Review: microsoft's surface book 2 is expensive with mediocre performance

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Excellent thiết kế and build qualityAwesome displayIncredible battery lifeDecent entry-level gaming performanceGreat keyboard & touchpad
Coil whine is excessive sầu and obtrusiveExpensive compared to traditional convertiblesNo Thunderbolt 3 support

Editor’s Note: Microsoft recently announced new PC including the Surface Pro X and Surface Laptop 3. However, the Surface Book 2 didn’t get an update. Its hardware is somewhat out of date và we recommend waiting on a purchase until Microsoft releases a new version, unless you can buy it at a steep discount.

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Microsoft wowed us when it introduced the original Surface Book và showcased its ability to produce innovative sầu products that create entirely new PC categories. Watching the display tear off to become a usable tablet with active pen tư vấn felt like gazing inkhổng lồ a time machine mix firmly khổng lồ the future.

Two years later, Microsoft continued to leverage the kiến thiết, releasing two versions of the Surface Book 2: the 13.5-inch & 15-inch. They’re nearly identical khổng lồ previous versions — that is, until you turn them on & start running them through their paces.

The model we reviewed was a higher-kết thúc configuration, decked out with an 8th-generation quad-core CPU, the Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid state drive. It’s very expensive sầu at $2,500, và you can also bump up our đánh giá configuration to a 1GB SSD và spend a whopping $3,000. Are the updated guts of the Surface Book 2 enough lớn justify the huge investment?

A thiết kế that’s stood the thử nghiệm of time

There’s a reason Microsoft didn’t mess with the original Surface Book’s design: It’s just that good. The magnesium chassis is solid as a roông xã, with zero flexing or bending no matter where you poke or prod. Seriously, the thing is built like a tank. It’s also innovative with its push-button, “muscle wire” latching mechanism that makes detaching the display downright fun. The only notebook that matches the Surface Book 2 in build unique is the lakiểm tra MacBook Pro, but even Apple’s design isn’t as daring.


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The “dynamic fulcrum” hinge, which is required khổng lồ push the display farther baông chồng to lớn better balance the weight created by jamming a complete PC inlớn the display, remains an oddity that takes some getting used khổng lồ. It makes the Surface very và rounded in the rear, và it creates a sharp angle whereby the display doesn’t sit flush with the keyboard. Theoretically, that means that debris could get in between and cause some problems, but we haven’t seen too many complaints about it.

To stress the point, the Surface Book 2 isn’t the thinnest (0.51 lớn 0.90 inches) or lighkiểm tra (3.38 pounds) 2-in-1 notebook around. Other 2-in-1s, such as the Lenovo Yoga 920 (0.50 inches & 3.02 pounds) and HP Spectre x360 13 (0.54 inches & 2.78 pounds), are considerably thinner và lighter. They’re also built well, but they can’t match Microsoft’s machine for pure granite-lượt thích solidity.

And of course, flipping their displays around results in a tablet khung factor that’s not nearly as comfortable to lớn carry around và use as the Surface Book 2’s almost unbelievably thin (0.30 inches) & light (1.6 pounds) tablet portion. The Surface Book 2 is just as flexible, only rather than spinning the display, you detach and reverse it for multitruyền thông và drawing modes — although you do sacrifice battery life (see below).

We enjoy the Surface Book 2’s conservative sầu silver-grey color, though some might prefer something with a little more panađậy. The Spectre x360 13, in particular, offers a bit more ostentation with its Dark Ash Silver with Copper Luxe pháo accents color scheme.

Finally, we should note that the Surface Book 2’s main PC component, the tablet, is completely fanless. That means that unless you fire up the Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU in the base, you won’t hear any tín đồ noise. Aước ao other 2-in-1s, the newest Surface Pro stands out with a similarly quiet thiết kế, but only for the slower Core i5 configurations.


There’s a reason why Microsoft didn’t mess with the original Surface Book’s design: It’s that good.


Breaking that silence, unfortunately, is a very serious case of coil whine, which creates a maddening cacophony of electronic buzzing, fritzing, và whirring that’s obtrusive sầu & distracting in a quieter environment. It seems lượt thích a fairly widespread problem judging by certain Reddit threads & other diễn đàn posts, and our Review machine was the issue’s poster child.

The coil whine is most noticeable when the Windows 10 power slider is pushed all the way khổng lồ “Best Performance,” và oddly enough only when the CPU is idle. Push the CPU lớn full tốc độ và the problem disappears. The Surface Book 2 13 isn’t alone in suffering from coil whine — the 15-inch model can have sầu some as well, for example, as can other makes entirely — but it’s just worse than we’ve seen elsewhere.

