The Bottom Line
Nov 6 2013 - Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 tablet really is just a few minor changes to the original to address issues concerning battery life and use on some surfaces. While both of these are improved, the system is still much more of a laptop that masquerades as a tablet due to its size, performance and cost. It really requires one of the accessory tablet covers and the result is a very specialized machine that will appeal primarily to business users.
- Performance On Par With Ultrabooks
- Solid Build Quality
- Ability to Run All Windows Software
- Quite Heavy For a Tablet
- Battery Life While Improved Still Less Than Desired
- Really Requires a Keyboard Cover
- Intel Core i5-4200U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 128GB Storage
- 10.6" WUXGA (1920x1080) Multitouch Display With Digitizer Support
- 1.2 Megapixel Front and Rear Webcams
- Intel HD Graphics 4400
- 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- USB 3.0, microSDXC Slot, mini-DisplayPort
- 10.8" x 6.81" x .53" @ 2.0 lbs.
- Windows 8.1
Review - Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Nov 6 2013 - The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 from the outside looks almost identical to the original Surface Pro. It has the same dimensions, weight and color as the original version. In fact, the only external difference comes in the new kickstand that features two different settings rather than the first. The new setting allows the screen to recline back further which is extremely useful for anyone that might happen to need to use it in their lap combined with the Type Cover case. It would have been nice to see Microsoft drop a little weight on the tablet as the two pound weight is a bit heavy for a strict tablet device but this almost seems to be designed to be used with the previously mentioned cover as a convertible ultrabook.
The most notable change to the Surface Pro 2 is the processor. The original was released shortly before the Intel Haswell processors were launched and had to rely on the less power efficient 3rd generation Ivy Bridge. Now the system finally receives an Intel Core i5-4200U dual core processor. In terms of performance, this is a bit faster than the original Surface Pro in many tasks and a lot faster than the majority of Windows based tablets on the market. As previously mentioned, this tablet has the internals that are not uncommon with many ultrabooks on the market and as such, the performance is nearly the same. The processor is still matched up with 4GB of DDR3 memory that provides a smooth enough experience with Windows 8.1.
The big advantage of the new Haswell processor was improved power usage. The previous Surface Pro suffered heavily from battery draw and had limited running times of just under four hours. With the new setup and the same 31.5Whr capacity battery as the original, Microsoft promises better battery life but never goes on record for how long that actually will be. In digital video playback testing, the new configuration was able to run for almost six and a half hours. That is a good fifty percent improvement over the original but it still falls short of the eight hours that most people expect for a full working day. It is still well below what most tablets achieve of over eight hours and less than what the new Dell XPS 12 convertible ultrabook can run for around nine hours.
The only other real change to the system has to do with the graphics that are built into the new Core i5 processor. The previous model featured the Intel HD Graphics 4000 and now we have a slightly improved HD Graphics 4400. This isn't going to translate into an improved 3D graphics such that the tablet would be capable of playing traditional PC games but it does allow it to better handle some casual PC games. In addition, it also offers improved Quick Sync support for media encoding. The display with its 1920x1080 resolution remains unchanged which is not surprising given how good the screen was and the fact that it comes with a built-in Wacom digitizer for use with pen enabled applications.
The timing of the release of the Surface Pro 2 was just after the launch of Windows 8.1. Now this isn't as dramatic a change to the operating system as was Windows 8 but it does make some corrections to make it a bit easier for the users. This includes such items as the inclusion of a start button to the desktop mode and the ability to boot directly to desktop mode.
What is probably a bit more notable about the Surface Pro 2 release was the new accessories that were also being released along with it. The Touch Cover 2 features a thinner profile and more rigid construction to allow it to function better when used on a non-hard surface. The Type Cover 2 gets an upgrade that includes a backlit keyboard so that it is easier to use in the dark. The most anticipated new accessories though won't come to market till next year and include a Power Cover that is similar to the Type Cover but thicker to add in additional battery for longer running times. The other is the Docking Station that will be extremely useful for office use as it expands the peripheral capabilities.
Pricing for the new Surface Pro 2 models remains the same as the originals. This means a starting price of $899 for the 64GB model but I highly recommend moving up to the $999 128GB due to the capacity limitations of the least expensive version. Microsoft is going to be hampered somewhat by the introduction of new Atom based tablet systems such as the Asus Transformer Book T100 and Lenovo Miix 10 which are much more affordable yet don't offer the same level of performance. On the other hand, you have a number of convertible ultrabooks such as the Dell XPS 12 and Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro that offer nearly the same level of performance and are price competitive when you consider the accessories necessary to offer the same laptop style experience with the Surface Pro 2.