Microsoft’s Surface book 2 has made a lot of headlines since its release. The 2 in 1 is the crown jewel of Microsoft’s hardware line. I own the 15-inch variant and can say I have been very pleased so far. The most frequent question usually involves the price tag, so is it worth it? Let’s look at this from the perspective of someone who uses it not just for fun but for college.
The 15” model has a 3240 x 2160 PixelSense touch display with 260 PPI. The screen of course has the familiar surface 3:2 aspect ratio which I will touch on later. There is only one option for a processor, which is the 8th generation i7-8650U quad-core processor, which Intel says is a 4.2GHz Max Turbo. This size also only sports 16GB of RAM, which is LPDDR3. The 15” has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB VRAM) GPU built into the keyboard base. The only difference in models can be found in the size of the SSD. The 15” Surface Book comes in either 256GB, 512GB or 1TB. The rear sports an 8MP camera and the front houses both a 5MP camera and the IR sensor for Windows Hello facial recognition. There is a 13” version, which has a weaker GPU and can be outfitted with a lesser CPU and less RAM. There are a ton of sites which can provide you with a more in depth look at the specs for all models.
The major selling points of the Surface Book line are its ability to detach from its keyboard base to be used as a tablet and its ability to be used with the Surface Pen. The unit has a large battery in the base and a smaller battery inside the clipboard section. This makes for a shorter battery life in tablet mode but fantastic life when used as a laptop. Fortunately, both the base and clipboard have access for a charging cable. Rounding out the hardware, there are the ports. The Surface Book uses Microsoft’s proprietary Surface charger, for which there is a port on the base and another underneath the screen. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack on the clipboard section and x2 USB 3.0 type A ports on the base. Next to these ports there is a full-size SD card reader. Opposite of these ports, is the USB type C port. I am sure most people by now have read the complaints about this port, since it is not Thunderbolt capable.
There are a few things that stand out that are worth mentioning here. Microsoft has been touting the 3:2 aspect ratio of their Surface screens for quite some time now. I must completely agree with this. When writing notes, reading a document or writing a paper, the extra vertical space on these screens really helps. It can give you some issues with resolution in games, but it can be adjusted. From a productivity standpoint, this design really shines. Speaking of gaming, it is true that you will experience power drain even while charging when you are playing some high-end titles on high settings. My experience with this has shown it to not be a huge issue and the unit has not died on me while charging.
Yes, I know there are plenty of opinions out there regarding this device, and mine is just one of them. That being said, I find this to be a fantastic product that does just about anything I want it to. I use the Surface Book for gaming, browsing, writing, editing and college. School occupies much of my time and I currently attend online. That changes from semester to semester and so I have experience at both. What led me to the Surface book though? If I had to choose two, I would say the GPU and the 2 in 1 experience. I spent my first three years of college using a Surface Pro 3. It worked extremely well, but for larger projects, papers and hobbies I found myself using my desktop PC. If I needed more graphics power, or I needed a full keyboard with better screen real estate, I would switch to my desktop. When the Surface Book 2 was released, I found myself gravitating towards it. Yea, my Surface Pro was great for when I wanted to use a tablet, or writing notes with a pen, or even typing a decent sized paper. But, when I was laying in bed or had a heavy work load in front of me, it just did not cut it. I needed something more “lapable,” something larger and something more powerful. However, I did not want to sacrifice what the Pro brought to the table, which was not needing to purchase both a laptop and tablet, as well as the excellent surface pen. With the release of the Surface Book 2, Microsoft had the solution for me.
The Surface Book tackles any task I throw at it. I can take notes while on a video conference with a professor, or I can annotate and highlight PDF files for school. I can split screen a word document with whatever I am reading and not strain my eyes in the process. I am able to take photos of whatever is in front of me in a classroom and record a lecture. I am also able to play just about any game title I want and at decent settings too. The pen and hardware make using programs like Photoshop or Lightroom a breeze. I no longer have to decide what I want to do and then choose which PC I will use. This is especially helpful for someone who is always on the go. My work comes right along with me, without sacrifice.
That is a game changer for me. I feel as though I did not have to sacrifice anything by switching to the Surface Book. I kept the touch interface, the Surface Pen, and other features of the Pro, but I also gained much more. I gained more screen space, an amazing keyboard/trackpad and a GPU. I increased the amount of work I can do from the office, school or in bed. I also increased the amount of time I can spend unplugged from a wall and my port selection.
These are all characteristics which increase productivity and workflow, which is great for anyone in college. A lot of what is crucial in college isn’t so much a hardware question as a software question. What I mean is, the software is what will make or break a student’s experience. I love using OneNote for note taking. I insert PDFs and am able to write and highlight as much as I want. I take notes by hand and sometimes alongside typed notes. They then sync well across all my devices with OneDrive, which keeps information for every class right where I can access it. Word and other services are of course necessary for any college student. So, if software is the point, why write on the Surface Book? That is because this device is designed to optimally use the software every student finds necessary. It simply works well with everything Microsoft has to offer a student. Microsoft built this device to squeeze every bit of productivity possible from the software students need and use every day. It feels natural, the transition between uses feels seamless and the build of the hardware is premium.
Of course, there is a downside to everything. Most would say, and I can agree, that the price of the Surface Book 2 is its downside. The thing is expensive. The base model (which is the 256GB SSD), of the 15” Surface Book 2 is $2499.99. That is a lot of money to spend on a computer. The internet is constantly comparing what you could buy for that amount of money. So, what are you getting? For myself, I purchased a top of the line, premium built laptop. But, I also bought a tablet that I can write on and hand to someone near me to check my work. I bought a portable gaming machine that easily connects to an Xbox One controller wirelessly or a VR headset. I bought something that can do and be anything I want or need it to be and do the job relatively well. Yes, you can probably buy something that can do any of these things on their own and do it well, for far less money. But can you buy something that does it all? If the idea of having one device that can do many things and do them well appeals to you, then perhaps the price is worth it to you. If you can work at that price point, I recommend the Surface Book 2. If you are looking below it, perhaps the 13” model or a surface Pro will work for your needs. You need to ask yourself what you want to do with your device and go from there.
If there is any advice I can give a potential buyer, it is to stick with the 256GB model. For my needs, I easily expanded the memory with a MicroSD card. I purchased a cheap SD card adapter made just for the Surface book which keeps it flush with the body of the base. I also use a 500GB Samsung t5 external SSD for storage of any games, pictures or video I may be working with. Most of my school files are stored on OneDrive. The extra memory bump internally does not seem worth the large increases in cost. Another great tip is that Microsoft offers a 10% discount on any product or accessory to students or military. This is a significant cut in cost when you are spending $2500.00. Take advantage of that. I highly recommend that you pick yourself up the Surface Pen. I find that it makes ideas flow much more naturally and it really works well with a lot of software found on Windows. The pen is $99.99 before the student discount. Finally, use the power mode slider found in the battery options. This throttles the CPU and GPU depending on where you have it set. On high performance it runs the hardware to its max. This is not always necessary, depending on what you are working on. I tend to always use it when plugged in, but if I am on battery power while typing a paper, I turn it down a bit.
As always, leave any questions or comments down below and I will do my best to answer them.