Surface Book 2 - 15in: One Year Later
For more than a year, I have been using Microsoft’s largest and most expensive laptop, the Surface Book 2 15in. The device was released last November and with several business trips, personal vacations, and many rides in the back of an airplane with this machine, it’s time for the final review of the hardware.
If you are looking for a detailed breakdown of the specs and features, check out my initial review of the device, this post is intended to be more of a reflection of the high (and low) points of the hardware during the last year. And while there have been a few low points, overall, I have been quite happy with the device.
On the positive side of the coin, the Surface Book 2 is pretty close to a true mobile workstation. With enough grunt from the GPU and CPU, you can accomplish most tasks in a reasonable amount of time. If you have intensive compute tasks, like rendering lengthy 4k videos or large animations in After Effects, on a daily basis, you are likely better off with a dedicated box where you can get more bang for your buck.
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That being said, I have taken this machine to multiple conferences this year and press events where I would render 15-20 minute 1080P videos in under 15 minutes from the show floors. The ability to do rough edits from the floor and get content published quickly from a laptop makes my job significantly easier. In short, the Surface Book 2 15in can handle heavy tasks that most users will encounter on a daily basis.
One thing Microsoft has improved significantly over the second generation with firmware updates and from the first generation is the reliability of the hinge connection. In my use, the times where the clipboard (display) would disconnect without being instructed to do so, was near zero and when I would reattach the display, I’ve had no issues with the GPU and additional batteries being recognized instantly.
The problem that does still persist though, and this seems to be a wider issue with the Surface brand, is pressing the power button on the top of the clipboard doesn’t always turn the device on. For reasons unknown to me, I will occasionally have to hard reboot the device to get it to power on (power button + volume up) and this fixes the problem but this is an ongoing issue and I haven’t seen any improvement with this bug.
The keyboard and trackpad have held up well too. While you can see some tarnish on the trackpad and some of the keys, it’s far from being a concern; every laptop shows this type of wear and tear but the Surface Book 2 shows less than many other models. And I have used this hardware a lot, at least 30 minutes Monday-Friday on a podcast with Paul and also on the road as well; the longevity of the construction materials has yet to raise a single concern for me.
Also, the headphone jack needs to be moved; the location on the top of the display means that your audio cable will be strung across your hands/arms when trying to listen to music or watch videos. And I still have mixed feelings about the Windows Hello camera, it works well as long as you are standing in the sweet spot in front of the camera but I’d love a fingerprint-reader option.
As for battery life, I’m getting around 6.5 hrs at this point in the device’s life-cycle under mostly heavy load when the device is put into ‘performance’ mode.
The challenge you have to decide with this device is if you want to pay for the i7 iteration of the hardware. I say this because the i5 variety is a dual-core chip and while it likely performs just fine for most tasks, if you are buying a Book 2, it’s likely for the extra grunt that the GPU provides which means you will benefit from the 2 additional cores the i7 offers. Fortunately, the 15in only comes in the i7 variety but the 13in Book 2, does have a dual-core option, which is much harder to recommend at the end of 2018.
With the larger device entry point at $2299, it’s still an expensive machine that is over a year old. This is a $200 price drop from its initial price point and it is far from an impulse buy. All this being said, during the past year I have been quite happy with the machine and if you can find a good deal on one today, you will be too.