Coinciding with the official release of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update on Oct. 17, Microsoft unveiled the Surface Book 2, now with a 15-inch model.
Microsoft made waves in October 2015 when it took the wraps off its first-ever laptop, the original Surface Book. The Windows 2-in-1 hybrid device featured a detachable screen, a distinctive hinge mechanism and, in some models, a discrete graphics subsystem that provide desktop-like performance for demanding applications.
Two years later, the Surface Book 2 doesn't stray too far from its predecessor in terms of design, acknowledged Ryan Gavin, general manager of Surface Commercial at Microsoft. Under the hood, it's a different story.
The company's goal was to create "a device without compromises [and can] support all-day work," he said.
This time around, the 13-inch Surface Book 2 is joined by a 15-inch model that is powered by a quad-core, eighth-generation ("Coffee Lake") Intel Core i7-8650U processor, capable of reaching speeds of up to 4.25GHz. Visuals are provided by an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU (graphics processing unit) and an optional discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of memory in the base.
All 15-inch Surface Book 2 models include 16GB of RAM. Storage capacity boils down to a 256GB, 512GB or 1TB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). Its PixelSense touch display has a resolution of 3,240 by 2,160 pixels and supports the company's Surface Pen stylus and Surface Dial.
Gavin described the new Surface Book 2 lineup as "the most powerful Surfaces ever." He noted that the the 13-inch model without a discrete GPU is also "completely fan-less," enabling quiet and power-efficient computing on the go. Microsoft estimates that in terms of graphics processing the new models are up to five times more powerful than the original.
With the Surface Book 2, long transpacific flights can also be productive ones. Battery life stretches to 17 hours (video playback) in a docked configuration and 5 hours in tablet mode. "You work on it on a flight to Beijing without missing a beat," Gavin said.
IT buyers considering one of the new 13-inch models have two processor options, the Intel Core i7 found in the 15-inch version or a dual-core, seventh-generation ("Kaby Lake") Intel Core i5-7300U that runs at speeds of up to 3.2GHz. The Core i5 models include an integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU. For more demanding applications, a GeForce GTX 1050 discrete GPU with 2GB of graphics is an option.
In many respects, the new Surface Book 2 is evidence that Microsoft is in the hardware game for the long haul, according to Gavin.
Recently, Canalys CEO Steve Brazier caused a stir when he predicted that Microsoft would "exit the Surface business by 2019." He listed costs, uneven market performance and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's reputation as a software and "cloud guy" among the reasons for the company's imminent departure from the hardware scene.
Any claims that Microsoft is giving up on Surface are "patently false," Gavin told eWEEK. "Surface has never been more central to the company than has it been today."
Surface Book 2 ships on Nov. 16; preordering begins on Nov. 9 for the 13-inch model worldwide (15-inch in the U.S. only). Prices start at $1,499.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to clarify that only the 13-inch Surface Book 2 model doesn't require a cooling fan. The 15-inch models have cooling fans.