What might Microsoft's Surface Book 2 entail, and what we want to see
In October 2015, the
premiered as a hybrid device, one
Despite an appetizing list of hardware specs, the 2-in-1 arrived with a few hiccups. There were some complaints surrounding the “Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge,” including a gap that's formed when the laptop is closed.
The “Clipboard” tablet portion of the device has a low battery life, though that’s been largely mitigated with the introduction of the Performance Base-enhanced i7 variant, but, on the high end, the pricing is rather steep, too.
So, you can tell that we're not the only ones already clamoring for improvements to an already promising formula. Enter the highly anticipated
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The sequel to Microsoft's first laptop
- When is it out? All signs point to April 2017
- What will it cost? Reportedly starts at $1,000 (£1,299, AU$1,899)
Surface Book 2 release date
Although the original launched well over a year ago, there's been no official confirmation of a Surface Book 2. Instead, the Surface Book i7 debuted back in October alongside the Windows 10 Creators Update, the latter of which is slated for an April 11 rollout .
With reports having arose last year that this new Windows software would overlap with Microsoft’s introduction of new hardware, we can cautiously surmise that the Surface Book 2 will touch down during the same window.
That goes without mentioning word from DigiTimes that the Surface Book 2 will see a reveal in April, albeit without the convertible design. Given the source, that report should be taken with more than a grain of salt.
Surface Book 2 price
If that same DigiTimes report is to be believed, a Surface Book 2 that’s no more than a traditional clamshell laptop could equate to a drastic price reduction. While the entry-level Surface Book of today would set users back a cool $1,299 (£1,449, AU$2,299), the Surface Book 2 is alleged by DigiTimes’s sources to come in at a more modest $1,000 (about £810, AU$1,300).
We’ve neither seen nor heard any other rumors or leaks regarding the second Surface Book’s starting price. At any rate, expect it to be at least a little more expensive than Surface Pro devices to start.
What we want to see
For as much as we've been smitten by the Surface Book, firmware issues aside, there will always be room for improvement. (That would be the case even if it had earned top marks from us.)
From the screen size and resolution to the hardware inside, we have a few ideas for how Microsoft could craft an even better Windows 10 tablet.
An even better screen
Display-wise, the current model sports a 13.5-inch panel with a 3,000 x 2,000 (267 ppi) resolution that's backed by an integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU. The new model may utilize the same size screen but offer a more conventional 4K resolution: 3,840 x 2,160.
This rumor is aligned with public information we've seen about Intel's Kaby Lake architecture, which will supposedly include a better graphics chip that improves playback of 4K video and 3D graphics.
With a higher resolution should come a better way to actually detach the screen from the keyboard, assuming Microsoft doesn’t do away with that functionality altogether. After all, one of the most vocal complaints of the original Surface Book was its “muscle wire” locking mechanism.
That scheme not only required power to function, but users must press and hold down a key until the hinge lets go of the tablet. It's software-based, too, meaning the process could be hampered by an unforeseen glitch in the system.
Thus, if Microsoft opts to go the 2-in-1 route despite recent evident indicating the contrary, the Surface Book 2 needs a functional hinge that allows the keyboard to be detached whether the device is on or off.
We need more power
Of course, with an increased screen resolution comes the need for more power. It would make sense, given the conjectured release frame, to refresh the Surface Book with Intel's newest Kaby Lake processors.
The Kaby Lake architecture supports up to quad-core processors as the default configuration with a thermal envelope of up to 95 Watts (W), meaning it shouldn't be a battery hog even with increased performance. What’s more, Kaby Lake offers native support of the faster USB 3.1 Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 specifications in addition to CPU/GPU performance enhancements.
That said, the Surface Book 2 will need better battery support overall, as the original provides only 4 hours of activity in the Clipboard and only 8 hours of juice in the base (based on our tests). Customers eager to use the Clipboard on its own would no doubt be disappointed by the current battery’s inept sustenance while consuming 4K video.
An improved battery would also be needed to support a built-in recharge dock for the Surface Pen. If a patent filing from October is to be believed, Microsoft may have an improved Surface Pen loop in the works that would not only holster the Surface Pen itself, but simultaneously charge it via the USB port on supported Surface devices.
More power might also be needed for an updated, discrete GPU option, too. As previously stated, the current model has an option for a Nvidia GeForce graphics chip based on the Maxwell architecture, which has a thermal envelope of up to 75W.
If Microsoft were to offer, say, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics chip, the power wattage requirements wouldn’t skyrocket and DirectX 12 support would assuredly be in the cards. This would fare well with gamers looking to take advantage of the latest API on their rotating laptop screen.
What would make the Surface Book 2 really shine is if it were to be VR-ready. It’s not too far-fetched, either, considering Microsoft has partnered with companies like Acer to produce budget-friendly, Windows 10-specific head-mounted displays that aim to work flawlessly on low- to mid-range hardware.
A race to beat its new rivals?
Despite a good deal of talk about when the Surface Book 2 will be released and what it will contain, there were several reports (albeit with dodgy reliability) speculating that the device – along with the Surface Pro 5 – would be released this summer alongside the Anniversary Update.
Of course, said anniversary came like the wind and a Surface Book 2 didn't arrive in time to beat Apple's new MacBook Pro to market. Again, given that the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 were still in their youth at the time, releasing follow-up models that soon was unlikely.
That's it for now. There are probably a few easter eggs hiding in the Windows 10 Creators Update builds for Insiders, but ultimately Microsoft's plans for the Windows 10 Creators Update are seemingly rather broad. As such, we wouldn’t count out a new laptop just yet.
We're still betting on a spring 2017 release for Surface Book 2, and being that it’s spring now, the wait will hopefully be brief.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article