In tablet mode, the Surface Book 2 is almost comically large, but it's still relatively easy to hold and only about as heavy as a hardcover graphic novel. It's not meant to completely replace smaller slates, instead it's a screen you can yank out when you need to read a long article or just watch a movie in bed.
The laptop still features an excellent keyboard, with a satisfying amount of travel distance and a smooth, accurate touchpad. There's some extra wrist pad room to balance out the larger display. Around the sides, it has two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and for the first time on a Surface, there's a USB-C port. While it's not compatible with Intel's Thunderbolt technology, which supports speeds up to 40 Gbps, instead of USB 3.1's 10 Gbps. Still, you'll at least be able to plug in devices using the new standard, like hard drives and smartphones. You can also charge the laptop over USB-C, but you'll need to buy a separate adapter that can deliver enough juice.
Since it's meant to function as a tablet, the Surface Book 2 also includes a rear 8 megapixel camera, as well as a 5 megapixel front-facing shooter. And just like all of the other Surface laptops, there's a Windows Hello authentication camera on the front, which lets you log in with your face. The Surface Book 2 also supports the Surface Pen, which is particularly useful when using it as a tablet. Though it'd be even better if Microsoft included it in the box, instead of making you pay an extra $100 for it.
Performance and battery life
Microsoft also packed in some major hardware upgrades in the 15-inch version: An 8th generation Intel quad-core i7 processor and NVIDIA GTX 1060 graphics. The smaller model, meanwhile, starts with a 7th gen Core i5 CPU and integrated graphics, but you can bump it up to the new i7 chip and a GTX 1050 GPU.
Its hefty CPU and graphics capabilities make it well suited to heavy-duty content creation, like video editing and 3D rendering. And of course, that also means it's a decent gaming machine. The Surface Book 2 achieved a solid 60 frames per second in Gears of War 4 while running in 1080p with high graphical settings. And in Forza 7, it clocked between 50 and 60FPS in 1080p with Ultra quality levels. Sure, dedicated gaming laptops can get even better results, but the Surface Book 2 is still impressive.
While Microsoft claims the computer will get 17 hours of battery life while playing video, it actually lasted a surprising 20 hours and 50 minutes in our testing. And that's without any battery saving features turned on. But of course, that's just when it comes to dealing with a local video file. Battery life will depend on what, exactly, you're doing with the Surface Book 2. During my daily workflow, it lasted between 12 to 14 hours. And after one hour of gaming, it lost around 20 percent of battery life.
Pricing and the competition
The 15-inch Surface Book 2 starts at $2,499 with a 256GB SSD, 16GB of RAM and NVIDIA GTX 1060. You can go all the way up to a 1TB SSD for $3,299. In comparison, Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro goes for $2,399, but its Radeon Pro graphics aren't as powerful as NVIDIA's.
If you're looking at the smaller Surface Book 2, we'd recommend jumping to the $1,999 Core i7 model with NVIDIA graphics. It's $500 more than the entry-level version, but the added cost is worth it for power users. If you have lighter computer needs, the Surface Laptop and Pro might be better options, instead of the cheapest Surface Book 2. And if that's too expensive for you, Dell's XPS 15 costs just $1,299 with GTX 1050 graphics.
The Surface Book 2 is exactly what we've wanted from a high-end Microsoft laptop. It's powerful, sturdy and its unique hinge doesn't come with any compromises. While there are cheaper Windows laptops out there with similar specs, the Surface Book 2 stands apart by bringing together some of the best hardware around with the flexibility of a convertible notebook. It's the closest a PC maker has come to taking on the MacBook Pro, both in style and substance.
Photos by Edgar Alvarez.