Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Review
Generally speaking, the product cycle of a particular device is normally one year, giving it enough time to permeate the market, and by that time, we're then greeted with a successor of some kind. Well folks, sometimes a company just can't wait. Whether it’s related to poor sales, or simply be a reaction to impending competition, Microsoft is in that exact position of launching a successive product in less than a year after its predecessor.
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.
Making its second appearance, the Surface Pro 2 relies on the same display as before, a 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080 (1080p) IPS LCD display that obviously outclasses any of the displays found on Windows 8 tablets running Intel Atom processors. Even though it's something that most people might overlook, the display is optically bonded, which results in less glare. Throw in Microsoft's own hone brewed ClearType rendering technology as well, it's able to deliver great details to even the finest of text – so there's plenty of sharpness and clarity to it.
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.