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Microsoft Surface 2 vs Surface Pro 2 review

Verdict

Powerful, long-lasting and desirable – Microsoft’s homegrown tablets get the formula right at the second attempt

Review Date: 31 Oct 2013

Reviewed By: Barry Collins

Price when reviewed: Surface Pro 2: 64GB, £599 (£719 inc VAT); 128GB, £666 (£799 inc VAT); 256GB, £866 (£1,039 inc VAT) Surface 2: 32GB £299 (£359 inc VAT); 64GB £366 (£439 inc VAT)

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With unsold stock of the Surface RT burning a billion-dollar hole in Microsoft’s finances, the company needs to make amends. Enter the new Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 models, which boost the specifications, extend battery life and give Microsoft a fighting chance of avoiding another expensive write-down.

Design differences

While the two first-generation Surface models were peas in a pod physically, they’ve now gone their separate ways. Both new models are fitted with a dual-position kickstand, addressing one of our chief complaints with the original, fixed-position models, which were too upright to use comfortably on your lap. However, this is where the similarities end.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2

Keyboards and docks

Touch Cover 2 (£109 inc VAT)
Similar to last year’s Touch Cover, only now backlit and boasting one or two fancy features, such as moving from word to word by swiping across its surface. The small touchpad is responsive, but it’s still too difficult to achieve full touch-typing speed without “proper” keys.

Type Cover 2 (£119 inc VAT)
This also benefits from a backlight, which comes on only when needed. The bigger improvement to Microsoft’s laptop-like keyboard is the increased strength of the base; it’s now possible to type on your lap without the entire keyboard flexing and some keys becoming inoperable.

Power Cover (TBC)
Due in early 2014, and only for the Surface Pro 2, the Power Cover is a Type Cover with an integrated second battery. This could almost double the longevity of the tablet, which means it may be worth postponing a purchase until this keyboard becomes available.

Docking Station (£165 inc VAT)
The Surface Pro Docking Station, also not due until early next year, will offer one USB 3 socket, three USB 2 ports, mini-DisplayPort and Ethernet sockets, plus charging capability. It’s likely to be a must-have for anyone contemplating using the Surface Pro 2 as their day-to-day office PC.

The Surface Pro 2 – the full-fat tablet running Windows 8.1 – has an almost identical build to its predecessor; only a new Surface logo on the rear distinguishes it from the original Surface Pro. As such, it remains a lightweight pseudo-laptop when used with a keyboard, but a hefty, 920g device to hold in the hand as a tablet.

The ARM-based Surface 2, on the other hand, has been redesigned – note that the contaminated RT brand has been sidelined – and is marginally slimmer and lighter than its predecessor. It weighs 654g – almost 200g more than Apple’s iPad Air – and sports a silver livery, distinguishing it from the gun-metal black of the Pro.

The big difference for the Surface 2 is the screen, which now matches the Pro’s 10.1in Full HD resolution. It’s a notable bump from the 1,366 x 768 display on the Surface RT, and our colorimeter reported a stark contrast ratio of 899:1, a healthy peak brightness of 414cd/m2 and a near-perfect Delta E of 3.2. This confirms what one glance at either screen will tell you: the display is top-notch, with the primary colours of the Start screen tiles almost popping off the screen. In fact, no device we’ve come across makes the Windows 8.1 Start screen look more appealing. It’s a shame that a few regular x86 desktop apps, such as Google Chrome and Adobe Photoshop, aren’t optimised for high-DPI screens, since this makes text look blurry and icons and onscreen menus annoyingly small.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2

What’s inside?

Despite the Surface 2’s exterior overhaul, it’s what’s inside that makes the difference to both tablets. The Surface Pro 2 packs a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, which Turbo Boosts to 2.6GHz when required. However, its fourth-generation Haswell architecture does nothing to boost performance over its Ivy Bridge predecessor: an overall score of 0.61 in our Real World Benchmarks is actually marginally lower than that of the original.

