The Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-Inch) Review: Second Time's The Charmby Brett Howse on December 21, 2017 8:00 AM EST
- Posted in
- Surface Book
- Kaby Lake Refresh
We finally have the successor. After a troubled launch in late 2015 of the original Surface Book, Microsoft seemed to drag their feet when it came to updating what was one of the most interesting notebooks released in the last couple of years. The original Surface Book launched with some serious power management concerns, which were eventually sorted out, but then the company just left the model relatively untouched, except for a mid-generation update with a stronger GPU.
The wait is over though. Microsoft has released the Surface Book 2 as a worthy successor to the original, with many improvements. With the launch of the Surface Laptop earlier this year, which targets the $1000 price point, Microsoft was free to ratchet the Surface Book 2 up in performance, and price, and they’ve doubled the number of models, with both a 13.5-inch version, being the upgrade from the original, and a new 15-inch model which clearly targets the performance-starved users. For this review, Microsoft sent us the larger 15-inch model.
Both the 13.5 and 15-inch models are shipping with the latest Intel Core i7-8650U CPUs, offering four cores and eight threads, and a 4.2 GHz Turbo. RAM stays the same with either 8 or 16 GB of LPDDR3, and that’s because Intel CPUs don’t yet support LPDDR4, which is a shame. Storage is 256 GB to 1 TB of NVMe SSD. So far, we have a pretty typical notebook for late 2017. The difference with the Surface Book 2 is the GPU, which is optional on the smaller model but standard on the 15-inch version we have today. Microsoft packed as much GPU as possible into the Surface Book 2 models, with the 13.5-inch offered with an impressive GTX 1050, and the 15-inch model shipping with a GTX 1060. To put that into perspective, the 15.6-inch Dell XPS 15 offers the GTX 1050, so the smaller Surface Book 2 has as much GPU power as the Dell, which is fantastic. The larger Surface Book 2 gets the much more powerful GTX 1060, featuring twice the CUDA cores as its smaller brother, and four times the ROPs. The model numbers are similar, but the GTX 1060 is going to offer a lot more compute.
|Microsoft Surface Book 2|
|13.5 No GPU||13.5 GPU||15 (Model Reviewed)|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-7300U
2.6-3.5 GHz 3MB Cache 15W TDP
|Intel Core i7-8650U
1.9-4.2 GHz 8MB Cache 15W TDP
|RAM||8GB LPDDR3||8-16 GB LPDDR3||16 GB LPDDR3|
|GPU||Intel HD 620||Intel HD 620 + NVIDIA GTX 1050 2GB||Intel HD 620 + NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB|
|Storage||256 GB NVMe||256GB, 512 GB, 1TB|
3000x2000 3:2 sRGB
Touch and Pen enabled
3240x2160 3:2 sRGB
Touch and Pen enabled
|Networking||802.11ac 2x2:2 866Mbps max
|Audio||Stereo Speakers (front facing)
Dolby Audio Premium
|Battery||23 Wh (Tablet) plus 46 Wh (Base)||23 Wh (Tablet) plus 52 Wh (Base)||23 Wh (Tablet) plus 63 Wh (Base)|
|Right Side||Surface Connect
USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 1 with USB Power Delivery
|Left Side||2 x USB 3.0 Type-A
|Dimensions||312 x 232 x 13-23mm
12.3 x 9.14 x 0.51-0.90 inches
|343 x 251 x 15-23 mm
13.5 x 9.87 x 0.57-0.90 inches
|Cameras||8.0 MP Rear-facing camera with autofocus
5.0 MP front-facing camera with 1080p video
Windows Hello IR camera
After shunning the port for the last couple of years, Microsoft has finally added USB-C to the Surface Book 2, replacing the mini-DisplayPort. Their reasoning for not including it before was that USB-C is a confusing port, where they all look the same, but offer different capabilities, and that’s a fair point, but it also makes it more confusing that they didn’t include Thunderbolt 3 on the Surface Book 2, meaning the USB-C port on the Surface Book 2 doesn’t offer the full capabilities of the port. The company seems to have an aversion to making everyone happy. The USB-C port does offer DisplayPort output, as well as power delivery, but the lack of Thunderbolt 3 deprives the owner of the ability to output dual UHD video feeds, despite the performance of this machine, and that’s a shame.
The larger Surface Book 2 15 offers an impressive 85 Wh of battery capacity, and that’s due to the unique design of the Book, where the detachable tablet offers 23 Wh of capacity, and the base offers another 62 Wh. The device is designed to have the tablet attached most of the time, but with the ability to remove it for certain tasks.
This isn’t an Ultrabook though. The smaller 13.5-inch model starts at 3.38 lbs (1.5 kg) and goes up if you add a GPU, and the larger 15-inch model weighs in at 4.2 lbs (1.9 kg). This is a device designed to offer portable performance, and here the weight isn’t as much of an issue. It still comes in slightly lighter than an XPS 15, despite a GPU with double the CUDA cores.
The most interesting aspect to the Surface Book 2 continues to be the design though, so let’s start there.
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prophet001 - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkIf that 1060 isn't starved for cooling, I'll eat my hat.
denis.lafronde - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkIt's not, it's written in the review. So how's your hat? Taste good?
DanNeely - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkThe 1060 should be crushing the 1050 in the Dell XPS by 2:1. It does so in a few benchmarks; but falls short in enough (actually scoring less than the XPS in a few) that it's being bottlenecked by something badly in some cases.
skavi - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkthat's the CPU bottleneck. they're comparing the XPS 15's 45 watt CPU to the Book's 15 watt one.
Brett Howse - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkAs Skavi said this is the CPU bottleneck compared to the i7-7700HQ. Only falls short on tests where the settings are low enough that the GPU is no longer the bottleneck.
tyaty1 - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkIt starves badly. When the GPU usage is high enough, the GPU performance drops below of the 1050's because of thermal throttling.
tipoo - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkWhere was this? I saw one nearly horizontal GPU clock bar
skavi - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkI'm not sure tyaty1 read the same review.
Brett Howse - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkYou've got it backwards. It falls below the 1050 only when the CPU is the limiting factor because the game settings are low enough that the GPU is no longer the bottleneck and the i7-7700HQ outperforms the 15W CPU in the SB2. It's not a power issue.
prophet001 - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - linkWell it's power starving so it doesn't thermally starve. I make my hats out of chocolate so they taste pretty good.