Microsoft Surface 2 Review
Interface and Functionality
We have the updated Windows RT 8.1 experience on the Surface 2, which finds many of the same updates and enhancements found with the full-blown Windows 8.1 experience – like improved organization with the Start screen, the return of the Start button in desktop mode, and better “snapping” between apps that are simultaneously on screen.
We can’t complain about the dynamic look of the platform, of course, but the biggest difference between this and the full blown Windows 8.1 experience, is the lack of being able to run legacy software in the desktop mode. No surprise there, right? Therefore, Windows RT 8.1 is merely nothing more than a “lite” version of Microsoft’s desktop OS.
We were baffled why simple organizer apps like the Alarm or Calculator were blatantly omitted with the Surface last year, but this time, Microsoft includes several of them from the get-go. On top of the usual People and Calendar apps, Windows RT 8.1 adds in Alarm, Calculator, and Sound Recorder apps.
Even though you can churn out some additional money to pick up the optional Touch or Type 2 covers, the on-screen landscape keyboard proves to be especially usable thanks to its responsiveness, spacious layout, and fantastic auto-correct feature. Alternatively, the Surface 2 also boasts a split style keyboard, which is especially useful with portrait usage, and a hand writing recognition one that doesn’t seem as practical when compared to the other options.
Processor and Memory
In the last year alone, it seems as though Qualcomm’s chips have been the preferred choice amongst most flagship devices in the space. So it’s safe to say that everyone was taken by surprise when Microsoft made it known that the Surface 2 is powered by the quad-core 1.7GHz NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor coupled with 2GB of RAM. It’s been a while since we’ve checked out something with NVIDIA’s silicone, but we’re glad to see that it gives the Surface 2 a solid performance. As expected, it’s fast, responsive, and barely stutters, so we’re pleased with the results.
Yet again, the Surface 2 is available in 32GB and 64GB capacities – with ability of its being supplemented thanks to its microSD card slot. Pricing stands at $450 and $550 respectively, which are pretty competitive when you think about it.
Whether it’s the touch friendly or desktop mode version of Internet Explorer, the web browsing experience is what we expected all along with the Surface 2 – fantastic! Boasting speedy page loads, fast page rendering, and buttery smooth navigational controls, it’s everything we’d want with the experience, so there are no complaints from us whatsoever.
Considering sales weren’t too great with the original Surface, it doesn’t surprise us that there are no plans for cellular enabled versions of the Surface 2. As for what it’s packing along, it features Bluetooth 4.0, dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, USB 3.0, and a microHDMI port for video-out.
1. HASHTAG (unregistered)
No auto-focus w/ camera? I'm sure a lot of people would be upset about that. :p
2. jove39 (Posts: 1228; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
If surface 2 was built with real windows & atom cpu...MS had real chance to make some money from it...atom 3770 is good enough to handle full windows...remember Dell venue pro!
Well...MS can't abandon winRT now...they have too much invested in it...their only logical step forward is to merge winP and winRT at some point.
7. Shatter (Posts: 1947; Member since: 29 May 2013)
The new Baytrail-T atoms kill the old ones, the integrated gpu is good enough to play old pc game and pretty much every not intensive one + most emulators (PC emulators are far more advanced than android one, the n64 one is near perfect)
15. pookiewood (Posts: 545; Member since: 05 Mar 2012)
Please stop comparing WinRt with Real Windows (your desktop and the Atom 3770 you mentioned). Win RT serves to compete agains iOS and Android. It's supposed to be light weight fanless and app centric. It's what I want! I already have a laptop and a desktop with "Real Windows".
5. fsnas (Posts: 90; Member since: 18 Jun 2012)
I find Windows RT is much better than other tablets' OSs.
so next time, write (IMO) before "ewwww"
8. Shatter (Posts: 1947; Member since: 29 May 2013)
It doesn't even cost any more $... I see no reason to buy an RT tablet over a $400-$500 Baytrail-T with a solid state drive, 2-4gb ddr3 ram, 64bit x86 cpu that can run virtually any windows application, much better gpu too, I think its like 6-7x more powerful than the original atom they used with the crappy power vr. Now its based of ivy bridge desktop integrated.
Some stuff I have seen it run: Leauge of Legends, civilization 4 (5 has some lag but it is playable) and minecraft.
10. YuLeven (Posts: 49; Member since: 14 May 2013)
I see some point in your comment, but benchmarks shows that Baytrail's GPU isn't as powerful as you say. Anandtechs's benchmarks delivered performance on par with Apple's A6X. In the best scenarios for Intel it came only close to Tegra 4's or Snapdragon 800's GPU, in other cases it lost by a 50% margin.
It's based on the Ivy Bridge architecture, indeed, but it has only 4 EUs, the performance is far from stellar.
That being said, as I really don't care about tablet gaming, I would love to see a Lumia 2520/Surface 2 like tablet running Atom Z3770.
13. Shatter (Posts: 1947; Member since: 29 May 2013)
In most test its between adreno 320 and 330. Except this.
It wrecks them on harder to run stuff somehow. Guess poor optimization for low stuff.
