I purchased a new Surface Book 2 i7 512gb 15″ from a local Microsoft Store nearby. Here’s my review and technical advice.
Inspection / Purchasing
I recommend doing these checks before you leave the store since they’re easy to do while you’re in the store and do not take long:
- Check that all of the ports at least seem to be responsive (usb, usb-c, charge port, etc).
- Check for a misaligned hinge, warped chassis, busted/misaligned antenna.
- Check that all the keys work, and that the back-light on all of them work as well.
It is smart to check basic things like this on the device before you leave the store. Most of the above will take no longer than 5 minutes to verify. Although the above issues are not common, they can occur in production and you do not want to settle for anything less than perfect at this price point.
At Home Setup / Updating
As I said above, first thing was to update the system fully. No sense in testing something too much without updating everything. It was approximately 2 hours before the computer was up to date, so don’t plan on taking it out of the box and using it immediately. Sit back, relax, and update Windows.
System Stability & Thermals
Using an IT application called AIDA64, I downloaded and ran the “System Stability Test” tool within. Temperatures never rose above ~72c for the FPU test, at normal room temperature. If your system shows 100c or much higher while doing this, then something is wrong. I used this application to quickly stress test everything else, and it didn’t crash. At this point I have yet to have a single crash, freeze, or blue-screen-of-death and the test tool gave me more confidence in the device.
To determine if your device has coil whine, put the machine on High Performance Mode, Charger plugged and listen for this sound. I spent so much time worrying about this subject. Only to find out that I simply can’t hear it sitting normally at the computer. I don’t know if my ears are simply unable to hear it because of whatever frequency it is or what. I can hold my ear to the back of the tablet screen and the “coil whine” is BARELY present. I am simply unable to hear it while using this device normally in every fashion. My ear has to literally be up against the chassis in the back to hear the “whine.”
There is some extremely, extremely faint light in the upper left hand corner and I need to look very close to even see it, really. You can check for light bleed by going to a completely dark room and turning brightness up 100%. Other than that the entire screen is totally spotless. Very happy. No giant splotches or anything.
This was a disaster out of the box but I knew it was going to happen. WiFi speed was… inconsistent. Marvel Avstar strikes again. I really wonder why they keep using this chipset. The fix for me on this one was the same as the pro 2017. Uninstall the Marvel Wifi Driver from Device Manager, don’t delete it. When it re-installs itself, go to the options for the device and change it from “auto” to a single frequency. I chose 2.4 ghz. Viola,WiFi is fine again everywhere I need to be. 5ghz alone also works good. Seems the “auto” option sucks.
Apple AirPods work okay on a Microsoft Surface Book 2 i7 after playing with the drivers. Initially, if you try to use them, the audio stops about 10-30 seconds and you either have to put it back in the charger and take it out again, or turn bluetooth off then back on. This can be fixed.
In Device Manager, under Human Interface Devices, you need to edit both of the AirPods devices (Properties -> Power Management) and disable “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power.” The AirPods are being automatically turned off, fighting against you while you try to use them. I made this change and they work okay, minus some re-connection issues if they do disconnect because I walked off too far.
I’m using my Logitech MX Master Mouse. I’ve tested it with both the USB dongle and Bluetooth. No problems. Including while using the airpods. Very happy here.
Gaming & Battery Drain
Does it exist? Yes. Under my normal usage so far, the battery does not drain. I installed nVidia GeForce Experience and allowed it to optimize Fallout 4 and Overwatch. During Overwatch, with settings given by nVidia. I played for ~1 hour and saw no battery drain. Same for Fallout 4. I do believe that if I played overwatch for longer it might tap into the battery just a tad. I did not use a battery life monitor for these tests, I simply checked remaining battery life after finishing gaming immediately.
The best way to see the battery drain for yourself is to take AIDA64 and use the stress tool to smash the CPU + GPU. Mine drained at a rate of ~2% after an hour smashing both of them at 100%. To me this is not an issue. Gaming on this screen is gorgeous, the colors are amazing since it was made for designers.
Gaming performance on this machine is stellar. I can achieve a sold 60fps at all times in Overwatch on 1920×1080 all Ultra settings. I recommend using the nVidia GeForce Experience to tweak games.
Video Editing / Encoding
Adobe Premier Pro 2018 works excellently with Surface Pro 2017. I am able to edit 4K video footage with the resolution set to “full” from my DJI Mavic Pro Drone. Encoding via the GTX 1060 GPU is fast as well. I encoded a 1080p GoPro Hero 4 Black head camera video using the YouTube 2160p (4k) preset in ~9 minutes for an 8m30s video. After editing multiple videos with this device I’m very happy with the performance here.
I have a single 1080p 27″ monitor and a surface dock that I used regularly with my surface pro 2017. I tested the dock out and of course it had the same issues the Surface Pro 2017 does along with every other surface: you need to log in and out to correct the scaling. But a bigger issue, however, is the fact that the dock is under powered if you are going to be doing some hardcore work slamming the system.
Battery will drain much faster while playing a game + pegging the CPU. I believe the unit can only supply 65w to the surface itself. Microsoft needs to create a new Surface Dock. If you are just going to be doing web browsing, programming, perhaps some very light gaming, the dock will work just fine. Anything intensive and you’ll have battery drain. I knew this before buying, and so, I’m not disappointed. The 15″ is enough screen real estate to replace my very old 1080p monitor.
I utilize the older Surface Pro 4 pen. The only thing I use the pen for is taking notes in OneNote or writing ideas down; I am not an artist. The old pen does not have any jitter problems. The 15″ tablet itself is huge and nice to write on.