Tech Guide

We tried a $3,300 laptop from Microsoft, and it was mostly awesome

Key Points
  • A new 15-inch option starts at $2,500 and has superb quality.
  • The Surface Pen will still cost an extra $100, but you probably won't want to skip it.
CNBC reviews the Microsoft Surface Book 2

In refreshing its Surface Book convertible laptop, Microsoft has made a device that looks and feels familiar but has significant changes inside and out.

The Surface Book 2 is going to be one of the best portable Windows experiences you can buy and, with a starting price of $1,500, you'll have to open your wallet to get one. I tested the top-of-the-line model, which runs a whopping $3,300.

The screen is big and about as bright, colorful and detailed as today's top-of-the-line Apple laptop displays. You can get a 13.5-inch version or, for the first time, a 15-inch display.

Microsoft's 15-inch Surface Book 2.
Darren Weaver | CNBC

You can touch the screen and actually get a response — unlike any MacBook — and you can detach the display from the keyboard. It's definitely a step up from the display on the first Surface Book. Artists and gamers will find plenty to like, as will professionals who just want more content on their screen.

In short, Microsoft is now better equipped to compete with the best MacBooks that Apple has to offer.

The 15-inch PixelDense display on the Surface Book 2 is excellent.
Magdalena Petrova | CNBC

Plus, Microsoft has outfitted the Surface Book 2 with new Intel chips, a USB-C port, dedicated keys for adjusting the brightness of the display and support for gaming with wireless Xbox One controllers. Thanks to an improved hinge, the display doesn't wobble, which was a problem with the original version.

The laptop does have are some issues.

While the larger model has more screen real estate, Microsoft didn't see fit to stretch the virtual keyboard the full width of the display. Typing on it was not nearly as comfortable as using the Surface Book's excellent physical keyboard.

Also, the battery doesn't last nearly as long as I had hoped. I got about seven hours and 25 minutes of battery life on a single charge, and around 8½ hours when I used Windows 10's recently added battery saver setting. That's not terrible, but it's far shy of Microsoft's promise of up to 17 hours.

Playing Forza Motorsport 7 on Microsoft's 15-inch Surface Book 2 with a wireless Xbox One controller.
Darren Weaver | CNBC

Given the new Surface Book's price, you would think Microsoft would include its Surface Pen stylus. But that will cost you an extra $100. Still, you'll probably want it, because the writing and drawing experience is very good, especially on the larger display.

Leaving out the Pen, you're looking at $1,500 for the base-model Surface Book 2, and to get the entry-level 15-inch, you'll need to pay an additional $1,000. The most expensive Surface Book 2 comes out to $3,300.

That's a big number, but it's just $100 more than the premium version of the initial Surface Book.

It's not crazy to consider paying Microsoft $2,500 for a high-octane, 15-inch laptop. Apple regularly sells Macs for that much. Now Microsoft will, too.