Finally, the Surface line has never been known for offering the best in connectivity options, và for the most part, the Surface Book 2 13 follows that trkết thúc. There are two USB-A 3.0 ports, both on the left-h& side, along with an SD thẻ reader. On the right side is the Surface Connect port that provides power & the connection khổng lồ the Surface Dock peripheral, and a new USB-C 3.1 port that is Microsoft’s only nod khổng lồ future peripheral tư vấn.

Unfortunately, the USB-C port is only Gen 1, meaning it’s limited khổng lồ 5 gigabits per second (Gbps) speeds and it doesn’t provide Thunderbolt 3 support. It won’t tư vấn the fasted add-ons and external monitor support is limited, including a disappoint laông xã of HDCP 2.2 (requried for watching 4K premium nội dung such as Netflix). Wireless connectivity includes the usual 802.11ac Wi-Fi và Bluetooth không dây 4.2 radtiện ích ios. When you compare lớn just about every recent notebook or 2-in-1, the Thunderbolt 3 omission is a serious one, và might give sầu some buyers reason to lớn pause.

Getting information inlớn the Surface Book 2 is a real breeze

The Surface Book 2’s keyboard is only slightly changed from the previous versions, & that’s a good thing. Microsoft decreased the key travel the tiniest bit (from 1.6mm khổng lồ 1.55mm) và changed the feel just slightly to be closer to lớn the very good keyboard on the Surface Laptop. But you’d probably be hard-pressed lớn tell the difference from the older models.

We found the keyboard to lớn offer a crisp, precise action that’s consistent across all of the keys. Our only concern is that it’s slightly loud. Keyboards in general have improved over the last several years, & the Surface Book 2 has some tough competition. The keyboard on the HP. Spectre x360 13, for example, is very good as well, as is the Yoga 920’s.


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Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The touchpad is even better. It’s large enough to lớn be eminently usable but not so large as lớn take up too much space below the keyboard. It has a smooth glass surface that provides just the right amount of resistance, và its support for the Windows Precision Touchpad protocol is absolutely perfect. Multitouch gestures work flawlessly, và the Surface Book 2’s touchpad thus remains the gold standard.

Of course, the machine is a 2-in-1, and so it also sports a multitouch display that benefits from Microsoft’s continuous effort to reduce the space between the glass và the touch electronics for the best possible response. The Surface Pen also benefits from these efforts, while also gaining the ultra-low latency, 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, và tilt support introduced with the 2017 Surface Pro. Simply put, it’s the best inking experience available in a Windows 10 PC.

Finally, the Surface Book 2 sticks with Microsoft’s usual facial recognition for Windows 10 Hello password-less login. It works perfectly, recognizing us every time và very quickly indeed.

The usual Surface display – in a word, it’s excellent

The Surface line universally enjoys some very nice displays, with high contrast & great brightness. The Surface Book 2 retains the same 3,000 x 2000 (267 PPI) Panasonic panel used in the previous models, và that’s a good thing. Of course, like all Surface machines, it’s in the 3:2 aspect ratio that’s great for productivity (but with some video clip letterboxing).

Our colorimeter agreed. The Surface Book 2 scored well in just about every metric. Maximum brightness was excellent at 402 nits, & contrast was a stunning 1,460:1. Gamma was cthua kém to perfect 2.3 (2.2 is ideal), meaning that images & video clip will be just slightly darker. Overall, the display should make for deep blacks & awesome text (given the sharpness as well). Only color gamut và accuracy tư vấn were average, which means that anyone looking for the utmost in color tư vấn & accuracy might want lớn look at a different machine.


So how does that compare to lớn most notebooks, including our comparison group? Simply put, you need khổng lồ pichồng up another Surface device or a MacBook if you want a better overall display. Or kiểm tra out the Sharp IGZO displays that Dell puts in machines like the XPS 15 2-in-1.

In practice, the display is just as good as these objective sầu results would indicate. Blachồng text is pin sharp & contrasts nicely against a White background, making the productivity experience simply excellent. Images look great with fairly natural colors, and video is fantastic even if the display isn’t quite 4K resolution. In short, the Surface Book 2 has a superior display to lớn the vast majority of its competition.

Sound quality also matters, và the Surface Book 2 attacks audio with two front-firing speakers set into lớn the edge of the display on each side towards the top. They put out loud audio that’s clear và bright, but that lacks in bass lượt thích most notebook speakers. It’s great audio for watching movies và TV shows và for listening to lớn music, but anyone whose favorite music tends toward the lower registers will want khổng lồ put on a pair of headphones.

Finally, the Surface Book is up khổng lồ speed

The Surface Book with Performance Base improved the machine’s GPU, but it held onto the same 6th-gene Hãng sản xuất Intel processor. With the Surface Book 2, Microsoft has finally caught up, putting in Intel’s 8th-ren, 15-watt quad-core processors for a nice boost in both performance và efficiency.

