Hands on with the Surface Laptop 2: More of the same

Microsoft held its big hardware announcement yesterday, where it launched the Surface Pro 6, Surface Laptop 2, and Surface Studio 2. Probably the least exciting of the bunch is the Laptop 2, which is functionally exactly the same as its predecessor.

The device now comes with Intel's eighth-generation U-series processors, which means that they're quad-core now instead of dual-core. Microsoft said that this means an 85% increase in performance. I'm skeptical about this, as Microsoft is the last to move from 7th-gen to 8th-gen, and every other OEM (and including Intel as well) that made the jump has cited improvements of between 30% and 45%. Indeed, an 85% improvement is almost double, which would imply that twice as many cores means twice as much performance, and that's not how it works.

Microsoft told me that this probably because other companies are using different methods to test their hardware. The other thing to note about the new CPUs is that the Core i7 model that's used is the i7-8650U, and that means no more Iris Plus graphics.

The Surface Laptop 2 replaces the old Graphite Gold color with Black, a theme of yesterday's event, as the Surface Pro 6 also comes in Black.

The Black Surface Laptop 2 is beautiful, and it's still different from the Pro 6. The Surface Pro line is and always has been made of magnesium, while the Laptop has always been made of aluminum. That's why it's always been easy to do different colors on the Laptop. Also, the keyboard on the Black Laptop 2 is covered in Alcantara, something that you don't get with the Black Type Cover on the Pro 6.

And of course, there's still no USB Type-C port, with Microsoft sticking to Surface Connect on one side, and the other side including USB Type-A and Mini DisplayPort. This is a major omission from the firm, as the new Surface Laptop 2 and Pro 6 are the only major laptops at their respective price points to not include the new standard by now.

Left: Surface Laptop Right: Surface Laptop 2

The device remains the same to use as last year's model. Other than the new color, you won't notice anything that's different. The keys feel the same, and the screen (which is still lovely) still supports N-Trig pen input, which I still think is an odd thing to include on a clamshell device. Still, I guess it's nice to have the option for if you ever need it.

The Surface Laptop 2 is a lovely device, and it's a great laptop. I just have a hard time recommending Surface devices like this to people when Microsoft chooses to omit modern standards like USB Type-C, or moreover, Thunderbolt 3.

In terms of overall usability though, it's fantastic. The keyboard feels great, the display is stunning, and while it may seem minor, the hinge is so smooth. If there's one thing that the Surface team can really do well, it's hinges.

You can pre-order the Surface Laptop 2 here, and pricing is the same as last year's model. It starts at $999 for a Core i5, 8GB RAM, and 128GB SSD. If you want any color other than Platinum, you'll have to bump it up to a 256GB SSD for $1,299. The top-end model comes in at $2,699, and that will get you a Core i7, 16GB RAM, and a 1TB SSD.

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