Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Review
In less than 9 short months, the Microsoft's Surface Pro Windows 8 tablet is already being brushed aside by its successor in the Microsoft Surface Pro 2. We're getting the hint that the Redmond based company wants to have something special in time for the upcoming busy holiday season. Looking back at it, the Surface Pro was a great first offering, since it showed us how versatile it is over some of the competition – namely the iPad and horde of top-notch Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and Google Nexus 10.
Armed with the usual set of hardware upgrades and an updated Windows 8.1 experience, the Surface Pro 2 is hoping to show consumers that it's been fine-tuned enough to make it a justified choice over some of its biggest rivals – and that's despite it being priced higher than some of the big sellers in the industry. Note that what we're looking at here is the Surface Pro 2, which runs full-blown Windows 8 Pro and has access to all the legacy Windows software, unlike the Windows 8 RT-running Surface 2.
The package contains:
- Wall charger
- Pressure sensitive stylus
After a good year of checking out various Windows 8 tablets, where some of them impressed us by their slimmer profiles than the original Surface Pro, we were hoping to see a slimmer Surface Pro 2, but instead, it's sporting the same chassis – so its overall size and weight remains unchanged. A bummer no doubt considering all things, even more knowing how much technology advances in such a short period of time. In the tablet world, this is undoubtedly a hefty thing to carry around, but in the PC world, it’s widely viewed as compact. Regardless, knowing what it's packing inside of its body, we can't be too critical.
Just like its predecessor, the Surface Pro 2 employs the same distinctive design – one that's most notable for its angular cuts around its edges. Also, the choice of materials is also the same, which is a magnesium composite casing common referred to as "VaporMg." It clearly has a finish similar to brushed aluminum, which gives it some added strength and sturdiness with its construction, but it would've been nice to see additional color options – as opposed to the same dark black finish.
Due to the angular cuts around the sides, the Surface Pro 2 continues to feel a bit sharp when holding it. Naturally, two-handed operation is most optimal with this, since it's packing quite a heft for just a single hand to handle. Although the design is unchanged, it's still one good looking tablet that has a modern touch, feel, and appearance. Still, we would've loved to see its size trimmed a bit more to make it a more appealing thing.
Seeing that we're dealing with the same design here, all the same ports and buttons are found littered throughout its body. Beneath the display, there's the capacitive Start button that brings us back to the Start screen at a moment's notice.
Meanwhile, around its trim, we have its USB 3.0 port, volume control, 3.5mm headset jack, microphone, power button, microSD card slot, magnetic power connector, mini Display port for video out, and a magnetic port that enables us to attach it to the optional Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 keyboards. Microsoft mentions that it has improved connection for the magnetic power connector, which allows us to charge the tablet, but we still find it a little finicky at times. Essentially, we're still finding ourselves adjust it so that it snaps it into place snuggly.
No doubt a rarity amongst tablets, the Surface Pro 2 once again packs along an ever so useful kickstand. One of our complaints last year was that the kickstand only offered a single angled view, but this time around, they’ve been kind enough to give us another. Before, the angle of the kickstand made the tablet usable when it's placed on a table – making it nearly impossible to use with the touch or type keyboards while on our lap. This time, though, there's a second wider angle that allows us to better use it on our laps. And best of all, it locks into place and feels sturdy, so it doesn't move as we're using the tablet with any of the keyboards.
When it comes to cameras, we're bummed to know that Microsoft decided to not outfit this one with any updated gear. Rather, they're the same lackluster spec'd cameras from before – 720p front and rear cameras. And just like before, there are LED lights nearby that power on to indicate that they're being used.
Color reproduction with the display is vivid and warm, and knowing that it has some great viewing angles, we see very little distortion at extreme angles. In fact, we're able to easily see mostly everything on-screen outside where the sun is present, which is due to the ambient light sensor cranking up its brightness and contrast to better adapt to the situation.
Indeed, there are no significant upgrades to the display, but regardless of that, it still proves to be a pleasant thing to find on a high spec'd tablet in this particular range. Sure, we would've loved to see its resolution bumped up even more, but heck, 1080p is still mighty detailed with a 10.6-inch screen.