We’ll note that Microsoft has incorporated a power slider into Windows 10 that has a real impact on performance. It’s accessed by clicking on the battery icon in the system tray & selecting from “Recommended,” “Better Performance,” và “Best Performance.” You can dial in better performance or better thermal performance simply by moving the slider to the left or right. “Recommended” is the default, và so this is where we focused our benchmarks, but we included the “Best Performance” results in the graph because Microsoft makes aggressive sầu use of the slider.

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As we expected, the Surface Book 2 performed admirably in CPU-intensive sầu tasks. In Geekbench 4, for example, the machine scored a solid 4,528 in single-core mode & 14,510 in multi-core. That’s in line with the Lenovo Yoga 9đôi mươi & it blows away seventh-generation competitors like the earlier model of HP’s Spectre x360 15.

On our more demanding và real-world Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB đoạn phim khổng lồ H.265, the Surface Book 2 was able khổng lồ finish the task in 740 seconds. The Yoga 9đôi mươi was faster but the Surface Book with Performance Base took much longer, demonstrating the benefits of Intel’s lademo CPUs. The Lenovo Yoga 720 15 with Intel’s higher-power 45-watt Intel Chip Core i7-7700HQ is faster but it’s also considerably less efficient.


In short, the Surface Book 2 is plenty fast for even higher-end productivity tasks, & it’s a real jump up from the previous generation. You can get a faster notebook in machines like the Yoga 7trăng tròn 15 or the Dell XPS 15 thanks to their higher-powered CPUs, but you’ll pay a price in battery life.

Another note: There’s a power supply issue with the Surface Book 2 15-inch Mã Sản Phẩm related directly khổng lồ the 95-watt unit that Microsoft ships with both versions. The larger machine’s GTX 1060 GPU uses up to lớn 80 watts or so of power by itself, meaning that it’s easy for the system to lớn exceed the power supply’s capabilities và start pulling from the battery. The Surface Book 2 13’s GTX 1050 GPU, on the other hvà, maxes out at around 50 watts. So while it’s theoretically possible that it could suffer the same battery discharge when both the CPU and GPU are being stressed, we didn’t encounter the issue during our testing.

To provide quite access lớn data, Microsoft chose the popular Samsung PM961 PCIe solid state drive sầu (SSD). That typically means that accessing & saving files will be more than fast enough for the typical productivity tasks.

In our benchmark tests, the Surface Book 2 13’s implementation was a little slower than most other notebooks using the same drive sầu. In CrystalDiskMark, it scored 1,203 megabytes per second (MB/s) in the read demo & only 657 MB/s in the write thử nghiệm. That’s crushed by the Surface Book 2 15 results, while the Yoga 9đôi mươi was lightly slower in the read thử nghiệm but much faster in the write kiểm tra.

We’re not sure why this Surface Book 2 scored as low as it did in the write kiểm tra, but it’s not that big of a khuyễn mãi giảm giá. These are still fast scores that promise excellent overall performance, & you’ll be unlikely khổng lồ notice any kind of a slowdown even in applications that write a lot of files.

Solid entry-màn chơi gaming, just don’t crank things up

The Surface Book 2 13 comes equipped with an Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU, a step up from the previous models’ GTX 965M và a comtháng chip for entry-màn chơi gaming systems và faster productivity machines. Notebooks with this GPU tover to lớn provide for a solid 1080p experience in modern titles if graphical details are kept in kiểm tra.

In the 3DMark synthetic benchmark, the Surface Book 2 13 scored 5,160. That’s slightly slower than the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 that utilizes AMD’s Radeon RX Vega M GH GPU, & it beats out the Surface Book with Performance Base (GTX 965M) by reasonable margin. Of course, the GTX 1060 in the Surface Book 2 15 was much faster. As with our CPU tests, we ran our gaming benchmarks in “Recommended” mode, but we’ve reported the faster “Best Performance” mode results in the graphs.

In actual gaming, the Surface Book 2 13 did well in Civilization VI, at least in 1080p and medium details, where it managed 51 frames per second (FPS). It was less impressive sầu with ultra details configured, where it could only muster 30 FPS. That matches up well with the XPS 15 2-in-1 & slower than the Surface Book 2 15.


Next, we ran Battlefield 1 at 1080p, and the Surface Book 2 13 scored 39 FPS in medium detail & 28 FPS in ultra. The XPS 15 2-in-1 and Surface Book 2 15 were both significantly faster. The same held true for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

In conclusion, we can say that the Surface Book 2 13 makes for a decent entry-level gaming notebook with modern titles at 1080p resolution và medium graphics. This is particularly true if you’re willing to crank the performance slider to “Best Performance” và deal with the bạn noise and potential battery drain — in that case, the Surface Book 2 is more competitive sầu with the other 2-in-1s equipped with a GTX 1050 like the Lenovo Yoga 7đôi mươi 15.

