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Which Surface Book 2 Should You Buy?

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The Surface Book 2 is the most powerful Windows 2-in-1 Microsoft has ever made. That makes deciding which Surface Book 2 you should buy very complicated.

Some Surface Book 2 models are more powerful than others. For those on a budget, Microsoft has a Surface Book 2 that has a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor. Spending more money gets you a model with an 8th-Generation quad-core Intel Core i7 processor that’s better for gaming. There are three graphics configurations and three different amounts of built-in storage.

But before you can choose the right internals you need to choose the right screen size. Microsoft sells models with a 13.5-inch display and a 15-inch display. The 13.5-inch model is easier to carry and takes up less space in your bag. Buy a 15-inch model and you can expect the best gaming and entertainment experience possible on a Surface device. Both models work with the Surface Pen most associated with the 2017 Surface Pro.

Read: Surface Book 2 Release Date, Features & Details

Use this guide to decide which Surface Book 2 you should buy.

How Every Surface Book 2 is the Same

Despite all the different configurations, all Surface Book 2 devices are the same in some ways. It’s important to learn about those similarities before you make your final decision.

Every Surface Book 2 looks and feels the same. They’re all made of silver magnesium. A button on the keyboard allows you to detach their displays from their keyboard deck and use just their screens as a tablet. You can flip the display around to prop the laptop up like a tent or fully close the laptop with the back of the tablet facing the keyboard deck to get longer battery life and a comfortable touch experience.

Their internals are also similar. Each has enough battery to last 17 hours on a single charge. Their displays can detect 4,096 different levels of pressure from the Surface Pen. On-screen controls pop-up in Windows 10 when you place a Surface Dial on them. Both have 2 USB 4.1 ports, 1 USB Type-C port, a headphone jack and an SD card reader. The SD card reader and USB Type-C port are unique to Surface Book 2; the 2017 Surface Pro and Surface Laptop have Mini-Display Port and MicroSD.

Read: 7 Best Surface Laptop Accessories

Finally, the sensors built into these devices are the same. No Surface Book 2 has a fingerprint reader. Instead, every model is equipped with a Windows Hello camera that scans your face. An 8-megapixel rear-facing camera lets you capture pictures and video of the world around you. There’s an ambient light sensor, a magnetometer, a gyroscope and a proximity sensor in each device.

How Some Surface Book 2s Are Different

Now, let’s break down how each Surface Book 2 is different because those differences are very important.

When you buy a Surface Book 2 13.5” you get a lighter, less power-hungry device. This model weighs 3.62-pounds at the most. The 13.5-inch display in these models has a resolution of 3000×2000, making them sharper than the displays on Surface Book 2 15”.

The model with 13.5-inch display is easier to hold and use with a Surface Pen.

Be careful as you pick your Surface Book 2 13.5” hardware configuration. An Intel Core i5 model uses Intel’s 7th Generation processors. This leaves you with less processing power than the 8th Generation processors in more expensive configurations.

Also, by choosing a model with a 13.5-inch display, you leave yourself with Surface Book 2’s least powerful graphics options. Either you get a model with integrated graphics that are terrible for gaming or a GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card that has just 2GB of dedicated RAM.

Because of these limitations, Surface Book 2 isn’t the best gaming experience you can buy. That being said, it’s fine for editing videos, photo editing and working in productivity apps. Also, it’s still a first-class email and web browsing experience.

Buyers of Surface Book 2 15” get a 4.20-pound device to stuff in their bag. There’s also a bigger, 95W power supply with the PC so that you can charge your smartphone or tablet with the laptop at the same time. It has a 15-inch PixelSense display, but this display is slightly less sharp than the display in the models with the smaller screen.

Only the larger Surface Book 2 has built-in Xbox Wireless support for gaming.

You can’t lower the price of the Surface Book 2 15” by cutting RAM, processing power or graphics power because every Surface Book 2 15” comes with 16GB of RAM and an 8th Generation Quad-Core Intel Core i7 processor. This processor can turbo boost to 4.2GHz, compared to the max 3.5GHz boost of the smaller, less expensive Surface Book 2 13.5”. The more money you spend on any Surface Book 2, the more storage space you get for your music, pictures, games and video.

