Surface Book 2 Review: Beastly Performance Comes with a Price

Back when Surface Book was released, it was more of a technological showcase with a somewhat odd form factor. It did come with a nice build and a Performance Base option that gave a discrete GPU, but the Surface Book 2 was not still enough to be a workstation laptop.

Microsoft’s new offering now targets MacBook Pro with a true performance of a desktop in a smaller form factor. Microsoft did not want to entice its customers with slimmer and lighter designs. They kept the same form factor, made some minor improvements and major under the hood improvements.

Doubled core count, massive GPU upgrade

The Surface Book 2 comes with the 8th generation of Intel’s CPU. The chip maker, with tough competition from its rival, AMD, has decided to double the core count in their new line up. The increased core count also provides a lot of performance boost in multi-threaded workloads.

The GPU also got an upgrade. The top of line 15″ model comes with a GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB dedicated GDDR5 memory. The 13.5″ model comes with the GTX 1050 with 2GB GDDR5 memory. All the models come with Intel’s integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620. Even though it is not a powerhouse, it can still take on web browsing and basic multimedia tasks without causing any major issues.

A Massive Tablet

Where the Surface Book 2  shines is its odd form factor. Once folded onto the performance base, it is a huge clunky aluminium tablet that can simply handle anything that will be thrown at it.

The i7-8550U processor, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD along with a GTX 1060 is great for playing most games. Heave multimedia tasks, such as Photoshop and Premiere Pro can also be done on the Surface Book 2. All the devices, including the base model of the 13.5″ variant comes with a Core i7 on board.

Along with the Surface Pen and the Surface Dial, it is the perfect choice for digital artists. All the devices come with 3000×2000 10-point capacitive PixelSense touchscreen. All the devices play well with the Surface Dial and the Pen, making the Surface Book 2 a portable version of the Surface Studio.

Other Hardware

In terms of build quality and hardware, the Surface Book 2 is quite similar to the first generation. The metallic construction is very solid, but, as pointed out previously by iFixit, it can be hard to repair.

The new 15″ version is same as the older 13.5″ version, except that it comes with a larger screen. Microsoft also used the same hinge design. Now it is a little stiffer than before. The latch, which detaches the screen from the base is also the same and uses a software controlled electronic latch.

Being a tablet (while being a laptop too), the Surface Book 2 comes with a front and rear camera. The rear camera is an 8MP autofocus camera that also takes 1080p videos. The front camera comes with infrared facial recognition, has a 5MP sensor and also shoots 1080p videos.

Still plagued by poor connectivity

Connectivity options are quite limited. You get two USB 3.1 generation 1 Type-A, one USB 3.1 generation 1 Type-C with Power Delivery, SD, 3.5mm headset. There is no ThunderBolt, no HDMI, no DisplayPort, no Ethernet.

At least an external display connector, such a mini-DP could have been there. The Surface Book 2 comes with decent enough GPU to work well with multi-display setups. Also, the lack of a Thunderbolt port means external GPUs will not work. Neither will third-party docking stations, or high-speed disk arrays.

Blistering Performance

Finally, coming to the raw performance, Surface Book 2 is the king of the hill. In the ultrabook and hybrids category, Surface Book 2 steals the crown in most tests, with the 2017 MacBook and even the 2017 Surface Pro lagging behind.

In GFXBench 4, the 15″ Surface Book 2 scores significantly higher than the 2017 HP Spectre 12, ThinkPad X1 Yoga, 2017 Surface Pro, 20107 MacBook and the original Surface Book with the performance base.

The same trend continues in the Cinebench R15 GPU test, 3DMark Benchmark and Geekbench 4 Compute test.

Battery life is also one of the strengths of the device. It is higher than most devices in its category, but slightly lagging behind 2016 15″ MacBook Pro, LG Gram 13 and Asus Zenbook under certain workloads.


Other than a few obvious downsides, the Surface Book 2 is the premium laptop that can even replace the desktop. It is the true MacBook Pro killer, aimed mostly at creative professionals. With the Surface Dial and the Surface Pen, even the base model can have extended functionalities similar to that of the Surface Studio.

But this performance comes with a hefty price tag. The 15″ model starts at $2,499 and goes up to $ 3,299. Also, the lack of connectivity options means the sheer power of the device remains unutilized. But still, Surface Book 2 is the MacBook Pro killer that it needs to be.

Source: ArsTechnica

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