The Microsoft Surface Book 2 looks a lot like the original Surface Book, which is great news for those who fear change. It’s still got that vast 3:2 ratio screen, above a great slab of a base that looks like it could have been hewn from a single cuboid of brushed metal Microsoft discovered floating through space.
The distinctive fulcrum hinge returns, and still leaves a small, wedge-shaped gap between the board and the screen when the laptop is shut, something that Microsoft’s designers presumably embraced as a bold aesthetic flourish rather than a weird engineering oversight.
The Surface Book 2 is Microsoft’s most powerful 2-in-1 PC, going shoulder to shoulder with Apple’s Macbook Pro in terms of performance and pricing. But what truly sets it apart from Apple – and other Surface machines – is the radical form factor of the thing. This is Microsoft’s attempt at replacing your desktop computer and tablet with one pretty, do-it-all, workhorse of a device.
At the press of a button the touchscreen can be snapped off entirely, flipped around and reattached to become a gently angled graphics pad, or used on its own as a powerful Windows 10 tablet. Yoinking the screen off in public usually elicits an ‘ooh’ from anybody in the room who hasn’t seen this happen already, and has the added benefit of making you look like you just hulked out over a spreadsheet.
The Surface Book 2 is also now compatible with the Surface Dial – that curious magnetic knob peripheral that attaches to any part of the screen and allows you to zoom in and out, or rotate through colour swatches and brush sizes using one hand.
It runs the full version of Windows 10 for grown-ups who have serious business to do, and so is an ideal machine for power users, creatives and those unwilling to compromise with whittled down (or non-existent) mobile versions of Windows apps.
The Surface Book 2 is also now compatible with the Surface Dial – that curious magnetic knob peripheral that attaches to any part of the screen and allows you to zoom in and out, or rotate through colour swatches and brush sizes using one hand. Coupled with the excellent Microsoft Pen – a separately sold stylus that magnetically clings to the screen’s edge like a baby chimp when not in use – it makes the Surface Book 2 an irresistable proposition for digital artists (albeit not starving ones, considering the asking price for this little lot).
The entry level, 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 starts from £1,499. The faster configuration costs a pound under two grand, but is worth the additional bruise in your bank account if you plan on procrastinating during meetings. That version includes an Nvidia GPU built into the keyboard base, which boosts the performance of the Surface Book when it’s in one piece – both a lovely metaphor for marriage and a means to play Assassin’s Creed at a decent framerate.
There’s a 15-inch version of the Surface Book 2 launching in the UK on 15 February too, a scaled-up beast that starts at £2,349 and boasts a billboard-sized display that’s visible from the moon.
While the old foibles still persist – the hinge doesn’t open far enough, the stylus should really be standard, and it’s as exactly as heavy as you’d expect something this expensive to weigh – the Surface Book 2 is an absolute powerhouse laptop, and the best Windows 10 2-in-1 you can buy.