I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to Microsoft’s Surface Book 2. It’s highly pertinent — my Surface Pro 4 (and the Surface Pro 3 that preceded it) was a great machine for my previous workflow, but the screen’s just too small and the Type Cover too constraining for what I’m doing lately. I’m therefore in the market for a 2-in-1 of some kind with a larger display and more comfortable keyboard, and the uncertainty over the Surface Book 2 (SB2) has really gummed up the works.
For me, the bottom line is this: Microsoft has done a wonderful job of sourcing displays for their Surface line. First, there’s the 3:2 aspect ratio, which is so much better for writing than 16:9. Second, Surface displays are simply excellent — great contrast, accurate colors, excellent color temp, and more. I’ve been giving an original Surface Book (SB) a trial, and I’m constantly reminded that no ther vendor (except maybe Apple, and I’m not buying a Mac) is putting such awesome displays in their machines.
When Microsoft introduced the Surface Book with Performance Base (SBPB) at its October Windows 10 Creators Update event, my plans were complicated a bit. First, SBPB is really expensive. If I’m buying for the long term, I want 16GB and 512GB SSD at a minimum — and that means spending $2,800 for the relevant SBPB model. Second, I wouldn’t want to buy an SBPB if the SB2 is right around the corner.
And therein lies the rub. Rumor has it that Microsoft could release an SB2 along with Creators Update, which would mean sometime in the March-April timeframe. It really makes no sense to me that Microsoft would introduce an SB2 so soon after SBPB, but it’s considered a real possibility by people who keep track of such things.
At the same time, CES 2017 showed some interesting new machines that are well worth consideration. There’s the upcoming HP Spectre x360 15.6″, for example, which has a nice big 4K display and so would be perfect for my new workflow. I need a window for source articles snapped with a OneNote window for writing copy, and the bigger the screen, the better. Dell’s XPS 15 refresh is also attractive, although it’s not a 2-in-1.
But I’m reluctant to move away from Surface, again because the displays are so darn good. So, what exactly is going on with the Surface Book 2?
There seem to be three possible scenarios:
- Microsoft will introduce the SB2 in March or April and discontinue both SB and SBPB.
- Microsoft will introduce the SB2 in March or April, which will take its place at the high end with SB and/or SBPB remaining as lower-end options. Possibly, the original SB will be discontinued and SBPB will take its place with a price cut.
- Microsoft will not introduce the SB2 in March or April but will hold off until October 2017 or later.
Of those three scenarios, I think Scenario #1 is the least likely. SBPB is only now making its way to markets outside of the U.S., and so I simply can’t see how Microsoft could justify simply discontinuing it so soon.
Scenario #3 seems possible, but again, the rumor mill seems to be pretty sure that we’ll see an SB2 introduced alongside Creators Update. That matches up with similar confidence that a Surface Pro 5 will be introduced.
What does seem quite likely to me is scenario #2, specifically that the original SB will be discontinued and that SBPB will be discounted to roughly the same price as today’s SB equivalent. The idea of a 15-inch Surface Book 2 is appealing, and I imagine an SB2 with a 4K 15-inch display and perhaps Kaby Lake and Nvidia GeForce 1000-series GPU would slot in at a much higher price point.
That would mean that the Surface Book line would start out at around $2,100 for the Core i7/8GB/256GB/965M SBPB model. And given how Microsoft is pricing Surface Studio, that makes some sense to me. I think we’ll see Microsoft continue its marketing strategy of being a price leader at the high end, leaving its OEM partners to provide more mainstream and affordable machines at lower price points.
In this scenario, SB2 would be even more expensive. I would, therefore, be faced with a choice between an SBPB at around $2,700, an SB2 at some higher price, or something like an HP Spectre x360 15″ at around $1,500. That’s quite the premium for what’s likely to remain a higher quality display.
I’m enjoying the SB that I’m currently using, but I really don’t want to spend any real money on old technology. At the same time, I’m not sure I want to spend even more money on somewhat newer technology. And I just don’t have the money for anything priced in the ballpark of Surface Studio.
We’ll find out soon enough what the options will be, but in the meantime, I’m simply not sure what machine I’ll be using a couple of months from now. The sooner Microsoft lets us know what’s up with the Surface Book 2, the happier I’ll be.