Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13-inch) – It’s singing from the same songbook, but that doesn’t make microsoft’s revised 2-in-1 sound any less sweet.
The book 2’s battery life is also admirable, ranging from 7 to 10 hours in our tests – something that’s helped along by that second battery underneath the keyboard. Without that, the runtime’s cut in half which is sitll not bad for a large-screen tablet.
MICROSOFT’S ORIGINAL SURFACE Book is going on a couple of years old now, so it was definitely due for a refresh, and that’s basically what you get with this new model. In fact, at a glance, the 2 is nigh-indistinguishable from its predecessor — both 2-in-ls offer a main detachable 13.5-inch (3,000 x 2,000- pixel) tablet alongside a matching keyboard base, which smartly houses a second battery and optional graphics processor, with the latter included to help beef-up the machine’s multimedia-editing chops. And although there’s both new Intel 8th-gen Core i and Nvidia 10 series components inside the chassis, from the outside, the only significant change is a slightly bigger vent behind the keyboard, plus a marginally thicker (and curvier) chassis in this area to accommodate that change.
But you’d hardly notice it — the weight’s almost identical (around 1.6kg) and the feel and build quality are, as before, amazingly premium. This is still a bit of a niche device, though — unclocked from the keyboard, the tablet’s large and heavy enough that it’s hard to recommend for casual users, although for professional, stylus-driven design tasks when sat at a desk, it’s undeniably first-rate, with 4,096-level pressure sensitivity making that 13.5-inch screen a lavish digital canvas.
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU that’s in the base means the Surface Book 2’s good for a bit of gaming, but what that chip’s really intended for is GPU-accelerated media rendering and encoding — frankly, there are better laptops out there if you want to game. That chip combined with the Core i7-8650U CPU in our review unit did help ramp up encoding speeds, giving you about twice the power of what’s in say, the Acer Switch 5 (see right).
The Book 2’s battery life is also admirable, ranging from 7 to 10 hours in our tests — something that’s helped along by that second battery underneath the keyboard. Without that, the runtime’s cut in half — which is still not bad for a large-screen tablet.
The entry-level Core i5/256GB model costs a fairly reasonable — minus that Nvidia GPU — with three further models on offer, topping out at the Core i7/1TB model we’ve looked at for this review. Prospective buyers will also want to note that the Book 2s don’t come with a Surface Pen stylus. At time of writing, Microsoft also wouldn’t commit as to whether the 15-inch model of the Book 2 would be sold in Australia.
The Surface Book 2 is basically all class, then, although that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few niggling issues, most of which are carried over from the original model. That curved accordion hinge is fairly innocuous-looking when the laptop’s open, for example, but when closed, it doesn’t compress down as well as a traditional hinge design, meaning you’re left with a permanent gap between screen and keyboard, which increases the thickness of the whole unit. Likewise, the tablet is still firmly locked in place until you press a keyboard button to release it — something which requires the unit to be powered up. And if you’re using graphically intensive software at the time, you’ll get a “please resolve before detaching” warning, informing you that you’ll need to close the app or game before the tablet will detach.
Despite those shortcomings, Microsoft has again delivered one of the best 2-in-ls on the market for pro users — it’s a rarity to find a hybrid device that works equally well in both laptop and tablet modes, but the Surface Book 2 achieves it.
[Dan Gardiner ]
CRITICAL SPECS (AS TESTED)
Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 13.5-inch PixelSense touchscreen LCD @ 3.000 x 2.000 pixels; quad-core Intel Core i7-8650U CPU; 16GB DDR4 RAM; Intel HD Graphics 620 (on-CPU) & Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 (in keyboard base) GPUs; 1TB NVMe SSD; 312 x 232 x 23 mm; 1.64kg