Microsoft Surface Book 2 13.5″ Review
The Microsoft Surface Book 2 13.5″ is one in a long line of hybrid devices that Microsoft rolls out from its production stables. And while it looks like many of its predecessors, and possibly its successors but in a good way though, it brings a couple of changes to the table, and to the hands too.
It has shed a few ounces of heft since its 15″ counterpart, and sports a sleeker and arguably sturdier build. Its GTX 1050 processor is no slouch at gaming and certainly not at multimedia editing, while its 8th Gen Core i7 processor is a force to be reckoned with during demanding tasks.
Other high points include an enduring battery and a gorgeous display, along with a decent keyboard and halfway decent audio.
There are a couple of lows too, the lowest possibly being the omission of the Thunderbolt and the Surface Pen, as well as the fan noise that results from optimum performance at the peak power settings.
The price is certainly not a low point, and it makes the big misses even more unjustifiable and hard-hitting. But the knowledge that you’re getting a high-quality tablet and a high-powered laptop in one package should lessen the impact, or so we feel.
Design and Appearance
As this device is a convertible, the hinges, or fulcrum hinges in this case play the biggest role in its design, and it is a role that it plays to near perfection. We say near because there is a small window of a non-creaking sound that opens up as the individual parts of the hinges touch upon each other.
Other than that, the lid can very easily be flipped open, albeit with the use of both hands, and the hinge will not offer the slightest resistance. And as soon as you nail down a suitable viewing angle, the hinges will hold the lid firmly in place.
As for the lid, and the laptop as a whole, it gets a certain amount of sheen and sturdiness in its entirety that derives from its aluminum alloy build.
The tablet will latch onto the keyboard via a magnetic mechanism. And when it does, it opens ever so slightly at the point of connection and recesses in like manner till it closes up at the lower part of the keyboard deck.
It will detach from its lock at the press of a button, and with a weight of nearly 1.6 pounds, it can then be comfortably used in tablet mode.
Ports and Connection
For the biggest takeaways from the port selection on this device, the Thunderbolt 3 port is still disappointingly missing from the port roster, while the Mini DisplayPort has been ditched in favor of the USB Type-C port. Other than that, there are two USB 3.0 Type-A ports and a full-sized SD card reader, all at the keyboard.
The bottom edge of the tablet is home to the surface connector, the proprietary charging provision, while a 3.5mm stereo jack also picks its slot at the top edge, a position that is not exactly ideal for clamshell use.
Wireless connectivity is provided by a Wi-Fi feature that operates on the 802.11ac standards, as well as Bluetooth 4.1
Keyboard and Input devices
With a travel of 1.5mm and pretty much decent feedback on keys that feel very firm, the chiclet keyboard on this device is very easy to get to grips with. Then there is a white background illumination with a trio of different intensities that will come in handy while typing in dimly lit places.
The provision for adjusting the backlight will help to ease the struggles associated with navigating through this keyboard in low-light conditions. This much is due to the lack of contrast between the individual keys and their fonts under certain lighting conditions, making it difficult to tell each one apart from the other.
The 4.1 x 2.8 inches touchpad offers a smooth, sensitive, and slightly recessed surface for your fingers to slither across. It will recognize a host of gestures as you flick and swipe across it and will register them in a split second. Tapping all across the entirety of its surface will produce uniform feedback and a pretty good one at that too.
Rounding up the input ensemble is the capacitive touchscreen, with its capacity to simultaneously register 10 inputs and to conceal fingerprints ranking as its biggest highlights.
At the topmost corners of the tablet is the duo of stereo speakers that service this device, and while we can not speak too highly of them, we most certainly can not speak ill of them too.
The volume of the speakers is short of resounding at full blast, but pretty much decent still. And while there is barely enough bass to make any significant impact without the use of headphones, the lows, highs, and everything in between will turn out fairly well.
3000 x 2000 pixels might look like overkill for a 13.5″ screen, but one look at the display of our review device and you’ll most likely place it as an apt choice of resolution.
The display is nothing short of brilliant, giving out visuals in sweeping viewing angles, and in clear and vibrant frames that will make for enjoyable sessions of movie watching and gaming.
There’s a pixel density of 267 PPI and a brightness of about 374 nits, lending further credence to the fact that this is one gorgeous display.
Its near 100% coverage of the sRGB color gamut should make it useful for creatives in the digital space. Not so much for its AdobeRGB coverage, which at 64% will not count for very much.
