Owen Williams: The Surface Book 2 is everything the MacBook Pro should be

by Volker Weber

Photo Microsoft

Owen Williams:

I'm back to say I was wrong, and I've found a machine that not only matches Apple's standard of hardware quality, but goes far beyond it to demonstrate how a laptop of the future should work. That machine is the 15-inch Surface Book 2 and somehow Microsoft has made the 2-in-1 that Apple should've been building all along, to the same level of quality I'd expect from anyone other than Microsoft. I've used the Surface Book 2 as my daily computer for three months now and it's consistently blown me away with how well considered it is across the board, how great the software works and has completely converted me into the touchscreen laptop camp.

And then he dives deep to explain how he uses the machine. I am firmly in the Surface Pro camp, but of course I could live with a Surface Book 2 as well. Last week I also looked at the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro, and while they are sexy, they don't get the job done for me.

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What is it (besides the missing touch) that does make MacBooks unfit for your needs?

I personally do not need touch on my laptop, although I love it on my ipad. I am still a year away from replacing my 2014 MacBook Pro. By then MS will hopefully have made up their mind whether to support TB3 and real USB-C on their Surfaces (which I need for external storage), and Apple will have thought about returning to a keyboard design that works and feels good. Or Lenovo will have even managed to squeeze a few more hours out of their X1 battery. The current non-book Surfaces do not have sufficient battery lifetime (an extended work day of light workloads is my benchmark) and I don’t really expect this to change anytime soon.

Peter Daum, 2018-07-03

@Peter - wouldn't you rather have USB-C on the Surface Dock for external devices, so you only have to connect one cable to the laptop? I am also curious about your battery needs that the X1 doesn't do - I have the first gen X1 Yoga with the OLED screen and I get 7 - 8 hours of battery life. I have zero use cases of needing more than 5 hours without plugging in somewhere, and I never work in an office. I am always moving about. Just curious about your process.

John Head, 2018-07-03

Wrong OS, still. :shruggie:

Martin Kautz, 2018-07-03

Did you read his account?

Volker Weber, 2018-07-03

Peter, ich kann nicht mehr auf ein "dummes" Notebook ohne Ink zurück. Und ich habe auch gerne noch einen USB-A Port.

Volker Weber, 2018-07-03

Ah: 'Mac users are missing out on one of the shifts in computing I think that matters: the blurring of boundaries between different interaction models, from mouse to touch, all of the time'

This takes us back to one of my hobby-horse arguments, as explored here a year and a half ago: https://vowe.net/archives/015995.html

I'm inclined to agree with him.

Nick Daisley, 2018-07-03


Have you ever really worked on a laptop with touchscreen? Not just to try it out for a moment?

Nina Wittich, 2018-07-05

After a few days with my 15" surface book 2, i'm not 100 percent happy with it. I expected a XXL Surface Pro but its not. It's a fantasic powernotebook with impressive specs, but the tablet mode sucks. Its near impossible to unlock the display and flip it when you're sitting in a conference, train or plane. Other issues i found so far:
- the tilting angle of the screen is poor. Not more then ~100 degrees and definitly not enough for an easy use of the touchscreen.
- the keyboard illumination ist very, very poor
- dont ask why, but i dont like the typing performance of the keyboard. i'm typing a lot faster on the Surface Pro 4 cover keyboard.
- Opening the surface book is not so easy, the magnet holds it to strong in close position
- where is the pen? Hey, it costs ~2800€ and no pen????
- finally: this piece of hardware is really heavy, near 2kg.
Maybe the yoga concept is better for me. Half a notebook, half a (thick) tablet. I still love my old surface pro 4 and hope they bring soon the same concept with a slightly larger screen.

Roland Dressler, 2018-07-06

Screen size, weight, footprint - it's all a trade-off. I am definitely in the Surface Pro camp. Loving every aspect of it. Surface Book would be too heavy and too big. The screen would be too wobbly and the clipboard is missing a kickstand.

I do however think that you will love this keyboard once you have adjusted to it. I took me a while to go from the old Macbook keyboard to the Surface Type Cover. And if you still need backlit keys, you are not typing enough. :-)

The thing that always works for me is the Thinkpad keyboard. Every time I touch one, I feel immediately at home. If it were only for the keyboard, I would have a Thinkpad X1 Carbon. But then there are other things Surface Pro does better.

Volker Weber, 2018-07-06

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