Hands-on with the Mi­crosoft Sur­face Lap­top 2: A great lap­top, now with­out Win­dows 10 S

It looks like more of the same from Mi­crosoft, and that’s a good thing.

PCWorld (USA) - - News Hands- On: Google Pixel Slate - BY MARK HACH­MAN

With Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Lap­top, Mi­crosoft used Win­dows 10 S as a tool to help en­able the Lap­top’s out­stand­ing bat­tery life. Now the Mi­crosoft Sur­face Lap­top 2 is here, com­plete with a higher-per­form­ing, 8th-gen­er­a­tion In­tel Core chip. But there’s one thing miss­ing: Win­dows 10 S.

Per­for­mance is the name of the game this time around, and Mi­crosoft’s claim­ing that the Sur­face Lap­top is up to 85 per­cent faster, in part be­cause of the new 8th-gen­er­a­tion Core pro­ces­sors pow­er­ing it. Bat­tery life is also im­pres­sive, at a rated 14.5 hours. Nat­u­rally, that’s a fea­ture that we’re ea­ger to test.

Func­tion­ally, the Sur­face Lap­top 2 ap­pears to be ex­actly the same as its pre­de­ces­sor, in both di­men­sions and weight. As with the Sur­face Pro 6 ( go.pcworld.com/hop6),

Mi­crosoft has sep­a­rated busi­ness and con­sumer cus­tomers, but the dif­fer­ence is more pro­nounced with the Sur­face Lap­top. Mi­crosoft claims that the base price of the con­sumer model is $999, though the only ob­vi­ous way to buy it is via an “Essen­tials Bun­dle” that in­cludes an Of­fice 365 sub­scrip­tion.

Here are the ba­sic specs of the Sur­face Lap­top 2. Keep in mind that they’re es­sen­tially un­changed from the first­gen­er­a­tion Sur­face Lap­top.

Dis­play: 13.5 inches (2256x1504, 201 ppi) multi-touch Pix­elsense

Pro­ces­sor: Core i5 8250U/I7-8650U (con­sumer) / Core i5 8350U/8650U (busi­ness)

Graph­ics: In­tel UHD 620

Me­mory: 8GB or 16GB

Stor­age: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSD

Ports: USB 3.0 Type A, Sur­face Con­nect, Mini Dis­play­port, head­phone jack

Cam­eras: 720p (front, Win­dows Hello-com­pat­i­ble)

Wire­less: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Blue­tooth 4.1

Op­er­at­ing sys­tem: Win­dows 10 Home (con­sumer) / Win­dows 10 Pro (busi­ness)

Col­ors: black, cobalt blue, bur­gundy, plat­inum

Ac­ces­sories: Sur­face Pen ($99) ( go.pcworld. com/99sp)

Di­men­sions: 12.13 x 8.79 x 0.57 inches; 2.76-2.83 pounds

Price: Starts at $999

The Sur­face Lap­top 2 is wrapped in the Al­can­tara fab­ric that Mi­crosoft has adopted for the Sur­face Lap­top as well as the Sig­na­ture Type Cov­ers of the Sur­face Pro 6. It’s smooth un­der your palms, and a bit fuzzier else­where. It’s some­times sur­pris­ing how thin the Sur­face Lap­top and Sur­face Lap­top 2 ap­pear, though they’re sturdy, with hardly any flex.

Nat­u­rally, they’re much more “lap­pable” than the Sur­face Pro tablets, which lack the sup­port­ive hinge. The only im­prove­ment that I wish Mi­crosoft had made would be the abil­ity to re­cline the Lap­top com­pletely flat. It still stops at about 135 de­grees.

Mi­crosoft’s touch­pad feels the same, as well as the key­board, which is com­fort­ably springy. The lay­out looks to be iden­ti­cal to the orig­i­nal Lap­top’s, and to the Sur­face Pro tablet line, too.

Clearly, though, the most sub­stan­tial im­prove­ments are un­der the hood. We haven’t had a chance to test the per­for­mance of the Sur­face Lap­top 2, though with num­bers like “85 per­cent faster” ring­ing in our ears, we’re ea­ger to take a look at it. Bat­tery life, too, will be worth a look.

But the one thing that we didn’t ex­pect to see was Mi­crosoft aban­don­ing Win­dows 10 S so quickly, in part be­cause it helped en­able the first-gen­er­a­tion Lap­top’s ex­cel­lent bat­tery life. But it’s def­i­nitely gone: When we asked about it, Mi­crosoft rep­re­sen­ta­tives stated flatly that the “Sur­face Lap­top 2 ships with Win­dows 10 Home.”

What does that mean? We’d like to think that Mi­crosoft did it as a mat­ter of con­ve­nience, be­cause it took a few sec­onds to switch, and it was free any­way. Oddly, though, we sort of miss it. (The Sur­face Go still ships with Win­dows 10 in S Mode en­abled, though with­out dra­matic bat­tery life.) If Win­dows 10 S was keep­ing you from buy­ing the Sur­face Lap­top, how­ever, you won’t miss it in the Sur­face Lap­top 2.

A NOTE ABOUT BUY­ING

Un­for­tu­nately, Mi­crosoft seems de­ter­mined to sep­a­rate busi­ness cus­tomers from con­sumers, with dif­fer­ent buy­ing sites. If you’re a con­sumer and wish to con­fig­ure a Sur­face Lap­top 2, you can use Mi­crosoft’s pre­order link ( go.pcworld.com/prsl). But if you want a slightly more pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor and an ex­panded busi­ness war­ranty, you can buy a Sur­face Lap­top 2 for Busi­ness ( go.pcworld. com/sl2b) in­stead.

For con­sumers in­ter­ested in the $999 base op­tion (Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD), the only way we can see to pre­order it is via the Essen­tials Bun­dles ( go. pcworld.com/esbd) link, which of­fers the $999 price but forces you to buy an Of­fice 365 sub­scrip­tion, too— min­i­mum $49 per year. Here’s hop­ing Mi­crosoft comes up with a more con­sumer-friendly so­lu­tion, or at least en­ables you to buy the base model di­rectly from the con­sumer link. Aside from such rig­ma­role, the Sur­face Lap­top 2 seems worth it.

As be­fore, there’s a USB Type A and Mini Dis­play­port con­nec­tor to the left...

…and the stan­dard Sur­face con­nec­tor to the right. Sorry, no USB-C.

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