one. THE TOP Pro more heavily weighs portability and handheld use over power, as the Surface Book strives for the contrary. This makes the top Book 2 better to equate to standard laptops, as that represents the key experience. Also worth noting: The initial Surface Book was followed up this past year by a Core i7 model which includes a “performance base” with an increase of powerful components, which loaded version of the top Book 2 more closely aligns with that vision.
It’s immediately clear that the core design of the top Book 2 hasn’t changed from the prior model. That isn’t a bad thing, because the original’s premium magnesium alloy build was among our favorite areas of it. It’s still thin, relatively light, and has that expensive believe that provides reassurance you are getting value your money can buy. The distinct dynamic fulcrum hinge is back, again leaving a gap between your screen and keyboard when the machine is closed. That may bother some who worry about debris getting between your two, but that risk is pretty minimal, and it permits versatility when detaching the tablet (more on that later). What’s different may be the size: Now you have the selection of 13.5 inches (the same size as the prior Surface Book) or the brand new 15-inch model. Our review unit may be the fresh larger version, as the smaller model now starts at $1,499.
The 15-inch Surface Book 2 measures 0.9 by 13.5 by 9.87 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.2 pounds. The clamshell is angled, so that it tapers right down to 0.5 inches toward leading, the same thickness at both ends as the initial Surface Book regardless of the increased power. It’s worth noting that the tablet is merely 1.8 pounds when detached, which ups the portability factor. THE TOP Book 2 is pretty like the 15-inch MacBook Pro at 0.61 by 13.75 by 9.48 inches and 4.02 pounds-luxurious and light enough to be portable, but with focus on powerful. The slick Dell XPS 15 Touch ($1,999.55 at Amazon) (0.66 by 14.06 by 9.27 inches, 4.44 pounds) matches both of these on design and power, but is a lot less expensive regardless of the high-end construction.
Whether docked or in Tablet mode, the complete experience focuses on the PixelSense display. Fortunately, it’s a lovely screen with 3,240-by-2,160 resolution in a 3:2 aspect ratio with a 1,600:1 contrast ratio and 10-point multitouch. That pixel count would qualify as 4K if it were a 16:9 display, nonetheless it technically isn’t as of this cropped size (3:2 is more useful for a few artists). Picture quality is quite sharp, and the screen gets bright at maximum settings. The resolution is slightly greater than before, up from 3,000 by 2,000, and is a lot greater than the MacBook Pro’s 2,880-by-1,800.
For that signature Tablet mode, here are a few things to bear in mind. To disengage the screen from the keyboard, you press a dedicated key at the top right of the keyboard, exactly like on the last model. After a couple of seconds, a prompt tells you that it’s absolve to detach, and you will hear and feel it unlock. A number of the guts-namely the bigger of both batteries and discrete graphics card-are included in the keyboard. So when you undock, there are performance concessions that include that, but there’s still no chance to get those elements right into a tablet this thin. Worth noting: I did so occasionally have a few issues obtaining the tablet to detach-in testing a notification appeared telling me I had a need to resolve some applications first. This interrupted the seamless nature of switching to Tablet mode, especially because it was relatively benign programs like Edge or the Microsoft Store which were leading to the problems, nevertheless they were intermittent.
Docking the tablet is easy-just line the connectors up and gently push down. It’s a breeze once you have done it several times (the first handful of attempts could cause some fumbling, nevertheless, you will never need to push hard), and Windows enables you to know if it is attached. Other than the typical Laptop mode, you can attach the screen backward to accomplish View mode like convertible laptops, where screen is pointed toward you with the keyboard behind (useful for airplane tray tables). Also you can attach it backward and fold it down flat for Studio mode, where the Surface book is shaped just like a tablet but keeps the keyboard’s pieces in play.
The keyboard is comfortable, with backlit keys that are satisfying to tap, quiet with adequate travel without feeling mushy. The touchpad can be responsive, though full click presses are very audible (you can avoid this by simply tapping). The speakers are on both top corners of the tablet; there are none in the keyboard dock. For tablet speakers, they do an admirable job; loud enough to be heard from a moderate distance, if not accurately booming.
The volume rocker is situated at the top left corner of the tablet, right next to the energy button. Apart from the headphone jack, on the right side of the display, each of the ports can be found on the keyboard dock. Which includes two USB 3.1 ports and an Sdcard slot on the left, as the right edge holds the top Connect port (used for the energy adapter and docking with the $200 Surface Dock) and a USB-C port. THE TOP Book 2 can be compatible with the hottest Surface Pen (that may magnetically attach to the medial side of the screen) and Surface Dial, both sold separately for $100 each. Both peripherals are hardly necessary, but may supplement your workflow if you are an artist or designer. The 15-inch Surface Book 2 also offers an integral Xbox wireless controller receiver, which is convenient for gamers (I, for instance, had to acquire the wireless USB dongle to hook up the controller to my desktop computer).