Well time for a mea culpa. A few months ago, I was in an argument with a few readers who took exception to my calling the then new Surface Book with performance base the Surface Book 2. I’d been led to believe it was, but it wasn’t—because Microsoft just launched the real Surface Book 2 this week. So, my apologies. As penance, I’ll try to find something nice to say about Apple this week. How about they have the healthiest logo in tech?
The new Surface Book 2 comes in two forms (three if you consider there are two configurations for the 13-inch model) a 13-inch and a 15-inch, which are focused on very different use cases. Both products are nearly indistinguishable from their predecessors, but they have solid performance improvements and remain my favorite products in their (admittedly high) price range. The 13-inch starts around $1,500 and the 15-inch with performance base starts around $2,500.
15-inch Surface Book 2
This is my favorite configuration. No one has ever said I’m a cheap date, and at $2,499 this isn’t cheap. But, you get an 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor (4.2 GHz), NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics (which will play most high-end game titles well), and 16 GB of GDDR5 memory. With over 17 hours of expected battery life for video (likely closer to 10 for mixed use) you likely won’t have to drag along the charger unless you are really pounding the GPU.
This configuration is for those like me who value performance over portability. Graphic artists, engineers, architects, and others that need every ounce of performance out of a product and don’t mind the extra weight. They will likely use the versatile configuration more to watch movies, play games that take controllers, or present off the larger 15-inch screen but will rarely use the large tablet by itself—at 15 inches it is too big.
13-inch Surface Book 2
In normal configuration this has the older 7th generation Intel Core i5 processor (3.5 GHz) and Intel graphics, a much lighter carry weight at 3.4 pounds vs. 4.2 pounds for the 15-inch, about the same battery life (smaller battery), a smaller and lighter power supply, and about $1,000 off the price. This won’t play your high-end games but the tablet at 13.5 inches is far more usable (more in line with an iPad Pro) and you are more likely to use it as a result.
One pound may not feel like a lot but added to the smaller power supply it is noticeable and accounts for about a quarter of the larger product’s carry weight. This is more of an executive configuration, for someone that wants to make a statement, doesn’t care about games, engineering, or creating art, and wants to save some money but still have a relatively rare, distinctive product. One final point, without the GPU the battery life should more consistently fall higher in the range than the other two configurations which could be a consideration for the highly mobile.
13-inch Surface Book 2 with Performance Base
This is the tweener product. This takes the specs of the 15-inch Surface book with regard to the CPU and weds them with a slightly lower-powered base (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 rather than 1060), gets a bit bigger battery for the same battery life, and gains about one-third of the weight back at 3.62 pounds. You’ll also need the larger and heavier power supply.
This is for the user that either just wants something smaller than a 15 inches, or for someone that can’t decide between the other two products. This kind of blends the best elements of both into one, high-performance computer in a smaller, lighter package. Personally, I don’t think the weight savings is enough to offset the smaller screen, and I feel that once you decide you need the graphics you’ll want the screen real estate as well in the 15-inch. This may target women more because that demographic tends to favor a smaller product and for someone that largely uses monitors a 15-inch screen might be redundant. By the way both 13-inch models have 8GB of memory.
Wrapping Up: All the Good Stuff
Of course these all have the latest Windows 10 Pro Fall Creators Update load, the typical Office 30-day trial, a bunch of sensors, support Windows Hello (which I love), these actually have headphone jacks, full sized SD card readers, two USB 3.1 (full sized for once) ports and a USB-C port, support Xbox wireless controllers (something I tend to forget), have high resolution PixelSense displays, 10 point multitouch, and power supplies with both a magnetic connector and a really handy always on full sized USB charging port.
So even though the base configuration Surface Book 2 13-inch is more like a version 1.5, (you can tell I like the 15-inch so much better), this is a solid improvement to the line and I’m only really missing a cellular / WAN option that most don’t yet value. It is always nice to have something new to lust for this time of year. Here is my hope you can afford one of these beauties.