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The Surface Book 2 13.5-inch stacks up to the MacBook Pro 13-inch with power and oomph

Microsoft Surface Book 2 15-inch and 13.5-inch (Source: CNET)
Microsoft Surface Book 2 15-inch and 13.5-inch (Source: CNET)
Microsoft's new Surface Book 2 13.5-inch ticks all the right boxes for a capable prosumer laptop while still retaining the platform's unique features. The new notebook is now available in completely fanless variants and features the latest 8th generation Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics.

The original Surface Book (2015) had both critics and consumers gunning for it — a detachable touchscreen that is a full computer on its own, drool worthy aesthetics, powerful internals, and more. It had also had a few complaints with respect to how the hinge worked and sleep issues to name a few. Fast forward to today and Microsoft has surprised us with the next iteration of the Surface Book — the Surface Book 2. The laptop comes in both 13.5-inch and 15-inch sizes and has modern upgraded internals, which places these beauties neck-to-neck with their Apple MacBook Pro counterparts. 

The 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 boasts the following specs —

  • Screen Size - 13.5-inch PixelSense display with 3000 x 2000 resolution (3:2 aspect ratio; 267 ppi) and 1600:1 contrast ratio
  • CPU - Intel 7th gen Core i5-7300U (3.2 GHz) / Intel 8th gen Core i7-8650U (4.2 GHz)
  • RAM - 8 GB/16 GB
  • GPU - Intel HD / UHD Graphics 620, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 w/ 2GB GDDR5 VRAM
  • Storage - 256 GB - 1 TB SSD
  • Battery Life (Estimated) - 70Wh battery, 17 hrs in laptop mode; 5 hrs in tablet mode
  • Ports - 2-USB Type-A, 1 USB Type-C, SD Card Slot, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Cameras - 5 MP front and 8 MP rear 
  • Dimensions - 12.3 x 9.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Combined Weight - 3.38 - 3.62 pounds
  • Tablet Weight - 1.59 pounds

Given the specs alone, it is easy to see why Microsoft is pitting the Surface Book 2 directly against the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The 13-inch version of the latter has a lower resolution screen (2560 x 1600), choice of Intel 7th gen Core i5-7267U or Core i7-7660U, and integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640/650. Both the Surface Book 2 models feature a slightly redesigned hinge for more strength and durability. The extra power in the 13-inch Surface Book 2 comes at a cost of being slightly heavier and thicker than the equivalent MacBook Pro (3.02 pounds; 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches). 

The Surface Book 2 13.5-inch features a fan-less design depending on the configuration. The Core i5 variant is completely fanless in both the tablet and the base while the Core i7 is fanless in the tablet. The base retains the fan as it features a discrete GPU in the form of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050. The Intel 8th gen CPU in the 13-inch model is rated at 15W TDP while the 15-inch Surface Book 2 has the CPU rated at 20W TDP. In comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has both 28W and 15W TDP (with and without Touch Bar respectively) Intel 7th gen CPUs.

However, enthusiasts will be missing the Thunderbolt 3 functionality on the new Surface Book 2. While Apple has relegated users to 'dongle hell', Microsoft has been benevolent enough to retain legacy USB ports. While it is understandable that the 8th gen Intel Kaby Lake-R CPUs have limited PCIe lanes and, therefore, cannot accommodate both discrete graphics and a full 4-lane Thunderbolt 3 connector, Microsoft could have done everyone a favor by including Thunderbolt 3 with the Core i5 variant. But then again, that would fragment the whole lineup so it is easy to see why they have chosen to omit Thunderbolt 3 in this generation. Things like the claimed 17 hr battery life should also be taken with a pinch of salt as it is more of a looped video test and a not a proper simulation of the notebook's purported usage. 

Although the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 starts at US$200 more than the equivalent MacBook Pro (US$1,299), Microsoft has bundled in a lot more for the buck. You get the versatility of Windows 10, a great gaming and multimedia experience, and a versatile PixelSense touchscreen that supports the Surface Dial and the Surface Pen with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt. The GTX 1050 will trump the Intel Iris Plus 640 in the MacBook Pro any day and that alone should justify the price difference. 

The 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 starts from US$1,499 for the Core i5 variant and tops at US$2,999 for the Core i7 GTX 1050 variant with 16 GB RAM and 1 TB SSD. 


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2017 10 > The Surface Book 2 13.5-inch stacks up to the MacBook Pro 13-inch with power and oomph
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2017-10-18 (Update: 2017-10-19)