With prices starting at £1,500, this isn’t a casual purchase – but with its detachable screen, this could be the best Windows 10 power-user laptop going
The first generation Surface Book was a feat of engineering that took Microsoft’s Surface tablet PC and turned it on its head, making it a laptop first and a tablet second. The Surface Book 2 refines a few things, adds much more power and finally adopts USB-C.
If you’re primarily a laptop user, who occasionally wants to take just the screen with you and needs some brawn for your processing duties, the Surface Book 2 is the machine for you. But getting your head around what the machine can do is the first challenge.
With the screen attached like a laptop it behaves just like any other Windows 10 laptop with an interesting hinge. Press the detach key and the screen pops off, turning into a full tablet PC with up to five hours of battery life. But you can also turn the screen over and re-attach it to the base to either have the screen facing away from the keyboard, or folded down to make an angled drawing pad.
It means you can go from a laptop one minute to a note-taking tablet the next to a graphics tablet thereafter. In every situation the Surface Book 2 excels, thanks to some accessories, including the excellent Surface Pen and Dial.
There are a few caveats. The screen on its own is thin and light for a PC tablet, but I would not be comfortable taking it out and about on its own as it doesn’t feel as robust as the Surface Pro or similar. As a laptop, the fulcrum hinge extends out further away from the user than a traditional laptop hinge would, meaning the base of the laptop is quite long and I struggled to fit it between my gut and the back of the seat in front of me on a train. On a desk, though, the Surface Book 2 is arguably the best Windows laptop available.
The keyboard is brilliant – better than most dedicated keyboards. The trackpad is a bit clicky but smooth and precise, while the screen is crisp, beautiful and bright. The machine also runs cool. The only time I could detect the fans going was when playing XCOM 2, and even then they weren’t very loud. Most of the time the Surface Book 2 was completely silent.
Battery life was solid, but not as spectacular as Microsoft’s quoted 17 hours might suggest. With 10 or so tabs open in Chrome and with Spotify, NextgenReader, Windows Mail, Typora and Affinity Photo open at different times, as well as 45 minutes of watching video on Netflix with the tablet detached (and all with recommended brightness and recommended power mode active), the Surface Book 2 lasted around nine hours before powering down.
The tablet alone would easily last around three hours of movie watching, or more with the brightness turned down.