11.28.18 Surface Laptop 2. (Tech Review)

The original Microsoft Surface Laptop debuted about a year ago, to a significant burst of YouTube reviews and fanfare. The device was particularly well received because of it’s all-around good specs, it’s revolutionary fuzzy Alcantara keyboard, it’s amazing screen… even though the device was missing something everyone was wondering about: a USB C port. Instead, the first gen device contained a proprietary ‘Surface Connect’ charging port, one USB port, a Mini-Display port, and a headphone jack. (Yes, a headphone jack.)

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Flash forward, and take a deep breath. Surface Laptop 2 debuted a few weeks ago, to similar fanfare, but with a twist. It appears as if history struck twice: no USB C port. Again. And the YouTube reviewers are running away with this… proclaiming the laptop a gen 2 failure in some cases. I see the device differently, as a small evolutionary step in the right direction. Specs have been improved, and the new sleek black is nice on the eyes.

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The new Microsoft Surface Laptop 2, in all it’s black matte exterior and alcantra slinky sexiness, tempts us once again with great power, good price, a fantastic screen and wonderful mid-range model specs, and a great Black Friday deal puts the device at $999, well within a college kids’ fingertips. (The device normally sells for $1299 at this mid-model spec machine.) I spent a week with the Surface Laptop 2 and here are my thoughts…

Better specs.

The entry level Surface Laptop 2 is now an 8th gen i5 Intel “Coffee lake” processor. This is up from the Core M and lower-spec i5 models in last year’s laptop. The read and write speeds have also seen a good bump, and other enhancements including higher RAM and SSD size is a welcome addition this year.

Great Battery Life.

The new Surface Laptop 2 has wonderful battery life. In my testing, I achieved about 12 hours, whereas Microsoft proclaims the device will last a few more hours than that (par for the course, as laptop spec stats go.) This is up from 9 hours on last year’s version. I never have to take my Surface charger with me during the day, and I like that alot.

It Looks Great.

The sexy new matte black is definitely a stunning thing to behold. Business professionals looking for a more ‘professional’ device will find that the black color suits their needs. The Alcantara fabric keyboard in black actually appears a little off-grey, but that’s fine because the amazing keyboard within it really stands out. The entire laptop is literally black, and it looks divine.

Windows Hello.

Amazingly, Windows Hello works even better this year. This is the face login system which logs you in so easily. No passwords to remember, the camera looks for you and it logs you in just like magic. Pro tip: setting up a PIN and taking multiple pictures (especially if you wear glasses sometimes like me) is also very helpful, for those days when you don’t look like yourself. But this year, Windows Hello seems quicker and a little more fluid. (I wonder where Apple got the idea of Face ID from. Hrm…)

Same Ports.

Yep. You heard that right. The Surface Laptop 2, in all it’s sleek matte black glory, still just has a single USB port on the left side, a Mini-Display port and a proprietary “Surface Connect” charging port and headphone jack on the right side. Why Microsoft gave the Surface Go laptop a USB C port (a lower spec machine, released a few months ago), the gen 2 of Surface Laptop is missing this port. My only reasoning is Microsoft did not want to re-envision the entire laptop just yet. This is one of the bad points about this laptop. Were Microsoft more forward-thinking, they would have deleted the Mini-Display port for a USB C port. Perhaps next year?

Windows 10 Home.

This year’s mainstream consumer models of the Surface Laptop 2 received Windows 10 Home, instead of gen 1’s Windows 10 S and ‘Windows 10 Pro in S Mode.’ Personally, I’m fine with this decision as most Surface Laptop gen 1 users probably upgraded for free to regular Windows 10 Home or Pro anyway. This was a ‘free upgrade’ or switch from within the Windows Store which may have seemed confusing to new users, as well. This year, no more confusion. And you can download whatever you want without worrying.

Great Keyboard.

Just like last year, this year’s Surface Laptop in the second configuration features a wonderful keyboard and typing experience. One of the major complaints about Apple laptops (Macbook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air) all feature extremely flat butterfly switch keyboards, now in it’s third revision, which feels no different from the first two. The Surface laptop keyboard is an amazing typing experience. As a writer, I can appreciate the regular spongey feel of keys and, most of all, people don’t stare at me when I type because of incessant pecking noises like on my 2018 MacBook Pro.

Accessories Abound.

Optional accessories that work well with this laptop include: the Surface Pen (2018 version), Surface Dock, Surface Dial, the new Surface Mouse (and Surface Mobile folding mouse), to name a few. My favorite new accessory is the Surface Mouse, but they didn’t make it in black to match this laptop, so.. the black Mobile Mouse, it is. The Surface Pen also works well, but if you’re a serious artist I woud opt for the Surface Pro 6 device instead, which is also a new revision this year with much improved specs, and in black!

My Score: 9 out of 10

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 receives a 9 out of 10. I had to deduct one point for the missing USB C port. I have several devices which now use USB C, including a few Microsoft devices. The decision to not update the port situation shows that Microsoft is a little behind the times here, but don’t let that deter you. This is a fantastic laptop, and at $999 or $1299, this is a much better deal than the Apple MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro laptops. Better performance, inking, touch-screen, improved specs, and a wonderful versatile wonder of technology.

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Buy one or look at the Surface Laptop 2 here.  I do not get a throwback for this, it links directly to the Microsoft web site. The actual URL is also below:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/surface-laptop-2/8XQJKK3DD91B?ICID=SurfaceDept_Nav2_SurfaceFamily_100218&activetab=pivot%3aoverviewtab

 

 

Review by Brian Bolding

11.28.18

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