We finally have the successor. After a troubled launch in late 2015 of the original Surface Book, Microsoft seemed to drag their feet when it came to updating what was one of the most interesting notebooks released in the last couple of years. The original Surface Book launched with some serious power management concerns, which were eventually sorted out, but then the company just left the model relatively untouched, except for a mid-generation update with a stronger GPU.

The wait is over though. Microsoft has released the Surface Book 2 as a worthy successor to the original, with many improvements. With the launch of the Surface Laptop earlier this year, which targets the $1000 price point, Microsoft was free to ratchet the Surface Book 2 up in performance, and price, and they’ve doubled the number of models, with both a 13.5-inch version, being the upgrade from the original, and a new 15-inch model which clearly targets the performance-starved users. For this review, Microsoft sent us the larger 15-inch model.

Both the 13.5 and 15-inch models are shipping with the latest Intel Core i7-8650U CPUs, offering four cores and eight threads, and a 4.2 GHz Turbo. RAM stays the same with either 8 or 16 GB of LPDDR3, and that’s because Intel CPUs don’t yet support LPDDR4, which is a shame. Storage is 256 GB to 1 TB of NVMe SSD. So far, we have a pretty typical notebook for late 2017. The difference with the Surface Book 2 is the GPU, which is optional on the smaller model but standard on the 15-inch version we have today. Microsoft packed as much GPU as possible into the Surface Book 2 models, with the 13.5-inch offered with an impressive GTX 1050, and the 15-inch model shipping with a GTX 1060. To put that into perspective, the 15.6-inch Dell XPS 15 offers the GTX 1050, so the smaller Surface Book 2 has as much GPU power as the Dell, which is fantastic. The larger Surface Book 2 gets the much more powerful GTX 1060, featuring twice the CUDA cores as its smaller brother, and four times the ROPs. The model numbers are similar, but the  GTX 1060 is going to offer a lot more compute.

Microsoft Surface Book 2
  13.5 No GPU 13.5 GPU 15 (Model Reviewed)
CPU Intel Core i5-7300U
Dual-Core w/Hyperthreading
2.6-3.5 GHz 3MB Cache 15W TDP
Intel Core i7-8650U
Quad-Core w/Hyperthreading
1.9-4.2 GHz 8MB Cache 15W TDP
GPU Intel HD 620 Intel HD 620 + NVIDIA GTX 1050 2GB Intel HD 620 + NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB
Storage 256 GB NVMe 256GB, 512 GB, 1TB
Display 13.5" PixelSense
3000x2000 3:2 sRGB
Touch and Pen enabled
15" PixelSense
3240x2160 3:2 sRGB
Touch and Pen enabled
Networking 802.11ac 2x2:2 866Mbps max
Bluetooth 4.1
Audio Stereo Speakers (front facing)
Dolby Audio Premium
Battery 23 Wh (Tablet) plus 46 Wh (Base) 23 Wh (Tablet) plus 52 Wh (Base) 23 Wh (Tablet) plus 63 Wh (Base)
Xbox Wireless No Yes
Right Side Surface Connect
USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 1 with USB Power Delivery
Headset Jack
Left Side 2 x USB 3.0 Type-ASD Card Reader
Dimensions 312 x 232 x 13-23mm
12.3 x 9.14 x 0.51-0.90 inches
343 x 251 x 15-23 mm
13.5 x 9.87 x 0.57-0.90 inches
Weight 1.53 kg
3.38 lbs
1.64 kg
3.62 lbs
1.90 kg
4.2 lbs
Cameras 8.0 MP Rear-facing camera with autofocus
5.0 MP front-facing camera with 1080p video
Windows Hello IR camera
Pricing $1499 $1999-$2999 $2499-$3200

After shunning the port for the last couple of years, Microsoft has finally added USB-C to the Surface Book 2, replacing the mini-DisplayPort. Their reasoning for not including it before was that USB-C is a confusing port, where they all look the same, but offer different capabilities, and that’s a fair point, but it also makes it more confusing that they didn’t include Thunderbolt 3 on the Surface Book 2, meaning the USB-C port on the Surface Book 2 doesn’t offer the full capabilities of the port. The company seems to have an aversion to making everyone happy. The USB-C port does offer DisplayPort output, as well as power delivery, but the lack of Thunderbolt 3 deprives the owner of the ability to output dual UHD video feeds, despite the performance of this machine, and that’s a shame.

