Is the Surface Book 2 a MacBook Pro Killer?
This is the MacBook Pro, and it is Apple’s most expensive laptop. Now this is actually computer that we’ve edited all of our videos for the last year on. However, starting at $2,400, it does not come cheap. That’s where Microsoft comes in with the new Surface Book 2. Now full disclosure. They actually did send this out for review. However, as a laptop starting at $2,500, I’m curious to see how it stacks up. So I actually did a video on the original Surface Book a couple of years ago and it was a very, very weird concept. So the idea here is that you’re getting a computer that on the surface looks very much similar to something like a MacBook, but you can actually detach the screen and turn it into a tablet.
Pop this guy open, and the first thing we see is the well, the Surface Book itself. What really makes this unique is the hinge. So as you can see, when you close the laptop, it actually doesn’t go completely flat, and that’s because, so if you press the button here for a second, what you’ll be able to do is remove the actual tablet. Put these two side by side, and at first glance, they look pretty similar but there are a ton of differences. So first of all, while they do have 15-inch displays each, the port selection is very different. Where the MacBook has four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on either side, the Surface instead has a single USB C paired with a Surface connector for charging and docking, but importantly, it also two full-size USB A ports and an SD-card reader. When it comes to screens, it is really hard to argue with either of these laptops, but the Surface is slightly sharper, with a resolution of 3240 by 2160 compared to 2880 by 1800 on the MacBook, and the Surface has the added benefit of being a touchscreen. Where the Surface Book 2 really excels is in performance.
So inside, it has a Core i7-8650U, a GTX 1060, 16 gigs of RAM, and anywhere between 256 gigs and one terabytes of SSD storage. With a GTX 1060 inside, this is going to be a very powerful laptop when it comes to video editing and even gaming. So to put things in context, a 1060 is usually what you’d find in fairly high-end gaming laptops, but one of the advantages of the Surface Book is that it’s still fairly thin. Microsoft has updated the Surface Book design since the original, so one of the main things is is that you can now open and close it without having to put a hand on it to sort of steady it, and the hinge feels good.
So in tablet mode, you do get the full PC experience. So the main thing is you’re pretty much losing all the ports besides the headphone jack but what’s cool is you can actually just drop it right back on, even backwards, and you can have yourself a super cool, even weirder than usual looking computer. It might be a bit low-key at this point, but I really appreciate the addition of a USB C port. So yeah, it might not be Thunderbolt, but I’ve actually moved a lot of my accessories to USB C at this point, and it is really nice to be able to use a single cable to not only connect to a monitor but to get power into the laptop. Speaking of power, I love the idea that I can use a single power adaptor for not only the laptop but also my Pixel or even a MacBook. I like the keyboard. So the keys are on the stiff side, but unlike on the MacBook, there’s actual travel here. Now I do think I slightly prefer the way that the butterfly switches work on the MacBook Pro but you’re not going to be disappointed with either of these.
Something interesting is that Microsoft slightly tapers the middle of the keyboard and then it comes down on the sides, and it’s kind of hard to see this on video, but when actually typing, what it means is that your fingers are going to be slightly elevated, which for me alleviates a lot of wrist strain. The trackpad is decent. So as you’d expect from a Microsoft device, it is a Windows Precision touchpad and that means that not only do you get the additional three-fingered gestures like swiping up to pull up your desktops, but it also tracks really accurately. As good as it might be though, it can’t match the MacBook Pro. This trackpad is enormous. I mean seriously, it’s like the size of my hand. Now yes, you can totally abide with the Surface, but Apple has the best trackpads in the business. As you’d expect from a device straight from Microsoft, there’s basically no bloat in Windows, except there actually kind of is.
So in a lot of laptops, this included have a few different preinstalled games such as March of Empires, Candy Crush, and while that’s fine on a $300 laptop, when I’m paying over $3,000 for a laptop, I don’t want to have any bloatware at all. And sure, it’s easy enough to uninstall but it just feels weird that they’re trying to make a few extra bucks on something that’s this expensive. Where the Surface Book 2 really shines is in performance. So side by side with the MacBook, you can see that for shorter periods and single-threaded tasks, it does hold up pretty well, but on the multi-threaded side, you’re going to lose some performance, but the real star of the show here is that GPU. With the GTX 1060 inside, well, you should be using this for video editing. I’m playing some Rocket League. Now I actually will say that with this much power, you can play a lot more demanding games than Rocket League, but even at 2560 by 1600 with pretty much all the settings cranked up, this looks really nice.
We’re getting anywhere between like 60 and 70 frames per second, and because this is Microsoft, there’s a little bit of Xbox inside the Surface, as there is an Xbox One wireless radio built in. Now what’s interesting about having a GTX 1060 in a laptop that’s so thin is that besides the battery, the base of it is totally dedicated to cooling it. So yes, it’s a little bit loud, but no worse than most gaming laptops, and it’s a lot thinner. For 15-inch laptops, battery life actually isn’t bad. So the MacBook should go for around 10 hours, where the Surface is rated for up to 17 hours. Now that part of that is because it has two batteries, one in the screen and one in the base, but something to keep in mind with both of these guys is that when you’re actually doing heavier lifting such as gaming and especially video editing, expect that number to be a lot less. The Surface has a pair of front-firing speakers in the screen and it sounds good, but the MacBook sounds phenomenal. It has two giant speakers beside the actual keyboard and this is hands-down the best-sounding laptop I’ve ever tried.
When it comes to price, both of these laptops are incredibly expensive. So the Surface Book starts at $2,500, but that’s only with a 256 gig SSD. Bump that up to 512, and you’re at $2,900. The MacBook is $100 cheaper but I don’t think that’s going to change anyone’s mind at this price point. If you can take advantage of the extra GPU horsepower and especially the ability to use stuff like the Surface pen, the Surface dial for maybe something like graphics work, then the Surface can make sense. However, when it comes to the MacBook, it’s just a solid laptop all around. It’s thinner, it’s lighter, and while the touchbar might seem like a gimmick, it really doesn’t affect the actual laptop itself, and stuff like Touch ID is actually really helpful to have. The Surface does have a wider variety of ports, but I’ve got to say over the last year, having four Thunderbolt 3 ports on the MacBook has come in handy quite a bit.
The Surface Book 2 might be the most incredibly engineered laptop you can buy today. Everything from the hinge, which while maybe not perfect, is actually a really clever way of doing something like this to cramming everything you need for a full 15-inch PC into the thin screen, they’ve done an incredible job. However, the MacBook kind of wins in its simplicity. Both of these laptops are available in a smaller 13-inch size, and in that comparison, the GTX 1050 inside the smaller Surface book is a major contender with the MacBook pro.
However, when you look at the 15-inch sizes, the Surface Book is a hard sell. So what do you guys think about the new Surface Book 2? Let me know in the comments below and I will catch you in the next one..