The second edition of Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is similar to the first, and that’s not a bad thing at all. This 13.5-inch touch-screen laptop is a sleek, minimalist machine with an Alcantara keyboard that’s nice to look at and touch. This year’s model offers two notable perks: modern 8th-Gen Intel processors and a slick black color (though you need to spend more for it). Its sluggish SSD and lack of Type-C ports are my only knocks against this laptop. Still, the Surface Laptop 2 presents a beautifully clean vision for the PC, and this update allows it to keep up with our other favorite ultraportable laptops.
it was met with critical acclaim and arguably set the benchmark for what a Windows 10 ultraportable should be. It also presented what some would see as the closest a Windows machine has come to the original MacBook Air in terms of a high watermark in ultraportable machines.
That being said, it was hobbled with cut-down Windows 10 S software, though the path to full-fat Windows 10 wasn’t exactly an arduous one. And the model with 4GB of RAM ran out of puff relatively quickly, while but a couple of ports didn’t exactly overburden the Surface Laptop with connectivity.
To be frank, so little has tangibly changed regarding the Surface Laptop design in its sequel short of a major new color option. Yes, there is now an all-black color variant for Surface Laptop 2 that looks absolutely gorgeous and feels fantastic.
Beyond that, this is essentially the same Surface Laptop as before, only much more powerful. It’s just as thin and light as before, 0.57 inches (14.48mm) and 2.76 pounds (1.25kg), respectively. This is a laptop that’s just as portable as it was, which should prove to be a boon for students and mobile professionals.
Even the display is the same, which we can’t complain about – it was an impressive screen for starters. In the sequel, blacks look just as deep and the reds just as sharp and vibrant, with touch response being swift. People with tasks to do with appreciate the taller 3:2 aspect ratio as well, though it makes for a bit more of wasted space when you’re watching 16:9 videos.
Microsoft claims to have made the Surface Laptop 2 keyboard quieter than before, and we can confidently say that this has to be among the most silent keyboards we’ve ever tested. Our coworkers couldn’t even hear our typing in an otherwise quiet open-office environment.
The fact that Microsoft has achieved this while maintaining impressive force under our fingers is worth lauding. That said, the spacing of the keys could be a little narrower for our liking.
As for the touchpad, there’s little to report here: it’s a fine tracking device that’s spacious, smooth and responsive. The inputs are made that much nicer by the Alcantara fabric that surrounds them – it’s simply something more pleasant to rest your hands on than aluminum.
Speaking of performance, there’s plenty of it here to make day-to-day tasks feel slick and it even facilitates some light gaming – we managed to get The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim running on it for example; hardly a modern game but still one that’s rather nice to look at.
Our review unit came sporting a Core i5-8250U quad-core processor that clocks up to 3.4Ghz and comes paired with 8GB of RAM. You can opt to pay more for a Core i7 chip and 16GB of RAM to go alongside it, but the price of the Surface Laptop 2 quickly gets past the £1,000 mark and we’re not convinced the extra power is really needed in the ultrabook.
Throwing the Geekbench 4 test at our review unit, the Surface laptop 2 clocked up 3,873 for the single-core score and 12,505 in the multi-core score, putting it on par with the likes of the Dell XPS 13 and Asus ZenBook UX430UA.
While we haven’t had a chance to fully review Apple’s new MacBook Air, from a brief play with the machine and a look at the specs, the Surface Laptop 2 pretty much trounces it in terms of processor and keyboard; you know, in case you’re torn between Windows 10 and macOS.
The only thing that gives us pause is the lack of a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, which limits the Surface Laptop 2’s potential and future proofing. We’d place a hefty bet that a 2019 Surface Laptop will fix that, so we’d be tempted to suggest a wait until then if you already have an ultraportable that’s ticking along well enough.
Don’t care about Thunderbolt 3, then fill yer boots as you won’t be disappointed with the Surface Laptop 2 one tiny bit.
However, perhaps Microsoft hasn’t iterated enough on the design. The second generation of this laptop is still without Thunderbolt 3 much less even USB-C 3.1. You’re still stuck with a single USB 3.0 – yes, not even the traditional USB port supports the latest USB 3.1 standard – and a Mini DisplayPort.