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Microsoft Surface Book 2

Article Type: Review          Published: 12-2018         Views: 465      



The Microsoft Surface Book 2's stylish design belies its strength and agility for construction professionals.

I had a little difficulty in actually picturing the latest sleek device in a raft of launches from Microsoft - a stylish, slim, silver grey laptop which the company is promoting as an ideal tool for the construction professional - on a building site. I assumed that the rough and tumble of a busy site would be no place to bring such a slight looking device.

Its looks belie its strength though. The two parts of the computer have been machine cut out of single blocks of magnesium alloy, making each half simpler and stronger than the average device. Its sleek design has also been considerably worked out, with no more slots than is necessary, a slimmed down power connection and a unique, intelligent cooling fan, ducted around the perimeter of the keyboard unit, intelligent in that it senses the regions of the device that require cooling and adjusts its efforts in those directions.

Slight and slim it might be, but if even that is too much to tote round the building site, then the screen part of the laptop can be removed and used as a panel computer with most of the capability of the main computer being retained, using the touchscreen capabilities of the screen and its virtual keyboard. The difference - hardly applicable to anybody not intending to use the device as a gaming laptop - is that the NVIDIA graphics are left behind in the keyboard, and you are left with a very capable Intel UHD 620 GPU. The 17 hour battery also resides in the base, leaving you with around 2 hours in tablet mode.

You do have to tell the laptop you are going to remove the screen by tapping the appropriate button on the keyboard, or the virtual button on the taskbar, and then give it a couple of moments to adjust its internal processes to allow you to continue working on the screen alone. Reinserting the screen is easy, as the laptop appears to sort out the screens necessary interventions automatically.

It comes with an eye watering price tag though, especially for the 16Gb RAM, fully kitted out, 1Tb device, but for that you get two devices in one with twice as much power as the groundbreaking Surface Book; an Intel i7-8650U processors, 16Gb of RAM 256, 1TB GB SSD, advanced NVIDIA graphics and that 17 hours of battery life. That means you can carry it around all day without having to keep an eye out for a handy recharging socket. It also comes with an incredibly sharp 3,240 x 2,160 PixelSense resolution display (260-267dpi) backed up by the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 940M GPU - providing lots of fun playing around with the Mixed Reality software loaded onto the review machine.

There's something else that might initially give you cause for concern and that's the dynamic fulcrum hinge, which doesn't quite allow the two halves of the device to fold flat, but rather like a snake, folds in on itself, leaving a slight gap between the screen (actually called the Clipboard by Microsoft) and the keyboard. As each of these are similar in size, the hinge rolls out, extending the keyboard support base for the Clipboard. You can also fold the screen round completely, leaving it flat on the base and giving you more of an easel-like device in Studio mode to facilitate its touchscreen capabilities, or the use of the Surface Pen and the Surface Dial - especially when used with the 15 inch, rather than the 13.5 inch screen device.

It's actually quite a clever design. Because it doesn't close flush against the keyboard, Microsoft hasn't had to seat the keys in a recessed area to eliminate grubby fingermarks from the keys imprinting upon the screen, and it has allowed them to be designed with up to 1.6mm of key travel, providing a more satisfying tactile experience when they are pressed. The slight gap doesn't appear to be a dirt trap either, with no traces of dust along the hinge on a machine which has undoubtedly been played around with by other mucky journalists.

The trackpad has a glass laminated finish allowing users to navigate Windows with tightly configured 3 finger multi-gestures. The hinge must also have been reinforced, as the whole thing is pretty solid, the screen staying steady in place while you move the device around.

With a device as slim as the Surface Book 2, you must expect the connecting devices to be as slim, and as an everyday laptop user I was delighted to see the slimmer power connection set rather than the curse of the bulky power leads I usually have to carry about with me. It also comes with USB 3.1 and can handle full-sized SD cards and a surface dock. The USB-C port can be used to charge devices, transfer files and display video on other devices using the USB-C to HDMI adaptor.

If you want to hone your experience even more - and the Surface Book 2 is already an extremely attractive alternative to the MacBook Pro - then you can choose from a range of accessories that provide even greater control over your work, including the Surface Pen (which should, really, have been included in the machine price) a surface dock which allows you to transform the Surface into a desktop PC, and the Surface Precision Mouse, which provides even greater accuracy and control than the fine tracking keypad.

Alternatively, you can use the Surface Dial, a multiuse control device that gives you easy access to many of the features on Surface Books, such as accessing drawing tools, editing, rotating and manipulating designs, or even scrolling through articles, adjusting volume controls on music channels. It's typically used in left-hand mode on the screen, whilst you draw with the pen, etc. You can store, customise, change pen colours or brush sizes and basically 'reimagine' physical tools in the digital world, with haptic feedback providing vibration feedback to your fingertips, which really puts you in touch with your work. The Surface Dial has been around for a while and can be used with any Surface Pro, Book or Studio machine.

I'd give it a 'Yes'. Its dual mode gives architects and designers the ability to work to their limits back in the drawing office, and to then detach the Clipboard and pop out to the site to compare their efforts to what's actually being constructed using the latest augmented reality apps. Or you could take your designs along to the clients office, where they should not only be impressed by your creativity, but also by the tools you are using to display it on. In an industry where sometimes style brings you more kudos than substance, it's worth splashing out a bit more to substantiate your client's impressions of your sublime creations - after all, that's why they employed you!

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