When Microsoft released the original Surface Laptop back in 2017, it shocked the world with its first-ever dedicated laptop. Almost immediately, we had to ask: why launch a laptop that’s straight down the middle when you’ve become the tastemaker in touch-led mobile computing.
Well, the Surface Laptop 2 is a distilled answer to that question. While it doesn’t iterate on much, this sequel is frankly what the original Surface Laptop should have been: a pure, powerful, Windows 10 laptop experience.
Given its slightly unusual 13.5-inch display, the Surface Laptop 2 could use some updated ports. However, the lack of ports doesn’t really hold the Surface Laptop 2 back. In fact, the internal improvements make the Surface Laptop 2 worth your time and money, and is among the best laptops 2018 has to offer.
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.
Of course, this can all be upgraded – save for the screen – to Intel Core i7 processors, up to 1TB of SSD space and as much as 16GB of memory.
To have the Surface Laptop 2 as configured in our review, with a 256GB SSD, that would cost you $1,299 (about £988, AU$1,817).
The Surface Laptop 2 costs about the same as the original, with an Intel Core i5 processor, and is at the same level as other leading 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.
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 that, though, the Surface Laptop 2 is virtually 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 it was, which is going to be great news for both students and mobile professionals.
Even the display is the same, which we can’t complain about – it was an impressive screen for starters. In the sequel, blacks look just as deep and the reds just as sharp and vibrant, with touch response being swift. People with tasks to do with appreciate the taller 3:2 aspect ratio as well, though it makes for a bit more of wasted space when you’re watching 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, perhaps 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 supports the latest USB 3.1 standard – and a Mini DisplayPort.
With the amount of empty space in the Surface Laptop 2, there’s really no excuse for the Surface Laptop to have as few ports as it does. Not to mention that its ports aren’t up to the latest standards. By comparison, the 13-inch 2018 MacBook Pro has a whopping four Thunderbolt 3 ports, whereas the Dell XPS 13 has two – on top of a microSD card reader and a third USB-C 3.1 port. Both of these are smaller laptops than the Surface Laptop 2.