Still, digital artists and their ilk can take advantage of the decent color coverage and the surfeit of pressure levels on the touchscreen to sketch and ink eye-catching impressions.
In outdoor settings, the glossiness of the screen will take the shine off the display a bit. But it shouldn’t be much of a challenge too, thanks to a light sensor that is hardwired to adjust the screen’s brightness in response to the prevalent lighting conditions.
Inside of the keyboard is the dedicated GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card that makes the device well placed to process some serious graphics-based computing in laptop mode.
Its 2 GB of GDDR5-VRAM might seem to get a little in the way of its workings. But it does little to detract from what is a decent graphic performance, over content creation on Photoshop or AutoCAD, and gaming to an extent.
You’ll have to settle for light graphics rendering tasks and even lighter games though. For less-demanding graphic work in tablet mode, such as in content consumption over Youtube or Netflix, the integrated UHD Graphics 620 card will fit the bill quite well.
With the GTX 1050 graphics card to call on, users of this laptop can make a go at a majority of the biggest gaming titles on offer with the condition that they steer clear of Ultra detail settings and be flexible with the display resolution.
Titles like Hitman 3 and Far Cry New Dawn might require that you step down to 1080p to stand any chance of reaching the comfort threshold for frame rates. Others like Civilization VI and F1 2019 will cross the 50fps mark, at medium and high details respectively set to 1080p.
Only then you’ll have to deal with the black bars and the reduced visual quality of gameplay, although most gamers will choose that over a spate of lags and stutter in a heartbeat.
The tablet houses an 18Whr battery that should take you through a minimum of two and a half hours of web browsing, and maybe a couple more with video playback. It is a fairly decent return, more so as the battery is at the receiving end of the massive power draw that results from a high-resolution display.
The bigger problem is the fact that it takes a whole 2.5 hours to take it to full charge via the surface connector sited at its bottom part. In clamshell mode, the battery capacity rises to 70 Whr, and it should be just about enough to take you through a day on a single charge.
As long as you resist the urge to enable the best performance setting, you should be able to flatten the rundown curve a bit.
Cooling and Noise Emission
With contrasting fortunes in tablet and traditional clamshell mode, the thermal situation of the 13.5″ Surface Book 2 is a tad tricky.
It is complicated and laid out nicely too by the trio of power modes that can be found in the system settings. Each of which results in implications for the computing performance and heat-producing exertions of the system’s processor components.
While gaming in laptop mode, you’ll have to choose between unsettling fan noise and a resulting optimal gaming performance at the best performance mode. Or you settle for a slight drop in performance level and get a reprieve from the racket.
In all of these cases, the temperature levels remain at tolerable degrees, at the rear and most especially at the keyboard.
In tablet mode, however, the power profiles play a much lesser role in the scheme of things. It employs a fanless system of cooling, and it results in a largely serene operation, barring the spurts of coil whine and slight warming up of the tablet’s rear portion.
Our configuration of this device settles for the Core i7-8650U processor, along with 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD and it sure feels like a decent combination. This much is evident in the ease with which it processes a majority of the workloads that were thrown at it, in pieces and loads.
Your web pages will load in a blink and your hi-res videos will stream in smooth sails, while you can also crunch data into spreadsheets in near perpetuity and the laptop will not pause to catch a breath or play catch up.
And even if you do all of the above at the same time, the laptop will not break stride still as there are four computing cores to go round.
Toggle between over two dozens of chrome tabs in the background while simultaneously editing documents with Google docs or Microsoft Office and making sketches on Sketchpad and the laptop will barely lag or struggle with the load.
The 13.5″ version of the Surface Book 2 does not stray too far from its bigger-sized contemporary, both in design and in performance. While it packs in lesser pixels and graphics power, it features the same processor and picks from a similar pool of memory and storage provisions.
There is a growing concern as to why the Thunderbolt port is still missing from the port ensemble, and the omission of the Surface pen from the package still beggars belief, especially at this expensive price point.
What you get in return is a fairly powerful device with a flexible utility and an impressive battery. It also boasts of a brilliant display and a decent build, as well as a quad-core-powered performance that will turn out to be quite productive.
8 GB LPDDR3 SDRAM
256 GB flash memory solid state
Windows 10 Professional
12.3 x 9.14 x 0.9 inches