Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review
Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review

Microsoft's array of Surface devices have shown in the past that the software giant has mastered producing premium and desired devices that could give Apple, Lenovo and other major name manufacturers a run for their money. And today it looks like it has done it once more using the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch, an incredibly strong and flexible 2-in-1 laptop.

Together with the bigger Surface Book 2 15-inch, which we have reviewed individually, these devices represent the pinnacle of 2-in-1 laptop design, offering electricity -- and battery life -- that we have not seen before in a convertible form element.

Read more: Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 review

Microsoft has branded the Surface Book 2 the most effective Surface Book , which might not actually be saying much seeing as there's just been two preceding Surface Books, but make no mistake, this is a potent device with top-notch components.

Do not believe the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 is only a smaller, less powerful version of the 15-inch model either. This convertible laptop combines a practical feature set and fanless design using its smaller dimensions, which might be more to your liking.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review

Price and availability

Contrary to the Surface Book 2 15-inch, the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 is just available to purchase right now in the United Kingdom and Australia, rather than simply the United States. If you are outside of the US, then you will need to wait until the next year to get the Surface Book 2 15-inch model, so for most people the 13.5-inch model is going to be your only option right now.

The good thing is that Microsoft is offering the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch in a number of configurations, even though such as the 15-inch model, they come with a high price tag. Nonetheless, the 13.5-inch models are less costly than the bigger 15-inch models.

Therefore, in the US the foundation specifications of the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch model gets you a 7th Generation Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB and integrated GPU for $1,499. Meanwhile, the cheapest spec model available in the United Kingdom prices £1,499 (approximately AU$2,600).

All lands then get the exact specifications, using an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB, 256GB, and GTX 1050 GPU using 2GB GDDR5 memory for $1,999 or £1,999 (approximately AU$3,400). Meanwhile, the 8th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD and GTX 1050 GPU config goes for $2,499 or £2,499 (approximately AU$4,300).

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review

At length, the top settings, that is the only we obtained for review, includes an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD and GTX 1050 for $2,999 or £2,999 (approximately AU$5,200).

So, this a definitely a costly proposition, despite the specs, that will make most people take pause, but it is not quite as eye watering because the purchase price of the top replicas of the 15-inch model, that comes in at $3,299 (roughly £2,503, AU$4,341).

Meanwhile, the Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar starts at $2,399 (£2,349, AU$3,499) and features a 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor an AMD Radeon Pro 555 graphics with 2GB of VRAM, 16GB of memory along with a 256GB SSD -- all powering a 2,880 x 1,800-pixel 15.4-inch display at 220 pixels per inch in addition to an OLED Touch Bar.

Another choice is the Dell XPS 13 which now resides at the top of the finest laptops list. It is an excellent machine, and although it does not pack the identical high performance components as the Surface Book 2 at either dimensions, in addition, it costs a heck of a lot less, starting at $799 (£999, AU$1,899), to get a dual-core Intel Core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage paired with a full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 InfinityEdge screen. Meanwhile, the top end model includes a Core i7 CPU, 3,200 x 1,800 InfinityEdge touch display and 8GB of RAM for about half the asking price of the top ending Surface Book 2 13.5-inch model.

Pricing the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch so large reflects Microsoft's aspirations to market it like a luxury device, but its rivals are offering options that are equally as desired, and will cost a whole lot less, Microsoft needs to prove that the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch would be well worth the hefty cost.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review


We noted in our review of the 15-inch version of the Surface Book 2 that the design had barely altered in the first Surface Book, but the device was bigger to accommodate the 15-inch screen.

Together with the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 with the exact same size screen as the first, it signifies the difference in the designs is less obvious. In 312mm x 232mm x 13mm (12.3-inch x 9.14-inch x 0.51-inch), it is thinner than its predecessor, which measured 14.13 x 9.73 x 0.71 inches or 359 x 247 x 18mm, plus it weighs 164.2kg (3.62 lbs ), compared to the original 2.04kg (4.49 lbs ).

Thus, Microsoft has made a more effective version that's lighter and thinner, and this is consistently good. Another large gap between the design of the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 along with the 15-inch version, is that the 13.5-inch includes a fanless design.

