Microsoft Surface Book 2: Specs, pricing, availability

Microsoft's new MacBook Pro competitor will start shipping new 13.5-inch and 15-inch Surface Book 2 high-performance laptops as of mid-November. Here's what to expect.

Microsoft is readying its refreshed line of Surface Book laptops for rollout starting November 16.

With Surface Book 2, Microsoft is targeting creatives/"creators" who need high performance and portability -- the same type of users who'd typically go for MacBook Pros -- with the devices. The Surface Book 2 will come preloaded with Windows 10 Pro Creators Update and upgradable to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which Microsoft is starting to roll out today, October 17.

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Credit: Microsoft

Surface Book 2 looks quite similar though not identical to Microsoft's original Surface Book. The screen is still detachable and usable as a tablet. The hinge gap is still there, though officials are saying they've made some improvements that make the device is less unstable when its touch screen is used. As was true of the original Surface Book and Surface Book with Performance Base, the Surface Book 2s are definitely not meant to be slim and light ultrabooks. The 13.5-inch weighs in at close to 3.5 to 4 pounds and the 15-inch at 4.2 pounds.

Unlike the original, however, Surface Book 2 will be available in not just one, but two sizes (13.5-inch and 15-inch). It will include two USB-A and a USB-C port, the latter of which can be used in a pinch for charging (though quite slowly), but is primarily meant for video in/out.

Update (November 7): Even though multiple Microsoft representatives told us attendees of the company's New York City Surface 2 briefing that USB-C would charge slowly on the new devices, Microsoft officials are now amending that statement with the following (via a spokesperson):

"Surface Book 2 charging times via USB-C will vary with the power of the charger being used. Surface Book 2 will work with any USB-C PD3.0 compliant charger from 7.5W to 95W, and a USB-C charger with equal or greater power than the in-box Surface Connect charger will charge at the same rate."

There are other differences between the first-generation Surface Books, which Microsoft introduced in 2015, and the coming new Surface Book 2 models. Surface Book 2 13.5-inch model comes in both seventh-generation Intel Dual-Core processor (Core i5) and eighth-generation Intel Quad-Core (Intel Core i7) models; and the 15-inch with the Intel eighth-generation Quad-Core Core i7 processor.

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The magnets that bind the next-generation Surface pens to the devices are a lot stronger. There are new microphones inside the Surface Book 2s that are designed for better near- and far-field voice recognition.

None of us press folk has yet been able to use these Surface Book 2 devices for any length of time, even though we saw them a week ago at a private Microsoft event.

While my tipsters said a few weeks ago that the new Surface Books wouldn't be shipping until 2018, they were wrong. Some models will be available in select markets starting this November, with more coming in 2018. Pre-orders begin November 9.

Surface Book 2 13.5-inch models will be available to purchase on November 16 though Microsoft Stores, MicrosoftStore.com and select retailers in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Austria. The Surface Book 2 15-inch model will be available to purchase on November 16 through Microsoft Stores, MicrosoftStore.com, and select retailers in the United States. Microsoft officials are not saying when Microsoft will make either model available outside the countries listed above.

Surface Book 2 pricing starts at $1,499 (ERP, or estimated retail price) for the lowest end 13.5 inch model, and goes up to $3,299 for the highest end, 1 TB 15-inch model. The full list:

Surface Book 2 (13.5 inch)

• 7th Generation Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB, integrated GPU - $1,499 USD ERP

• 8th Generation Intel Core i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB, discrete-GPU - $1,999 USD ERP

• 8th Generation Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512GB, discrete-GPU - $2,499 USD ERP

• 8th Generation Intel Core, i7, 16 GB RAM, 1TB, discrete-GPU - $2,999 USD ERP

Surface Book 2 (15-inch)

• 8th Generation Intel Core i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB, dGPU - $2,499 USD ERP

• 8th Generation Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512GB, dGPU - $2,899 USD ERP

• 8th Generation Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 1TB, dGPU - $ 3,299 USD ERP

Microsoft officials say both the 13.5- and 15-inch models will get up to 17 hours of video playback (and the tablets when disconnected, five hours). I'm interested to see what kind of battery life they provide in real-world use, as most of these vendor battery estimates are far more generous than anything I've ever been able to achieve.

Microsoft also is introducing a new ergonomic mouse, called the Surface Precision Mouse today, October 16. The new mouse, which will go for $99 and be available for purchase November 16 in the US and Canada only at first, includes side grips, a thumb rest and selectable scrolling speeds.

The mouse will work with Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7 (USB mode only). It's got customizable buttons, works wirelessly up to 16 feet, and is designed especially for Surface Book 2 and Surface Studio, though it will work with other devices.

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