Microsoft is touting its Surface Book 2, on sale today, as a powerful 2-in-1 laptop that's built for all-around performance, whether you're a business user, gamer, designer, developer, or researcher.

Reviewers, however, say the device is clearly intended as Microsoft's answer to Apple's MacBook Pro, even down to its premium-level price. They note the Surface Book 2 outperforms its Apple counterpart in many areas, including its flexible capabilities as a laptop, tablet, or hybrid.

Available online from Microsoft.com, as well as from Microsoft and Best Buy retail stores, the Surface Book 2 is priced starting at $1,499 for the 13.5-inch, 8 GB model and $2,499 for the 15-inch, 16 GB model.

A Serious MacBook Pro Contender

Tech writer Paul Thurrott praised the new device in his review today, saying it "takes everything that was wonderful about the original model and cranks it up to 11." He added that one of the few points that might bother some users is the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 connector, as the Surface Book 2 instead sports a USB-C port.

With its touchscreen display, high-level performance, and premium hardware, the Surface Book 2 offers a serious challenge to Apple's MacBook Pro, said SlashGear's Chris Davies. While the device's cons include the single USB-C port and lack of a Thunderbolt 3 connector, he added its price is "competitive against Apple."

Over at The Verge, Tom Warren said the Surface Laptop remains Microsoft's best to date, while the Surface Book 2 is clearly designed as an Apple MacBook Pro rival. While the 15-inch model with 1 TB of memory costs $3,299, it beats Apple's alternative "in many areas that matter," including display, processor, graphics card, and touch/stylus support, he added.

Business Insider's Matt Weinberger had few caveats for the Surface Book 2, calling it "probably the best computer I've ever used." The improvements over the first Surface Book are "evolutionary, not revolutionary," -- a larger, upgraded screen, flexibility, and support for graphics-intensive gaming, he said.

Support for Biometric Security, Mixed Reality

Microsoft designed the Surface Book 2 for "people who need the performance and graphics processing power to work, create and game from anywhere," Liz Hamren, corporate vice president of Microsoft Mixed Reality and Surface devices, wrote today on the Windows blog. In addition to its processing power and gaming capabilities, the device's highlights include versatility, creativity support, and up to 17 hours of battery life, she said.

With its quad-core, 8th-generation Intel Core processors and Nvidia GeForce GTX GPUs, the Surface Book 2 has "up to twice the total processing of similarly spec'd MacBook Pros," Hamren noted. It's also ready for Windows Mixed Reality apps and comes with built-in Xbox Wireless (15-inch device only).

Powered by the 64-bit Pro Creators version of Windows 10, the new Surface Book Pro also features a multi-touch PixelSense display, Windows Hello biometric security, two USB 3.0 ports, front- and rear-facing cameras, dual microphones, and support for accessories, including the Surface Pen for on-screen editing, drawing, and writing, and the Surface Dial for on-screen design.

So far, so good for the Microsoft Surface Book 2. Based on early reviews, it seems to be a hero that could revive belief in Microsoft as a capable hardware maker.