Record-breaking battery life

Microsoft packed a fair amount of a battery capacity inkhổng lồ the Surface Book 2, specifically a total of 70 watt-hours between the tablet và base portions. Given the energy-efficiency of Intel’s 8th-gen U-series CPUs, we were hopeful for this 2-in-1’s longevity.

In short, the Surface Book 2 delivers. In our most aggressive sầu kiểm tra, which uses the Basemark website benchmark lớn bao tay the CPU & GPU, the Surface Book 2 13 lasted a very solid six hours và 21 minutes. That’s bested only by the Surface Book 2 15 that lasted just ten minutes longer. By comparison, the HPhường. Spectre x360 13 lasted for just over four hours, which is a very good score for any machine that’s not a Surface Book 2.

On our website browsing chạy thử, the Surface Book 2 13 lasted for just over 10 hours, another very strong score. Its larger sibling lasted for a spectacular 15 hours và 33 minutes, and the Lenovo Yoga 920 lasted for just over eight hours. The Surface Book 2 is a huge nâng cấp over the previous Performance Base Model, which could only muster just shy of seven hours — a good score for previous machines but eclipsed by today’s Hãng Intel eighth-gene notebooks.

Finally, in terms of watching đoạn Clip, the Surface Book 2 13 could loop our local Avengers trailer for almost 17 hours, an excellent score that’s only topped by the Surface Book 2 15’s 20 and a half hours. The HP.. Spectre x360 13 was a strong performer at just over 14 hours, but the Surface Book 2 line obviously leverages the efficiency of the new CPUs with their large battery capacities.

You might be wondering about how long the Surface Book 2’s tablet portion will last, with its 18 watt-hour battery (meaning the base portion has the other 52 watt-hours). We have those results as well, and they’re naturally less impressive. The tablet lasted for an hour và 16 minutes on the Basemark chạy thử, two hours và 44 minutes on the website browsing demo, and three and a half hours on the đoạn Clip demo.


As a clamshell notebook, you won’t find another in its class that lasts as long as the Surface Book 2 13 away from a charger. It’s all-day battery life và then some, with a chassis that’s just the slighkiểm tra bit clumsy putting into a backpack but that will allow you khổng lồ work an entire day away from a charger. The only notebooks likely khổng lồ last significant longer is the upcoming wave of 2-in-1s using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 ARM processor, but those will most certainly sacrifice quite a bit of performance.

Our Take

The Surface Book 2 13.5-inch Model is an ultra-premium machine that feels lượt thích one, with one of the most innovative designs around & build quality that rivals the best the PC market has lớn offer. It’s incredibly expensive, but for the money you get solid productivity performance, strong entry-level gaming chops, great battery life, và the ability lớn enjoy both an awesome traditional notebook experience và a very usable high-powered tablet.

Is there a better alternative?

The Surface Book 2’s 13.5-inch 3:2 display is in between the usual 14-inch & 15.6-inch 16:9 alternatives, and it has a quality form factor with some unusually powerful components — that makes for an interesting mix of alternatives, but none that match exactly what the Surface Book 2 13 offers.

First up is the Lenovo Yoga 720 15, which matches the Surface Book 2 13 with its GTX 1050 và is a bit faster in CPU-intensive tasks. It’s also much less expensive, at $1,700 for 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, & a 4K UHD display. You’ll get equivalent performance if you go this route, but you’ll give sầu up a lot of battery life & you’ll be relegated to used a very thiông chồng tablet.

You can also consider the excellent HP Spectre x360 13, our favorite in the very strong convertible 2-in-1 market. The Spectre x360 offers strong performance for productivity tasks, great đầu vào options, & solid battery life. It’s also significantly less expensive sầu than the Surface Book 2, coming in at $1,380 for a similar configuration with a Vi xử lý Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160 or 331 PPI) display. Of course, it’s not as fast & it’s battery life, while good, isn’t as spectacular.

We should note that Hãng sản xuất Intel và AMD introduced a new CPU/GPU hybrid solution, Kaby Lake-G, that mates a 45-watt quad-core Hãng sản xuất Intel bộ vi xử lý Core processor with AMD’s Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU. That bộ combo promises somewhat greater performance than the Surface Book 2 13 at lower prices, meaning that machines lượt thích the new Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 và the updated HP. Spectre x360 15 that sport Kaby Lake-G are also worth considering.

How long will it last?

The Surface Book 2 has a future-proof thiết kế that promises khổng lồ be useful well into lớn the future, with matching performance. The addition of a USB-C port helps it keep up with the newest standard in peripheral connectivity, but the laông chồng of Thunderbolt 3 support will hold it baông xã from working with the latest and greakiểm tra add-ons.

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Should you buy it?

Yes. You’ll pay through the nose, but you won’t be compromising in design, build, or performance, & the battery life. It’s only beaten by the larger, more expensive sầu 15-inch version.


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