Surface Book 2

I picked up my Surface Book 2 (SB2) from the UPS Store last Friday and wanted to provide my impressions.

Setup was in the Wow category.  You turn on the SB2, connect to WiFi, answer a couple of questions, log into your Microsoft account, and a few minutes later I’m looking at the same lock screen as on my other PCs.  This is really a testament to Windows 10 improvements, but when combined with the speed of the SB2 the experience is almost scary good.  Next I signed the SB2 up for Windows Insider builds then went back to tuning up the system.  I’d expected it would take a day for the Windows Insider build to come through, but it started downloading immediately.  That too was an unusually good experience.

One of the most impressive things about the setup process, but also the most confusing, is what to do about Microsoft Office.  The SB2 comes with the Microsoft Office apps preinstalled.  It also has the Get Office app prominently displayed.  As an Office 365 Home subscriber I was left confused on what my next step should be.  Do I go to and add the machine, which would trigger an Office 365 install?  Do I click on Get Office? That is really counterintuitive given Office is already there.  Then it occurred to me that the Office apps already have the ability to log in to your Microsoft Account, and I wondered what would happen if I just did that. I ran Microsoft Word and logged into my Microsoft Account and it automatically configured the SB2 up as one of my Office 365 machines.  Basically there is no setup needed for Office 365, just log in.  IF you know that’s all you need to do.  Next up for Microsoft, find a way to make this clearer.

I’d picked up the SB2 mid-afternoon and, despite having a lot of other things to do that day, by my normal bedtime it was completely ready for use and customized like I’d been using it for months.

Although it has only been 4 days, the SB2 has been rock solid.  When I got my original Surface Book a couple of years ago there were signs of flakiness (crashes, failure to sleep, etc.) right out of the gate.  I’ll know better in a few weeks, but initial impression is that Microsoft took the reported quality issues in the Surface line to heart before releasing the SB2.

On the batter front I did no formal measurement.  What I did was charge the SB2 overnight Saturday and then see how long I could go between charges with just normal use.  It was a lighter usage period than normal for me, still it was Tuesday night, with 32% battery still remaining, when I decided to charge again.  Even with the original SB I would find colleagues with Macbooks bringing chargers to day-long meetings while I would squeeze by without one.  With the SB2 I’d never feel the need to carry a charger with me for the business day.  And could easily see myself going a couple of my normal usage days before needing a charge.

One of the original SB complaints was that the screen gave a little too much when you touched it.  The SB2 screen seems stiffer, much more comparable to regular notebooks with touch screens.  Another complaint was lapability.  Since the SB/SB2 “screen” is a full tablet with its own battery it is top heavy.  With the SB this meant that if you placed it on a surface with even a slight backward slant, such as your legs when sitting, when you lifted your hands from the keyboard it would fall over backwards.  The SB2 seems a little more balanced, but not a lot.  If I kept my legs square while sitting then it was great on my lap.  But if there was a slant towards the back you could see the front edge of the base unit start to lift up.  So you need to be a little careful when using the SB2 on your lap.  My lapability rating is “acceptable”, but if you are a heavy lap user there are better options.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with my SB2.  Maybe after a few weeks of real use I’ll find something negative to say, but right now it gets a 5/5 star rating from me.

Update (11/23): I realized I used the SB2 on my lap for a few hours last night without experiencing, or even thinking about, it tumbling off.  Just want to be clear that lapability really is acceptable.  



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6 Responses to Surface Book 2

  1. Safrane says:

    I am surprised when I read reviews about Surface devices, and most of the complains are around the software. You would think that Microsoft is a hardware company based on that 🙂
    Props to the Surface team for coming out with such impressive quality after only a few years.

    • halberenson says:

      A key contributor to bad PC experiences over the years has been Microsoft’s lack of control over the OEM’s hardware, drivers, and crap ware installation. With Microsoft’s own hardware they do not have these excuses, so the expectation is that they will eliminate the software issues that keep the experience from being perfect on OEM machines.

  2. I was surprised you opted into Insider builds so soon. I was hoping for some commentary on the OOBE version of Windows. I love my SP 4 but I find myself rebooting a bit too often to fix issues such as the Movies app deciding to lose the title bar or any number of other things that just stop working. A good app to keep an eye on after time goes by is the “reliability monitor”. It will show a graph of red X’s showing all the things that went wrong in computer land.

    I think the Consumer Reports stuff must have been these types of things that tech oriented people would get by with pretty quickly but not every consumer knows how to solve, issues such as the the X to close the People App when maximized; simply stops working every now and then, on every single computer I own, which is a LOT. It is those issues which seem small to the tech crowd that end up being a pretty big deal to Grandma. Maybe Grandma won’t run into the Office issue that you did, but there are any number of similar type issues, that only someone who works at Amazon would understand. Amazon REALLY gets consumers, Microsoft can get there, but they refuse to sweat certain details, it can be very aggravating. I know a lot of Consumers that are still searching for a way to send an email to a contact group in the Mail App. No can do.

    After all that I still love Windows 10 more than any other OS. It used to take me a day to reinstall Win7 with all updates etc. I can now if needed, blow away any PC and have it clean installed and fully updated in an hour. That is something I am somewhat forced to do with any new computer I setup for Consumers, because they usually come with early builds that would take way too long to update. That’s huge for what I do. Windows is finally becoming a great Consumer OS just time for Microsoft to give up on Consumers, sorry for the snark, its a WinMobile, Groove, thing, can’t seem to let it go.

    Looking forward to future updates from you, I am thinking about plopping down for an SB2, just trying to hold off a bit more. Post a screenshot of that reliability monitor sometime in the future, it really tells a story.


    • halberenson says:

      Since I didn’t get the SB2 to write about it, but rather to use it, no reason not to go with insider builds asap.

      The reliability monitor is always interesting, but I’ve never seen a Windows system where it didn’t turn to s**t. I expect the same to happen to this one.

  3. Joseph Williams says:

    What’s your system configuration, Hal?

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