The larger Surface Book 2 15 offers an impressive 85 Wh of battery capacity, and that’s due to the unique design of the Book, where the detachable tablet offers 23 Wh of capacity, and the base offers another 62 Wh. The device is designed to have the tablet attached most of the time, but with the ability to remove it for certain tasks.

This isn’t an Ultrabook though. The smaller 13.5-inch model starts at 3.38 lbs (1.5 kg) and goes up if you add a GPU, and the larger 15-inch model weighs in at 4.2 lbs (1.9 kg). This is a device designed to offer portable performance, and here the weight isn’t as much of an issue. It still comes in slightly lighter than an XPS 15, despite a GPU with double the CUDA cores.

The most interesting aspect to the Surface Book 2 continues to be the design though, so let’s start there.

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  • Peskarik - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    One BIG problem with all these contemporary thin machines is the built-in battery.
    First of all, the full charge capacity is always lower than the announced capacity (battery is like a human, ages right from the birth).
    Secondly, battery looses capacity over the charging cycles, especially if one does 0-100% charges.
    So, a year from purchase one does not have 85Wh anymore, most likely having lost 20% of that. And what do you do then? Replacing the battery, if even possible, is very expensive outlay (I suppose, I haven't done it yet, but only because I still use Thinkpad with fully replaceable battery).
  • zepi - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    Ageing of batteries is usually overblown if they are managed properly.

    For example my wife has a 3 years old Macbook Pro with close to 800 cycles on the battery and it still holds 85% of the original charge. Obviously there is degradation, but her usage is super hard, doing 100 to 0% deep discharges day in day out etc, despite my warnings that this is bad for the battery. This more or less aligns with my own experiences with other "unibody" Macbook Pro's that I've used over the years.

    Despite having used macs with integrated batteries for about 10 years, I've never experienced one losing so much battery degradation that I would have even considered replacing a battery, with my wife's example being the worst.

    Are PC laptops considerably worse in this regards? Normally 1000 cycles loses at most 20% of battery life and for modern laptops that is from 10h to 8 hours, which I don't think is such a disaster.
  • mkozakewich - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    I just ran a battery report, and my Surface Book 2 has got 109% battery health.
    Good companies know things will degrade a little, and they deal with it in a multitude of ways. My original Surface Pro still has about 80% of its battery after five years, and I expect the same from this.

    Also, I get through a ten-hour day with nearly half my charge left, so I'll be perfectly fine with 20% less.
  • lucam - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    When the IPad Pro 2 review? .if is still part of your plans? Or will you wait till April by the time we gonna get the IPad Pro 2018?
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    It's not on the schedule at this time.
  • amdwilliam1985 - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    Here's a review for the iPad Pro 2.
    Best iPad [Pro] ever, buy it!
    Merry Christmas :)
  • lucam - Friday, December 22, 2017 - link

    Thank you...suppose same for iPhone X...merry xmas to you too..😁
  • id4andrei - Friday, December 22, 2017 - link

    Nope. The iphone X is starting to throttle down performance from the moment you buy it so it's a flawed device.
  • lucam - Friday, December 22, 2017 - link

    must be the reason why it hasn't been reviewed (here)...too hard to admit that...
  • akdj - Sunday, December 31, 2017 - link

    I’m completely with you lucam, 100%.
    Out of boredom, I read this one. We’re still ‘owed’ an A10 ‘deep dive’, haven’t seen a word on the updated (2 yrs ago) MacBook Pro, Apple Watch, iPhone or iPad.
    Far cry from the ATech of old. I’m rarely here any more, all MoBo & power supply reviews makes for an extremely dull website to Ars veee go

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