It does, however, extend the battery life considerably. A full day’s work was beyond the original Surface Pro, which managed only 5hrs 52mins in our light-use battery test. The Surface Pro 2 is built of sterner stuff: in the same test, it lasted for 9hrs 15mins, despite packing exactly the same 42Wh battery as its predecessor. This means it’s likely to survive a working day away from the mains, unlike the original Pro, which would barely make it past lunchtime.

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User comments

Surface Pro 2 - no upgrade! (+ multiple screens tip)

I bought the Pro as soon as it came out and was more than miffed when the new Pro 2 was released only just over 5 months later. 4.5 hours is not quite enough on the original.

I also found the Type Cover a pain on the train. It ended up hanging over the edge of the table due to other people with large laptops opposite, and not working all that well when flexed. I bought a MS Wedge Mouse and the Wedge Keyboard - a far better match so long as you get a good case for the Surface.

See the link below for full details on the above and how we got 8 - yes 8!! monitors working on the Surface Pro.

http://www.ingenious.co.uk/surface-pro.asp

By JezNolan on 31 Oct 2013

5/6 for "Value For Money" but no price listed in article.

Price and place of purchase missing as far as I can see.

By lemonstar61 on 31 Oct 2013

Prices

Apologies. Prices now appearing at the top of the article.

Barry Collins
Editor

By Barry_Collins on 31 Oct 2013

RT / Skydrive Integration

One thing most commentators are missing, but is a huge boost to the Surface RT (old or new) is the "Make available offline" option for Skydrive, allowing you to take it away from the internet!

By smn1973 on 31 Oct 2013

Well-balanced review

Microsoft's strategy of gradually side-lining legacy Windows for consumers moves a step closer.

Windows RT 8.1 can be run almost exclusively in "Modern UI" mode, and for my requirements at least, there are sufficient good-quality Apps available(YMMV).
The big bonus is Office Apps. Although the transition to the "desktop" is still clunky and intrusive, thew applications work fine with the optional Touch\Type cover. "Outlook" works very nicely in touch mode.
Hopefully the "Gemini" (touch) versions of Office due next year will be similarly good. These will also become available on iOS and Android at some time.

With Gemini and some additional O\S tweaks it's likely that the "desktop" element of "Surface" can be dropped entirely, leaving MS with a very decent Tablet O\S.
There are credible rumors that the ARM version of Windows will be merged with Windows 'Phone, and it will be interesting to see which O\S forms the basis of the merged one. Hopefully MS will not aim for the Lowest Common Denominator, but will keep the best of both....

Surface Pro devices and hybrids will continue to provide a bridge between the Legacy and Future iterations of Windows...

By wittgenfrog on 1 Nov 2013

Accessories

The docking station has already been released atleast in America and the Power Cover will be backwards compatible with the first Surface Pro. The Power Cover will have a 30Wh battery which is 71% of the Surface's 42Wh plus ~20% power saving with Haswell will net you ~205% battery over a stock Surface Pro 1.

By NameTaken on 3 Nov 2013

Surface Pro 2

Improved battery life:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7478/microsoft-surfa
ce-pro-2-firmware-update-improves-battery-life

By rhythm on 4 Nov 2013

Surface RT or Surface 2

PC World are selling 32gb Surface RT with touch cover for £269. I was tempted until I read this review. Is a Surface 2 plus type cover worth the extra £209?

By Mike_Stanton on 11 Nov 2013

Surface RT or Surface 2

PC World are selling 32gb Surface RT with touch cover for £269. I was tempted until I read this review. Is a Surface 2 plus type cover worth the extra £209?

By Mike_Stanton on 11 Nov 2013

Surface RT or Surface 2

PC World are selling 32gb Surface RT with touch cover for £269. I was tempted until I read this review. Is a Surface 2 plus type cover worth the extra £209?

By Mike_Stanton on 11 Nov 2013

UnhappyKeith

I purchased a Surface 2 64Gb 4G direct from MS. The battery failed to work! I finally got a refund and bought another. Guess what, the battery failed to work. Returned it, came back this morning and guess what, the battery still does not work. I have spent hours on the MS Support line, installing updates, switching on and off and on again. What a waste of time and money. I think it is going back and I'll upgrade my iPad instead - not perfect for my needs but it works!??

By UnhappyKeith on 11 Aug 2014

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