Microsoft Surface Pro 2 review

21 Oct 2013

All-day battery life and a new kickstand help make the Surface Pro 2 one of the most compelling hybrids available

Price when reviewed 
719
5

Whereas Microsoft broke the tablet mould with the original Surface, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is a spot-the-difference competition when compared to its predecessor. Placed flat on a table next to the original Microsoft Surface Pro, you simply can't tell them apart; only if you flip them over do you see the telltale Surface logo of the new model. Instead, Microsoft is hoping that a revamped kickstand, internals and accessories are going to make all the difference to its tablet/laptop hybrid.

The Surface Pro 2 packs in Intel's Haswell CPU technology, a 1.6GHz Core i5-4200U, which Turbo Boosts up to 2.6GHz when required. This does nothing to boost performance over its predecessor – a score of 0.61 in our Real World Benchmarks is actually marginally slower than the original – but the real benefit comes in the shape of extended battery life.

A full day's work was beyond the first Surface Pro, which managed only 5hrs 52mins in our light-use battery test. The Surface Pro 2 is built of sterner stuff, however: it lasted 9hrs 15mins, despite having exactly the same capacity battery (42Wh) as its predecessor. This means this device is likely to last a working day away from the mains plug, unlike its predecessor, which barely made it past lunchtime without requiring a top up.

On the exterior, little has changed. The Surface Pro 2 has the same Full HD display as its predecessor, and the same problems with desktop applications that aren't optimised for high-DPI displays: icons and onscreen menus are unbearably small in software such as Adobe Photoshop CC. The blame for this can hardly be laid at Microsoft's door – developers such as Adobe have had long enough to get their house in order – but it's a drawback nonetheless.

The high-DPI issue with Photoshop is even more galling now that Microsoft has decided to calibrate each screen before it leaves the factory, ensuring superb colour accuracy. Our colorimeter reported a stark contrast ratio of 899:1, a healthy peak brightness of 414cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and a near-perfect Delta E of 3.2, confirming what one glance at the Surface Pro 2's screen will tell you: this is a top-notch display, with the bright colours of the Start screen tiles popping off the screen. From sumptuous photography, to perfectly sized text in apps such as News and Sports, it all looks glorious.

It isn't without fault, however. Even without a keyboard attached, the Surface Pro 2 is still a lump, and at 920g, it's a shade heavier than the original. On the plus side, the Surface Pro 2 doesn't warm up quite as readily as its predecessor, making it a little more comfortable to hold for prolonged periods.

It's compromised in laptop mode, too. Its revamped kickstand now has two positions, addressing one of our chief complaints with the original Surface – that it was too upright when used on a table in front of you. Yet, even with two positions to choose from, we still occasionally found ourselves yearning to reposition the screen to avoid reflections, as you would with a laptop.

Microsoft has also revamped the keyboard accessories for the Surface Pro 2. A backlight has been added to the Touch Cover 2, it's been slimmed down, made stiffer, and the number of sensors beneath its touch membrane has been boosted as well. Alas, none of this solves our prime concern with the Touch Cover: it's still difficult to get up to full typing speed on a device without any tactile feedback, and many keystrokes still go unregistered.

The new Type Cover 2 looks more promising. Microsoft has strengthened the base to help prevent the keyboard flexing when it's used on your lap, and has also added a backlight. Unfortunately, Microsoft was unable to deliver us a Type Cover 2 at the time of publication, so we'll update this review when we finally get our hands on one.

Details

Price ex VAT 64GB, £599 (£719 inc VAT); 128GB, £666 (£799 inc VAT); 256GB, £866 (£1,039 inc VAT); 512GB, £1,199 (£1,439 inc VAT); Touch Cover 2, £83 (£100 inc VAT); Type Cover 2, £92
Price inc VAT £110
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 274 x 13.7 x 173mm (WDH)
Weight 920g
Travelling weight 1.4kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-4200U
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free N/A
SODIMM sockets total N/A

Screen and video

Screen size 10.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4400
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Battery capacity 42Wh

Networking

Wired adapter speed N/A
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchscreen and touchpad
Hardware volume control? yes
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.9mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 9hr 15min
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.61
Responsiveness score 0.66
Media score 0.68
Multitasking score 0.50

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8.1 Pro
OS family Windows 8