Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Review

The original Microsoft Surface, like its Surface RT counterpart, was expected to be yet another success for the computing giant. Instead, both devices entered the tablet market with more fizzle than flash.

The manufacturer lost a significant sum of money on unsold units, and it wasn’t clear how Microsoft would continue with the tablet experiment. With the Surface Pro 2, we have our answer.

Hands-On Impressions

On first blush, the Surface Pro 2 seems to be essentially the same tablet in comparison to its predecessor. Its magnesium alloy body measures 10.81-by-6.81-by-0.53 inches and weighs just a shade under two pounds, which is virtually identical to the original.

The build quality is exceptional, and the Surface really feels like a premium device. Unfortunately, it’s disappointingly heavy compared to tablets like the svelte Sony VAIO Tap 11.

Tablet Tour

The Surface Pro 2’s layout is fairly standard. The left edge is adorned with a full-sized USB 3.0 port, a volume rocker and a standard 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. The top edge sports the power and lock button and the microphone.

Along the right edge are the Mini DisplayPort, microSDXC port and a proprietary charging socket. The bottom features magnetic connectors that hold any of the optional keyboard docks in place with impressive strength.

Resolving the Details

The original Surface Pro featured a very impressive display, and the same holds true for the Surface Pro 2. The 10.6-inch, 1,920-by-1,080 pixel display is crisp and sharp, aided in part by Microsoft’s exclusive ClearType sub-pixel rendering.

It’s a detail that may not stand out, but it’s noticeable in a side-by-side tablet comparison. The optically bonded panel produces minimal glare, and the color and contrast are every bit as good as the original. It’s an IPS display, so viewing angles are very good as well.

This may be somewhat less important with the new two-stage kickstand, but wide viewing angles still come in handy.

Under the Hood

The Microsoft Surface Pro 2, like a number of other Haswell devices, is powered by a Core i5-4200U processor and Intel HD 4400 graphics. This is mated with either four or eight gigabytes of RAM.

Despite the similar specifications, however, the Surface Pro 2 outpaces virtually all tablets in its class. Performance is exceptional compared to tablets like the Sony VAIO Tap 11, and it even stacks up well against many notebooks. The battery life, which was perhaps the weakest point of the original Surface Pro, is also considerably improved.

Comparison with Previous Model

Despite the paltry sales figures, the original Microsoft Surface Pro is a solid tablet. The Surface Pro 2 begins with this solid foundation and improves on nearly every facet. The construction quality is even better than the already solid original, and the display is every bit as sharp and vibrant.

The beefy new hardware is perhaps the biggest difference, as the Core i5-4200U delivers dramatically improved performance. The additional battery life is nice as well, though it’s still far from impressive.

Tablet Roundup

The Surface Pro 2’s biggest competitor is probably Sony’s VAIO Tap 11. The Tap 11 is considerably thinner and lighter, and it’s as stylish as we’ve come to expect from Sony. Comparing tablets directly, however, it’s obvious that Sony cut some corners with build quality in order to achieve its skinny design.

The Surface Pro 2 feels much more substantial and high-quality. The displays are something of a wash, though Sony’s Trilumious technology is impressive to behold. The VAIO Tap 11 can’t quite match the blazing performance of the Surface Pro 2, though it’s more than adequate for most purposes.

Where the Tap 11 really excels is in terms of value. The detachable keyboard dock, which is sold separately for the Surface Pro 2, is included with the Tap 11. Considering the Sony’s already lower price, it’s hard to argue with the tremendous value.