Tech Review: Microsoft Surface Book 2: Pleasant surprise

I come from a generation of tech nerds for whom dunking on Microsoft was simply the done thing. Apple was nowhere to be seen when I was a teenager and we grew up using Windows machines. To this day, whenever I see the House of M’s name attached to anything, I must fight an old, reflexive urge to make fun of them, even when I really end up liking the thing in question. Such is the case with the Surface Book 2.

Like most people, I spend a lot of time on computers. I use them for writing, so a laptop needs to be a few different things for me to get any real use out of it. It needs to be reasonably light, it needs to offer good spec so I can keep it around for a good long while after purchase, and I need it to have a nice keyboard. A good keyboard is of paramount importance. Writing’s hard enough without having to do it on a bad keyboard.

So I’m pleased to report that the Surface Book 2 ticks all these personal boxes for me. It’s maybe a touch heavier than I’d like, but this is a great hybrid laptop in every other possible sense.

It’s no slouch in the specs department, coming in a 13.5″ or 15″ inch model, your choice of 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe solid state storage and a PixelSense display with a native 3240 x 2160 4K res on the 15″. The 15″ is also packing a massive 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 with 6GB of GDDR memory and an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8650U processor running at 4.2GHz max turbo. It’s a monster. This is a machine built for whatever you want to throw at it. Working professionals will find one of the fastest ultrabooks they’ve ever used. It has everything it needs for solid, portable video and audio editing. You could even use it as a gaming laptop if you were so inclined.

In addition to its position as a do-it-all laptop, the Surface Book 2 is also a hybrid meaning its screen can be removed and used a lightweight Windows 10 tablet. Perfect for artists or those who prefer to get around without a keyboard, tablet mode remains a brisk, smooth experience.

It’s also got the sort of low-key, polished look that Apple have built their entire brand on. The body is a matte finish silver white, while the screen is surrounded by a 1.5cm H x 1cm W black bezel. The screen itself is protected by guerilla glass to guard against cracks and shattering from an accidental drop and it comes with a pair of front and rear facing cameras. There’s also a surprisingly long battery that gave me a run of about 10 hours of continuous work use before begging me to plug it in.

While the tablet screen and laptop body don’t weigh much individually, when together they do clock in at around 2kg, which puts them at the heavier end of the modern laptop scale. It’s also a touch thicker than your average convertible laptop, particularly in the 15″, the big hinge responsible for much of its bulk. This is important for business customers who prefer to scoot through airport lines with nothing more than a messenger bag. The average domestic carrier only offers 7kg carry-on baggage allowance. With 2KG for the Surface Book 2 and its charger in play, that’s a significant chunk of your 7kg gone right away. For those who are going to be lugging it around all day, this will be something to remember (and, I’m sure, a great excuse for Microsoft to push the sale of separate laptop bodies so you can have one at home and at the office).

So what’s the downside? For most people, its going to be the price. Ready for how much it is? You might want to sit down. The 15″ model I am writing this very review on starts at $3,649 AUD. If you’re looking at the 13.5″ model, the blow is only slightly lessened at a price tag of $2,199 AUD. Exey as they are, it is worth remembering that the Surface Book 2 is priced very competitively against Apple’s MacBook Pro line (and absolutely destroys it in terms of raw spec) but for most people that isn’t going to matter much. $3,700 is $3,700 and that’s an awful lot of money.

It’s rare that I get sent tech for review that I’ll genuinely miss when I have to send it back but I will miss this one. The Surface Book 2 is a lovely piece of kit. Great build quality with excellent, powerful parts and a subdued, professional look. I love it, and it’s going to be very hard going back to my old Dell.

Score: 9.0 out of 10
Highlights: Nice design; Unbelievably powerful; Do-it-all spec
Lowlights: Eye-wateringly expensive
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Price: 13.5″ models start at $2,100 AUD, 15″ models start at $3,649 AUD
Available: Now

Reviewed using a retail loan unit provided by the manufacturer.


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David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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