Microsoft’s Surface Book has been an intriguing foray into laptops since the company first launched it back in 2015. The November 2016 update didn’t really change much, beyond adding a GTX 965M option to the dock (Microsoft calls this its “Performance Base.”) Now, Microsoft has tweaked its SKUs and, in the process, given its top-end systems a modest price cut.
Up to now, Microsoft has offered a range of Core i5 and i7 SKUs. While all Surface Books come with a keyboard, Microsoft’s highest-end models have all shipped with a discrete GPU. Now you can buy a Surface Book Core i7 with 16GB of RAM for $2,999 (sans dGPU) or with the discrete GPU for $3,199.
Weirdly enough, the $200 discount from leaving the GPU off isn’t the same for every model. The Core i5 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD is listing at $1,699 whether you get the dGPU or not.
Microsoft’s Surface Book pricing has never made much sense, given that the company has no problem charging $600 for an extra 8GB of RAM and 256GB of additional SSD storage. Is there an advantage to opting for the flagship $2,999 system over the Nvidia-equipped $3,199 flavor? Yes — but it’s a fairly specific benefit.
Without a discrete GPU, the Surface Book is likely to get moderately better battery life and will run a bit cooler. Nvidia’s Optimus technology should mitigate these issues in a GeForce-equipped system by routing workloads to the more power-efficient integrated graphics whenever possible, but pushing all workloads through the integrated GPU will save on some battery life. Of course, it also comes with a substantial downgrade to the hardware’s GPU performance.
If you’ve got $3,000 to drop on a computer I’d get the GTX 965M anyway, since money is apparently little object. But if you need a system with absolutely max battery life, the non-dGPU version of the top-end Surface Book is a good place to get it — assuming Microsoft has worked out all the hardware issues by now.
Microsoft claims the Surface Book without a dGPU can last up to 12 hours on battery, but as Hot Hardware points out, Microsoft previously claimed it could offer up to 16 hours of battery life on a system with the Performance Base. Then again, Microsoft’s own spec sheets offer conflicting information on this issue, with some documents citing a 16-hour battery life for the Surface Book with Performance Base, while other places on the same page refer to a 12-hour video playback life based on tests conducted in 2015 with a Core i5 processor.