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Microsoft Surface 2 10.5-inch Tablet PC Review

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Microsoft Surface 2

Microsoft Surface 2

©Microsoft

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The Bottom Line

Nov 5 2013 - On the hardware side, Microsoft have made some huge improvements to the Surface 2 tablet. It has a higher resolution display, better cameras, improved kickstand and even a full USB 3.0 port. The problem remains on the software side where the tablet uses the Windows RT software rather than a full version of Windows. This combined with its relatively high price tag compared to the new wave of affordable Atom based tablets that can run the full Windows make this tablet a bit too specialized and less freiendly to the average consumer..

Pros

  • Excellent Display
  • Improved Kickstand
  • Included Office Software

Cons

  • Still Does Not Use Full Windows OS
  • More Expensive Than Other Windows 8.1 Tablets

Description

  • 1.7GHz NVIDIA Tegra 4 (Cortex-A15) Quad Core Processor
  • 2GB Memory
  • 32GB Storage
  • 10.6" WUXGA (1920x1080) Multitouch Display
  • 3.5 Megapixel Front and 5.0 Megapixel Rear Cameras
  • Tegra 4 Graphics
  • 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
  • USB 3.0, microSDXC, mini-HDMI, 3.5mm Audio
  • 10.8" x 6.8" x .35" @ 1.5 lbs.
  • Windows RT

Review - Microsoft Surface 2

Nov 5 2013 - At first glance, the Microsoft Surface 2 doesn't look all that different from the original Surface RT tablet. Sure, it does come is a lighter silver color compared to the black color from before. The changes are very subtle and won't be noticed right away. It did get a bit thinner at just .35-inches compared to the .37-inches but the weight remains the same at one and a half pounds. What did change is the kickstand on the back. Now instead of just a single angle that it can rest backwards at, there are two settings now. The first is the more upright as if it were sitting on a desk like a laptop screen while the second reclines it back more to be used on a tablet where you are sitting over it more.

The most controversial decision with the Surface 2 was to stick with an ARM based processor and the Windows RT software. The new NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor certainly gives it some significant performance boosts which is welcome. Things are more fluid thanks to the 1.7GHz quad core processor that is also using the Cortex A15 based design. It also features 2GB of memory instead of the 1GB from before. The problem is that this still requires the Windows RT software rather than a full Windows 8.1. This means that there is still no desktop mode and you are limited to those applications that are designed for the Modern UI of Windows 8. All those legacy programs from your PC will still not run on it.

The display received a major upgrade. Rather than using that lower 1366x768 display of the original, it has been upgraded to use the same 10.6-inch display used in the Surface Pro with its higher 1920x1080 resolution. This means that it can now handle full 1080p high definition video playback and it has a much finer level of detail that is useful when using it for reading or dealing with graphics work. The only difference in the display is the lack o the pressure sensitive digitizer. The graphics also got improved with the processor upgrade such that it has a bit better 3D performance over the past model. Of course gaming software is still quite limited in the Windows Store.

Cameras received upgrades in the Surface 2 as well. Now the front facing camera is a very high 3.5 megapixel sensor that is much higher than most front faving cameras and the rear camera now equals many of its rivals at 5.0 megapixels. The front camera does an outstanding job especially with video chat software. The rear camera does not share the same level of performance though which colors that tend to be off more and some extreme shutter lag.

The battery pack for the Surface 2 remains the same at 31.5 WHr capacity. The past model offered up just under ten hours of running time. This time around, the tablet ran for just over ten and a half hours. This is a slight improvement which is nice to see given the fact that it now features a higher resolution display and more powerful processor. It still falls a bit short of the new iPad Air which manages to achieve almost eleven and three quarters of an hour in the same test.

Microsoft dropped the base price for the Surface 2 down to $449 compared to the originals $499 price tag. This makes it less expensive than the premium 10-inch tablets such as the iPad Air especially considering the base storage amounts but this tablet now has to compete with the huge number of new Windows tablets that run on the new Atom processors such as the Acer Iconia W3-810, ASUS Transformer Book T100 and Dell Venue Pro 8. Each of these is priced under $400 making them more affordable yet they offer a full Windows experience. Now they don't have the same quality of build or as high of resolution display, but many will easily trade those for getting to use their existing Windows programs.

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