Read: 7 Xbox Games on Windows 10 Worth Playing

Finally, there’s one big difference that even Microsoft doesn’t make clear on the Surface website. Because it’s the ultimate gaming experience, only the Surface Book 2 15” pairs directly with Xbox wireless accessories. If you go with the smaller device, you must rely on Bluetooth to pair your Xbox One Wireless controller. Bluetooth limits you to mono audio output through the controller’s built-in headset jack and introduces a small bit of latency between when you push a button and when your game responds.

Read: How to Use Xbox on Windows 10

Surface Book 2 Specs & Price Breakdown

StorageRAMGraphicsPrice
13.5-inch Display with 7th Generation Intel Core i5256GB of Storage8GB of RAMIntel HD Graphics 620$1,499
13.5-inch Display with 8th Generation Quad-Core Intel Core i7256GB of Storage8GB of RAMNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 with 2GB of RAM$1,999
13.5-inch Display with 8th Generation Quad-Core Intel Core i7512GB of Storage16GB of RAMNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 with 2GB of RAM$2,499
13.5-inch Display with 8th Generation Quad-Core Intel Core i71TB of Storage16GB of RAMNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 with 2GB of RAM$2,999
Surface Book 2 15″

15-inch Display with 8th Generation Quad-Core Intel Core i7

256GB of Storage16GB of RAMNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB of RAM$2,4999
Surface Book 2 15″

15-inch Display with 8th Generation Quad-Core Intel Core i7

512GB of Storage16GB of RAMNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB of RAM$2,899
Surface Book 2 15″

15-inch Display with 8th Generation Quad-Core Intel Core i7

1TB of Storage16GB of RAMNVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB of RAM$3,299

Which Surface Book 2 Should You Buy?

Now you have all the information you need to decide which Surface Book 2 you should buy.

If you’re after the biggest display you can get in a Surface that’s still portable, the Surface Book 2 15” is your best buy. It’s also perfect for anyone that really loves to game or really has a demanding every-day routine.

However, the Surface Book 2 13.5” is a solid performer and the model most people should buy. It’s much easier for you to balance performance and cost. And you get a more manageable tablet experience due to its smaller display and all the inking features of other Surface devices. If you want a Surface Book 2 and don’t plan on gaming or using productivity programs that heavily rely on a graphics processor, like 3D modeling programs, this is the Surface Book 2 model to buy.

9 Best Surface Book Alternatives in 2018

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 - $999.99

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 - $999.99

Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 has the stunning looks of the regular XPS 13 laptop and the features that Windows 2-in-1s buyers need.

Read: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1: Dell Redesigns the Ultimate Laptop


Inside the notebook are all the essential components that a high-end laptop must have. It comes with an Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM, giving it lots of power and long battery life. You can store photos, music, documents and video on the 128GB solid-state drive. Each model has a fingerprint reader for logging in with just your face. The laptop’s steel hinges let you lay the display flat on the laptop’s back for tablet use.

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has plenty of upgrade options. Dell sells models with an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage. There’s a 13.3-inch 4K Infinity Edge display option that has very, very thin bezels. Pictures almost look as if they are floating.

In addition to touch technology, the XPS 13 2-in-1 lets users take notes and draw on its screen using Dell’s $49.99 Active Pen. This pen can sense 2,048 different levels of pressure compared to the 1,024 levels of pressure the Surface Book can sense.

Dell’s engineers created a Surface Book alternative that’s not burdened by the shortcomings of the laptop it competes against. This machine lasts for 15 hours of productivity and 10 hours of Netflix streaming in laptop or tablet mode. Compare that to the Surface Book which lasts for 12 hours of video when attached to its keyboard, but only 3 hours away from the base.

Also, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has more convenient ways to connect to accessories. You can use the SD card slot, USB Type-C port, lock slot and a Thunderbolt 3 port to pair it with monitors, keyboards, phones and hard drives. For comparison, the Surface Book has an SD card slot, a Mini DisplayPort and 3 USB 3.0 ports. Pictures and video take longer to transfer from your camera or hard drive with the Surface.

The only major strike against the XPS 13 is its graphics card. The XPS 13 doesn’t have a discrete graphics processor option. Surface Book buyers can add a GPU for better modeling and gaming performance.

Buy the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 at Dell.com for $999.99

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