Even before pre-orders began Nov. 9, Microsoft's newest version of the Surface Book was reviewed as "an amazing laptop that does even more as a tablet."
Frankly, we're intrigued and can't wait to get our hands on one, but that sentiment is tempered by venerable consumer product review house Consumer Reports, which already is taking a pass on recommending the new Surface Book because of problems with the original version. Consumer Reports initially gave the original Surface Book a "recommended" rating but rescinded that after a survey found the original Surface Books had "poor predicted reliability in comparison to most other brands."Consumer Reports' survey of more than 90,000 Surface tablet and laptop owners found that nearly a quarter of users experienced touch-screen failures, freezing problems and system crashes well into the second year of ownership.
In an October statement to Hot Hardware, a Consumer Reports spokesperson said, "We will evaluate the performance of the Microsoft Surface Book 2 once we get it into our labs next month for testing, but we will not be able to recommend it. Our decision to withhold our recommendation of all Microsoft laptops and tablets is still in effect."
If you're interested in the new Surface Book 2 despite Consumer Reports' reservations, you'll want to think about what TechRadar said about its test drive.
"While the Surface Book brings many technological innovations to the laptop space, its greatest strength is that it's just an all-around terrific device."
The Surface Book 2 base model starts at just $1,499, and comes with a 7th Generation Intel Core i5-7300U processor, Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated GPU, a 13.5-inch PixelSense display and an average 17-hour battery life. Plus, if you order by Jan. 18, 2018, you'll receive a three-month free trial of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan with 1TB of storage.
What really makes the Surface Book 2 stand out to us is its usability. There are four modes to choose from:
Laptop - Use the keyboard and display just as you would any standard laptop.
Tablet - Detach the touch screen from the base and use it as you would any standard tablet.
Studio - Fold the display screen back 360 degrees to use as a tablet without removing it from the base
View - Detach the touch screen with the push of a button, turn it around and reattach it to share content and presentations. It's perfect for watching your favorite shows.
For power users, keep in mind the Surface Book 2 also comes in a 15-inch model (starting at $2,499), with an 8th generation Intel Core i7-8650U processor, quad-core power NVIDIA graphics and GeForce GTX 1060 discrete GPU with 6GB GDDR5 graphics memory.
Update: By all accounts, the Surface Book 2 addressed the issues of the original Surface and then went on to make further improvements. The Surface Book 2 is roughly the same size and weight as its previous incarnation. However, what's under the hood of the Surface 2 is vastly different compared to the first version. The Surface Book 2 is much more powerful than the Surface was, with a more powerful processor and graphics card. If you did have a Surface, you should notice better performance from the Surface 2, even if you go with the most basic version. And Microsoft has tried to address the touch screen issues experienced by so many users of the original Surface. The Surface 2 should work with the Surface Pen and have reduced latency to boot.
The Surface 2 is overall an improvement on the original Surface, but where you see the benefits will depend on how you use the laptop. Some of the changes may not be loud and flashy, but they'll improve your day-to-day experience. The improvements do come at a cost, however, especially if you start to choose options like additional memory and storage.
This article was updated March 5, 2018.