Microsoft Surface 2 Review

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Posted: September 25, 2013

The much-ballyhooed release of the original Surface RT was meant to be Microsoft's triumphant entry into the tablet market. Instead, it became the sort of disappointment that the computing giant would like to pretend never happened. The new Surface 2 seems to do exactly that, dropping the "RT" tag and making several other changes to distance it from its ancestor. Still, the truncated Windows RT experience means the Surface 2 may be a tough sell for some.

Hands-On Impressions

The Surface 2, much like the original Surface, is quite satisfying to hold. Its 10.81-by-6.81-by-0.35 inch, 1.49-pound magnesium alloy body has a decidedly premium feel, and it's slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor in a tablet comparison. The construction quality is excellent, and the reworked kickstand proves much more functional than the original. There are no color options, however, as the Surface 2 is currently only available in a muted silver.

Tablet Tour

The Surface 2's top edge features the power and lock button, but is otherwise empty. On the right side are the USB 3.0 port, micro-HDMI and a proprietary charging port. The USB 3.0 is a nice touch compared to tablets that only offer USB 2.0, such as the original Surface RT. Along the bottom of the device are the magnetic connectors that hold the optional keyboard dock in place, and they do so very firmly. The left edge sports a satisfyingly "clicky" volume rocker, a standard headphone jack and the other speaker.

Resolving the Details

One of the most common complaints about the Surface RT was its 1,366-by-768 pixel resolution. It was certainly conspicuous compared to tablets with 1080p panels, though the display itself was very good. Microsoft has fixed this perceived shortcoming by bumping the pixel count up to 1,920-by-1,080 while keeping the otherwise excellent display. The colors are sharp and vibrant, and screen glare is kept to a minimum thanks to the optical bonding process.

Under the Hood

With a 1.7-gigahertz quad-core Tegra 4 processor and two gigabytes of RAM, the Microsoft Surface 2 has enough power to deliver a pretty seamless Windows RT experience. Apps launch quickly and run smoothly, and stutters and hiccups are rare during routine use. It may not look impressive on paper compared to tablets like the Nokia Lumia 2520, which features a 2.2-gigahertz Snapdragon 800 processor, but real-world performance isn't dramatically different. One area in which the Surface 2 excels is battery life. In this case, Microsoft's claim of ten hours is something of an understatement. A full charge often lasts well beyond 12 hours, outpacing virtually any other device in its class.

Comparison with previous Model

A tablet comparison suggests the Microsoft Surface 2 isn't a radical departure from the Surface RT, yet it manages to be a substantial step forward. The upgrade to a full 1080p display is a welcome change, and the performance issues of the original Surface appear to have been remedied. The Surface 2 is also ever-so-slightly thinner and about five grams lighter. The type and touch keyboard docks have also seen small improvements. Many of the differences may be subtle, but they result in a significantly better device.

Tablet Roundup

The Microsoft Surface 2's primary competitor may be the pricier Surface Pro 2, but it also faces stiff competition from several other manufacturers. The Nokia Lumia 2520 may be the first such device created by the company, but it's a solid alternative to the Surface. Its beefy hardware is headlined by a Snapdragon 800 processor, and the full 1080p display is quite comparable to the Surface 2's panel. The Nokia also offers a wider variety of colors. Further down the price scale is the ASUS Transformer Book T100. While its 1366-by-768 display and 1.33-gigahertz Intel Atom Z3740 processor can't compete directly with the Surface 2 and Lumia 2520, the Transformer Book T100 delivers a solid experience for a decidedly wallet-friendly price.

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Technical Specifications

Microsoft Surface RT New Microsoft Surface 2
   
microsoft-surface-windows-rt Microsoft Surface 2 tablet
   
 Tablet  Microsoft Surface RT
 Rating  Ratings
 OS  Win8 RT
 CPU  Nvidia Tegra 3 - 1.30 GHz
 Storage  32,64 GB
 RAM  2 MB
 Display  ClearType - 10.6 inch
 Resolution  1366 x 768 px - 149 ppi
 Camera  Front 0.9 / Back 0.9 MP
 Weight  0.67 kg / 1.49 lbs
 Battery life  9.5 hours
 Released  2012-10
 Tablet  Microsoft Surface 2
 Rating  Ratings
 OS  Win 8.1 RT
 CPU  Nvidia Tegra 4 - 1.70 GHz
 Storage  32,64 GB
 RAM  2 MB
 Display  ClearType - 10.6 inch
 Resolution  1920 x 1080 px - 208 ppi
 Camera  Front 3.5 / Back 5.0 MP
 Weight  0.67 kg / 1.49 lbs
 Battery life  14.0 hours
 Released  2013-10

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Battery life comparison

Battery life of selected tablet

 Tablet   (h)   Battery life 
Microsoft Surface 214.0Microsoft Surface 2 tablet autonomy comparison

Compared to 5 tablets with largest battery life

Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro 1018.0Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro 10 tablet autonomy comparison
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.115.0Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1 tablet autonomy comparison
Sony Xperia Z415.0Sony Xperia Z4 tablet autonomy comparison
Apple iPad Air13.5Apple iPad Air tablet autonomy comparison
Nokia Lumia 252013.5Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet autonomy comparison

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Weight comparison

Weight of selected tablet

 Tablet   kg   lbs   Weight 
Microsoft Surface 20.671.49Microsoft Surface 2 weight comparison

Compared to 5 lightest tablets - 10 inch and more

Chuwi Hi120.310.68Chuwi Hi12 weight comparison
Sony Xperia Z40.390.86Sony Xperia Z4 weight comparison
Amazon Fire HD 100.430.95Amazon Fire HD 10 weight comparison
Sony Xperia Z20.440.96Sony Xperia Z2 weight comparison
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.50.461.02Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 weight comparison

 

Microsoft Surface 2