15-inch Surface Book 2 high performance gaming settings too powerful for its charger, found to drain battery

Laurent Giret

For the first time ever, Microsoft has chosen to release two new Surface Book hybrid laptops this year. The 13.5” Surface Book 2 is now available to purchase in select markets, and most of the reviews have been positive so far except the 1/10 Repairability score it received from iFixit. For the more powerful 15” version, shipping in the US on November 30, a couple of reviews have highlighted a surprising battery drain issue when playing 3D games with the charger plugged in.

The issue was noted by both Tom Warren from The Verge and our colleagues over at PCWorld, and Microsoft has since confirmed the battery drain in certain circumstances. “In some intense, prolonged gaming scenarios with Power Mode Slider set to ‘best performance’ the battery may discharge while connected to the power supply provided in-box with Surface Book 2,” a Microsoft spokesperson told PCWorld, adding that this isn’t really a design flaw. “Through power management design, the battery will never drain entirely, ensuring that users are able to keep working, creating or gaming.”

The 15” Surface Book 2 ships with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 discrete GPU, which is the most powerful dGPU ever for a Surface device. To power this beast, Microsoft is supplying a 102-watt charger, but this apparently isn’t enough to avoid battery drain under heavy load. PCWorld did some testing with a similarly-specced laptop and noted:

As a control, we also we also set up a Gigabyte Aero 14 with a Core i7 7700HQ and a GeForce GTX 1060, similar to what’s inside the Surface Book 2, and ran the same stress tests. The difference was the charger: the Aero used a 150W power brick, and suffered no battery drop or performance loss as a result.

Again, Microsoft explained that battery will never drain completely under heavy load, but this is still disappointing to see in a premium machine that starts at $2,499. The thing is, without a clear warning when choosing the ‘best performance’ mode, most customers experiencing the battery drain may think that they have a faulty charger or battery. We’re not in #surfacegate territory yet, but maybe Microsoft could dodge another bullet by just shipping a more powerful charger for its 15″ Surface Book 2.

Do you think the current 15″ Surface Book 2 charger will be an annoyance for customers, and if so do you think Microsoft should better communicate about its shortcomings? Let us know what you think in the comments below.