Note: This article was first published on 3rd May 2019.
It wasn’t always this way. We used to only have the Surface Pro available to us. And then early last year, Microsoft finally relented and brought the Surface Laptop to our market. A year on, we finally have the full Surface line-up of mobile computing devices. This development, however, poses a classic #firstworldproblem for us: which Surface device to get? Let us break it down for you and hopefully straighten out your decision-making process.
Surface Pro 6 - This is Microsoft’s longest standing Surface device that runs full-fledged Window. It comes only in one size (12.3.-inch) and is powered by Intel’s 8th generation Kaby Lake R Core processors - not the newer Whiskey Lake ones. Accessories like the keyboard and pen are sold separately. More details, Pricing options and our unboxing video.
Surface Laptop 2 - This is Microsoft’s take on a premium ultraportable notebook. Unlike the first-generation Surface Laptop which shipped with Windows 10 S for some inexplicable reason, this new one comes with Windows 10 Home out of the box. Like the Surface Pro 6, the Surface Laptop 2 is powered by Kaby Lake R processors - not Whiskey Lake. It also only comes in one size and that’s 13.5 inches.
Surface Book 2 - The Surface Book 2 is Microsoft’s other hybrid/detachable notebook. It’s definitely more of a notebook than a tablet, however, since it comes with a proper keyboard that actually doubles up as a dock of sorts. Plus, if you opt for the versions with discrete graphics, the GPU is actually under the keyboard and not within the display. Also worth noting is that the Surface Book 2 comes in two sizes: 13.5 and 15 inches.
Given the scope and capabilities of these machines, it can be tough deciding what’s right so let’s take things step by step.
If a discrete GPU is important to you, then it’s the Surface Book 2 for you. It is the only device that has the option of discrete graphics. The NVIDIA powered GeForce GTX 1050/1060 GPU options available for the Surface Book 2 are excellent for graphics acceleration needs in certain content creation applications, video encoding and of course, to indulge in some gaming.
If you are more comfortable with a traditional clamshell notebook, the Surface Laptop 2 is the obvious choice. The flexibility of the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Book 2 is nice but those two devices command a rather hefty premium. So think about your usage to see see if the added flexibility warrants shelling out more for them, otherwise the Surface Laptop 2 is a safe choice.
The port situation is not looking good on the Surface devices, especially the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2. The Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 only have a single USB-A (USB 3.0) port, an outdated Mini-DisplayPort, and no USB-C ports. The Surface Book 2 is a little better, but considering how much they cost, we would have preferred more USB-C ports and also support for Thunderbolt 3.
Here's a table that summarizes the connectivity options on these machines.
|Model||USB-A||USB-C||Video||Memory card reader||Surface Connect|
|Surface Pro 6||1||0||1 x Mini-DP||1 x microSDXC||1|
|Surface Laptop 2||1||0||1 x Mini-DP||0||1|
|Surface Book 2||2||1 (USB 3.1)||None||1 x SDXC||2|
Before we discuss this, let's take a look at the three devices' dimensions, weight, and claimed battery life.
|Model||Dimensions||Volume||Weight||Claimed battery life|
|Surface Pro 6 (with keyboard)||292 x 201 x 13.5mm||792.34cm3||1.09kg||13.5 hours|
|Surface Laptop 2||308 x 223 x 14.5mm||995.91cm3||1.25kg||14.5 hours|
|Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)||312 x 232 x 23mm||1,664.832cm3||1.53kg||17 hours|
If portability is important to you, the Surface Pro 6 is the clear choice. By virtue of its smaller display, not only is the Surface Pro 6 more compact, it is also considerably lighter. While the Surface Laptop 2 starts at 1.25kg and the lightest Surface Book 2 starts at just over 1.5kg, the Surface Pro 6 with the Signature Type Cover keyboard is only just under 1.1kg.
The Surface Laptop 2 and Surface Book 2 counters with a longer battery life. Microsoft says the Core i5 version of the Surface Laptop 2 will last 14.5 hours while a similar Surface Book 2 will last 17 hours playing videos. Comparatively, a similar Core i5 version of the Surface Pro 6 will last a shorter 13.5 hours. Personally, I find that 13.5 hours is plenty and I would rather carry a lighter and more compact device than a heavier one just to get a couple more hours of battery life.
Ok, these new Surface devices are not cheap. Don’t be fooled by their starting prices because, for the most part, those entry-level configurations are not the ones you want to get especially if they are going to be used as a primary computing device.
Most users can probably get by with 8GB of RAM but 256GB of storage is going to be the bare minimum these days. And for that, you are going to be looking at spending close to $2,000 for the Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2. The cheapest Surface Book 2 starts at S$2,188, but I would avoid that model only because it's running on a much older processor.
Personally, if your budget allows for it, I think the sweet spot is 16GB of memory with 512GB of storage, that's going to make sure the machine stays relevant for at least the next few years.
Here are some points to keep in mind:
Let’s look at the prices of the Surface Pro 6 (prices are without the keyboard Type Cover).
|Intel Core i5-8250U||8GB||128GB||S$1,398|
|Intel Core i5-8250U||8GB||256GB||S$1,788|
|Intel Core i7-8650U||8GB||256GB||S$2,268|
|Intel Core i7-8650U||16GB||512GB||S$2,868|
|Intel Core i7-8650U||16GB||1TB||S$3,488|
Now the prices of the Surface Laptop 2.
|Intel Core i5-8250U||8GB||128GB||S$1,528|
|Intel Core i5-8250U||8GB||256GB||S$1,898|
|Intel Core i7-8650U||8GB||256GB||S$2,368|
|Intel Core i7-8650U||16GB||512GB||S$3,268|
Finally, here are the configurations and prices of the Surface Book 2.
|13.5 inch||Intel Core i5-7300U||8GB||256GB||Intel UHD 620||S$2,188|
|13.5 inch||Intel Core i7-8650U||8GB||256GB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050||S$2,878|
|13.5 inch||Intel Core i7-8650U||16GB||512GB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050||S$3,578|
|13.5 inch||Intel Core i7-8650U||16GB||1TB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050||S$4,288|
|15 inch||Intel Core i7-8650U||16GB||256GB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060||S$3,588|
|15 inch||Intel Core i7-8650U||16GB||512GB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060||S$4,088|
|15 inch||Intel Core i7-8650U||16GB||1TB||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060||S$4,588|