While the Surface was originally envisioned as a tablet, at some point along the way, Microsoft realized that, you know, what a lot of people actually want is a laptop. One with a real keyboard that you can type on, not some floppy snap-on device that canâ€™t even be properly used in your lap.
Enter the creatively-named Surface Laptop, a machine that launched last year with the goal of providing a simple notebook for Everyman, something that its luxe Surface Book, launched two years prior, never really managed to do. Unlike the Surface Book, the Surface Laptopâ€™s keyboard is permanently attached to its chassis, and frills are in short supply. With version 2 of this device, youâ€™re getting a down-to-earth laptop that, while quirky at times, serves as a solid, versatile computing device for a wide range of user types.
The original Surface Laptop was designed as an entry-level device, with the tragic inclusion of the pared-down Windows 10 S operating system as the default. Windows 10 S has since been revamped as a subset of Windows 10, but even Redmond seems to be backing away from it, now including a full version of Windows 10 Home on the Surface Laptop 2.
Thatâ€™s a nice step, because it makes it easier to appreciate the laptopâ€™s more impressive features and charms. The keyboard is a particular highlight â€“ peppy and responsive, one of the best in the ultralight form factor that Iâ€™ve ever encountered. It and the clickpad are all surrounded by the Surface Laptop’s fuzzy, suede-like material that covers the entire palmrest and lower chassis, another unique feature you wonâ€™t find on the typical budget ultralight. Don’t like typing? The 13.5-inch touchscreen (with an oddly tall but very bright 2,256 by 1,504-pixel resolution) tracks well, either with a fingertip or Microsoftâ€™s optional Surface Pen ($100, sold separately).
As with most new laptop releases this fall, the big news is the inclusion of an eighth-generation Intel CPU (a 1.6GHz Core i5 on my test unit), here paired with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. The Surface Laptop is right where it should be on productivity benchmarks (precisely in line with other eighth-gen ultralights) but its battery life is downright insane. I clocked over ten hours of nonstop video playback in my testing, a benchmark which I havenâ€™t seen surpassed on a laptop Iâ€™ve tested since 2013.
If the Surface Laptop 2 falters in one place itâ€™s in the realm of ports, which is becoming a bit of a pandemic in the Surface universe. Here you get a mini-DisplayPort jack and a single USB 3.0 port. No HDMI, USB-C, media slot, or anything else. Charging is performed through the proprietary, magnetic Surface Connect port, a feature Iâ€™d gladly do without in exchange for a USB-C port that doubled as a power jack. Weâ€™re on the cusp of 2019, Microsoft. Itâ€™s time to embrace a standard that was developed over four years ago.
The Surface Laptop 2 comes in your choice of four colors, and starts at $999 with a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Modest upgrades take this unit (as tested) up to $1,299, which is reasonable, though just a little on the high side in comparison to competing products. If the machine is to your likingâ€”and I donâ€™t know why it shouldnâ€™t beâ€”I recommend keeping your eyes open for a sale.