Microsoft Surface Laptop 2: Is this the perfect ultraportable laptop?

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Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 Review

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 Review

 

Is this the perfect ultraportable laptop? It’s certainly close: from its classy design to its stunning touchscreen display, the Surface Laptop 2 seems to offer everything anyone could want.

And, unlike the first version, Microsoft doesn’t cripple it with Windows 10 S – Windows 10 Home sits in its place.

Let’s start with the design, because this beautiful, sleek, lightweight machine deserves to be admired. At 1.25kg, you can even hold it in the palm of your hand while you type with the other.

Almost precisely the width of a 12in ruler, and measuring 14.5mm slim at its thickest point, compact doesn’t even start to describe it. Our review sample came in the platinum finish, but black, burgundy and cobalt blue versions are also available.

The sturdy aluminium chassis is complemented by a spill-and-stain-proof Alcantara fabric that surrounds the keyboard and touchpad.

You’ll find the same material on the dashboards and seats of sports cars. Not everyone loves this design touch, but it softens the metallic edges and adds a dash of luxury.

I’m a fan. But my favourite design aspect of all is the hinge. It may sound odd to say, but Microsoft has perfected the art of opening a laptop. The closed lid can be lifted and opened fully with only gentle pressure applied from a single finger, without causing any wobble or movement to the rest of the laptop.

With most designs, you need to hold the base down with your other hand to prevent the laptop from sliding.

The back of the laptop is a clean, silvery slate with an elegant Microsoft logo in the middle. Every edge is curvy, smooth perfection.

Likewise with the black bezels that frame the display. The vents are located at the rear of the laptop’s base, while the speakers are hidden below the surface at the point where the keyboard meets the screen.

You won’t be able to crank out tunes at high volumes, but audio quality is fine if you’re only listening casually or watching Netflix away from home.

Where’s USB-C?

How disappointing, then, that Microsoft spoils the party with its supplied ports.

Microsoft’s Surface Connect charging connector sits alone on the right-hand side, while the left-hand side only offers a 3.5mm audio jack, a single USB-A 3 port and a mini Display-Port. It’s as if the past three years didn’t happen.

  • Where’s the USB-C port? Thunderbolt 3? At this price, it’s only fair to demand fully up-to-date connection options.

Microsoft will point to the £190 Microsoft Surface Dock, but even this is looking old. Two mini-Display Ports, four USB-A 3 ports, an audio out and Gigabit Ethernet are a poor return for that outlay.

  • Note that neither the Dock or the chassis includes an SD or micro-SD slot, either.

Performance upgrades

This hammers home the point that, aside from new design finishes, the Surface Laptop 2 is essentially the same piece of hardware as the original Surface Laptop.

What’s changed is on the inside.

The main upgrade is to the processor, with Microsoft embracing Intel’s 8th Gen mobile Core processors (the 9th Gen chips we review from p54 are for desktops only).

We would steer clear of the cheapest version, which is only available in grey and includes a Core i5-8250U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The only thing in its favour is a price of£979.

Microsoft has the temerity to charge an extra £280 to upgrade to 256GB, and if you want 16GB of memory, you have no choice but to pay £2,079 for the Core i7 version with a 512GB SSD or a brutal £2,529 for its 1TB sibling.

  • Note that only the grey version is available in these 16GB of RAM configurations, too.

In Microsoft’s defence, the Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD proved a potent combination in our benchmarks. When put to test in our image editing, video editing and multitasking benchmarks, the Surface Laptop 2 achieved an overall score of 84 – battering the 49 of the first Surface Laptop.

It’s helped by the PCIe SSD, which hit sequential read speeds of629MB/sec in AS SSD.

There’s no discrete graphics chip tucked away so you’re still dependent on the limited charms of Intel’s UHD Graphics 620. That stuttered to 13.8fps in Dirt: Showdown at 720p, and returned 70fps in the off-screen Manhattan 3 test.

Both results point to the fact this machine is for lightweight gaming only. There is one more chink in the Microsoft Surface 2’s shiny armour, and that’s battery life. During our video playback battery test, the power ran out after 7hrs 7mins.

That’s disappointing when the original Microsoft Surface Laptop made it to 10hrs 42mins. Microsoft promised a battery life of over 14hrs on the Surface Laptop 2 but, realistically, you should expect about half that. 

Ergonomic highs

The good news? That’s it for disappointments. Typing on the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 is a joy, with a reassuring sturdiness to each key – plenty of travel and a hefty click make every sentence a pleasure.

Nor is it annoyingly loud; you won’t make any enemies if you’re hammering away on public transport. The touchpad is as responsive as any I’ve used, allowing me to execute Windows shortcuts with ease.

The Alcantara fabric, on which your wrists rest while you type, provides an added sense of luxury.

Even better, it won’t be ruined if you spill a cup of coffee on it. As with all Surface devices, the screen is gorgeous.

While we don’t really need numbers to back this up, there are some key ones to note: covering 96% of the sRGB gamut coverage is an excellent start, but an average Delta E score of0.85 is nothing short of brilliant.

That’s the sort of colour accuracy we might see from a professional-level monitor.

A top screen brightness of 335cd/m2 is less exceptional, and note it’s a glossy screen so you will see reflections inside, but those are the only potential complaints.

I don’t have any use for a touch display on a laptop without a 360-degree hinge – I don’t like how the lid wobbles each time you tap it – but the touchscreen on the Surface Laptop 2 is excellent, responding to the subtlest of gestures.

Microsoft sticks to the same 2,256 x 1,504 resolution as before, with an aspect ratio of3:2, which is great on a 13.5in laptop. 

Buy now?

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 is agonisingly close to being a perfect ultraportable.

Its design is flawless, both functionally and aesthetically, and unless you want to play heavyweight games then the performance from this Core i5 incarnation is more than good enough. However, it’s flawed.

USB-A and mini-Display Port look dated now, so how will they appear in two years’ time? That’s why the Surface Laptop 2 falls short of a recommendation, especially when the identically specified Dell XPS 13 costs £50 less (albeit with a lower resolution screen).

Despite these issues, I still fell in love with the Microsoft Surface Book 2. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, the ports are collecting a pension. And yes, battery life could be better.

However, the Surface Laptop 2 is a highly desirable device, and I want one.

Specifications:

Processor Quod-Core 1.6Ghz Intel Core i5-8250U
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM/Storage 8GB /256GB SSD
Screen 13.5in Touchscreen 2,256×1,504 Resolution
USB USB-A3
Other Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
OS Windows 10 Home
Width 308x223x15.5mm (WDH)
Weight 1.25kg
Webcam 720p webcam

 

Conclusion:

Great design with lightweight. performace is also quick, especially in multi-tasking. Screen and viewing angles are sharp and clear which maakes it more fun with touchscree.

Typing on the Microsoft Laptop 2 is a joy-plenty of travel and a hefty click make every sentence a pleasure.

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