Surface Book i7 (2016) Review Roundup: What Technophiles Are Saying About Microsoft's 2-In-1 Powerhouse


A year ago Microsoft unveiled its first laptop, carrying the naming scheme of its Surface tablets released previously. Upon release, many reviewers were impressed by the Surface Book, earning it glowing platitudes across publications.

Now, Microsoft has released a second iteration of the Surface Book, bearing much of the same vaunted pleasantries the last year model offered: a better-than-average battery life, a svelte and premium design, a detachable display that enables tablet mode and a hinge that lets you fold the laptop all the way back, like the Lenovo Yoga Book.

The biggest changes in the new refresh are mostly its increased power capacity by up to 30 percent, resting under the chassis, updated processors and under-the-hood improvements. Besides that, it's the same Surface Book released last year.

Reviews have started filtering in for Microsoft's two-in-one hybrid laptop and here is a congested list of what they think about the powerful but pricier offering that directly rivals Apple's 2016 MacBook Pro.

The Same Surface Book, But Slightly More Powerful

The new Surface Book houses a Skylake chip, Intel's powerful sixth-generation processors.
a Surface Book model called Performance Base which comes with an Intel Core i7 chip, up to 16 GB of RAM, Intel Graphics 520 and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M graphics card.

"As you'd expect, the benchmark scores are very, very good," wrote Engadget's Dana Wollman, speaking of the laptop's performance. The Surface Book surpassed the HP Spectre x360, Asus ZenBook 3, Dell XPS 13, Razer Blade Stealth and the HP Spectre 13 on standard benchmarking tests such as PCMark 7, PCMark 8, 3DMark 11 and Atto for disk reading and writing.

Despite its sixth-generation Intel processors, the Surface Book remains outfitted with a dual-core chip, which is a disappointing drawback considering its steep price point.

"The new Surface Book has faster performance, better multitasking, better battery performance: enough to make a difference, but not necessarily enough to eclipse the competition," CNET's Scott Stein opined, adding that the power of the Surface Book still isn't up to the task of virtual reality rigs such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, despite its separate graphics card.

The Surface Book Battery Life

A video playback of 16 hours seems like a bold promise but in Wollman's review and test run, the Surface Book was able to last 16 hours and 15 minutes playing a looped video with the screen's brightness set at 65 percent.

"[T]here's barely anything else like [the Surface Book's battery life] on the market," she said. Many companies are guilty of claiming a battery capacity a few notches higher than its real-world performance but the Surface Book seems to stack up pretty well in that regard.

PCWorld's Gordon Mah Ung mirrored the praise, heavily impressed by the Surface Book's battery life.

"[I]t has stupidly long battery life that bests all the laptops we've tested," he wrote.

It's important to note that users will only get the promised battery life when the display is attached to the base, since the battery is housed in the Surface Book's chassis. When detached, tablet mode can only last up to four hours, as proven in the same video playback test done by Engadget.

Is The Surface Book i7 Too Expensive?

"If you've been hoping for a Surface Book 2, this is not the machine you've been waiting for," wrote The Verge's Dan Seifert, as a preface note-ender to his Surface Book review.

The Surface Book boasts an impressive performance that's better than the version that came before it, a battery life currently unbeatable by other laptops offering the same configurations and a beautiful, all-metal premium form that doubles as a tablet. These are all impressive and admirable for Microsoft except for the price.

To get the new Surface Book models, expect to shell out a starting price of $2,399 which nets you a Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD. For an even break-banking $2,799, you'll get double the RAM and internal storage. A full terabyte option is also available at a whopping price point of $3,299.

Overall, there's a unanimous regard for the Surface Book as a formidable two-in-one hybrid that packs a beefy performance and a stellar, lasts-as-promised battery life. It is heralded by Microsoft as the "ultimate laptop," and the reviewers proves that it deserves this moniker.

While these things might be true, the Surface Book is a very expensive laptop, especially considering that other potential customers are more likely to opt for similarly priced laptops that have more powerful configurations at a less expensive price. So unless you're willing to throw around $3,000 for the best Surface Book model, you're better off trying to look for something else that fits your budget.

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