14. YuLeven (Posts: 49; Member since: 14 May 2013)
This is just part of the 3DMark benchmark. It does not say much, as you can see it wrecking the HD8330, a card that beats it on every single other test by a large margin.
Looking sharply at other tests, exactly as I said it's on par with Apple A6X's PowerVR card, which is itself positioned between Adreno 320 and Adreno 330 in most cases. It falls short to Tegra 4 and Snapdragon 800's Adreno 330.
This is not a bad result by any means, it just not as you said on your original post. BayTrail Intel HD graphics isn't a ''much better GPU" compared to Surface 2's Tegra 4 or Lumia 2520's Adreno 330, its slower.
17. pookiewood (Posts: 545; Member since: 05 Mar 2012)
You don't need to. The point of RT is to compete with iOS and Android. They need to keep it around.
4. fsnas (Posts: 90; Member since: 18 Jun 2012)
if it only supports SIM (LTE)!!
that's why i'm turning to Nokia Lumia 2520!
9. YuLeven (Posts: 49; Member since: 14 May 2013)
With Windows RT I can open the Pandora site and have the music playing in the background, while I have two other apps running at the same time. No premium ($$) app required for that. The same goes for Youtube. Or basicly any other site, in the very same way you would do on a desktop computer.
I can actually keep watching my movies and still reply that perky mail that arrived, no need for closing it all. I can work on my papers on Office and quickly popup Internet Explorer for a quick glance at the dictionary.
Having apps is good, but by no means my experience in Windows RT is cramped by the lack of them. In fact, it feels better them OS's with tons of apps for asian breasts and stuff.
Ecosystem does not means only having a big number of 'tablet optimized apps'. Ecosystem stands for the whole, the basic system, it's programs, it's hardware capabilities, it support for other platforms and environments. On a Surface 2 I can hook pretty much every piece of hardware I have in my house to the USB port and it will work. My printer and external HD are quite pleased by that.
It also feels quite snappy. On the Modern UI instance it feels pretty much as fast as my Core i5 latptop with an ordinary 5400RPM HD.
I quite like Windows RT, people really should give it a chance before screaming 'apps' and running away. It does media consumption in a overally good way, it does productivity better than other systems.
16. pookiewood (Posts: 545; Member since: 05 Mar 2012)
I agree! The App argument is so stupid when it comes to Windows. There are some many ways to approach things on Windows, including RT.
18. bigwavesurfer4 (Posts: 10; Member since: 13 Jun 2011)
I also agree. The problem with the Surface 2 isn't the real competition (android, ios)...it's the Surface Pro 2. What matters is the direct competition being IOS and Android. A good friend of mine with her iPad summed it up quite well. She said...I don't know what to do with it... all I do is play games on it.... that's great.... but I have an android phone for that...I bought this tablet for Microsoft word, to stream flash videos like the Colbert Report etch etc... and in that regard this works like a charm... the thing I was most happy with is the app selection (I know I know give me a chance)... the UI is impeccable and it has apps in every category. Do I miss Candy Crush? Yes, but again that's why I have my phone. Everything from the news apps, the economist, cooking apps, they all look and run incredibly. I snapped a photo the other day.... turned out pretty rotten... then I slapped myself and said why the hell are you taking phone on a tablet dummy. So for this review... ok... give it an 8...but I bet secretly John V won't ever want to go back to another tablet again if it means him actually getting something done on it. Just JMO. :-P
11. fuzzkage (Posts: 17; Member since: 29 Dec 2012)
I love the design but why get a tablet period lol when the new baytrails tablets will cost less but do more
12. smartphonelover (Posts: 36; Member since: 26 Nov 2009)
Why are they still talking about Android still not having that many tablet optimized apps? Do they really still not have that many? I'm asking the commentators not phonearena since phonearena makes some ridiculous claims at times. When I had a tablet most of the apps looked fantastic on it, and that was when the Asus Transformer TF201 came out. Plus now we have phones with the same resolution as a lot of tablets, so I imagine there's even more apps that look good on the general android tablet since the apps are being optimized for 1080p screens. Either way the Microsoft Surface 2 doesn't seem worth the money for the OS that you're getting. I'd much rather go with the Asus T100 with it being full windows 8.1 and being able to fold out like a netbook, plus it's cheaper.
19. DFranch (Posts: 132; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)
The review doesn't even mention that it comes with office apps for free. That should add +1 right there.
20. EclipseGSX (Posts: 1540; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
Just got mine, and i'm in love. You gotta go with the Pro version for sure :)
21. haikallp (Posts: 69; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)
Own the original Surface and so far, I like it. The things I hate about it is the occasional sluggishness when multitasking, the low resolution display(although the color is punchy) and the fact that the kickstand angle is quite steep. Seems that Microsoft listened to feedbacks and the Surface 2 tackles all my issues. Wished it was lighter though. I love the look of the Nokia Lumia 2520 but the lack of kickstand bothers me. Once you have a tablet with a built-in kickstand, you do not one to go back to a tablet that does not have one. Can't even count how many times I've used my Surface with the kickstand.