This can be a rather great result of the 13.5-inch model with less strong (and therefore less power-hungry) components. The more energy a component requirements, the hotter it gets. By not needing any fans, the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 could be smaller and lighter, whilst also running practically silently.

Much like the other models, the screen of the Surface Book 2 Fragrant with a satisfying click, and Microsoft told me that the process of switching from laptop mode to tablet mode was improved, which makes for a quick and effortless process.

In the flip the Surface Book 2 in tablet mode feels fantastic, and is one of the lightest and thinnest Windows 10 tablets we have attempted. In this mode, the Surface Book 2 forfeit the extra graphics power and battery lifetime. The process of detaching the screen is quite simple, you simply tap the detach button on the keyboard, then only remove the screen.

Windows 10 reacts by turning to'Tablet' mode, which brings the Start Screen out of Windows 8, using large icons that are easy to tap . Though the Start Screen is not much adored on Windows 8, this works nicely, which makes Windows 10 simple to use from the tablet form factor -- and it remains quick and responsive.

Another wonderful touch is that if you are utilizing a demanding program or app that needs committed graphics, you will be cautioned to save your work prior to repainting the screen.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review

The iconic -- and divisive -- fulcrum hinge additionally returns with the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch. Once it prevents the device from becoming as slim as you possibly can when it is closed (think of the hinge such as the spine of a book), it lets you angle the screen easily without the device tipping over.

In terms of the trackpad and keyboard, both feel comfortable to use, together with the back-lit keyboard particularly sense good to type on thanks to significant key travel. The trackpad additionally felt responsive and smooth when used.

When flipped into a tablet, the Surface Book 2's 13.5-inch display is obviously the focus, and Microsoft understands this, providing a gorgeous PixelSense display with a resolution of 3,000 x 2,000, which equates into some 267ppi (pixels per inch) density. The 15-inch model has a greater resolution of 3,240 x 2,160, but that is more than a bigger area, therefore it really has a marginally lower pixel density of 260ppi.

Either way, the screen looks fantastic due to your 1600:1 contrast ratio that produces colors appears vibrant, while also showing off heavy blacks. The 3:2 aspect ratio provides you lots of vertical distance when using Windows 10 and its different apps, and it feels normal when used as a tablet.

But, in addition, it suggests that videos from the typical 16:9 aspect ratio have bars above and below the action.

On the sides are two full sized USB 3.1 ports, a USB-C port (which we are very happy to see), along with a full size SD card reader, that will be another welcome addition. The headphone jack port is on the top right corner of the screen, and it can be an unusual place to put it when in laptop mode, since it implies the headphone wire can get on your way while working, but it creates somewhat more sense once the Surface Book 2 is used as a tablet.

Charging is done with a proprietary'Surface Connect' port, along with the charger magnetically attaches itself once added, which can be very satisfying at a MagSafe-less world. All in all, the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch is unquestionably a superior product -- nothing about it seems cheap.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review

Surface accessories

and will spend a longer period with every one in the upcoming few days, so check back to get an enlarged review.

But in spite of our limited time together with the Surface Pen and Surface Dial, we can see that them as ordinary companions to the Surface Book 2, together with the Surface Pen specifically being an excellent companion, reacting smoothly and quickly into our scribbles and notes.

It is such a wonderful experience that we can not help but believe that Microsoft has missed a trick by not adding a Surface Pen using the Surface Book 2. Alternatively, you are going to need to pay $99 (£99, AU$139) for the stylus. Thinking about the high cost of the Surface Book 2, it may feel somewhat slippery that you are asked to shell out some excess money for the full experience.

The Surface Dial, a puck-like disk that may alter context-sensitive settings by turning it as a... well... a dialup, make sure it quantity, brush size and more, feels less necessary, but works brilliantly with all the Surface Book 2.

