Surface Book 2 release date, price, news and features

At long last, after two years spent longing for a sequel to Microsoft’s first laptop, namely the Surface Book, we’ve reached the final stretch. The Surface Book 2 is almost here, but will the wait be worth it? Perhaps it might. 

We’ve already gone hands-on with next-generation 2-in-1 laptop. However, in a mere matter of days, we’ll get to experience the Surface Book 2 for the first time as it was meant to be experienced. 

Now, before we get started delving into its release date, price and features, let’s temper your expectations for the Surface Book 2. 

First of all, don’t anticipate a fully overhauled design. Appearance-wise, the Surface Book 2 looks virtually identical to its predecessor. It still has its controversial fulcrum hinge, only this time it’s been revamped to be sturdier. 

The real changes have taken place on the inside, where the Surface Book 2 has been graced with a considerable boost in performance.

Whether opting for more power is a successful strategy compared to Apple’s push for thinner and lighter notebooks, often at the cost of keyboard quality and power, remains to be seen. 

What we do know is that the Surface Book 2, now available in both 13- and 15-inch form factors across seven hardware configurations, is set to imminently arrive with better specs. Let’s explore more about that, shall we?

Cut to the chase

  • What is Surface Book 2? The sequel to Microsoft's first laptop
  • When is Surface Book 2 out? November 16
  • What will it cost? Starts at $1,499 (£1,499, $2,199)

Surface Book 2 release date

In October 2017, Microsoft confirmed to TechRadar that its second full-on convertible laptop would touch down on November 16 in the US as well as 10 other markets, including the UK and Australia. 

It’s on this date that we’ll see not only a new 13.5-inch Surface Book, but a 15-incher as well. That’s 30 days after the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update graced Microsoft-supported PCs with support for the company’s Mixed Reality headsets, more widespread Paint 3D integration and improved gaming features.

More on the Surface Book 2 though: Microsoft will start taking pre-orders for its newest notebook on November 9.

Surface Book 2 price and configurations

Starting at $1,499 (£1,499, AU$2,199), the Surface Book 2 costs about the same in all regions as the OG Surface Book. Though, with a total of seven configurations to choose from, the price is sure to escalate from there.

The 13.5-inch model alone will be available in four configurations, the cheapest of which comes with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5-7300U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of PCIe SSD storage space.

Should you care to spend some extra cash, you can net a 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-8650U, 16GB of RAM and either 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of SSD space paired with the same 13.5-inch display and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card equipped with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM.

Meanwhile, the 15-inch Surface Book 2 packs an i7-8650U chip, 16GB of RAM and either 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of SSD storage along with a GTX 1060 GPU sporting 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM.

surface book 2

We're about to see another clash of chrome logos in coffee shops everywhere

An even bigger (and better) screen

The Core i5 edition Surface Book 2 is only slightly lighter than its precursor at 3.38 pounds, or 1,533 grams with the keyboard attached. But, it’s clear Microsoft wasn’t focused on making things thinner this time around, but rather, making its laptop more powerful and impressive, spec-wise.

You can expect a higher resolution on the 15-inch model, for instance, albeit a lower pixel density due to the size bump. At 3,240 x 2,160, this version of the Surface Book won’t look any sharper than it did before, but at least the company didn’t stretch the existing 3,000 x 2,000 PixelSense resolution to fit the new dimensions.

The 13.5-inch Surface Book does stick with the same 3,000 x 2,000 pixel resolution of its predecessor, leaving it with 267 pixels-per-inch compared to the Surface Book 2’s 260 ppi. Both come close to 4K, but seeing as Microsoft decided to keep the glaring 3:2 aspect ratio, expect thick black bars when you’re watching TV and even moreso with some movies.

The fulcrum hinge is still there to keep the display attached to the keyboard, although Microsoft does say it’s been ‘refined’ for a “more stable touch experience.” The PixelSense display featured on both the 13.5- and 15-inch Surface Book 2 models can be used with the next-generation Surface Pen and Surface Dial.

Undeterred by the resolution increase on the 15-inch Surface Book 2, its maker promises a 5-hour battery life in tablet mode and a 17-hour battery life while docked. But, we’ll believe it when we see it considering the first Surface Book lasted only 3 hours and 58 minutes in our own internal testing.

