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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.
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.
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 the 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.
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.