- Editor's Rating
- Excellent build and design, one of the best available
- Stable, swift, with long battery life
- Full-sized USB input and peripheral support
- Includes robust Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook
- Too many compromises with Windows RT 8.1
- Touch Cover and Type Cover accessories sold separately and pricey
Quick TakeThe Surface 2 is an excellent piece of hardware suited to a specific type of user that values the productivity it offers more than the apps it doesn't.
Give Microsoft this, its Surface 2 tablet is an excellent piece of hardware, at least according to the reviewers at TabletPCReview. “In fact, there are no other tablets that come close to matching it,” TPCR claimed, later adding “It’s not the thinnest, nor is it the lightest.” But, “it’s certainly the best built.”
Maybe it’s the two-stop kickstand that props the tablet up for both desk and literal lap use, or perhaps it’s the front-facing and rear-facing cameras. They are angled perfectly for Skype chats, and have great low-light sensitivity (if mediocre picture output). Or, it just might be the excellent build quality and durability. The Microsoft Surface 2 could definitely handle a drop or two, and certainly everyday wear and tear.
The Microsoft Surface 2 measures 10.81 x 6.79 x .35 inches and weighs about 1.5 pounds. It has a 10.6-inch 1920×1080 display (208 pixels per inch) with five touch inputs, and a NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor. It has 2GB of RAM, and ships with either 32GB or 64GB of storage, expandable via a microSD card slot.
Because it’s very similar to a notebook, it has a full-sized USB input, and full peripheral support, including keyboards, mice, gamepads, and printers, as well as a micro HDMI input for external displays. TPCR did not care for the proprietary charger however, even if it is magnetic and of high quality, claiming its reviewers “would much rather have the convenience and ubiquity of a microUSB charging input.”
The Surface 2 runs Windows RT 8.1, which is Microsoft’s Windows version designed for ARM-based tablets. At a glance, it looks and functions just like regular Windows 8.1, but it can’t run any legacy apps. In fact, its apps are limited to what’s available in the Windows Store, and while that number tops 100,000, there are some glaring omissions.
There is no Chrome or Firefox (Microsoft won’t allow alternative browsers), nor is there HBO Go, Slingbox player, Google Hangouts, an official YouTube app, Vine, or Instagram, just to name a few. Many of these are available via their respective websites using the Internet Explorer browser, but that doesn’t provide the same experience as a dedicated app. This is Windows RT 8.1’s, and by association, the Surface 2’s greatest weakness. TPCR sums it all up by claiming, “Windows RT 8.1 still falls short of being a world-class OS for a reason that can be described in three words: lack of apps.”
That’s not to say Windows RT 8.1 is not without its strengths. It excels at multitasking and app switching (the Surface 2 performance is top notch, as is battery life). It also has many of the same features users love about traditional Windows, including multiple user profiles and deep settings tweaks. But perhaps Windows RT 8.1’s biggest strengths are the robust versions of Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Outlook that ship with the Surface 2. By far, the Surface 2 provides the best productivity experience of any ARM tablet in its class, including the iPad and Android devices, thanks to these additions.
Of course, said productivity requires a keyboard, and there are two official accessories available for the Surface 2: the Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2. Both attach magnetically to the bottom of the Surface 2, and provide a sturdy grip and satisfying click when attached or pried off. TPCR loved the Type Cover 2 for its quiet typing and back-lit keys, and thought it the better choice than the Touch Cover 2, which has pressure sensitive squares instead of keys, but is a bit thinner. Both are too pricey, however, costing $130 and $120, respectively.
Taken as a whole the Microsoft Surface 2 “has plenty of strengths, and one glaring weakness.” It’s the best piece of mainstream hardware available, according to TPCR, but the lack of apps is a major limitation. The robust Office apps help to mitigate the app gap, which TPCR believes will change for the better in time, but that doesn’t help anyone right now. Right now, there is just not enough to recommend the Surface 2 to all users. Instead the Microsoft Surface 2 is an “excellent piece of hardware suited to a specific type of user that values the productivity it offers more than the apps it doesn’t.”