The Surface Book 2 hasn’t shown up in the two years that have passed since the launch of Microsoft’s original 2-in-1 laptop. Although we thought we saw it pop up for the first time last year, even that instance turned out to be a hoax.
However, with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update coming out this month and Intel having unleashed its 8th-generation Kaby Lake Refresh processors, it’s no wonder that the rumor mill is churning once again.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The sequel to Microsoft’s first laptop
- When is it out? It may now not come out until 2018
- What will it cost? Probably to starts at $1,499 (£1,449, AU$2,299)
Surface Book 2 release date
After a subtle appearance of what might be the Surface Book 2 in a Kaby Lake Refresh sizzle reel produced by Intel, there has been no shortage of spills related to its presumably imminent announcement. As a matter of fact, according to Microsoft insider Tom Warren, at least one new Surface device will, well, surface on October 31.
If true, this would take place at the time of the Future Decoded event in London. However, fresh rumors suggest that we won’t see the Surface Book 2 this year at all. Instead, the Surface Book 2 may not arrive until 2018. This is according to sources who told ZDNet that Microsoft isn’t planning on unveiling a new version of the Surface Book until early next year.
That report came out shortly before The Register came out and said the Surface lineup would die completely by 2019. Fortunately, that allegation was dismissed as the ‘tabloid rumor of the week’ by Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate VP of devices. Still, it’s worrying to know that even the COO at Lenovo agrees with the claim that Microsoft is losing money on hardware.
Surface Book 2 price
Reports from DigiTimes led us to believe that Microsoft would reveal a more traditional clamshell laptop at its spring showing, resulting in a drastic reduction in price. As it turns out, those reports were only half right. Instead of the Surface Book 2, Microsoft churned out a new addition to its winning hardware lineup, this time referred to simply as the Surface Laptop.
While the entry-level Surface Book of today would set users back a cool $1,299 (£1,449, AU$2,299), this type of device would reportedly come in at a more modest $1,000 (about £810, AU$1,300). We can safely expect a proper Surface Book 2 hybrid – if one exists at all – would retain the same starting price of the original, i.e., $1,499 or AU$2,299 (about £978).
At any rate, as Microsoft’s top-end hardware offering, expect the Surface Book 2 to at least exceed the cost of the Surface Pro and the Surface Laptop.
What we want to see
For as much as we’ve been smitten by the Surface Book, firmware issues aside, there will always be room for improvement (that would be the case even if it had earned top marks from us).
From the screen size and resolution to the hardware inside, we have a few ideas for how Microsoft could craft an even more awesome Windows 10 tablet.
An even better screen
Display-wise, the current model sports a 13.5-inch panel with a 3,000 x 2,000 (267 ppi) resolution that’s backed by an integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU. The new model may utilize the same size screen but offer a more conventional 4K resolution: 3,840 x 2,160.
This rumor aligns with public knowledge about Intel’s Kaby Lake architecture, which includes the VP9 and HVEC 10-bit decode for better 4K video streaming, though we’ll take it with a heavy sprinkling of salt. To this day, none of the Surface devices use the 16:9 aspect ratio necessary for true 4K UHD.
Still, if there’s a resolution bump in tow, there should come a better way to actually detach the screen from the keyboard. After all, one of the most vocal complaints of the original Surface Book was its “muscle wire” locking mechanism. Likewise, let’s hope the Surface Book 2 doesn’t suffer the same backlight bleeding currently plaguing the new Surface Pro.
Otherwise, we could see the Surface Book 2 go the way of many of the best 2-in-1 laptops, honing in on a 360-degree rotating hinge in lieu of a removable one. Besides, the muscle wire was largely criticized for a.) requiring power to function and b.) demanding that users hold down a key to disconnect the tablet from the hinge.
Even if it doesn’t go the way of a flip book, we would at least like to see the Surface Book 2 adopt a locking apparatus that doesn’t rely as much on gimmicky software implementations as it does getting the job done with ease and reliability.
We need more power
At the very least, we need a device that can handle the latest Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, unlike the Atom-based 2-in-1 laptops of just a few years ago. So, it would make sense, given the conjectured release frame, to refresh the Surface Book with Intel’s newest Kaby Lake Refresh processors.
The Kaby Lake architecture supports up to quad-core processors as the default configuration with a thermal envelope of up to 95 Watts (W), meaning it shouldn’t be a battery hog even with increased performance. What’s more, Kaby Lake offers native support of the faster USB 3.1 Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 specifications in addition to CPU/GPU performance enhancements.
That said, the Surface Book 2 will need better battery support overall, as the original provides only 4 hours of activity in the Clipboard and only 8 hours of juice in the base (based on our tests). Customers eager to use the Clipboard on its own would no doubt be disappointed by the current battery’s inept sustenance while consuming 4K video.
An improved battery would also be needed to support a built-in recharge dock for the Surface Pen. If a patent filing from late last year is to be believed, Microsoft may have an improved Surface Pen loop in the works that would not only holster the Surface Pen itself, but simultaneously charge it via the USB port on supported Surface devices.
More power might also be needed for an updated, discrete GPU option, too. As previously stated, the current model has an option for a Nvidia GeForce graphics chip based on the Maxwell architecture, which has a thermal envelope of up to 75W.
If Microsoft were to offer, say, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics chip, the power wattage requirements wouldn’t skyrocket and DirectX 12 support would assuredly be in the cards. This would fare well with gamers looking to take advantage of the latest API on their rotating laptop screen.
What would make the Surface Book 2 really shine is if it were to be VR-ready. It’s not too far-fetched, either, considering Microsoft’s own Mixed Reality headsets will be available on October 17, and the system requirements are substantially lower than that of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, though notably the current Surface Book doesn’t meet them.
A race to beat its new rivals?
Despite a good deal of talk about when the Surface Book 2 will be released and what it will contain, there were a handful of reports (albeit with dodgy reliability) speculating that the sequel to Microsoft’s first notebook was supposed to come out last summer alongside the Anniversary Update.
Of course, that never happened and a Surface Book 2 didn’t arrive in time to beat Apple’s mid-2017 MacBook Pro to market. Despite Mac shipments struggling overall, that doesn’t preclude the same lackluster sales from happening to the Surface Book. As such, there’s no doubt in our minds that it’s time for Microsoft to come forward with a Surface Book 2.
That’s it for now. There are probably a few easter eggs hiding in the Windows 10 Creators Update that hint at a Surface Book 2, but if they exist, no one has found them yet. As such, it may be a while before we see Microsoft’s next convertible laptop in the flesh.
While the Surface Book 2 could show its face at Future Decoded, we would be more likely to bank on a release date closer to CES in January 2018.