Pressure Sensitive Stylus
Adding depth to its functionality, the Surface Pro 2 packs along the same pressure sensitive stylus as before, dubbed this time as the active stylus Surface Pen. Unfortunately, it's still something that can be easily lost or misplaced, seeing that it requires being attached to the magnetic power connector when it's not being used – instead of being discretely being tucked away somewhere inside of the Surface Pro 2's body. Nevertheless, it's an optional way of interacting with the tablet, as it can be used for jotting down notes, or simply be used to draw something. And of course, thanks to its ability to finely measure various degrees of pressure sensitivity, it can produce very fine strokes as we use it. It's not something we'd use on occasion, but nevertheless, it's nice to have as an addition – albeit, we wish it were smaller in size and somehow tucked away discretely when it’s not being used.
Touch Cover 2
Like we mentioned, the introduction of the Surface Pro 2 is also greeted with the updated $120 Touch Cover 2 keyboard. In addition to being available in a wide array of bright colors, it's actually one-third thinner than last year's model – barely giving the tablet any unwanted thickness. As always, there's a steep learning curve with it, since the experience is similar to using the on-screen keyboard, but the fabric material it's constructed from offers more rigidity between each key. It works and the fabric material is very easy on the Surface Pro 2's display – though, we still wish it would have a magnetic connection so it stays in place when it's folder over.
Type Cover 2
If you're more akin to using a traditional keyboard, you'll no doubt appreciate the $130 Type Keyboard 2, which like its sibling, packs on some new features – while still slimming down its profile as well. Needless to say, if you prefer tactility, this is the keyboard to select, since it closely replicates the typical typing experience. Better yet, it now features a very subtle backlighting, allowing us to continue using it in the dark with no issues. However, there doesn't seem to be a way to manually turn it off.
1. StreetNerd (Posts: 720; Member since: 08 Dec 2010)
'Stylus can easily be misplaced/lost' -_-"
6. Commentator (Posts: 2469; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
The iPad doesn't have a stylus slot either. I wonder why that's not a con on the iPad reviews...
11. Commentator (Posts: 2469; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
Also, if "stylus can easily be misplaced/lost" is a con, surely the "INCLUSION OF THE FREAKING STYLUS IN THE FIRST PLACE" should be considered a pro...
If the tablet came with an ice-cream machine, would you not list it as a pro, but then list as a con "ice-cream can easily be dropped on the floor"?
Why would losing/misplacing something that isn't a pro be a con?
13. joaolx (Posts: 362; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
Even if it has a stylus doesn't mean it should be a pro. What if it's not that good. And what if a tablet comes with a horrible stylus. Pro-Comes with a stylus. Con-But it sucks and you'll never use it. I'm not saying this is the case but just because it has something doesn't mean it works well or that it should be pro because of it.
23. YuLeven (Posts: 49; Member since: 14 May 2013)
It's no commonner stylus, it's a Wacom Digitizer. You can't get much better than that on a tablet.
I bloody love the Wacom's on my Galaxy Note III. It's brilliant, it severely outclasses my sausage fingers.
36. zdprince (Posts: 23; Member since: 10 May 2013)
I agree with your point because on the review of Lumia 1520, one of the cons was a fact that there wasn't a stylus so why can't it be a pro here...?
42. Prabs (Posts: 14; Member since: 11 Feb 2012)
Very similar to when phonearena also cons a phone for not being released with the latest version of Android. Do they delete the con after the phone gets the update? No. Do they redo the review when the phone gets the update? No. There is no such thing as an objective phone review...
2. bucky (Posts: 1560; Member since: 30 Sep 2009)
Good score. I think if it was $200 or so cheaper it would be a lot better.
3. 7thspaceman (Posts: 1119; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)
Microsoft is sure to make the Surface Pro 3 thinner than this Tablet/Laptop hybrid. it's cost is high but folks the Surface pro 2 is an Ultra book in the shape of a tablet. Most Ultra books with the specs of a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 cost about the same as a Surface Pro 2. Windows 8 and the Intel haswell i5 chip and the new Type cover with the built battery that is coming in early 2014 will make the Surface pro 2 a very formidable portable Tablet/laptop
device. Personally I think it should be classed as a Tablet/Portable Computer hybrid because most people rather use on a desk or a table with ether of it's Combo Cover/Keyboards.
