The Super-Secret Reason to Buy a Microsoft Surface Book 2 (It Isn't What You'd Expect)

12-04 16:15

Good things come in dull gray colors this holiday season, not in red or green. After testing out a Microsoft Surface Book 2 for a week, thinking it would work fine as abusiness notebook for entrepreneurs and anyone serious about work, I was surprised to find out the laptop houses a high-end video graphics processing unit (or GPU), a speedy Intel Core i7 processor, and has a bright and crisp 4K display. It costs $2,000, which is much more than the typical business laptop you'll find at Office Depot, but there's a lot to boast about. More than anything--it works really well for high-end gaming.

First, you should know that I gave up hardcore first-person shooters a few years ago. It lost some allure for me, mostly because I didn't see that the games had improved that much. And, I'll be honest that I'm also outside of the target market for virtual reality gaming. It's not my thing, because I'd rather spend time in the real world these days (and frankly you look pretty stupid wearing VR goggles and it makes me feel a little sick). I still like platformers and games like Limbo, and I'm a major Forza fan. Still, I'm not one to play video-games every evening jacked up on energy drinks and pizza anymore.

All for the sake of testing though, right?

I cranked up the new Wolfenstein 2 first-person shooter thinking it would not run that great on what looks like something you'd bring to an investor meeting. The Surface Book 2 has not changed cosmetically since the last model, although the "secret" isn't that hard to spot. The new models has a much more obvious slot around the tablet that helps dissipate heat when the laptop starts humming along. The Book 2 is also a true 2-in-1 in that you can press a button to "eject" the tablet, and it works faster to detach the screen now than the original model. Yet, the Book 2 for $2,000 (there's a more basic version that costs $1,500) uses the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 for graphics processing, and it worked exceptionally well for Wolfenstein 2, several other visually intense games, and for an Acer AH101-D8EY Windows Mixed Reality headset and an Oculus Rift for virtual reality.

How do you describe this? If you're into cars, it's like stepping into an ordinary-looking silver sedan like the Audi A5 and realizing it has a turbocharged engine. In a game based on the Ghostbusters movies using the Acer headset, the Book 2 worked perfectly--there were never any slowdowns or glitches. (Microsoft says the laptop is rated for "ultra" resolution mixed reality.) To make the headsets work, you do need to add a USB-C to HDMI adapter to connect them, whereas most gaming laptops and desktops have an HDMI port.

For anyone who has an inkling to play high-end games on a long plane ride or at the hotel after a conference, I highly recommend the Book 2 because it's basically a chameleon. I liked the keyboard since it worked for my typing style, and you can now use the Microsoft Dial directly on the screen for things like editing photos in Photoshop to access settings quickly. That's all business. But it "converts" to a gaming machine in a snap.

For battery life, the Book 2 is also a good fit for both long typing sessions--it lasts 17 hours on a charge--and for late-night gaming sessions or virtual reality. Of course, the processing power also works well for video-editing, running complex reports using custom apps, and any high-end programming you need to do. Because the battery lasted so long, when I used one all day as a primary laptop for Google Docs, I ended up leaving the charger in my office, trusting it would make it all day. It did. The 13.5 inch display was about right for stuffing into a laptop bag, although the Book 2 is a bit bulky and heavier than I'd like.

It's cool to snap off the tablet and use Windows app like Texture (for magazines), Skype, sketching and design apps like Photoshop with the Surface Pen, or just watch Netflix.

My main gripes about the Book 2, other than the high ticket price, is that I'm moving more and more away from a Windows machine for my daily work. I really like theGoogle Pixelbook these days because it boots up from being totally off so quickly, and it has never crashed. I like a "light" notebook in terms of weight and how the Pixelbook boots into a browser with no apps or clutter to worry about. That suits my needs these days, but I can see where the Book 2 with the high-end graphics has a much longer shelf-life for future apps and gaming. The Oculus and Acer headsets definitely do not work with a Chromebook, and there's no way Wolfenstein 2 will run on a light laptop.

The decision every business user needs to make is about price and functionality. I was pleasantly surprised about the Book 2 because of the gaming and virtual reality, and if that's important to you, I can see paying the $2,000 for this incredible laptop.

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