We get more power

Interestingly enough, every Surface Book 2 bears Windows 10 Pro pre-installed with the Creators Update – not the latest Fall Creators Update. Then again, we can imagine there are many units already packed up and headed to retailers given that Microsoft’s next 2-in-1 laptop comes out next month.

Rather than gracing the Surface Book 2 with the newest version of its operating system, however, Microsoft is focused on delivering the cutting-edge specs that admittedly make us want to toss our Apple products. In fact, Microsoft boasts that its second hybrid notebook is twice as powerful as Apple’s pro-grade clamshell.

Certainly, this has to do with the discrete graphics tech found in higher tier Surface Book 2 models. Whereas the MacBook Pro only gets AMD Radeon Pro 555 and 560 graphics in its 15-inch configurations, both the 13- and 15-inch Surface Book 2 laptops can be built-to-order with Nvidia Pascal-series GPUs.

Likewise, the MacBook Pro hasn’t been updated with Intel’s 8th-generation processors yet, while the Surface Book 2 is stacked with the an assortment of the freshest quad-core selections from the Santa Clara chipmaker.

Finally, the Surface Book 2 has a single USB Type-C port, regardless of which build you opt for. Don’t expect Thunderbolt 3, though, because this is a simple first-gen USB 3.1 port that can deliver power in and out and output video to an external monitor.

Luckily, it still uses its two proprietary Surface Connect ports for charging, so you won’t have to buy an adapter to use the USB-C port for miscellaneous activities while you’re refilling its battery gauge. Plus you’ll be able to play with one of Microsoft’s Mixed Reality headsets with your Surface Book plugged into the wall since it now meets the requirements.

surface book 2

Bigger, sharper and light as ever

A race to beat its new rivals?

At the very least, we need a device that can handle the latest Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. So, it would make sense, given the conjectured release frame, to refresh the Surface Book with Intel's newest Kaby Lake Refresh processors.

The Kaby Lake architecture supports up to quad-core processors as the default configuration with a thermal envelope of up to 95 Watts (W), meaning it shouldn't be a battery hog even with increased performance. What’s more, Kaby Lake offers native support of the faster USB 3.1 Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 specifications in addition to CPU/GPU performance enhancements.

That said, the Surface Book 2 will need better battery support overall, as the original provides only 4 hours of activity in the Clipboard and only 8 hours of juice in the base (based on our tests). Customers eager to use the Clipboard on its own would no doubt be disappointed by the current battery’s inept sustenance while consuming 4K video.

An improved battery would also be needed to support a built-in recharge dock for the Surface Pen. If a patent filing from late last year is to be believed, Microsoft may have an improved Surface Pen loop in the works that would not only holster the Surface Pen itself, but simultaneously charge it via the USB port on supported Surface devices.

More power might also be needed for an updated, discrete GPU option, too. As previously stated, the current model has an option for a Nvidia GeForce graphics chip based on the Maxwell architecture, which has a thermal envelope of up to 75W.

If Microsoft were to offer, say, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics chip, the power wattage requirements wouldn’t skyrocket and DirectX 12 support would assuredly be in the cards. This would fare well with gamers looking to take advantage of the latest API on their rotating laptop screen.

What would make the Surface Book 2 really shine is if it were to be VR-ready. It’s not too far-fetched, either, considering Microsoft’s own Mixed Reality headsets will be available on October 17, and the system requirements are substantially lower than that of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, though notably the current Surface Book doesn’t meet them.

surface book 2

Spoiler: the Surface Book 2 is just as photogenic

A race to beat its new rivals?

There was a good deal of talk about when the Surface Book 2 will be released and what it will contain leading up to its official announcement. A handful of reports with dodgy reliability speculated that the sequel to Microsoft’s first notebook was supposed to come out last summer alongside the Anniversary Update.

Of course, that never happened and a Surface Book 2 didn’t arrive in time to beat Apple’s mid-2017 MacBook Pro to market. 

Yet, with Mac shipments struggling, perhaps Microsoft was better off taking its time to launch a fully realized Surface Book 2 with more substantial upgrades instead of taking the Cupertino approach and refreshing its lineups within seven months of each other. Still, there’s a lot we don’t know about the Surface Book 2, including the price tags of specifically configured models. 

For all of your Surface Book 2 news, rumors and reviews, stay tuned to TechRadar as we gear up for that sweet November 16 release date.

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Gabe Carey has also contributed to this report