4. rusticguy (Posts: 2828; Member since: 11 Aug 2012)
From usability for productive use (not just watchin video and playing games which i dont have time for) I find Surface Pro to be best in the "Tab" class far better than all those *pads and android tablets. Only if MS could start looking at NON-APPLE like Margins, this could be an instant hit.
5. HASHTAG (unregistered)
I don't see how this is pricey, as this tablet is in a different category. Bad camera? Eh, I don't care as I'm not John V. who uses his iPad to take pictures. "Stylus can easily be misplaced/lost." Well isn't that a asinine con?
9. Commentator (Posts: 2469; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)
It's not pricey at all. It's on par both price and spec wise with most ultrabooks, and it outclasses them in portability.
21. LordDavon (Posts: 107; Member since: 19 Sep 2011)
I have a Surface Pro 128GB (original), and it is most definitely a valid con. On the first Surface Pro, the pen is held in the charging port by magnets; a slight nudge knocks it off. The stylus is a great tool at times, but it is easily found on the ground behind me as I walk away. I no longer keep the stylus attached to the unit, and just put it in my pocket. I would really have loved this fixed in the second version, but it seems Microsoft doesn't "get it". It should lock in the unit somewhere, and not just sit there as easy prey to slight acts that dislocate it.
46. 14545 (Posts: 1144; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)
A con in relation to the tablet itself. But a pro compared to all other tabs on the market. I think that is everyones point. The Note series is the only other series not on W8 that has a pen. That should help put it over most other tabs.
7. wgaurav (Posts: 22; Member since: 17 Dec 2010)
I line my Pro, worst con I think for pro is the power connector, it takes efforts to just fit it in, very bad design.
15. jove39 (Posts: 1320; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)
1. "Hefty size and weight for a tablet"
Surface Pro is heavy when compared to tablets...but its light when compared to ultrbooks...and surely it attempts to bridge gap between two...and people should stop criticizing it's weight problem now...as it's more due to core processors that need hefty motherboard and active cooling with fan.
remaining 3 cons are just to make total of 4
Cameras are not good
Stylus can easily be misplaced/lost
47. 14545 (Posts: 1144; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)
Styli are cheap, even for the wacom replacements. I have two for my note 10.1. So that should not be an actual con.
18. valapsp (Posts: 483; Member since: 12 Aug 2011)
I still can't decide between the 4GB and the 8GB version. Opening 12 tabs in Chrome hogs 1.8Gb of RAM on my PC and there is another thing called future proofing but you know that $300 difference is definitely not worth it. (128GB SSD is more than enough for me since it has a micro sd slot too.)
19. papss (unregistered)
This site is something else lol...
I may trade my pro in for this new one. Love the updated processor
20. muser793 (Posts: 46; Member since: 15 Aug 2013)
so you're telling me Surface Pro 2 is worse than Ipad 4 n Ipad mini ?! nice joke PA ;)
even surface pro 1 is 10times better than other tablets ! it's a damn full PC with millions of programs not a device for -12 kid who loves 2 play angry birds on big screen !
22. YuLeven (Posts: 49; Member since: 14 May 2013)
But, but, but... APPS!!! And... PREMIUM UNIBODY DESIGN!!! And, uh, well... BEZELS!!! Uhm, let me see... retina display? Oh, it's nor working. Let me think, let me think.
Yes! Yes! The iPad is clearly better!! I know why! You can... ehm, you can... you have... well... YOU CAN'T LOSE YOUR STYLUS WITH AN IPAD MINI! THAT IS IT!!
24. stealthd (Posts: 975; Member since: 12 Jun 2011)
Not having to use the awful mess Windows 8 is a pretty huge benefit.
32. Pancholo (Posts: 377; Member since: 27 Feb 2012)
Too bad you will forever be perceived as closed-minded by such statements. Everybody else and their mothers will enjoy Windows 8+ while you will probably praise some watered-down OS.
Cool story, bro.
35. YuLeven (Posts: 49; Member since: 14 May 2013)
I can still hear all the rage of people pleading to never leave Windows XP. Sadly, it's just on my mind now.
