Surface Book 2 Developer Impressions and the Magic of USB-C
I recently got a updated laptop for work, a 15" Surface Book 2. It's quickly become my go-to machine, and I'm often finding myself using it more than my main desktop machine.
I considered myself reasonably familiar with the Surface product line as I bought a Surface Pro 3 a few years back for myself (not a work machine), but I am genuinely impressed with this Surface Book 2 - and that surprised me.
Here's a random list of a tips, tricks, things I didn't realize, and general feelings about the 15" Surface Book 2.
15" is a NICE size
After years of "Ultrabooks" I missed an actual high-powered desktop replacement laptop. It's just 4.2 lbs and it doesn't feel unwieldy at all.
There are TWO Surface Connect ports
Legit had no idea. You can charge and dock the tablet part alone.
There's a full sized SD card reader and a 3.5mm headphone jack
Which sadly is more than I can say for my iPhone 8+.
Having a 15" screen again makes me wonder how you 11" MacBook Air people can even concentrate.
3240 x 2160, (260 PPI) is a weird resolution to be sure, but it's a hell of a lot of pixels. It's a 15" retina display.
The high resolution issues in Windows are 90% handled IMHO
I wrote about how running any DPI greater than 96dpi on Windows has historically sucked back in 2014, but literally every little Windows Update and Office update improves it. Only the oldest apps I run have any real issues. Even WinForms has been updated to support HighDPI so I have zero HighDPI issues in my daily life in 2018.
More RAM is always nice, but 16 gigs is today's sweet spot.
I have had zero RAM issues, and I'm running Kubernetes and lots of Docker containers along size VS, VS Code, Outlook, Office, Edge, Chrome, etc. Not one memory issue.
Battery Life and Management is WAY better
Battery Life on my Surface Pro 3 was "fine." You know? Fine. It wasn't amazing. Maybe 4-6 hours depending. However, the new Battery Slider on Windows 10 Creators Edition really makes simple and measurable difference. You can see the CPU GHz and brightness ratchet up and down. I set it to Best battery life and it'll go 8+ hours easy. CPU will hang out around 0.85 GHz and I can type all day at 40% brightness. Then I want to compile, I pull it up to bursts of 3.95 Ghz and take care of business.
HD Camera FTW
Having a 1080p front facing camera makes Skype/Zoom/etc calls excellent. I even used the default Camera app today during an on-stage presentation and someone later commented on how clear the camera was.
USB-C - I didn't believe it, but it's really a useful thing
Honestly, I wasn't feeling the hype around USB-C "one connector to rule them all," but today I was going to pull out some HDMI and Ethernet dongles here at the Webstock Conferences in New Zealand and they mentioned that all day they'd been using a Dell USB-C dock. I plugged in one cable - I didn't even use my Surface Power Brick - and got HDMI, a USB hub, Ethernet *and* power going back into the SurfaceBook. I think a solution like this will/should become standard for conferences. It was absolutely brilliant.
I have read some about concerns about charging the Surface Book 2 (and other laptops with USB-C) and there's a reddit thread with some detail. The follow says the Apple USB-C charger he bought charges the SurfaceBook at 72% of the speed of the primary charger. My takeaway is, ok, the included charger will always charge fastest, but this work not only work in a pinch, but it's a perfectly reasonable desk-bound or presenter solution. Just as my iPhone will charge - slowly - with aftermarket USB chargers. If you're interested in the gritty details, you can read about a conversation that the Surface has with an Apple Charger over USB as they negotiate how much power to give and take. Nutshell, USB-C chargers that can do 60W will work but 90+W are ideal - and the Dell Dock handles this well which makes it a great flexible solution for conferences.
Also worth pointing out that there wasn't any perceptible "driver install" step. I got all the Dell Dock's benefits just by plugging it in at the conference. Note that I use a Surface Dock (the original/only one?) at home. In fact, the same Surface Dock I got for my personal Surface Pro 3 is in use by my new Surface Book 2. Presumably it doesn't output the full 95W that the Surface Book 2 can use, but in daily 10+ hour use it's been a non issue. There's articles about how you can theoretically drain a Surface Book 2's batteries if you're using more power than it's getting from a power supply, but I haven't had that level of sustained power usage. Haven't needed to give it a thought.
The i7 has a NVidia 1060 with 6 gigs of RAM, so you can install GeForce and run apps on the Discrete GPU
You can go in and control which apps run on which GPU (for power savings, or graphical power) or you can right click an app and Run on NVidia.
or right click any app:
It has an Xbox Wireless Adapter built in
I got this for work, so it's not a gaming machine...BUT it's got that NVidia 1060 GPU and I just discovered there's an Xbox Wireless Adapter built-in. I thought this was just Bluetooth, but it's some magical low-latency thing. You can buy the $25 USB Xbox Wireless Adapter for your PC and use all your Xbox controllers with it - BUT it's built-in, so handled. What this means for me as a road warrior is that I can throw an Xbox Controller into my bag and play Xbox Play Anywhere games in my hotel.
All in all, I've had no issues with the Surface Book 2, given I stay on the released software (no Windows 10 Insiders Fast on this machine). It runs 2 external monitors (3 if you count its 15" display) and both compiles fast and plays games well.
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