Watching a video, we placed the Dial on the Surface Book 2's screen and used it to alter the quantity. It all works really well, and also the context-sensitive controls popped on the screen round the Dial. Of course, using it on the screen does vague a bit of the display, but the digital-analog wheel works when it is just sitting on your desk.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review


Within our Surface Book 2 15-inch review, we state that it is the most powerful 2-in-1 laptop we have ever tested, ready to go toe-to-toe with not just every hybrid laptop available on the industry but a vast assortment of gaming laptops, also.

When we talked to Microsoft about the Surface Book 2, we had been advised its aim using the convertible was supposed to deliver desktop-like performance to a mobile device, and while it will not really compete with more powerful desktops, the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch does function brilliantly.

Read more: Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 review

It is not quite as strong as its 15-inch sibling, and though the 15-inch can handle a place of gaming as a result of the GTX 1060 GPU, together with the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2, the GTX 1050 does not deal so well, though as our benchmarks show, in case you do not mind decreasing some graphical settings, or even adhering to elderly or less graphically-intensive indie games, you should continue to have the ability to play with a few names.

On the other hand, the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch, the top specification, is more of a productivity-focused device. That should not come as much of a surprise to anybody, however if you wanted a little more flexibility to play a couple of games in your purchase, the 15-inch Surface Book 2 is the one that you ought to go for -- it has wireless connectivity to get an Xbox One controller built in also.

As you can see in the other benchmarks, the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch does a nice job for many modern tasks, and though the 2GB of graphics memory prevents it from playing several modern games, it is enough to edit photos and videos onto, in reason.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review

Additionally, as a showcase for Windows 10, Microsoft's operating system works wonderfully well on the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch, feeling fast and responsive.

Together with the Fall Creators Update already installed, you get the most recent features without any third-party apps pre-installed. This is very similar to getting a Google Pixel 2 smartphone: a piece of hardware in a software manufacturer that's been tailor made to make use of its latest and best software.

When flipped into a tablet, there is a hit about the performance, since it can not use the dedicated graphics processor, but we did not feel anything overly noticeable, and also the delight of holding the Surface Book 2 as a tablet can't be understated.

Windows 10 works nicely as a tablet OS, using a mixture of tablet-like apps and full-fat Windows programs providing you the flexibility Android and iOS tablets deficiency. Of course, the app store, recently rebranded as the Microsoft Store (previously called the Windows Store), nevertheless lacks several popular apps that Android and iOS boast, so we'd recommend that you're better off with the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch for a laptop that can sometimes become a tablet, rather than the other way round.

Battery life

Microsoft has worked tirelessly to create the battery life a standout feature of the Surface Book 2, and it has triumphed, with a stated battery life of around 17 hours of video playback. We are running tests to verify that, but so far we've seen excellent battery lifewith us throughout the day without having to top this up.

The PC Mark 8 Home battery standard, a demanding trial that emulates a normal workload, watched the battery 5 hours and 59 minutes, a really good showing, although not quite as unexpectedly long since the 15-inch's 7 hours 39 minutes.

We'll update this review once the video quality has finished, but for today we may safely say that the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 is shaping up to be a trusted performer in regards to all day computing.

When in tablet mode the battery lifetime is reduced, because there are just two batteries, one from the human body and a smaller one behind the screen, but it still lasted a good four hours using casual use, and you are able to control the Surface Book 2 in tablet mode without needing to attach it into the remainder of the human body.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch) review

General assessment

Much like the 15-inch version, the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 is a fantastic device, and also the most effective 2-in-1 laptop we have attempted. If you are following an excellent showcase for Windows 10, including the newest features of the Fall Creators Update, for example Windows Mixed Reality, then you will probably love the Surface Book 2.

It seems just like Microsoft set out to earn a premium and desired convertible laptop with no expense spared, in order to get excellent performance and incredible battery life.

But this no expense spared ethos does imply that these expenses are passed to you, personally, so this isn't a inexpensive device. That cost is going to place a great deal of people off, and it is a shame because you would be missing out on the very best 2-in-1 laptop up to now.

If you can afford this, and you are fully invested in Microsoft's ecosystem, then the Surface Book 2 13.5-inch is certainly worth consideration, particularly when the 15-inch version is a little too large to carry around.