Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 review

A sleek, strong and silent sequel

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Our Verdict

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 is, from top to bottom, a worthy sequel to the original device. This new model vastly improves the laptop’s power profile and, while it doesn't include tangible design changes, it ultimately achieves the most pure Windows 10 experience on a laptop.

For

  • Competitive power level
  • Lovely new black color scheme
  • Quieter keyboard
  • No more Windows 10 S Mode

Against

  • No Thunderbolt 3 option
  • Too few ports for its size

When Microsoft unleashed the first Surface Laptop way back in 2017, we were all surprised with its first ‘traditional’ laptop. However, we had to ask “why release a laptop that’s right down the middle, when you’ve made a name for yourself as a tastemaker for touch-based mobile computing?”

Surface Laptop news

Well, the follow-up, the Surface Laptop 2, is an answer to that question. While it doesn’t iterate on much, the sequel is exactly what the original should have been: a pure, powerful, Windows 10 laptop experience.  

But, on top of a strange 13.5-inch display, the Surface Laptop is in dire need of more modern ports. It’s not that big of a deal, though, because the internal improvements help make the Surface Laptop 2 a force to be reckoned with, and is definitely worth your time and money in 2019.

Surface Laptop 2

Spec Sheet

Here is the Surface Laptop 2 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-8250U (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.4GHz boost)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB LPDDR3
Screen: 13.5-inch, 2,256 x 1,504 resolution PixelSense display (10-point multi-touch, 3:2 aspect ratio)
Storage: 256GB SSD
Ports: 1x USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect port, headphone/mic jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2 x 2 MIMO), Bluetooth 4.1 (Low Energy)
Camera: 720p HD webcam with infrared for Windows Hello
Weight: 2.76 pounds (1.25kg)
Size: 12.13 x 8.79 x 0.57 inches (308.1 x 223.27 x 14.48mm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

Microsoft is asking for $999 (£979, AU$1,499) for the starting model of Surface Laptop 2, which is available now.

That comes with everything you see to the right, but with just 128GB of of SSD space.

You can of course upgrade the Surface Laptop 2, save for the display, to an intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.

If you’re looking to pick up the Surface Laptop 2 we reviewed here, with a 256GB SSD, you’ll have to fork over $1,299 (about £988, AU$1,817).

It’s about the same price as the first Surface Laptop, and it’s around the same price point as comparable Ultrabooks, like the Dell XPS 13.

If you want this level of power from Apple, it’ll be at least $1,799 (£1,749, AU$2,699) for the 13-inch MacBook Pro 

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Design and display

So little has noticeably changed, frankly, regarding the original Surface Laptop short of a major new color option. Yeah, the Surface Laptop 2 has an all-black color variant now that looks absolutely beautiful, and feels fantastic to boot.

Beyond the new color option, the Surface Laptop 2 is basically the same as its predecessor, only much more powerful. It’s just as thin and light as before, 0.57 inches (14.48mm) and 2.76 pounds (1.25kg), respectively. The Surface Laptop 2 is just as portable as before, which is awesome news for mobile professionals and students alike.

And, while the display hasn’t changed but, we’re not complaining: it was an impressive screen already. The Surface Laptop 2’s display has blacks that look just as deep and the reds are sharp and vibrant, with touch response being swift. If you have a lot of work to do, you’ll fall in love with the tall 3:2 aspect ratio, also, but you’ll have to deal with some black bars if you watch 16:9 videos.

Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t include its $99 (£99, AU$139) Surface Pen stylus to take full advantage of the touch display.

Microsoft claims to have made the Surface Laptop 2 keyboard quieter than before, and we can confidently say that this has to be among the most silent keyboards we’ve ever tested. Our coworkers couldn’t even hear our typing in an otherwise quiet open-office environment. 

The fact that Microsoft has achieved this while maintaining impressive force under our fingers is worth lauding. That said, the spacing of the keys could be a little narrower for our liking.

As for the touchpad, there’s little to report here: it’s a fine tracking device that’s spacious, smooth and responsive. The inputs are made that much nicer by the Alcantara fabric that surrounds them – it’s simply something more pleasant to rest your hands on than aluminum.

However, maybe Microsoft hasn’t iterated enough on the design. The second generation of this laptop is still without Thunderbolt 3, much less even USB-C 3.1. You’re still stuck with a single USB 3.0 – yes, not even the traditional USB port can support the latest USB 3.1 standard – and a Mini DisplayPort.

The Surface Laptop 2 chassis has enough empty space, that there’s no excuse for it to be so light on ports. And, the ports that are present aren’t up to 2019 standards. By comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and the Dell XPS 13 2018 has two – on top of a microSD card reader and a third USB-C 3.1 port. The kicker? Both of these laptops are smaller than the Surface Laptop 2. 

  • Images Credit: TechRadar