Microsoft's Surface Book 2 reminds me a lot of an all-inclusive resort. It's a pricey one-time purchase — the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 starts at $1,499, and the 15-inch model starts at $2,499 (without the stylus, the Surface Pen) — but one that's easier to justify when you consider how much is packed in. Which, when it comes to the Surface Book 2, is a lot.
Ahead, a full breakdown of where it performed at its peak and where it fell a bit short.
If you're used to laptops that can only be used by opening the screen and typing on the keyboard, the Surface Book 2 will throw you for a loop, in a good way. This is all thanks to the hinge connecting the display to the keyboard.
You can use the device as a traditional touchscreen laptop or, by pressing a key on the keyboard, detach the screen to use it in one of three other modes. Tablet mode uses the screen only, but you can also flip the screen around and re-attach it to the keyboard, folding it flat to use it in Studio mode or propping it up for the ultimate streaming experience in View mode. Every time you detach or re-attach the screen to the hinge, you'll hear a satisfying click.
While the screen does wobble a little bit on the hinge this didn't both me. The keys are beautifully backlit and type smoothly, and the PixelSense display renders graphics in crisp, bright colors, making for a top-notch Stranger Things binge session.
When you're using the Surface Book 2 with the keyboard attached (any mode except Tablet), you'll see two power sources listed: Battery 1 and Battery 2, representing both the tablet and the full laptop. You'll see a percentage of how much charge is remaining for each, as well as an overall, cumulative battery charge.
Using the tablet alone gives you less battery life — after an hour of streaming I dropped from 90% to 66% — but the bonus of the laptop's versatility is that you can always reconnect it to the keyboard for more power. I was impressed with the charge time too: A mere 20 minutes boosted the total battery 18%. (I didn't use it for Gaming, which is where other reviewers have found issues with the battery.)
I did notice that when I detached the screen after using the full laptop, it was a bit warm, though not uncomfortably so. Web sites and images loaded quickly, and I never experienced any lag time in streaming. In the legendary words of RiRi herself, the Surface Book 2 is ready to "Work, work, work, work, work, work."
A heavy question
One thing that would give me pause before purchasing the Surface Book 2 is its weight. It's a powerhouse of a laptop but one that doesn't perform its tasks lightly: The 13-inch model weighs in at 3.38 pounds and the 15-inch model is 4.20 pounds. When using the screen by itself as a tablet, it feels far lighter, weighing 1.59 pounds and 1.80 pounds respectively. I don't know that I'd want to take the entire laptop with me everywhere. I'd be more apt to buy it and take the tablet on the go if I needed it, leaving the keyboard at home for later. If you are the kind of person who takes your laptop to and from work, you'll want to consider that carefully.
While you have to think about whether or not you'd take full advantage of this versatility, it's a no-brainer for artists, designers, or pretty much any creative. Even though I'm not a designer and my art skills are pretty firmly rooted in kindergarten, I still enjoyed having all four options at my disposal. I played with Paint 3D, Microsoft's impressively fun and useful app for creating 3D models, in Studio mode, streamed Grey's Anatomy in View, online shopped in Tablet, and typed articles in Laptop.
The Surface Book 2 is an expensive buy, but, on the plus side, it will last you far longer than that comparable trip to an all-inclusive resort.