Review: 5 Things I Love About Microsoft's Surface Book 2

Microsoft Gets It Right

I recently got my hands on the Surface Book 2, Microsoft's powerful (and pretty) notebook that features a detachable display. While a few things weren't to my liking -- the display sometimes wobbles while using the laptop in transit -- I was hugely impressed with the Surface Book 2 overall. I've been wondering what my next personal notebook purchase will be, once my 2014 MacBook Pro dies (the new MacBook Pro is not an option, for many reasons). Well, the Surface Book 2 may have just risen to the top of my list. It's not cheap: The 15-inch model, which we tested, starts at $2,499 while the 13.5-inch model starts at $1,199. But then again, the other top-of-the-line Windows notebooks and the MacBook Pro are all in the $1,500 to $2,500 range at this point.

What follows are the five things I've been enjoying the most with Microsoft's Surface Book 2.

Battery Life

Probably my most consistent complaint with laptops, especially Apple laptops, is the shortage of battery life. If a laptop doesn't have enough juice to last a full day of work and travel, your productivity is going to take a hit, and that's not an acceptable trade-off for me. Microsoft's Surface Book 2 erases those battery life anxieties. I got 10 hours of battery life on a charge across several tryouts (with heavy usage of web and PC apps, and the brightness set to the "brighter" setting in Windows 10). That's an amazing result. The gold standard for battery life that I've tested recently was Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which offered nine hours of battery life on a charge. For buyers who value battery life as much as I do, the Surface Book 2 deserves some serious consideration. (One note: I haven't had a chance to try out the 13.5-inch model, so I can't speak to the battery life results of that version.)


The most obvious differentiator with the Surface Book 2 is the way that the display detaches from a unique hinge (which slightly resembles an accordion). Along with allowing you to use the display as a stand-alone tablet, the detachability lets you flip the screen around to the opposite direction and re-attach it for use in presentation mode. This is useful at times, but it's not why I'm such a fan of the display. I'm a fan because it's just a solid display -- one of the best-looking screens I've tried. It's super bright, and the colors truly pop on the sharp 3,240 x 2,160 screen. The 15-inch size is terrific for multitasking -- keeping plenty of windows open is no big issue -- and the bezels on all four sides of the display are small and symmetric in size. Overall, it's just a pleasure to look at this screen throughout the day.

Keyboard And Touchpad

The keyboard design on the Surface Book 2 is what Apple should have done for the new MacBook Pro. The Surface Book 2 keys are deep, comfortable and, yes, quiet. (The MacBook Pro update in July, meanwhile, only tackled the quietness issue; the keys are still shallow and, in my opinion, just difficult to type on.) Unlike Apple, Microsoft seems to recognize the obvious: One of the main reasons for buying a laptop is to type on it.

In terms of the touchpad, the MacBook Pro has long had an advantage over laptops in the Windows world. But the excellent touchpad on the Surface Book 2 is the closest I've found to the MacBook Pro touchpad in terms of smoothness and responsiveness. Even in apps that sometimes are an issue for Windows touchpads, such as the Chrome browser, the Surface Book 2 touchpad works flawlessly.


The Surface Book 2 is a beast when it comes to performance. My tryout unit came with an eighth-gen Intel Core i7 (the 8650U, clock speed of up to 4.2GHz), Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics and 16 GB of RAM. Web pages and applications loaded rapidly, and the notebook was more than capable of keeping up with my multitasking habits. A Geekbench 4 benchmark test revealed a multicore score of 13,013, on par with the likes of leading Windows notebooks such as Lenovo's X1 Carbon and Dell's XPS 13, although not quite as powerful as HP's EliteBook 1040. Still, for most productivity-focused users, the Surface Book 2 is unlikely to disappoint on speed.

Overall Design

Perhaps the riskiest move Microsoft that made with the Surface Book 2 is on the laptop's hinge. Because of the hinge's design, the notebook doesn't completely close the way that other laptops do; there's a gap between the display and the base section when the notebook is closed. While the unfamiliarity of the design was a bit surprising at first, it grew on me after using the Surface Book 2 for a while. And overall, the light silver metallic body has an appealing look. This is a notebook with the sort of style that you previously would only see in Apple's laptop line. While many people will be fine with the look of the Lenovo ThinkPad or Dell Latitude line, there's still something to be said for a laptop with a design that makes you want to use it -- it almost lures you in. That's the sort of laptop you can truly get productive on.