Microsoft releases an entirely new Surface Book 2 15-inch with GTX 1060 inside the 2-in-1 form factor
Microsoft’s original Surface Book was a revolutionary product, with its unique fulcrum hinge designed to hold a 3:2 aspect ratio screen and muscle wire attachment mechanism. But the 2015 Surface Book has been getting a little long in the tooth with the 2016 performance base refresh still coming with the original Skylake processor inside. After two years, Microsoft has now announced a full internal update in the form of the Surface Book 2.
The 15-inch option is the first modern portable Microsoft hardware product to come with a screen larger than 13.5 inches. The 15-inch PixelSense display maintains the 3:2 aspect ratio of the smaller 2-in-1, giving it more vertical screen real estate than traditional 15.6-inch laptops with 16:9 screens, a benefit for writing and reading tasks. The 3240 x 2160 resolution gives a high pixel density of 260 PPI, and the screen is compatible with 10-point multi-touch, Surface Dial, and Surface Pen input.
While the 13.5-inch version has had a significant internal upgrade, the entirely new 15-inch model is a real powerhouse in this form factor with serious 3D chops thanks to the dedicated Nvidia GTX 1060 6 GB GPU. This graphics card is considered the sweet spot for gaming laptops and is easily able to handle the latest games at 1080p 60 fps, a claim which Microsoft proudly displayed in their announcement. To further enhance the Surface Book 2’s gaming capabilities there is an inbuilt wireless adaptor for the Xbox One controller allowing users just to pair the controller and start gaming. It is impressive to see the Surface Book 2 might have the same graphics card as can be found in the Razer Blade or Gigabyte Aero 15. However, given the form factor, we suspect it is the Max-Q variant, and that there will be a degree of thermal throttling, but we won’t know this until we receive a review unit to test.
Processing power is handled by a quad-core Intel 8th Gen i7-8650U with eight threads. While this falls in the low-wattage U-series, the step up to quad-core in this generation has allowed for some massive performance improvements (up to 40 percent claimed by Intel) over the previous dual-core Kaby Lake chips. Performance can decrease over time as the short-term burst TDP allowances drop to a lower sustained TDP level. In short-term burst performance this CPU performs similarly to the 7th gen Intel HQ processors but in a more power efficient design.
As you would expect, Microsoft is drawing a lot of MacBook Pro comparisons here by claiming that the Surface Book 2 is up to twice as powerful as the latest MacBook Pro, something which is supported when comparing the GTX 1060 to the AMD Radeon Pro 555 in Apple’s laptop. We should point out that the 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with full-blown Intel HQ processors inside, rather than the U-series in Microsoft's product. Microsoft claims that battery life will be up to 17 hours when watching videos, about 7 hours longer than Apple’s claimed battery life — fine print appears to claim that this is the 13-inch MacBook Pro compared to the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2. Finally, the high screen resolution results in 45 percent more pixels than on the MacBook Pro.
The previously mentioned fulcrum hinge and muscle wire allow the device to be used in one of four modes. ‘Laptop Mode’ resembles a traditional laptop. The detached screen can be used in pure ‘Tablet Mode’. ‘Studio Mode’ involves the screen being reattached in reverse and then folded back over the base to give a slightly elevated angle for drawing and inking. The last is ‘View Mode’ which also requires the screen to be attached backward and slightly angled from vertical, providing a more optimum form factor for presenting or watching content.
In regards to connections, Microsoft has provided 2 x USB-A 3.1, 1 x USB-C, 3.5 mm headphone jack, and 2 x Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connect ports (one in tablet and one in the base) for power and docking station. In a nod to the types of users who will be purchasing the Surface Book 2, there is a full-size SD card reader. Thunderbolt 3 for external drives, docking stations, and monitor support is missing, but we’re glad that they’ve decided to add USB-C to the Surface products now that more peripherals are using this connector.
The dimensions of the 15-inch model are reasonably compact at 13.5” x 9.87” x 0.568-0.90” (343 mm x 251 mm x 15 mm-23 mm) — The reason for the variable height is the hinge causes the rear to be larger than the front edge. Weight is just 4.2 lbs (1.9 kg) placing the Surface Book 2 at the lighter end of the spectrum for a notebook with this screen size.
The Surface Book 2 15-inch will be available to pre-order in the United States from the 9th of November, with shipping starting on the 16th of November. Pricing starts at US$2499 for i7-8650U / 8 GB RAM / 256 GB NVMe SSD / GTX 1060, or US$2899 to upgrade to 16 GB RAM and a 512 GB NVMe SSD, or US$3299 to increase to a 1 TB NVMe SSD. Memory is highly unlikely to be upgradable, so the 16 GB RAM / 512 GB NVMe SSD is likely to be the more sensible option.