When I first heard about it, the Surface Book seems like a bit of an odd duck. It seems like Microsoft, having been stung before on pure tablets, decided to opt for a full spectrum approach. The initial Surface devices were laptopy tablets, aka tablets that could be serviceable as laptop with a kickstand and detachable keyboard. The Surface Book, originally released in 2015, takes the opposite approach, a tablety laptop, a lap friendly computer that can detach into a tablet.
When Microsoft released the Surface Book 2, they expanded the product line, offering a 15-inch to complement the existing 13-inch form factor. At 13-inches, the detached Surface Book tablet was beefy in size, on par with the original iPad Pro. But at 15-inches, I have to question why this isn’t just a touchscreen laptop. For the benefit of an unwieldy tablet, what do you gain? Redundant components, added expense, an increase in weight don’t seem like very good tradeoffs.
Thomas Mauerer recently got his hands on the larger Surface Book 2, and seems to have a much more positive experience than I’m giving it credit for. He’s impressed with the build quality, high-res 3:2 display, and graphical prowess of the discrete Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU. A change over to an NVMe SSD also seems to have picked up performance, making it a nice machine to run Docker or some Hyper-V VMs.
There does seem to be one glaring omission. While I’ve decried the exclusive use of Thunderbolt 3 ports on the MacBook Pro, having one or two on a machine seems like a boon. While I think they’re overkill on a consumer facing machine, the Surface Book line always seems aimed at professionals (perhaps with some hint of aspiration). Thunderbolt 3 would open up a wider assortment of dock options (as opposed to Microsoft’s proprietary Surface connector), but more importantly, would allow for the use of external GPUs. For a machine that’s aimed at professionals, and already embraces a mixed mobility use case, having a desktop grade GPU available while docked would totally change its potential use case. The included mobile Nvidia options are nice, but are paltry replacements for its desktop cousin.
The Surface Book is a impressive engineering feat, putting a Intel powered tablet in a usable laptop form factor. But as a product, I think it’s still debatably useful. I think Microsoft admitted that to themselves with the launch of the Surface Laptop.
Thomas Maurer comments:
Read more at: My First Impressions of the Surface Book 2
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