Boy, those people should stop behaving like an old farmer granpa screaming at those people of the cities and they flying machines.
And I need to stop hearing voices or else I will be locked on a sanatorium.
41. TheUndernet (Posts: 12; Member since: 26 Sep 2013)
BUAHAHAHAHA ... i cant tell if you're being serious....but really an (ANY)Ipad dont even come close to a Surface pro 2, be real. dont come with the user experience BS/not enough apps/retina display (which you probably dont know what it is) pls ...Jobs is dead already... Listen, Im a tech enthusiast and a gamer....I wanna be able to run steam on a lagless tablet with full HD graphics....YOU'VE GOT TO GIVE CREDIT WHERE IS DUE. MICROSOFT OUTDID APPLE AND SEVERAL OTHERS ON THIS ONE. sorry but the Ipad is destined to the technologically challanged users. Apple just keeps making money off the dumb, blissful consumers who buy into fashionable tech accessories. End of the day, its your choice.
25. Legnaldo (Posts: 33; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)
Its a computer, not a tablet. Therefore your pricing argument is pointless. Its uses computer hardware and software (i5 and Win8Pro); not tablet hardware and software (Arm processor and WinRT). If it runs like a computer, has all the same abilities of a computer, and is sold at computer comparable pricing for hardware vs size then review it as a computer; not a tablet.
For a computer its pricing isn't that bad for what it offers. If you get a hybrid split device or ultra thin ultra book with the same specs you would still be better off with the surface pro 2 because of the ridiculously thin keyboard/mouse magnetic cover and the touchscreen that is using what is effectively a Wacom like experience with the stylus.
Im just asking you to review as it is not what you think it is because of how it looks. What is defined as a computer these days is becoming blurry because you have so many options. Like towers, all-in-ones, portable all-in-ones, laptops, netbooks, ultra books, convertibles, splits and "tablets" that all offer effectively the same capabilities and experience. Just ask yourself two questions if your unsure how to class it. What processor is it running, and what OS is it running, and that should be enough to tell you if it truly is a computer or not.
Sorry for the rant guys. Just had to make a point.
26. djcody (Posts: 49; Member since: 17 Apr 2013)
Over priced, over sized, over weighted, no go for me!!
27. JKING_25 (Posts: 53; Member since: 12 Sep 2012)
I just went to best buy to play with this thing. I am buying one next month. It freaking rocks!
28. StreetNerd (Posts: 720; Member since: 08 Dec 2010)
same here! gonna start next week at my new job, gonna buy it with my first salary check :')
29. muneshyne21 (Posts: 16; Member since: 09 Apr 2013)
Surface Docking Station.
You can hook up an external monitor, several usb devices, ethernet jack and audio jack. Bluetooth a normal sized keyboard/mouse and I have a full blown PC. Then you can undock and use at home as a tablet. Then you can take your keyboard cover and use as a note taking device in school or work or on a business trip. Does nobody see the awesomeness of this?! I feel like im taking crazy pills! The ipads and Android tablets only have one look!
33. Pancholo (Posts: 377; Member since: 27 Feb 2012)
Sadly, nobody really sees the awesomeness of such device. All they see is "Microsoft" and "Windows 8", then run to the nearest Apple store and hide under an iPad's showroom desk.
Wake up, fangirls. Try it for a change (mostly referring to Win8) and embrace the awesomesauce.
30. Akfred (banned) (Posts: 76; Member since: 08 Nov 2012)
This is a very bad review, God will never forgive you John V if
U score I pad higher than this. Surface is way more better than, any
ipad and will always be better. Your just there to write nonsense
Article about a product that is way better than any tablet. Am
An apple fan if u must know but I will always call a spade a spade.
34. Pancholo (Posts: 377; Member since: 27 Feb 2012)
I agree. The iPad Air will probably get a 9-9.5... What a confused world we live in.
31. CX3NT3_713 (Posts: 2000; Member since: 18 Apr 2011)
Its actually a full PC,trying to be a tablet .... Get it right PA....
37. zdprince (Posts: 23; Member since: 10 May 2013)
my only problem with the whole surface thing is the price. it is too expensive for what Microsoft is trying to achieve. I Believe that Apple and the other Android tabs have already captured the market so competing with them with a great device like the surface is one thing but price is another. Microsoft is to find a way to sell his products at a lower cost to push more people to his platform as an alternative but not to compete direct with the rest. COMPETE WITH YOURSELF BEFORE YOU COMPETE WITH THE REST!
