Surface Book 2: Six Months Later

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When the Surface Book 2 was announced late last year, I had high hopes that this was going to be among my favorite laptops, ever. All Microsoft had to do was take the original Book and address the few issues with the hardware and voila, a hero device for the category.

It’s a bit hard to believe but the device was released six months ago and since that time, I have taken the high-end 15in Surface Book 2 on the road to Vegas, NYC, Seattle, Chicago and a few other locations and after all that time with the hardware, here is my long term update.

The Good:

The hardware has held up well. One question with any laptop is will it age gracefully or will it quickly turn into a grape that has been sitting in the sun for a few days?

I use the Book 2 nearly every day and there are few signs of wear and tear. The only noticeable tarnishing is on the trackpad where you can see the heavily used regions but this is hardly a unique problem to the Surface Book 2.

The keyboard has held up well, the screen is in excellent shape, and the lid, where I grab it to open the display, shows very little signs of use. Aside from the trackpad, if I properly cleaned this machine up, I bet that I could convince just about anyone that it is brand new.

When it comes to performance, this machine has been a huge help on the road. The 8th gen i7 and 16GB of RAM make it a dream for editing content when traveling; I estimate I have crunched about 40 videos on this machine while sitting in a hotel room.

And the performance factor alone has been the key difference here; being able to render a 20-minute clip in under 15 minutes as opposed to over 30 minutes on older machines gives me more time for polishing content and allows me to be more productive. I know that each new generation of CPUs provides a leap in performance but the additional horsepower in this configuration really shines when hitting on the machine hard and for that reason alone, this device is significantly better than the last gen hardware.

Unlike the previous gen device, this machine is much quieter; when under load, the fan curve is better tuned for a slow spin up rather than going from 0-100. I’ve never had an issue with the device over-heating or even becoming hot while on my lap.

And battery life has been excellent. I’m averaging somewhere around 7 hours with the device and that’s under pretty heavy use including recording podcasts and rendering video. While that may be far below the quoted 17hrs of video playback, for my needs, it is sufficient.

Finally, the keyboard is excellent. Given that Apple has screwed up their latest gen devices with a keyboard that can be rendered useless by dust, Microsoft may have the best mobile keyboard for a laptop right now.

The Indifferent:

The Windows Hello cameras work well and can log me in typically faster than entering a password but I’d prefer a fingerprint reader. As long as you are sitting directly in front of the device, the camera is great, but if you are to the side or behind the device, a fingerprint login would serve my needs better than a camera.

I still have mixed feelings about the hinge. On one hand, being able to pop the display off and use it like a tablet is awesome but on the other hand, I’m still having some issues with it (more on that below). If the laptop would be $2-300 less expensive without the removable display, that would be a tough decision but admittedly, this also makes it fit less into the Surface ‘ethos’.

The gap the hinge creates, I’m ok with it. I think that it creates an iconic design and while it does make the footprint of the device taller, I stuff it into its own section of my backpack with nothing else which makes the extra height a non-issue. I understand those who want the device to close flat and hear the concern about objects falling in-between the display and the keyboard but for me, I have had zero issues experiencing this.

The Bad:

Proprietary chargers need to die and this high-end piece of hardware should support Thunderbolt and charge only over the type-C port. I know that Microsoft will eventually get to this point with the Surface lineup, I simply wish that it would have happened by now.

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.

The other issue I have with the hardware is much bigger, the hinge is still a problem. Turning the machine on is a game of guessing which button will actually power on the hardware and if you watch the video above, you will see what I mean.

When trying to turn on the laptop, pressing the power button on the display does not turn on the device about 50% of the time. What will actually turn on the hardware is pressing the eject button for the display which sometimes turns on the hardware or after pressing this button, then pressing the power button will turn the device on.

This is the main issue with the device and something you should know about before buying the laptop. It’s not a deal-breaker for me as the workaround is quite simple but if you don’t know about the issue, you could easily think your brand new laptop is dead when in reality, you are simply pressing the wrong button.

The conclusion:

Aside from these issues, there is not much else that you should be aware of before buying the hardware. If the premium purchase price does not turn you away from the hardware, you will be pleasantly surprised with the Book 2.

The device is the embodiment of what Windows 10 enables and is an excellent laptop for nearly everyone; for those looking for a new premium laptop, Surface Book 2 should be on your short list.