Nobody Saw It Coming
First introduced in 2015, the original Microsoft Surface Book launched to rave reviews and massive positive response. No one expected it; in fact, no one imagined the premium Microsoft entry could split, confirming it as a 2-in-1. The two units consist of a detachable screen connects and a keyboard base that has sports a discrete graphics unit. Most thought the move is a truly bold idea. Let’s see how much further Microsoft can go with this second generation. Please take note, there are two size flavours for the Microsoft Surface Book 2 and both are equals at various levels. For this review, Microsoft Malaysia sent over the 13.5-inch type, featuring the Intel 8th Generation Core i5-8650U. While disappointing a little, there is much to do and share about this specific entry as well.
Next Action Hero
While it might be the smaller of the two Microsoft Surface Book 2 SKUs, the specs are still very impressive. Besides the next-gen Intel CPU, there is 8GB LPDDR3 RAM and 256GB PCIe 3.0 SSD storage. Personally, it’s a bit of a shocker that Microsoft decided to go with DDR3, albeit the low voltage variant. While most would think there is a performance drop, it’s not significant or noticeable. Also, it might be just me, but I feel the Microsoft Surface Book 2 looks like the Surface Laptop somewhat. The only difference between the two is the flanged hinge that the 2-in-1 sports. Also, it’s easy to tell that the device screams premium; from how it’s packaged in the box, up to its solid hand-holding experience and the way it is considerably well-built.
Twice the Fun
The appeal of the Microsoft Surface Book 2, like the original, is how the base unit can attach and detach from the amped up tablet. Depending on the model used, the keyboard panel comes with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU. It’s unfortunate that the smaller of the two doesn’t sport discrete graphics. Even without the add on graphics, the base is a blessing in more ways than one. Jack into the docking base, the 13.5-inch screen only rocks a 3.5mm TRRS connection. Pure sound delivery, indeed! With the keyboard attached, an extra two full-sized USB 3.1 ports, one USB Type-C jack, and a memory card reader are available for use. There is the benefit of having extra battery life as well as there is an extra power pack onboard the keyboard unit.
Silence is not All Golden
As with other devices that is under the Microsoft Surface line, the device is completely devoid of cooling fans. This means the device is, effectively, a silent-running platform. Even without the primary means of reducing temperature, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 manages to dissipate via the rear vents. That is the only means, partially explaining why it quickly heats up when under heavy loads. Even odder is how, with the right circumstance, the system will produce some coil whining. While it’s not loud, it is easy to detect in very quiet locations. Louder than the whine is the awesome click sound the Microsoft Surface Book 2 produces when the detach button is pressed. Once engage, users must wait for the audible ‘th-cak’ sound to pop first; this is to signify the dock can be separated from the screen.
While on the topic of splitting mechanisms, I must share how I’m very much in love with the detaching gimmick. It is all because the concept is very easy to do. Just tap on the detach button, wait for the detach alert to appear on the screen, and just take it out. Alternatively, just wait for that sweet clack sound. Attaching them back together is also the same. Jack the device into the base, wait for that slight whirring vibration to confirm the display is locked in, and voila! Once docked, both the base and display feel like one solid piece. As per the tests I carry out, there is no wobbling or flexing between the display and the hinge. The separation process is so intuitive and fast that it became second nature in just a few hours.
Personally, at first, the concept of a detachable portable device is unfathomable. However, once I had properly given the Microsoft Surface Book 2 a proper run, I can see the merits behind this concept. It’s a nice and easy-to-use device that fits the needs that most won’t know they have. It’s easy to bring around, converting it to tablet mode when I need to be mobile and then, with just a click, convert it into a stable laptop once I must crunch some heavy typing work. Basically, it’s for folks who travel and write a lot; they’ll find it to be really useful on the field. If there is a need for a proper 2-in-1 portable device, one that is comfortable yet is built like a tank, then the Microsoft Surface Book 2 might be well-suited.
Verdict: If you have the money, then go for this. There’ll be no regrets!
Text by: Din
(This independent review is brought to you by Thunder Match)