38. devjones2236 (Posts: 1; Member since: 26 Oct 2013)
First, the stylus is the best in its class. It has very good accuracy and feels like your writing with a pen not a piece of crap rubberized marker like the ipad. This requires a capacitive screen, which is much more expensive than a non-capacitive screen (ipad or any other apple product, as well as Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro) it has premium specs with a high def screen. I hate when people compare this to MacBook Air. The air is not touch screen at all and does not have a HD screen. The 128 gb ipad is $800 without a keyboard and it cannot run legacy applications, does not have a capacitive screen allowing for digitized stylus (just the crappy bamboo sticks), does not come with a pen, and does not have the performance the Surface Pro 2 has. iPads are good for what they are but the surface pro 2 deserves a premium price. In addition, it is perfect for taking written notes on in meetings where clicking keyboards are not allowed or in class, it is productive on the go, and at home I hook it up to a 32 inch LED TV which allows me to be very productive. The weight is not that big of an issue unless you want to read a book sitting in a chair. I read PDFs on it all the time. However, if reading is the only reason you want a tablet I would stay with a 7-8inch light tablet.
39. android_hitman (Posts: 652; Member since: 07 Jul 2010)
OMG! for the 100th time .. this is not a TABLET, this is a full blown PC so STOP comparing it to the Ipad....
43. DatabaseMX (Posts: 19; Member since: 27 May 2009)
Heads up girls:
According to ifixit dot com (can't post direct link) ...:::
"The SSD can be replaced, but not without first risking damage to the tablet simply by opening it."
'Repairability Score" : 1 out of 10
44. android_hitman (Posts: 652; Member since: 07 Jul 2010)
yeah like you ever tried to open/repair a tablet
45. spo (Posts: 19; Member since: 25 Apr 2009)
I think this machine is elegant and brilliant. It seems that Microsoft has a stigma that is just tough to shake and it's easy for the media to praise Apple for putting out the same products over and over again than to truly recognize the potential of a unique product like this that delivers a complete user experience instead of an experience that stunts productivity for the sake of profiting off of a walled-garden app ecosystem.
As we've seen before Apple has no problem eating their words i.e. "there's no market for 7 inch tablets" and if this form factor (full OS/touch screen/detachable keyboard) starts gaining ground and eating into iPad sales they'll have no problem introducing their own Surface style machine and claiming they invented it. The difference will be that when Apple does it, it will be cool, and hip and probably get great reviews. Apple has become what everyone hated about Microsoft in the 90's. Apple was cool because they were the underdog in the competition that focused on power machines for artists that weren't concerned with boring products like word processors and spread sheets. It was cool in the 90's to say "I can't open that file, I have a Mac, I'm an artist." Apple for a while abandoned the power user/artist to focus on mobile because it was profitable but in the meanwhile Microsoft was rethinking their strategy, innovating and coming up with a solution for the middle ground between what an iPad user wants and what a productive power user needs on the go and I think they've done a great job with the Surface Pro.
Microsoft lost a lot of ground with complacency thinking that they would always rule the computer world because everyone needs Office, and while that was true for a while it is no longer true and I think they're learning their lesson about how easy it is to lose ground to old competition and new players such as Google. Sooner or later that will happen to Apple as they keep delivering the same stagnant products every year that offer very limited experiences. One would have hoped by now that a touch screen MacBook Air would be available but in true Apple style we most likely won't see one for another year and then it will be "the best notebook ever". It probably will be great but waiting around for the competition to run it's course and then improving what they've done is not innovation and that attitude will eventually lead to failures and declining stock price.
Sorry for the sort of trolling.
48. Zeriel00 (Posts: 1; Member since: 31 Jan 2014)
So to get the 8GBs of ram we have to pay 1300$ + for the expensive models?? When there are similar tablets for 299$-399$? Their kidding right? The Asus VivoTab Note 8 that's coming out also has a Wacom Digitizer, it's a lot smaller and just as capable as this for a fraction of the price.